Breaking Bad on Wheels – How One Guy Chooses Perfect Rides for each Character
It seems everyone is talking about the new season of the AMC original hit series Breaking Bad. The only show that could ever make us root for the local meth dealer (only on TV, of course) premiered the first episode of its final season earlier this month.
Set and produced in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad follows the story of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), a sappy high school chemistry teacher-turned-ruthless international drug lord. After being diagnosed with an inoperable lung cancer, White decides he wants to leave his family with more than a public high school teacher’s pension. So, he hooks up with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to make and sell a highly pure, blue-tinted form of meth – one that proves in such demand that the two soon take out their international competitors. Oh, and did we mention that White’s brother-in-law just happens to be a DEA agent?
Anyway, what we here at E3 Spark Plugs always get a kick out of is the cars chosen for each character in a hit show. As any good film or TV transportation coordinator will tell you, it’s never a haphazard decision. The vehicles they drive are extensions of each character, so cars, trucks, motorcycles and beat up, 20-year-old motorhomes are cast as carefully as the humans who drive them on-camera.
Enter Dennis Milliken, a veteran film and TV transportation coordinator. This guy just might have the best job on the planet, as far as we’re concerned. Milliken began his career by way of his uncle, a major player in the Dallas Teamsters back in the 1970s when the film industry was discovering Texas as an industry-friendly place for shooting and the union heads were scrambling for new members to meet Hollywood’s on-location demands. Milliken’s first big break came during the filming of the dystopian sci-fi thriller Logan’s Run, Farrah Fawcett’s first major motion picture. Other gigs over the decades included the original CBS drama Dallas, RoboCop, In the Heat of the Night, the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire, and The Road to Wellville.
Here’s what Milliken recently told reporters about the rides he, along with series creator Vince Gilligan chose for Breaking Bad’s main characters:
- Walter White aka Heizenberg’s Pontiac Aztek: “The story that I got was that Vince was presented a few options and fell in love with his ‘Mr. Chips’ [a reference to the 1939 film Goodbye, Mr. Chips about an aging headmaster] riding around Albuquerque in this vehicle… Interesting that the Pontiac Aztek was voted as the one of the worst cars made. [It] kinda made Mr. White look somewhat pathetic. [But] Aztek owners tend to be very protective of their vehicles, and this just goes to show you that Vince shares the same view of the majority of those taking the aforementioned polls.”
- Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s Fleetwood Bounder motorhome: “It was a miracle that it survived the length of the series… The complicated thing was to find a second and a third one for the show [Needed because the motorhome starred in a few crash scenes]. Once you’ve established a 20-plus year old motorhome, finding a match or two matching ones is an adventure!” Fun fact – Lead actors Cranston and Paul drove the motorhome to the show’s Hollywood premiere.
- Jesse Pinkman’s 1982 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon: “Our instructions were to find something that would reflect a blend in totally under the radar kind of vehicle… Aaron was great with anything we gave him to drive and he could drive anything. I am so extremely thankful when I have an actor that can drive a stick shift. It’s almost a lost art.”
- Skyler White’s Jeep Grand Wagoneer: “The Wagoneer could have just as easily been a Suburban, an Expedition, a minivan, even. The Wagoneer stood out as unique and much more of a New Mexico SUV. Vince wanted her in a good size SUV. Again, not a new vehicle by any means.”
- Gustavo “Gus” Fring’s Volvo V70: “In my opinion there was only one car for Gus and Vince nailed it with this… It screams ‘family,’ ‘safety,’ and more importantly ‘law abiding.’ Considering his enormous wealth you’d think he’d at least have the newest model of whatever car he would be driving. Nope. Put him in not only a Volvo, but put him in a Volvo Station Wagon, and while we’re at it, let’s make it a dozen or more years old. It’s in mint condition, but not new.”
- Mike Ehrmentraut’s Chrysler Fifth Avenue: “One actor does stand out as loving his car. Jonathan Banks said that sitting in his Fifth Avenue was like sitting on his couch at home. I loved working with that guy.”
Which Breaking Bad ride would you most like to drive? Post your thoughts on the E3 Spark Plugs’ Facebook Fan Page.