El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie had just 36 hours to film a pivotal flashback sequence reuniting Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston). When recruiting Cranston to reprise his Breaking Bad role for the first time in six years, plucking him from the middle of a Broadway run, the top-secret project required the use of a private jet, a team tasked with obscuring Cranston from view, iron-clad NDAs, green screen, and some well-spun little white lies, according to writer and director Vince Gilligan.
"Oh my God. I tell ya, it was appropriate that this all took place in the state of New Mexico because I don't think there was as much secrecy surrounding a project since the Manhattan Project," Gilligan told EW with a laugh. "Good grief! We were in the right state for it, now that I think of it. And all credit to my producers and to our crew. Our producers Charles Newirth and Melissa Bernstein, and Jenn Carroll and Mark Johnson, they all sprung into action. They booked a private jet to fly Bryan Cranston in. Bryan Cranston only had 36 hours to do this thing right in the middle of his Broadway run of Network where he's playing Howard Beale six nights a week. And he figured it out. He said, 'I can do it.'"
Cranston was "very gung-ho" to step back into Walter White's shoes, but "he must have been exhausted."
"From door to door, he had 36 hours. So he got flown out on a private jet, arrived in Albuquerque at the airport. They probably put a bag over his head, rushed him into the car with tinted windows and drove him to a private house they had rented," Gilligan said. "They had him surrounded with people with umbrellas. I mean, the amount of secrecy was astounding, but we shot the scene and we had to do it all in one day, so we had to knock it out quick. We shot at the Owl Cafe, which is this great restaurant, smack dab in the middle of Albuquerque."
Set in the vicinity of Season 2 episode "4 Days Out," the scene shows Walt and Jesse in a well populated diner after being stranded in the desert during a multi-day meth cook. Pulling off the scene, likely the last we'll see of Walt and Jesse, required an extra touch of digital trickery.
"When you see the scene and you look out the windows and there's nothing but desert out the window, that is all digitally added in after the fact," noted Gilligan. "Out the real windows of the Owl Café is a big parking lot, a strip mall and a big road, and the interstate. So we had to surround this thing with green screens, partly for privacy and partly to be able to burn in the desert locale out the window."
Parked outside was Walt and Jesse's conspicuous, bullet-riddled RV, explained away to curious onlookers as belonging to a commercial shoot on behalf of the Breaking Bad tour.
"People are driving by and they're seeing the RV with the bullet holes in the door and they're saying, 'Oh, my God, what is that?' And so Nathan [Davis], one of our [assistant directors], came up with this idea to tell people that we were shooting a commercial for the Breaking Bad tour," Gilligan said. "And by the way, we were using the RV that you can tour Albuquerque in. And the gentleman who owns the tour company was game and helped us keep the secret and let us borrow his RV, and we were handing out brochures for his organization to any curious onlookers who happened by. 'What are you doing?' 'Aw, we're just shooting a commercial for the tour. You should really take it. It's a lot of fun!' It was amazing the amount of logistics, and blood, sweat, and tears that went into keeping this thing secret."
Paul earlier revealed the shoot was so secretive no outsiders knew about El Camino until after the crew had already completed filming.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and all episodes of Breaking Bad are available to stream on Netflix.