The Change-Up Set Visit Interview: Ryan Reynolds And Jason Bateman
Yesterday you hopefully caught the first half of my report from the set of The Change-Up, and R-rated spin on the body-switching comedy starring Jason Bateman as an uptight family man and Ryan Reynolds as his raucous bachelor best friend. After a night of drinking in which they each admit that they kind of envy the other's life, the two friends switch bodies, and of course all kinds of madness ensues from there. Leslie Mann, who was also on the set the day we visited, plays Bateman's wife, while Olivia Wilde also steps in as a comely coworker he could never make a move on regularly, but when trapped in the body of his best friend… well, you see where this can go.
Check out the earlier report for lots more details on the set, including interviews with director David Dobkin and co-write Jon Lucas. Below you can see our on-set roundtable conversation with Bateman and Reynolds, in which the obvious rapport between the two longtime friends made both for a great interview and a good sign of the comedic chemistry we can look forward to in The Change-Up. The movie opens August 5.
So when you guys change bodies, do you actually "do" each other to get across the change?
Bateman: It's not that. I told Dobkin early that my talents and skill set does not include doing impersonations, I'm just not that talented.
Reynolds: It's also the most fun that way. We get to have the most fun, be the most free that way. There are certain elements that we definitely carry over from before, dialogue and physicality, but we're not doing spot-on impressions of each other. We don't want the audience to start to go, "He didn't do the perfect slow burn with the patented signature Bateman eyebrow raise! Which is a very tough move to pull off."
Did you study each other beforehand?
Reynolds: We've known each other for a long time. But we didn't do too much of that.
Bateman: We've been mutually complimentary for a bunch of years. I initially fell in love with Ryan--
Reynolds: -- this is our E Harmony ad.
Bateman: -- at the Van Wilder premiere. And watched his stuff ever since.
Reynolds: We've been trying to do something together for a long time. We've come real close on a couple of things, close to working together, and I'm glad those didn't work out because we might not be sitting here right now.
Can you talk about the level of humor in the film? We've heard it is a very hard R.
Reynolds: I hope it's R. I'm thinking maybe NC-17 at this point.
Bateman: There has been a few PG and PG-13 versions of the body-swapping movie. We've all seen them and they've been great. They've done a fresh version of that by making it R. It's a great, simple, easily relatable concept made fresh by throwing the whole fish out of water conceit into deeper and rougher waters.
Reynolds: I don't think there's any point in making it any other way. The R rating is the reason that I'm here. You do all the things you wish you could have seen in those other movies. Also seeing these two guys, in their own way, take advantage of the situation. It's a hall pass. You get a day pass here, and what would you do with it? There's a lot of things that happen both nefarious and fun, and they're both kind of the same actually, that you couldn't do in a PG-13.
Bateman: And they're really done a great job by putting us in as risqué and gratuitous situations as possible, but having the characters be charmingly underwater. Most of the time they're not driving these unseemly situations, they're a victim of them. It becomes a bit more palatable and doesn't seem like we're really pandering for, "Oh, it's a hard, edgy R laugh there!" If that happened to you, you'd say "Fuck!" as opposed to "Darnit." And "fuck" is going to get you an R and "darnit" doesn't. We're not forcing it.
We hear that about a third of the way through the movie, and [to Bateman] you get on the fuck train, you go crazy--
Bateman: That's a possible title.
Reynolds: Yeah, fuck train. That's the Bulgarian release.
Was that part of the appeal? When you started reading the script, it seems like you're supposed to be a straight shooter, and then it flips.
Bateman: Yeah, I think for both of us, it's an actor's dream. It's Jekyll and Hyde, you get to play both sides of it. It's a great challenge comedically.
Reynolds: And when we first started talking about the film, we both put our hands up into the air as to which role we wanted to play. I was easy either way, you were easy either way. "I don't know, I'll play Dave for the bulk of the movie I guess. I'll play Mitch. Ok, great!"
Bateman: And during rehearsal we swapped quite a bit.
Reynolds: Just to see what it would sound like.
Bateman: A research thing, you know.
Reynolds: And as a way to shame me.
We saw you guys shooting a bunch of different alternate takes and different ways with the scene. Do you do that a lot with the script?
Reynolds: We spent a few weeks throwing a football around in a big hall out here, before shooting, just coming up with alts and making each other laugh. We wrote them all down, and some of them happen, we put them in the script-- it actually says "alt"--just so we'll remember it. And others happen when they're here. You see that look of innocence in that little girl's eyes and you say, "I need to push her into the stairs. I need to quiet that innocence."
Bateman: You actually warrant a bit of a writing credit. You should get at least a cast bump. Reynolds: I don't think the Writer's Guild works that way. Jason and I both, I wish he could be up by the monitor when he's not working. The thing that he and I both love doing is throwing out alts and jokes while sitting behind the monitor.
Bateman: I owe you a dozen.
Reynolds: Yeah, I owe you. You actually do owe me, because you always come up with them after I've finished the fucking scene.
How do you do R-rated humor when there are kids on the set? Obviously the kids are part of it.
Reynolds: Well the child abuse has already started. It's showbiz. All I'm really doing is helping I think at this point. No matter what I do, they're going to leave better people.
So the little girl won't be scarred for life by what you're saying to her?
Reynolds: Yeah, probably. She's not listening to me. She's waiting for her cue line, which keeps changing. Poor little girl. I really threw my back out tossing her around.
Yeah, you threw her really high.
Reynolds: That's the idea. They actually had wires here today to assist in that, but we didn't end up using them. That's why the stunt guys are here. They were going to wire her so I could throw her dangerously high in the air, spin her around and catch her in weird ways. But I just thought that was a great way for me to break my nose.
Bateman: It's almost a good example of the R vs. PG version. In the PG version he'd throw her up, turn to Leslie and say three lines, and then the kid would come back down. The R joke is actually having the frame wide enough that you actually see how fucking scary…
Reynolds: And the idea is to plant in the minds of the viewers that this person should never be left alone with this child, which of course happens later. Way too much exposure to Mitch.
Was there any part of the script you were uncomfortable with initially?
Reynolds: I don't have that button. I don't have that thing. I don't possess it.
Bateman: That's a good question. Was there anything?
Reynolds: There were a few things that we both really had to talk about, in a healthy way.
Bateman: Yeah, execution-wise. Like we were talking about earlier, there are some graphic, raunchy fucking things in this movie, and if it's not executed in a tasteful, semi-sophisticated way, it just becomes poor taste. And hopefully we're on the side of that. And that's a combination of multiple departments-- the camera, the writing, the music, the editing. There's a thousand ways to shoot every joke, and a bunch of ways to perform them. It has to be a proper cocktail. I don't mean to make this sound like highbrow science, but it takes a conversation between all the creatives.
Was there a specific instance where you thought, execution is everything here?
Reynolds: A lot of the setpieces in the film are kind of that.
Bateman: There's more than one. It's a bit of a minefield in this sense.
Reynolds: The big comedy pieces have to be played with utter reality, because otherwise you're watching Airplane!.
How far are you going with the sex and nudity in this one?
Reynolds: It goes all out. We don't pull a single punch in that regard. But it's not there for the sake of being there. It's there because there are all very real and scary things. If you were married for 16 years, and you got to be your buddy who's this wild, single guy, it sounds very appealing until you're in the lion's den. And then it's very scary. Suddenly this is very real, and yes it's not my body, and yes it's not technically me doing this, but I'm here and that's what's happening. The moments where there's nudity, it really just becomes a lamb and a lion together.
Bateman: And conversely, when that guy gets put inside this shell and is turned loose inside a domestic haven, with a wife and three kids--
Reynolds: Equally scary.
Bateman: Yeah, talk about fox in the henhouse. That presents a problem.
Does the R rating make it even harder to know the limits of the broad comedy?
Reynolds: We do versions. You can do everything, as long as you're not making big faces and trying to be funny all the time. With the little girl, I just try alts with it, but they're all things that this guy would be feeling. Do I want to go to a dance recital? Absolutely not, unless it's an exotic dance recital. It's just a matter of tagging what the idea at the beginning of it, the reality at the beginning of it.
Bateman: Sometimes the R is represented in the tone of the comedy, the amount of cynicism of sarcasm. When she says "Will you come to my thing?" in a PG film he can't say no. He'd have to sort of awkwardly fumble for, how do I… he can just straight up say "No."
Or push her on the stairs.
Reynolds: Yeah. Hitting kids is always funny.
Mitch also seems to have a pretty inappropriately friendly relationship with Dave's wife too, right?
Reynolds: I think it's pretty clear early on that Mitch thinks she's a hot little number--
Bateman: He doesn't have an edit button.
Reynolds: I don't do it when he's not around. I'm sexing her up while he's in the kitchen, and they're just shaking their heads at me.
Bateman: We all have one of those in our lives.
Reynolds: We all have a guy like that. I have a Mitch…
How does Ollivia Wilde fit in? She's a coworker of yours?
Bateman: Yes, we are colleagues at a law firm. She's somebody who is distracting to my character in a fairly pure way. But when he's put in a different skin, there's almost an OK there. He's not sure, and then when this guy gets in his ear it's like "Dude, don't be an idiot."
Reynolds: Use my body!
Bateman: That's just one of the conflicts.
With the kinds of movies you've been doing before this, is this a fun break to do a hard R film Why did you choose this particular film?
Reynolds: Well I wanted to work with Jason. And the script I read when I was shooting another fill that was very difficult to shoot. I remember reading it and sitting in bed and crying laughing.
Bateman: You read this during Buried? Reynolds: Yeah, and crying laughing. "I've got to do this somehow, or just get it on a loop in my house if someone else does it?" I really, really was attracted to it. And it came through on all levels. You get scared if you're working on a movie that you have a really good time on, because you think how can this be good if I'm having so much fun. It's been that from day one. Since our first day of rehearsals throwing the football around in that hall, it's just the greatest job for me that I've done in a long time. It's just what I needed. It's like a vacation, but creative.
Did you guys both come on to the project at the same time? Reynolds: Nobody's ever really doing a movie until you break for lunch the first day, and then it's iffy.
Bateman: The elements were floating around for a long time, and people smarter and richer than us have to decide when it all can come together. There's somebody stirring that big pot. There's a friendship that's been there, and there was certainly a mutual desire to want to commingle.
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