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Rian Johnson talks Breaking Bad's The Fly

Breaking Bad

Feature by Jack Foley

BREAKING Bad remains one of the best reviewed shows of any current American series… and by all accounts it just keeps getting better.

Now into its third season, the show follows the fortunes of a cash-strapped chemistry teacher, Walter White (Malcolm in The Middle‘s Bryan Cranston) as finds out he has inoperable lung cancer.

With a pregnant wife – Skyler (Deadwood‘s Anna Gunn) – and disabled son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) – Walt has two years to get his affairs in order and so comes up with a wild plan: he and former student Jesse (Aaron Paul), a drug dealer, will open a meth lab.

Season 1 followed their fledgling career, while season two examined their ongoing success (and the hardships it brings). Season 3, meanwhile, places further strain on the friendship between Walt and Jesse as the repercussions of their lies and drug-dealing come fully to bear.

Things reportedly come to a head in an episode called The Fly, one of the highlights of the third season, which has got critics in the US buzzing with excitement.

IndieLondon caught up with its director, Brick‘s Rian Johnson, to discuss our shared love of the show and the subsequent reaction to The Fly

Rian Johnson

Q. Rian, I read once that you weren’t interested in directing somebody else’s screenplay, but you’ve since directed an episode of Breaking Bad
Rian Johnson: Yes! It’s so good. I was just such a big fan of that show. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with that cast. It’s weird, too, because when you’re a fan of a movie, you’ll never get the opportunity to walk on the set of that movie and see the actors in costume – it’s done and everyone’s moved on. But with a TV show… it’s a very weird experience to be a fan of a TV show and then walk onto the set of Walt’s bedroom and then in through the door comes Bryan Cranston dressed as Walt, looking exactly like the character. I’m a fan and it was a weird experience that was cool to have. But the writing on that show is so good. I just had a great time doing that.

Q. The episode’s called The Fly and there has been a lot of buzz about it…
Rian Johnson: [Laughs aloud] There you go! It’s a very weird episode… very strange. It’s very different from the rest of the season in many ways. It got very well reviewed but if you read the [fan] comments, it really split people. They’re either saying it was the best episode of the season, or the worst. It was that kind of thing, which is exciting. But I had no control over which script they handed me to direct – they just happened to give me a weird one, I guess.

Q. But did they allow you to bring your vision to it?
Rian Johnson: Well, I didn’t really try… that’s the weird thing. I really just tried to execute what was in the script and stay close to that. I wasn’t coming and trying to put some stamp on it; I was coming in as a fan of the show who wanted to do a really great Breaking Bad episode. My goal was to do right by the show.

Q. Would you do it again?
Rian Johnson: In a heartbeat, yes! That show, definitely. TV, in general… I think generally directing TV is not such a… my impression is that TV is very much a writer and producer’s medium. I think Breaking Bad was a really wonderful and maybe a unique experience in the amount of creative leeway I was given. But I had a great time doing it.

Read the full interview with Rian Johnson in which he also talks The Brothers Bloom, Looper and Inception.