Jason Bateman chats up EXTRACT, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, PAUL, Crystal Meth and more with Quint!
Published at: Sept. 4, 2009, 12:27 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here.
I was set up to interview Jason Bateman way, way too early in the morning… before 9am. I’m a night owl so that naturally meant only a few hours of sleep for me, but I’ve been a fan of Bateman’s for a long while. I’ve even been known to admit to certain confidences my enjoyment of TEEN WOLF 2. And, of course, his work on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT was awesome.
So, it was worth it to drag my sorry ass out of bed to get 20 minutes with Mr. Bateman.
The EXTRACT interviews were held at the Four Seasons on Town Lake. Miramax rented out the suite, which is decked out in a large living room with surround sound, flat screen TV and a gorgeous view of the lake. It has a Texas flair to it… a lot of wood, leather couches, etc, so immediately upon entering the room Bateman, even at that ungodly hour, was cracking some crude jokes about what goes on in a room like this. That’s where we start and we finish talking about ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: THE MOVIE and Presidential motions to make it happen.
Quint: We have got the nice suite going on, you do as you would like.
Quint: Yeah, I read that right before I went to sleep actually a few hours ago.
Jason Bateman: Did you guys go out last night?
Quint: (Kraken) and his wife went to the premiere and the party. I was at home working, unfortunately.
Jason Bateman: Oh yeah?
Quint: So how did it go? How was it?
Jason Bateman: It was great. It really went well. I was happy because the comedies that are doing really well right now are a lot louder than this, you know? And a bit more in your face and they are great. I really enjoyed them… HANGOVER I thought was really good, but Mike [Judge]’s tone and his sensibility and his funny is somewhat more muted and something that I really, really like because of that, so I was hoping that…
Quint: That you would still get a boisterous reaction?
Jason Bateman: Yeah, that perhaps maybe those other comedies have maybe changed sort of what people are expecting and perhaps by Mike’s succeeding or executing well what he does that it might somewhat get a false negative just because it doesn’t look like the stuff that’s currently out there, but it didn’t seem to play like that. It was loud.
Quint: I would hope, especially since this is his hometown. Austin is one of the few markets they actually released IDIOCRACY in. I just love the dynamic of his movies. This one, just the way he builds a cast of characters and the way that the comedy isn’t exactly, as you were saying, is not really on the sleeve, it’s more the characters and their situations and watching them trying to wiggle out, especially your character in this movie seems from the get go is just digging himself into a giant hole.
Jason Bateman: It is fun to watch somebody when things get moving a little bit faster than they can keep up with and it’s their own fault since they pushed it going that fast. FARGO is one of my favorite movies, if not the favorite of mine, and that’s certainly a case of somebody sort of being a bit more proactive than perhaps they can handle.
Quint: In some weird way it’s your character’s niceness and inability to stand up for himself. I interviewed Mike yesterday and we were talking a little bit about Mila [Kunis] in the movie and it’s odd how she’s probably not supposed to be the character that has it all together, but she is the one in this movie that actually knows what she is doing, through every step of it. It just seems like she is always in control.
Jason Bateman: Exactly, her or even Ben [Affleck]… They are both a couple of ne’r do wells that have been doing it long enough to really be good at it. My character is guy who is doing something that he’s never really done before and we get to observe his rookie status.
Quint: Can we talk a little bit about how you worked with the ensemble, because that is where I think a lot of Mike’s strength as a writer is and just how he pits different character types against each other. So how did you work with the main cast that you were interacting with during most of the movie in order to make sure that that chemistry came through.
Jason Bateman: He does a lot of that for you, really, before you get there by writing a script that is just sort of really great at what it does. He doesn’t reach. He’s very secure in not dressing it up too much and letting the characters play off of one another and letting conversations happen. His scenes are pretty long for today’s standard.
Quint: And character based. There are a few things, mostly with involving Clifton Collins’ junk, but most of it is all character.
Jason Bateman: Yeah, there’s not a lot of jokes in the film.
Quint: It’s much more situational.
Jason Bateman: Yeah, it really is about normal people being in absurd situations and so it asks you as an actor to play the character as real as possible, so that sort of fish out of water dynamic, that comedic dynamic, can really play, because if it’s Martians on Mars, it’s not funny. They have got to be down here to be funny.
As far as working with the ensemble goes, like I said, he really built that dynamic very well from a script standpoint and then his casting is always very specific and in this case as any others, I thought he just nailed it. He has an idea, maybe it’s coming from animation, really having a clear idea of what the aesthetic should be and making sure that the actors fit that and once you do that… I forget who it was who said it, but it’s 90% casting.
Quint: Is that attributed to a specific director?
Jason Bateman: I think it was. I want to say it was like John Huston or somebody like that.
Kraken: It might have been Billy Wilder, but I’m sure the Talkbackers will know.
Jason Bateman: One of the dead ones. But Mike certainly benefited from that and then not to be falsely modest, but I certainly hope that I just simply blended into the scenery as the center protagonist should and let the eccentric characters satellite around, so that I can be you, I can be the audience. It seemed to work.
Quint: Did you guys get much of a chance to rehearse?
Jason Bateman: No, we just sat around a table like this and read the script a few times over the course of a couple of days and that’s pretty much the extent of modern day rehearsals for films, unless you are into something that takes training or whatever, like I did this thing where I had to learn how to shoot a gun and that was an afternoon, but that was extensive rehearsal. You had to go to a location, but no this was just sitting around reading and sort of figuring out again what sort of comedic page everybody was on so we were all doing the same film.
Quint: I think the stuff in the movie that is getting the most reaction are all of your scenes with Ben (Affleck) and I think that’s precisely what you were talking about where you kind of allow him to be a little bit more out there.
Jason Bateman: If I didn’t react to his absurdity for what it was… If I wasn’t looking at him like he was a fucking moron, then it would be broad, then I would be in the same world as him, but as long as I try to keep it relatable to the normal people.
Quint: Then there’s no distance. Part of the fun of the movie is watching him slowly pull you down a path that you are not really… that your character should not the one going to the drug den…
Jason Bateman: Right.
Quint: He’s got to tempt you into the craziness or else the movie doesn’t work. He’s got to tempt you into the gigolo and everything.
Jason Bateman: Yeah, and I have to sort of process that decision or navigate that mistake, like we all would hopefully, otherwise it’s just sort of observing it from our seats and there’s no real risk there, but if we can kind of imagine ourselves in there, then it’s a little bit funnier, because it’s a little bit more dangerous.
Quint: You were talking a little bit about how Mike doesn’t really do the same kind of comedy that everybody else does in any other kind of movie. Your character’s relationship with Mila’s character would have been completely different. My expectation going in was that there was going to be this romance angle, but there really isn’t much of a romance at all. She’s always in it for what she is in it for and your character is in it essentially for the lust factor.
Jason Bateman: Right, but then sort of guilt ethics and conscience sort of gets the best of him and if you had been listening to that shoulder at the beginning of the movie, he wouldn’t have gotten into this problem.
Quint: In some weird backwards way thought it actually strengthens his relationship with his wife.
Jason Bateman: Exactly. I’m being a bit of an advocate for improprieties, but it has always helped my relationships. (Laughs)
Quint: “What the hell kind of message is this, Mr. Judge?”
Jason Bateman: Guilt has always made me better in the sack and ultimately more faithful after the fact.
Quint: A nice message for the kids. So, what are you working on now? You just did a bit in PAUL, right?
Jason Bateman: Yeah, we just finished that on Friday.
Quint: I love Simon [Pegg] and Nick [Frost]. Those guys are awesome. It’s going to be weird seeing them out from under Edgar’s thumb working together and not on an Edgar movie.
Jason Bateman: They are still somewhat in the family though, because Nira [Park] was producing this at the same time she was producing SCOTT PILGRIM, so she was going back and forth.
Quint: She was really cool. I met her during HOT FUZZ.
Jason Bateman: Oh yeah? They both couldn’t be nicer, same with Edger and Greg [Mottola] is really a great American proxy for Edgar. He’s very kind and very visual and works so well with them and I was really sort of geeked out to be included in the group there. It was really really fun.
Quint: Are you playing a straight man character?
Jason Bateman: Essentially, yeah.
Quint: You are an authority figure, right?
Jason Bateman: Yeah, I’m kind of the bad guy. I’m sort of the Yaphet Kotto from MIDNIGHT RUN or the Tommy Lee Jones from FUGITIVE. I’m the severe, humorless government official that is pursuing Paul to get his ass back, so unfortunately by definition, I’m never in the same place as these guys for most of the movie, so I didn’t really get a chance to do a lot of scenes with them. I would sort of show up at each location a day later, but we were certainly on the set a lot together and it was great. I could have done without New Mexico, but…
Quint: You aren’t a fan of new Mexico? You are going to alienate some… what? Fifteen people?
Jason Bateman: Thirteen. It’s not bad, it’s just the aesthetic of it. Some people are really into desertscape and just love a succulent turquoise, but that’s not me.
Quint: My grandparents live in Albuquerque, so I’ve been there a couple of times.
Jason Bateman: Do they like crystal?
Quint: No, they do love the silver and turquoise though…
Jason Bateman: No, no, I mean meth.
Quint: (laughs) Meth? No.
Jason Bateman: It’s the tweaker capital of the world.
Quint: They like the wine, which is like meth for old people.
Jason Bateman: (laughs) It wasn’t bad, but I don’t know it came right after a job in New York, so it was a bit of a culture shock.
Quint: What else were you doing? Did you just work with Jason (Reitman)? Is that the movie you were talking about?
Jason Bateman: UP IN THE AIR? No, the New York was a thing called THE BASTER, a rom-com and then I think I did UP IN THE AIR either just before that or maybe even during that. That was only a few days, but he just showed me that last week and it’s really fucking good.
Quint: I’ve been reading his twitter updates about tweaking scenes and putting temp scores on and all of that stuff.
Jason Bateman: That guy… He’s no fluke.
Quint: Jason’s is great!
Jason Bateman: It’s really nice that he’s so early in his career, like he’s not hitting his stride at the end like we are going to be able to see a lot of great films from him, so that’s great.
Quint: I think you mentioned last night that the ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT movie might actually be going forward?
Jason Bateman: Well, Mitch (Hurwitz) is writing it, so as soon as he’s done, then everything else kind of moves forward.
Quint: Has he been hired to write it or is this like a pre-emptive…
Jason Bateman: I don’t know what the business arrangement is, but the big sort of piece to move is him creatively wanting to do it. So he does and is and he’s on it, so the adults will figure out all of the business parts. I’m just happy that he’s writing it, because I miss those guys. That would be a lot of fun.
Quint: I think we all miss those guys and you better hope he finishes or else it will be your EVIL DEAD 4 and you’ll never hear the end of it.
Jason Bateman: I wish I had something different to say to people every time they ask me about it and in fact I tell Mitch about that. I say “You know, I’m for some reason the de facto guy with the stale news all of the time, so can you give me a page count you are on?” That’s news from him, that he is on it and he will be done hopefully soon, because I don’t know how much longer people would want to wait. It kind of hits a fatigue factor and a “who cares” factor after a while.
Quint: I think the big danger might be with Michael Cera outgrowing George Michael.
Jason Bateman: That’s assuming that we start from where we left off. It would be in real time, so it would be however many four or five years later, so I would be older and he would be older and whatever would happen at that time. I’m sure we would cover what has happened in the years off. Maybe he has become some gypsy hippy freak in college or something and he’s got his YEAR ONE hair.
Quint: That would be awesome. Have you seen the Obama sign?
Jason Bateman: I did. Jeffrey Tambor actually sent that to me and to Mitch as sort of like “Let’s go. Come on!” Mitch liked that, so maybe that sped him up a little bit.
Quint: I think that was awesome.
Jason Bateman: That was pretty cool.
As a side note, the internet is split on the origin of the "casting is 90% of directing" quote. Some say it's Woody Allen, some say it's Fellini.
Anyway, we wrapped the interview up and as he walked me to the door Jason mentioned that he’s a longtime reader of the site, which was cool of him to say. I told him to stay out of New Mexico and he then said he’d just sleep with my grandparents. I responded with a “What the hell did you just say to me!?!” which got a laugh from him, but I'm sure greatly perplexed the Austin American Statesman reporter waiting for his turn out in the hall.
So, yeah… good updates on PAUL and ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Can’t wait to see both! I really enjoyed the chat and hope you guys did too. Can’t wait to see both!
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