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Why Aaron Paul Doesn't Get Many Movie Offers Anymore

Jesse Pinkman arose as the unlikely hero of the Heisenberg triumvirate in Breaking Bad, and for his real-life counterpart Aaron Paul, the show seemed like a long-overdue big break. The actor had been steadily working for years and has the kind of likable enthusiasm that made him perfect for The Price Is Right once upon a time—yes, really, and yes he totally meant to be that energetic—and that neurotic Juicy Fruit commercial he lived off for two years. But despite earning critical acclaim for his role on the show and massive fanfare that included him being endlessly barraged with his character's favorite word, he's not quite had the breakout career some might've expected. Here are some reasons why.

His first solo action feauture crashed and burned

Pardon the obviousness of this pun here, but there was a lot riding on Paul's turn in the videogame-to-film adaptation of Need for Speed. The 2014 film seemed like the perfect match for Paul for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that parts of the trailer looked an awful lot like his final, triumphant moment on Breaking Bad, since he was—is the spoiler alert even necessary here?—riding off at breakneck velocity in his getaway car with the kind of bittersweet determination only a man who's been through great tragedy and trial can experience. And its release couldn't have come at a better time, since it hit theaters just a few months after Breaking Bad came to a close; it was long enough to make audiences miss him, but soon enough that he'd yet to be forgotten.

Unfortunately, the film failed to impress critics and didn't drum up the kind of audience attendance that turns films like this into franchises. It earned a respectable $200 million worldwide, but on the homefront, its $66 million budget was not recouped, as the pic only earned $43 million in domestic markets. Those stalled numbers, combined with its dismal Rotten Tomatoes score, meant that fans weren't revving up their engines to see his next movie, probably holding out for the umpteenth Fast and Furious sequel instead.

His other movies haven't been so hot either

Before Breaking Bad, Paul wasn't exactly a big screen icon, but he'd done a fair share of memorable supporting turns in cinema, including a small role in Mission: Impossible III and appearing as the sniveling psycho-villain in The Last House on the Left. After Need for Speed failed to fuel his transition from the small to silver screen, however, he watched as even more of his movies were slammed by reviewers and ignored by moviegoers.

Exodus: Gods and Kings was a bomb with both, despite having Ridley Scott at the helm and a slew of A-list co-stars on tap for the 2014 adventure-drama. Fathers & Daughters was another miss, Triple 9 couldn't capitalize on its stellar cast, and despite the fact that his war drama Eye in the Sky was almost universally liked by those who did see it, the audience was slim. Even Central Intelligence, which did fairly well all around, found Paul totally absent from the movie's promos.

He's had a key audition snafu, too

Writer-director-producer J.J. Abrams has become synonymous with the big time, so having him as an audience to an audition is probably pretty stressful for anyone. But Paul's experience was straight-up embarrassing. Granted, he was far from household name status at the time, and he was literally singing for his supper at any given casting call when he got the chance to show Abrams his stuff, but his try-out for the 2008 sleeper hit Cloverfield didn't exactly help to bolster his reputation.

He chatted up Tom Hiddleston for Variety's "Actors on Actors" series and explained that it all stemmed from a magic trick gone wrong during filming for MI: III. Apparently, he was advised by a former Lost alum to bring up the subject of magic tricks with Abrams, who's a big fan of sleight-of-hand, and when it didn't work out, it was embarrassing enough at the time. Then, when he came in to deliver a monologue for Cloverfield a couple of years later, Abrams was there and brought up the mortifying magic story again. "He has me tell the story about the card trick and now I'm super awkward," recalled Paul. "He's like, 'All right, now let's get started,' and I start doing this monologue and I completely lose my train of thought and I stop and I apologize to J.J. He's like, 'That's okay. Thanks for coming in.' I'm like, 'See ya,' and I walked out. It was awful."

He's had so much more luck on TV

Even before Breaking Bad made Paul a bona fide TV star, he spent almost a decade making the rounds, appearing on everything from Beverly Hills 90210 to The X-Files to NYPD Blue to ER to, well, you name it. His first real recurring role was for HBO's Big Love, and it wasn't long after that he snagged his part as Pinkman. And even though he's had middling results with his cinematic efforts of late, he's certainly enjoyed even more successes with the at-home crowd.

His starring role in Hulu's cult (as in, it's about an actual religious cult) drama The Path, for example, has earned him some serious buzz, and has given him an all-new persona for TV lovers to savor—a dynamic shift that was totally by design for Paul, who cherry-picked the part because it was "the polar opposite" of his work in Breaking Bad. The show, which was easily waved through for a second season, has not only proven that Paul can muster some attention for a series just by having his name and face attached, but he can also step out of Pinkman's baggy jeans and do just fine...as long as we're talking TV, that is.

His voice over work is also on-point

Another realm within which Paul has seemingly found a niche is in voiceover work. In addition to voicing characters in A Fish Tale, Robot Chicken's DC Comics Special, TRON: Uprising, and Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, he's also the second vocal lead in Netflix's critically esteemed animated series Bojack Horseman, starring as the slacker houseguest-turned-best friend to the titular horse-man. The role has precisely the kind of quirky, anachronistic quality to distinguish itself from the rest of Paul's work; on the other hand, it's not exactly winning any awards or getting his face out there to the crowds.

He's also been tied up with non-work stuff lately

In addition to making it official with his long-time lady love Lauren Parsekian in 2013, shortly after Breaking Bad went off the air, Paul has also been spending a lot of time on other life interests, such as starting a family with his new bride, dabbling in the real estate market, fly-fishing in his home state of Idaho for relaxation, and, perhaps most important of all, his philanthropic interests.

Paul and his wife reportedly helped to raise $1.8 million for her anti-bullying charity, the Kind Campaign, by auctioning up a private screening of the Breaking Bad finale in the famed Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Although she's the face of the effort, Paul has gotten heavily involved in promoting her work, even taking the time to personally write a letter to a child bullying victim he saw online, and delivering a shout-out for the organization at the Emmys that crashed her website. He's also been known to throw his weight behind high-profile education fundraisers and wax card shark in a charitable celeb poker tournament which benefited Save the Children. Obviously, none of these things are a hindrance to his Hollywood career, but they do take up his time, and in Tinseltown, time is money.

He's also just not done answering for Breaking Bad

Maybe it's because not enough time has passed from the show's conclusion, or that it's simply iconic enough that its main cast will never truly escape being connected to it, or maybe it's because of that conclusive-but-not-really character ending or the fact that there's an ongoing spinoff in AMC's Better Call Saul, but no matter the reason, people are simply not ready to stop talking about Breaking Bad with Paul. Even when discussing his hit new series, he's been forced by major publications to play Apples and Oranges with his former show, and some Breaking Bad fans even crashed his wedding. For his part, though, he's not exactly gnashing his teeth over the constant mentions.

As he told Entertainment Weekly, "I absolutely feel like I said goodbye to Jesse, and it might sound a little cheesy, but I think Jesse will always live somewhere within me. I'm the only person on the planet that lived and breathed every moment of Jesse's existence, and then some. Every moment that we saw, I created in my crazy head. I loved Jesse. I feel so connected to him. I absolutely feel like I said goodbye to him, for now. Because he could always come back in one way or another ... It's kind of like, don't bite the hand that feeds you. I'm so proud of that show and it was just such a cultural phenomenon. It's hard for me to just leave it in the past. I don't want to leave it in the past." Speaking of which ...

There's still a chance for him to make a key cameo on Better Call Saul

Paul's career might more closely follow in the footsteps of his co-star Bryan Cranston if he ever did, finally, call it quits with Jesse Pinkman. One way to accomplish that, of course, would be to return for some scene of real closure in Better Call Saul (which is definitely possible, as the prequel-set show sometimes skips ahead to the future). He told The Guardian that he's certainly entertaining the idea of coming back to the Breaking Bad universe for another round of drug-dealing fun, if the story's right.

"All I can say is that we've had multiple conversations about that possibility and if it were to happen it would happen for absolutely all the right reasons," he explained. "They wouldn't want to throw Jesse in just so the audience could see him in the background. He'd have to really enter the story. And as I'm such a huge fan of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, if they did figure out a way to make that happen I'd be very excited." Him and everyone else.

There are still some things brewing

As has been proven time and time again, fame does not exist in a vacuum, especially when it comes to Hollywood stardom. For Paul, he's still got a few chances to turn his momentum around. For starters, he was tapped to star alongside Olga Kurylenko in a space thriller about a man who resurrects his dead wife using androids on Neptune (we're not in New Mexico anymore, Toto). His indie drama-thriller Come and Find Me has been earning praise from critics, and he'll soon star in NBC's forthcoming suspense series Blackmail, which could very well turn the tide and reintroduce him to the mainstream.