Interview: The Change Up's Jason Bateman And Ryan Reynolds
Between Freaky Friday, Like Father, Like Son, 17 Again, and all the other body switching comedies that have come out over the years, there has been some question as to whether or not we really need another one. They all really have the exact same plots, so what could The Change Up possibly offer? How about the incredible comedic talents of Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds and one of the dirtiest scripts you will ever hear?
In the film, Bateman plays Dave, a mild-mannered lawyer and husband of two. Reynolds, on the other hand, is a high school dropout/struggling actor who likes to spend most of his day smoking pot and doing nothing. With their friendship beginning to fade, they go out what night for some drinks and after pissing in a magic fountain wake up in each otherís bodies.
A couple weeks ago I was invited to a press conference in which the two stars talked about their roles in the David Dobkin-directed comedy. Check out the interview below in which Bateman and Reynolds discuss the parts of the film that went too far, handling the kids and the preference of working with an R-rating over PG-13.
Would you really want to try to switch for a day, just to see what it would be like?
Ryan Reynolds: Iíd do terrible things to his body.
Jason Bateman: And to my wife. Heís been after my wife for years.
Well talk a little bit about getting involved in this. Did you actually kind of study each other a little bit, or was it characters, and studying each otherís characters?
Ryan Reynolds: A little bit. I first met Jason about fifteen years ago, so weíve known each other a long time. I think I can speak for both of us quite unilaterally when I say that neither of us are good enough at our jobs to do an impression of each other.
Jason Bateman: How dare you.
Ryan Reynolds: So no we didnít really work on that specifically. We just really went with the essence of the other guy. We have a pretty high level of conceit right at the get-go. We didnít want audiences picking apart our performances as a spot-on imitation of each other, that just isnít really necessary.
Jason Bateman: Yeah. Youíre not going to R-rated comedies to get a study in acting. I think you want to go in there and have a good time, laugh your ass off, maybe get offended a couple of times and get the hell out. Weíre not trying to win Oscars here or teach anybody any lessons. Having said all of that, this movie is about as high quality, if I do say so myself, as you can get with an R-rated comedy. The comedy is absolutely, it pushes all boundaries and barriers and happens to sneak in quite a bit of heart and relatability if thatís possible in a concept where people switch bodies. Itís the reason that Ryan and I jumped at the change to be in the film, the quality of the script, what Lucas and Moore did with what is obviously a concept that people are more than familiar with. Thereís no reason to do another body-switching movie unless youíre going to do something different. We do here. This is an R-rated body-switching movie, it hasnít been done before. You put the director of Wedding Crashers on that, Iím already in. We were lucky to be a part of it and we couldnít be more proud of it.
Ryan Reynolds: He said all of that on one exhalation. Do you have gills or something? Thatís really incredible.
Ryan Reynolds: You know those guys, [Jon] Lucas and [Scott] Moore, they are very capable with, was it a typewriter that theyíre going on? Straight up pencils, a charcoal sketch of what they were thinking. They had a lot of it on the page there. Jason and I, when we first started banding it up, jumping into this somewhat ridiculously premised film, we didnít really have a preference on the characters. I said Iíd play either guy, I donít care, and he sort of felt the same way. We felt like weíd maximize the comedy by doing it the way we ended up choosing to do it
Jason Bateman: that and he lost rock, paper, scissors.
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, thatís true as well. So much can happen in a simple game like that.
Jason Bateman: Paper covers rock!
Ryan Reynolds: We mostly sat in a big room in Atlanta two and a half weeks before shooting, throwing a football around and just playing with the lines, coming up with alts. We came up with a lot of different alts, we had Lucas and Moore there as well with us, and David Dobkin. Itís just a great way to start a movie, just diving right in.
Ryan, which character would you say youíre more like in real life? Are you more the uptight Dave, or the free-spirited, crazy Mitch.
Jason Bateman: You can pick one of the women, too if you want.
Ryan Reynolds: Iím a lot like Leslie... I donít know. Iíve got to say Iím somewhere in the middle, you know? There was a time in my life where Iíd wake up in the morning in a shallow pool of my own fluid, but no, those days are over. I eat breakfast now, not ketchup. Itís different now. I think Iím a little bit more of a conservative guy, I donít know if Iím uptight, but Iím more of that role, yeah.
Ryan Reynolds: Gave me a spanking or two.
Jason Bateman: But what he loves most is to be powdered.
Ryan Reynolds: And changed.
Jason Bateman: He loves to stay dry. My fatherly skills were questionable to start, letís be clear. But it was, I didnít need any lessons on how to change diapers when I was playing the Dave character. Iím upset I didnít need to do any swaddling on set because I can swaddle like a mofo. I can wrap kids like a little burrito. But these kids were too old to be swaddled. I was comfortable with them even when I was playing the idiot, Mitch. Heís got to handle them like the guy who doesnít know how to handle kids. I was able to do that in a safe way, I know how to find parts on kids where as long as youíve got a firm hold on that part, you can just about drop them and theyíre still safe. I donít know, you look at the domestic part of this film and you think, ďUgh, is that going to soften the R-rating?Ē because when you buy tickets to an R-rated film, you want R-rated comedy. That was a concern of mine when I was reading the script. Itís really, it serves to, thereís R-rated concepts and tone in this film. One of the R-rated concepts in this film is taking a fox and putting it in the henhouse. You need the henhouse; the henhouse is this beautiful, domestic situation with this house in the suburbs with this beautiful wife and these three kids, and then you drop this pig in there.
Ryan Reynolds: Careful.
Jason Bateman: The character, angel. It was used quite well. There was a lot of cleverness in the script, in the concept.
What was the part that you enjoyed the most?
Jason Bateman: Working with this guy is pretty great. Thereís not a lot of, thereís a hacky way to say it, but we didnít do a whole lot of work. There was a lot of playing and a lot of support. Heís got incredible ideas for what different to say if youíre tired of hitting that joke out of the park. These writers write these incredible lines and eventually youíre going to get tired of it and stop laughing at it. He comes up with one thatís no better, no worse, but just beautifully different. Working with David Dobkin is fantastic because the guyís incredibly professional and prepared. Everything moved like people had been there before and knew what they were doing. In a world of chaos, which is what a movie set is, itís nice to be working with professionals.
Ryan Reynolds: Iíve admired this guy for a long time, both personally and professionally. Working with him was, I actually used to pride myself on the fact that I could not break in a scene, you could do or say anything. He turned it into an actual disability for me. An entire movie could be cut of just me tearing up and trying to hold it together, and then standing at a perfect right angle for the rest of the scene because I canít catch my breath. That was nice. That was really nice to work with that for a while, pretty soon it got embarrassing, I have to say.
Jason Bateman: And then he got over me. I ran out of material in like week 2.
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, but your wife, wow. She will keep you busy.
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah. There was a few of those moments. For me there was a couple of moments in the lorno that went a little far. I donít usually look at a schedule in advance which would be a wise tip for some up and coming actor, to know when your mom is coming to visit. That was the two days that my mom came out to Atlanta to visit. I introduced her to my porn mate and proceeded to get in there and do the best I could without throwing up on someoneís back. So that was tough. But there was a few moments in that sequence that arenít in the film, which will perhaps be in the DVD that are just way too far. Way, way, way too far.
Can you give us a hint?
Ryan Reynolds: I donít know if I should, actually, just because the little hint will turn into a tidal wave. But yeah, thereís some stuff that way, way crossed the line.
Jason Bateman: I think that, no, this film, no I didnít feel like there were gloves on at all during this film. We could have kept going further and further and further, but thereís a balance you have to strike. You donít want to get the audience numb to stuff that is shocking. Thatís what makes David such a good director, is if you have it all be shocking and crazy all the time, you have just static. So heís got a great ability, as do the writers, to just bring it down, have it touch earth every once in a while, and then take off again. This is a pretty good movie.
Ryan Reynolds: I wouldnít have. Every actor loves a challenge like that, where you get to play two people in the same film. For me, the only way to do it was that. Plus, it allows you to inhabit the bodies that these guys are in, to really experience their world. The fact that basically in a film where two drunk idiots piss in a magic fountain, great they switch bodies, great, and then what happens after that is whatís so, to me itís the reason to do the film. To have this mentally unhinged lunatic to be looking after your children, to me thereís something very appealing, thereís something fantastic about that setup and that payoff, and vice versa. This conservative guy whoís basically inhabiting the world of a guy who, unbeknownst to him, is working in porn. I mean, itís absurd, but thatís what itís all about. If youíre seeing it all through the perspective of the people I donít think it would be as rewarding.
Jason Bateman: Ditto.
Ryan Reynolds: Thanks for weighing in.
Jason Bateman: Iíll get the next one.
Whatís it like to play opposite Leslie and Olivia? They play such strong, challenging women.
Jason Bateman: It fit really well in this film because thereís a lot of offensive things that his character does, that my character does, to earn that acceptance from the audience and to have it not be repugnant or repellant. The audience has to empathize with him and with me. Therefore we are basically playing victim a lot throughout the whole film, that was I think very intelligent from the writersí perspective. It lets you do a lot of crazy things if the audience sort of feels bad for you. So by having strong women as well, dominating them and emasculating them at certain points, it just earns you more leeway comedicly. In an R-rated movie you want to push things as far as possible and I think that, I donít know if that was a conscious strategy on their part, but it certainly worked for the film.
Ryan Reynolds: I love Leslie, sheís a fantastic comedic actress, as we all know. What she does is I think she brings something to the table that really allows the audience to want to see Dave back with her. A lot of these movies do tend to kind of two-dimensionalize women, that kind of role can be very thankless. Itís very easy to just paint her as the nagging, offensively stereotype wife role. But sheís complex and hot and funny and charming and interesting. Yeah, her life might be just a touch stale, but thatís what happens. You still at the whole time want Dave to get back there and thatís important. Olivia, she just, that girl just brings so much to the table. The mouth on her, like a sailor. Just amazing. It takes a lot of comedic chops to play a role like that and not, again, just kind of let it turn into this person just sort of going along with it. I like that sheís getting this guy into as much trouble as his buddy was.
Jason Bateman: Well thatís what the parents are, thatís what theyíre there for.
Ryan Reynolds: Itís not child abuse when you put your kid in Hollywood, no.
Jason Bateman: Youíre getting paid for it. For that particular scene that youíre referring to where Iím carrying them basically by the backs of their necks down a flight of stairs, they had built a special harness for each one of those kids, so thereís actually a shopping bag handle around each one of their chests and backs that I was holding on to, that their onesy was over. So what could happen bad? I could take a header going down the stairs, but come on. I know how to run down a flight of stairs. The parents were briefed and asked, not necessarily in that order, about all the things that might be kind of risquť, both with language or with physical efforts, and they were completely onboard.
Ryan Reynolds: Surprisingly indifferent [laughs].
Jason Bateman: We wrote a lot of the requests for what we wanted to do with the kids on the backs of dollar bills. No, it was very easy. All safety precautions were taken. In fact, in the kitchen scene when theyíre on the counter, and you think, ďOh my God, heís walking away from the kids on the counter, they could just crawl right off.Ē The studio, the movie, paid a lot of money for, there was a group of men that were dressed completely in green that were there on the set that you canít see because we painted them out, because they were in green suits, just there to catch the kids in case they fell off the counter. So there was a lot of money spent for safety.
Ryan Reynolds: But that one caused lasting psychiatric damage to those children. A man in a green unitard. Horrific.
So for the scene in the kitchen when you poured milk over them, were you able to actually do that?
Jason Bateman: Those were actually tinfoil babies. Those were babies made out of black tinfoil that I guess, black tinfoil is somehow easier in the digital world to paint out than green or blue, in this instance. Because it would pop off of the white milk I guess. So thatís what I was pouring, so thatís all movie magic that they put the kids underneath that. That was fun, that was a pretty cool idea.
Ryan Reynolds: I just say itís a win if we donít have a record, personally. I havenít spent a lot of time in jail or anything like that, I think I feel like we did all right.
Jason Bateman: I did well getting mine expunged.
Ryan Reynolds: Yeah, you did. Thatís expensive.
Jason Bateman: The girl Sydney, she played the oldest kid, sheís got her head on square, she doesnít need any advice from us and sheís got great parents. It would be a whole different interview, but itís a complicated thing to practice being somebody else before you really know who you are, but she seems to be navigating that okay.
You guys both have experience with R-rated and PG-13 comedy, Iím curious, do you have a preference?
Ryan Reynolds: For me itís always, I mean, every PG-13 comedy Iíve ever done, you always have that inevitable moment halfway through shooting where you call the studio head and say, ďAre you sure we canít go R with this because the shots have been terrible.Ē But yeah, I understand why PG-13 exists, youíre obviously appealing to four quadrants as opposed to two to three. But the freedom is incomparable. The fact that you can get away, look, the only reason you do a body-swapping comedy, the body-swapping comedy has been done before obviously, but the only reason you do it is if you can show, if we were to live in an absurd world where two drunk idiots piss in a magic wishing well and they switch bodies, if we lived in that world, you get to experience what it would be like. And what it would be like is horrible. Horrible, horrible things would happen, terrible things would be said and done. To sort of bring that up on the screen in a PG-13 way, thereís just absolutely no point. When it actually is meaningful in a movie like this, then itís a hundred percent warranted and I prefer it immensely. But thereís some times when youíre in a PG-13 movie and youíre like, this doesnít need to be rated-R. And itís nice. Itís very easy to sort of fall back on the idea that you can swear your way out of a scene or something like that. Itís nice, you can really let it all hang out on a movie like this and not worry too much about pushing it too far, and if we do go too far, thatís the directorís problem and he can figure that out in post.
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