I’m trying not to ruin the take from laughing. Thankfully, all the reporters on the Horrible Bosses set visit are also on the verge of losing their shit, so I think they won’t throw us all out if we mess it up. As I look around the converted TGI Friday’s in Woodland Hills, California, I realize the entire crew else is getting ready to burst, and it’s at this moment that I start to think director Seth Gordon’s movie might be awesome and a huge surprise.
But let me back up a second.
Late last summer I got to visit the set of Horrible Bosses. As most of you know, the film has an all-star cast featuring Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jamie Foxx and it’s about a group of friends that decide to work together to kill their bosses. While Warner Bros. could have played it safe and released a boring PG-13 movie, I’m happy to report Horrible Bosses is a hard R and based on what I saw on set it’s going for the jugular in terms of raunchy comedy. For more on the film and what I saw and learned on set, hit the jump.
Before going any further, I suggest watching the trailer:
As most of you know, every set visit is different, and you never know how it’s going to go until you’re there. When I arrived on set with the small group of online reporters, almost immediately we sat down with producer Jay Stern. One of our first questions was how the project got put together. He explained that while some movies get made extremely fast, this was one of those projects that’s been in development for a long time:
“I started out over 5 years ago bringing this to New Line and saying this is a great script and a great idea and let’s make this movie. And they were pretty eager right from the start. But we had a bunch of stops and starts and for various reasons…one of the reasons being that it was very hard to do. At the time it was hard to do kind of up and coming—great up and coming cast—at New Line at the time because they were so internationally oriented. But for various reasons we didn’t get the movie made and then we had a re-write done which got people even more excited about it. And New Line got very serious about well, we need to make this movie. So it’s been a process over a number of years. Really the last 6 to 9 months New Line has been incredibly determined to get it going and because we had I think a really excellent comedy script the talent came to it and was attracted to it and we got lucky with some great, great…I think everybody in the cast is great.”
We then discussed which of the cast committed to the project, because sometimes after you get the first person, it leads to everyone else:
“Jason Bateman was pretty much in. And we were taking to Jason Bateman and Colin Farrell and Jason Sudekis was right in there and Charlie Day was right in there. And it was after getting those folks that we got Jennifer Aniston and the last piece of the puzzle and we also got Jamie Foxx pretty early on—sort of 6 months ago he was very, very interested. The last piece of the cast was Kevin Spacey, which we played with a lot of different ideas and he just seemed like the best possible pick for a really, really psychologically sadistic boss.”
“I don’t see it as a dark comedy and I do see it as really anchored in reality but we definitely take some license. So I think we anchor it in relatively real situations and then I think we push the envelope a bit and I don’t believe we ever get cartoony. We certainly are trying to avoid getting cartoony, but we’re realistic with a flair, how’s that? With a comedic flair. I do think The Hangover is an example of something that accomplished that very well and even from the first script we had—literally the spec script that we first read over 5 years ago—it really, really aimed to have a real anchor in reality and have realistic situations and then push the envelope a bit.”
Most of you have seen the trailer and can tell his answer is right on the money. After talking with Stern, we went inside the TGI Friday’s (which was called Rivetti’s Bar and Restaurant) to watch some filming.
As we ventured inside, we were positioned at an end of the restaurant and had a few monitors near our position so we could watch the A and B camera (they were shooting with two Genesis cameras which could go for 42 minutes without a break). Since the restaurant was a real world location and they had a lot of equipment and cameras in the small space, we couldn’t get any closer. However, even though we couldn’t stand next to the action, since the restaurant was so small, we could still see and hear almost everything from our vantage point. And it was here that we almost ruined a few takes.
The first thing that you need to know is P.J. Byrne is ridiculously funny. While Horrible Bosses is about Day, Bateman and Sudeikis trying to kill their Bosses, we watched a scene where Byrne approaches the guys and what I heard him say floored me. In my many years of getting to watch movies get made, I’ve never heard such dirty language on a movie set.
The set up is that Byrne is an old High School friend who made it and has landed a high paying job at Lehman Brothers. As he starts to talk to the guys, he’s dripping with confidence and ego, and you might think the guys a pompous asshole. But as he continues to talk, he slowly reveals that he lost the job and he needs money. He says something like, “I was making six figures but now I can’t pay for a drink.” As he continued talking, I couldn’t believe what he said.
At first he starts to ask for some money, and the guys say not to worry as they’ll buy him some drinks. They debate between themselves how much to give and they think fifteen dollars is enough. However, Byrne is looking for more than that, and he’s willing to do anything to get the cash…including sexual favors. If you’re not one for filthy language, I suggest skipping to the next paragraph. But for everyone else: Byrne offers the guys hand jobs and then he’ll use their cock paste as tooth paste. He then says he’d like to put the “paste” on and around other body parts including “right in my eye” and “up my nose.” Honestly, he was saying things that might make a few porn stars blush. And I was loving every second of it.
The other reason Byrne was killing it was that he would do the scene again and again, and each time director Seth Green would tell him a line to add and he’d seamlessly weave it into his speech. I really hope what I saw on set is on the DVD/Blu-ray, because it’s really some of the filthiest stuff I’ve ever heard.
Another thing that I found interesting was that they played the scene a few different ways. At first Byrne played it for the comedy, but then he played the same scene as if he was in a drama. He even started to cry as he offered to use their cock paste. While we were all laughing for the first few takes, the last few weren’t as funny, and it’ll be interesting to see which version they end up using. It’s also interesting to note they filmed this scene for a few hours and it’ll only be a minute or so of the finished movie.
After watching filming for awhile, they eventually finished the scene and as the crew set up another location inside the restaurant, we went outside to talk with director Seth Gordon. Almost immediately we asked him about the scene that we just watched and which version would make the movie. Green told us:
“The initial instinct I had with PJ and why I cast him in that part was because he’s able to sell that almost car salesman version of the character he’s playing which was very positive, very optimistic and very in the belly with the confidence. But, yesterday, when we were performing it, we discovered this other side which was, in a way, more poignant where we explored the desperation of what a guy would be like who was really asking for such a thing or making that offer would be like. And that was more interesting. So today, what I was doing because we discovered that on the other side of the line was protecting for both options. My instinct is probably to try the dramatic first and see if it works. Obviously, we’re a comedy, but there’s great comedy in drama. I think some of the funniest stuff taps into real human emotions. So that’s what we were exploring here. But it’s pretty heavy, the heavy version. So I’d be crazy to only capture that.”
With the character losing his job and that’s why he was offering to do these sexual favors, we asked if the movie was going to use other real world problems as part of the story:
“If it comes together the way I see it, it’s gonna tap into all the emotion and all the upheaval for a lot of Americans right now. People who can’t afford their mortgages and have to renegotiate with the bank or something gets repossessed after you worked your whole life. You follow the rules and you do the right thing and you still get screwed. That’s what I think a lot of Americans are in the middle right now and I’d love to tap into that because that underpins the desperation that a lot of Americans are in in their jobs and why they can’t leave their jobs and they’re stuck.”
“Yeah! It was a great sort of whirlwind of conversation with New Line and some of the different agencies and talent. It was sort of a real snowball effect. More and more folks wanted to be involved and they were all great for the parts and also unexpected, in many cases, for the parts. There may be an image of Colin Farrell out there on the web, but he’s not playing his normal character. Nor is Aniston, nor is Jamie Foxx. None of our antagonists in this movie really are. I think that’s going to be really exciting. To have all our folks try their hand at a really different thing. It’ll be fun.”
Soon after talking with Green, we got to ask Day, Bateman and Sudeikis a few questions. One of the first things we wanted to know was what kind of relationship do the three main characters have. Bateman told us:
“We are best friends and we sort of commiserate with one another about our tough situations. We may be brighter than our bosses, but we are not bright enough to avoid the main plot, which is to think that we can get away with killing our bosses. We kind of come up with that plan with the help of an equally non-bright guy named “Motherfucker Jones” played by Jamie Foxx. We go about trying to kill these three people and the script is constructed in a pretty hilarious, non conventional, kind of unpredictable way. Even though it stays pretty linear and it is a pretty easy watch – it never gets boring.”
Another thing we discussed was how they got involved. We asked if this was one of those scripts that as they were reading it, they immediately wanted to be involved. Day told us:
“Jason and I did a movie with New Line last year called Going the Distance. So New Line contacted me and said, “We have this movie we are doing and this role.” I sat down and met [director] Seth [Gordon] and he had a lot of great funny ideas. So once I was done giving out hand jobs over at New Line [laughs] they let me in their movie. No, I’ve worked with Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. They were the guys who rewrote it and I knew them. I think I was the first one to sign on to star in the movie. I really enjoyed working with New Line last summer and I wanted to certainly wanted to stay in their comedy family I guess. I felt like a pig in shit or the luckiest guy in the world with the cast that followed. I had no idea who I was going to be teamed up with and I was a little worried about it. I was very excited when they came on and basically called Sudeikis and begged him to come on too. So that was my process.”
Bateman: “There weren’t a lot of questions from me. I loved it and wanted to be a part of it. It was just a question of trying to work out some dates and we were done. It was really simple.”
Sudeikis: “I took a little bit longer. I had just done a movie. I did another movie for New Line and I was doing SNL. So I took a couple of more weeks. Luckily, when it came time, everything was all cleared up schedule wise. They still wanted me and I did it then.”
After talking to the guys for awhile, we eventually got word that the crew was ready and we went inside to watch them rehearse the next scene. While I didn’t see the actual filming, the rehearsal had them at a table talking about killing their bosses. From what I could gather, this was the first time they started to really put together their murder plan.
If you weren’t sold by the trailers, or the images of Colin Farrell’s comb over, I hope my write up has made Horrible Bosses a movie you’ll want to see. And hypothetically speaking, perhaps I know some people that have seen a test screening and they (again, hypothetically speaking) might have told me it’s extremely funny. Based on my set visit, it doesn’t surprise me. Horrible Bosses gets released July 8.
Here’s more coverage of Horrible Bosses: