Jason Bateman Interview: On Horrible Bosses, Teen Wolf And His Summer Takeover
When you saw Jason Bateman buried in sand on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, you probably got the hint that he's having a very good summer. After chasing Simon Pegg and Nick Frost around the desert in this spring's Paul, and before getting raunchy and ridiculous with Ryan Reynolds in August's The Change-Up, Bateman is scheming murder alongside Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis in Horrible Bosses.
Yes, the actor who spent three seasons of Arrested Development putting up with absurd family members has finally cracked, scheming to off his sadistic boss played by Kevin Spacey, along with the overly randy dentist (Jennifer Aniston) and cokehead idiot (Colin Farrell) who employ his friends.
The key to Horrible Bosses, how it gets away with mining a murder plot for laughs, is the rapport between Bateman, Sudeikis and Day as the scheming idiots who actually think they can get away with it. When I sat down with Bateman on his own, I asked him to talk about the way they developed that rapport, and how each of them seem to be adding something different to the mix of deranged personalities at the center of the film. Before any of that started, though, I made a crack about the progress of Teen Wolf 3-- he starred in the ill-conceived sequel, of course-- and he actually confessed to have blown the minds of the young stars of the new MTV reboot. Read ahead for the Teen Wolf chatter, then keep going for all the secrets of what makes Horrible Bosses click. The movie is out July 8.
Don't drop any scoops about Teen Wolf on MTV.
Teen Wolf 3. Teen Wolf 3 in 3D.
Don't count that out.
We're very excited about the latest draft.
Well if that show on MTV does well, who knows.
I met those guys. They came up and introduced themselves to me at the MTV Movie Awards. They were really, really nice. They were like, "Oh my God, there's number two!" They're so in their world right now.
Do they call themselves number three?
I would, if I were them. And the show seems to have a good look. I haven't seen it but it has a good look.
Correct me if this is wrong, but you've done a lot of comedies since Arrested Development with great, big casts, but this feels more like an ensemble comedy than anything since Arrested. Does that feel like the case?
Yeah, I think so.
Is that something you've missed in the meantime?
Yeah. This story, this script, the concept is very reliant on an ensemble. I think the studio knew that they had some material that was very broad, very high concept, and probably to offset that or complement that, they needed to do something very interesting with the casting, and that's why you see such an odd and interesting cast. You've got a couple of Academy Award winners, a director most famous for a documentary, and Charlie and Jason and I come from different places as well. It's really kind of this concoction that Seth Gordon did such a great great job putting together.
When I think the ensemble work, I think of you guys crammed in the booth opposite Jamie Foxx. all talking over each other. That must have been Seth's decision-- how did he decide to go with that kind of overlapping dialogue?
He realized pretty early on that the three of us kind of create one character. Basically he was just going to have us in a three-shot all the time, and shoot singles so he could get in and out of takes, editorially. But most of the time he was going to have us in the wide three-shot, because -- you know, the like primary colors, red yellow and blue, or whatever it is, that is basically what we're constructed to do by the screenwriters. One of us is not by ourselves necessarily as interesting as the three of us together. We were constantly trying to figure out how the three of us can make one voice in each scene. He encouraged us to do a lot of overlapping and conversational type of rhythms, because we're supposed to be best friends, going through this thing together. And we are definitely the victim in this whole thing. As much as it looks like we're the ones trying to kill people, things get away from us and we're kind of playing the victim the whole time. This shared complaint the whole way through is fun to watch.
As much as you become one character, there are all these contrasts. Charlie Day has this thing he brings from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, really fast and loud, and you're so straight as to be almost not even moving your face. It's almost ballsy, because you almost don't think that you're trying to be funny. It works so well in contrast. Was that in the script, or did it just work its way out in the balance?
I think it's just that. For me, I try to pay attention to what everyone else is doing when I'm working in any project. You try to just figure out what part you should be playing-- to continue the annoying analogy I started, what color you need to be doing in that scene. So when someone is crying you should be laughing. When someone is screaming you should be quiet. You don't want any redundancies, since the three of us are combining to do one character. If Charlie is playing panicked, I need to play calm or annoyed or whatever it is, and conversely when I was doing that, they were very relaxed. We didn't really speak about it, but it's something you sense because the three of us are trying to create one.
Is that something you did while you were shooting, or did you have time to work it out ahead of time?
We definitely did a little bit of rehearsing. We did a readthrough, the three of us, so we could kind of see what each of us were going to do with our characters, because we didn't know. We didn't audition or do anything together. The first time we did the table read was the first time we had met and heard how we were all going to play our characters.
So you didn't know either of these guys before?
Jason I knew through SNL, and Charlie I had never met. They knew each other. It was just sort of from that point forward, it was like "OK, so they're going to play their parts like that, that means I have to play my part like this, so let's go." Fortunately the three of us were very malleable and weren't dead-set on playing our characters any particular way.
And the script didn't demand any particulars? I assume they're written somewhat differently from each other.
Oh, absolutely, but you've got leeway. You can say your lines a million different ways and play your character a million different ways and still hit the common agreed-upon finish line. That's kind of the fun part about acting. We do get the right to kind of get from A to Z any way we want, as long as we start at A and end at Z.
You've got these two comedies coming out this summer, this and The Change-Up, and they're both broad, both R-Rated, both kind of pushing the envelope. How does it feel having them out in such a short period of time? Do you think they lead well into each other?
I think it's unfortunate that they're coming out so close to each other. I'm really, really proud of both of the movies, so it's a very exciting time for me, but I'm one of those kids that likes to spend about six hours opening up their Christmas gifts, instead of spending 15 minutes. So I don't want them both to come out at the same time, I kind of want to spread it out and really enjoy it.
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