In director Kat Candler’s Hellion – a feature-length expansion of her 2012 Sundance selected-short of the same name – Aaron Paul sheds the tormented Jesse Pinkman to play the similarly distraught Hollis, a man who recently lost his wife and is left to care for two young boys. The heavy metal-listening, motorcross-obsessed kids (played by impressive newcomer Josh Wiggins and the adorable Deke Garner) race around their small Texas town trespassing, vandalizing and generally getting into trouble. Eventually, Child Protective Services becomes involved, and Hollis is forced to contend with his situation. Rolling Stone spoke with Paul at the Sundance Film Festival about dirt biking, Candler’s mix-tapes and the actor’s late-night heart-to-heart with Peter Dinklage after the SAG Awards.
After Breaking Bad, what attracted you to this character?
I’m madly in love with my wife. I can’t imagine losing her. It’s the worst possible thought I could think of. So I could see why Hollis is where he’s at. I couldn’t wait to zip on that skin and feel those emotions. I always tend to gravitate towards the more affected characters because I think that’s how life is – you’re a product of your own environment and a jumble of circumstances.
What occupied your time when you weren’t shooting?
We just hung out. [Co-star] Josh Wiggins has the most incredible music taste, not just the newer stuff. I talk to kids his age and I say, “Beatles, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin.” And they’re like, “Who are they?” With Josh, I say “Radiohead,” and he’s like, “Yes.” And all I’m thinking is, “You are my son. You are my son.”
What’s your favorite Radiohead album?
I like The Bends. Back in the day, that’s the first album I listened to. In Rainbows reminds me of a very specific point in my life. Thom Yorke is a God in my eyes.
The music in this film is emotional – it really gets the scenes going. What did you listen to on set?
Kat made all of the boys a heavy metal playlist with Slayer, Toxic Holocaust and Metallica – all of the classics. I didn’t get one, though. I was jealous.
Were you pretty straight-edge?
Oh yeah – very straight edge. When I was a kid, I said “F-U” and “This ‘effing sucks.” Saying that now sounds ridiculous, but I didn’t see the point of using foul language. That was just part of my household. I never really got into trouble. My parents would say, “Hey, if you’re going to sneak out, just leave a note saying where you are going.”
There’s so much great dirt biking in this movie. Were you into that as a kid?
I grew up in Idaho where everyone had big yards. My buddy who lived two houses down from me had this giant yard so we built a really cool dirt bike track. Have you ever played Excitebike? The old Nintendo game where you build your own jumps? It was our version of Excitebike.
Did you ever have a scare?
I burnt my leg on the muffler. It was pretty sweet – I was pretty proud of that thing. It hurt at the moment, but I was like, “Hey ladies. I dirt bike, that’s right. Dirt bike accident, what’s up now?”
Who can resist a man on a dirt bike?
That’s what I’m talking about. Women love danger – they like dangerous boys.
How did you celebrate the SAG Awards?
These award shows are so cool because they just make us have the longest goodbye ever. The show is done but we’re just celebrating something that we’re so proud of. And those statues are so heavy. They’re like 25 pounds.
Are they the heaviest?
Oh easily. Bryan [Cranston] had to carry two so he was sweating all night long. We just put them in the corner. But you want to hold it close to your chest as well. It’s the one night where you can carry it around.
How was the party?
At the end of the night I found myself in the Game of Thrones hotel room at the Four Seasons having a heart to heart with Peter Dinklage until like two-thirty in the morning. He’s phenomenal. You can tell that entire group is having the best time ever on that show.
What did Dinklage tell you?
He was just saying, “I love the love you guys have on your show. It’s such a rare thing.”
Do you miss Jesse Pinkman?
I’ll always miss him. I have such a personal connection with the guy. As actors you live and breathe through all those moments, and I feel like he’s a huge part of me. I love the kid, I just feel for him and I’m just happy he’s somewhat okay.