Better Call Saul Star Bob Odenkirk Used Robert Evans as Inspiration

Bob Evans is having a moment, three years after his death: He’ll be played by Matthew Goode in the upcoming Paramount+ series The Offer, about the making of The Godfather, and by Jake Gyllenhaal in another project about the making of The Godfather. But his presence also lingers in the titular character of AMC’s Better Call Saul, which returns tonight, with Bob Odenkirk playing criminal lawyer Saul Goodman.

Robert Evans is the former Paramount chief who oversaw The Godfather and produced Chinatown soon after. He shared a slew of great Hollywood stories in his memoir The Kid Stays in the Picture, which became the basis for a 2002 documentary of the same name. Evans’ plucky, lockjawed delivery of advice like “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation” delighted films fans — as well as comedy connoisseurs who found his voice impossible not to imitate.

Among them was Bob Odenkirk, who, at the time of the film’s release, was between the success of his groundbreaking comedy series Mr. Show and his dramatic role on Breaking Bad, where he originated the role of Saul Goodman (formerly known as Jimmy McGill.)

In his recent memoir Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama, Odenkirk recalled his surprise at being asked to play a dramatic role on Breaking Bad — and at how much dialogue Saul Goodman had.

I asked the universe, ‘Who wants to listen to another person talk that much?,'” Odenkirk wrote in the memoir. “‘Well,’ the universe responded, ‘some people are fun to listen to.” At the time I started shooting Breaking Bad, I was on my third listen of the audiobook of Robert Evans’ showbiz bio The Kid Stays in the Picture, as read by the author. Evans was a raconteur, scallywag, and spinner of stretched yarns, his voice a cocktail of aged whiskey, honey, and self-satisfaction. He had a fair amount in common with my Saul character, so I rehearsed my lines in an imitation of Evans’s lilting, cliff-hanger-laden style.”

Here’s an example of Robert Evans, as he describes his contributions to The Godfather:

Odenkirk adds in the book: “Anyway, it was fun to do, so I was entertaining myself in the process. Dynamic pacing! That was the key. As the years went by and I continued playing the character, I kept this little trick up, and it has served me well. Thanks, Evans — ya made me look good, kid.”

Indeed: Odenkirk is a four-time Emmy nominee for his portrayal of Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul, the Breaking Bad prequel/sequel inspired by his self-satisfied, honey-voiced defender of something vaguely resembling justice. You can read a very abbreviated review of the Better Call Saul Season 6 premiere in today’s edition of our daily newsletter, The Rundown.

Main Image: Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul, courtesy of AMC.