Exclusive: Director Jake Kasdan Talks BAD TEACHER, FRIENDS WITH KIDS, THE NEW GIRL and Dewey Cox

     June 21, 2011

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When director Jake Kasdan was sent the script that Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky had written for Bad Teacher, he thought it was hilarious and asked if he could make the film. The story was so funny that Kasdan only made very minor changes to the script, and luckily the studio let them go make the R-rated comedy they wanted to make, with the final movie turning out to be very close to the original script that they all fell in love with.

At the film’s press day, Jake Kasdan spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview, in which he talked about how he loved the humor and tone of Bad Teacher, how he’s planning an extended version of the film and six to eight deleted scenes for the DVD/Blu-ray release, and how much fun it was to get Justin Timberlake to sing so badly in the film. He also talked about how he got involved with producing Jennifer Westfeldt’s film Friends with Kids, how he ended up directing the pilot for the Fox comedy The New Girl, set for the Fall and starring Zooey Deschanel, that he’s trying to figure out what he wants to do next, and what he thinks Dewey Cox is up to now. Check out what he had to say after the jump:

Here’s the film’s synopsis:

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a teacher who just doesn’t care. She’s foul-mouthed, ruthless, and wildly inappropriate. She drinks, she gets high, and she can’t wait to marry her meal ticket and walk away from her day job teaching middle school. When she’s dumped her her fiancé, she sets her plan in motion to win over a rich, handsome substitute (Justin Timberlake) – competing for his affections with her overly energetic colleague, Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) – but finds herself fighting off the advances of the school’s gym teacher (Jason Segel). Elizabeth’s outrageous schemes and their wild consequences will shock her students, her co-workers and even herself.

bad-teacher-movie-image-cameron-diaz-jason-segel-justin-timberlake-01Question: How did Bad Teacher come about for you?

JAKE KASDAN: Somebody sent me the script, and I just thought it was hilarious and asked if I could make it, basically. It was a pretty clean process, in terms of how I came to it. It was a very simple, direct reaction. I just thought it was so funny. The guys who wrote it – Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky – have this completely distinctive voice. It’s a level of joke writing that has a subtlety, and it’s just very unusual to find anything that funny on the page. It just had a tone to it where I couldn’t really think of anything quite like it.

Once you had signed on to direct, were there any key changes you wanted to make, either to the story or the characters?

KASDAN: There was a very minor amount of pushing a certain idea through, or making sure that something was as clear as I wanted it to be. It was really a very marginal level of work, at that point. You hope to find a few things you connect to, over the course of your career, that speak to you that way, and these guys just really make me laugh.

Is it true that the studio didn’t give a lot of notes on the script?

KASDAN: Yeah. The truth is that they really let us go make the movie. They were great people to work for. I made another movie for the same people. The people who run Columbia like R-rated comedy, and they like what’s crazy about this particular movie and were attracted to it for the same reasons that we were. The result is that they really did say, “Go do it.” It is a little bit fragile. On the one hand, it’s a very collaborative process and we’re all talking to each other, but if you’re not lined up on what you’re trying to do, that’s when you can run into problems. As long as everybody is after the same thing, then you can have conversations about any number of things, and it’s all for the good and it just helps. Everybody who cares about it might have a good idea. But, they really let me do my thing, and it’s great.

cameron-diaz-justin-timberlake-bad-teacher-movie-imageWhy is it so important to you to have the writers be really involved with the production?

KASDAN: There are a lot of reasons. With this kind of comedy, you want to be making each other laugh, and you have to have a flow of ideas, as you’re doing it, so that you can shoot additional jokes and have more material. With this, and with a lot of things, having the person, or in this case the two guys, who conceived it be there, it helps you and gives you a great advantage in executing it to its full potential. It’s just great to have someone to bounce it around with, as you’re doing it.

Are you going to do an extended edition of the film for the DVD/Blu-ray release?

KASDAN: We have a slightly extended version of it. We also have some deleted scenes that are not in the extended version of it. There is a little bit of extra stuff.

How many deleted scenes will you include?

KASDAN: It’s six or eight, or something like that.

With all of the improv on set, will you have a scene with all of the various line readings?

KASDAN: We have a few things in the extended cut that are just extended out as well, that include more of that material, or just additional ideas and jokes.

Did you have any restrictions about what you could put in this film, jokes wise?

KASDAN: No, it’s R-rated, so we could put anything in. Part of our system is to shoot a ton of material and a lot of different jokes, and for every joke, there’s a variation on it. The final movie is very close to the script that we all fell in love with, but along the way, we shoot a lot of stuff. One of the upsides of that is that you’re able to cull from a pretty deep well of jokes that are, in fact, very much representative of what the movie is like, and you end up with what you think the best version of the movie is. When you first start putting things together, there’s things in the movie that don’t end up in the movie, but there was no “don’t be dirty” police from anywhere, really.

jason-segel-cameron-diaz-bad-teacher-imageHow did find such an amazing chemistry with your cast?

KASDAN: It wasn’t that hard, I don’t think. We just got really funny people to play every single part, and the material is really funny, and they’re all nice people. It wasn’t really that hard. This movie had a little bit of a thing where you almost couldn’t believe you were allowed to do it, so it was fun. We were doing it fast and we really had a good time together. We were like, “Oh, my god, let’s finish this real quick before anyone notices what we did, and then cut it together and hope for the best.” We really had a good time.

How much fun was it to get Justin Timberlake to sing so badly?

KASDAN: We had an enormous advantage in having Justin playing the part because nobody is funny singing like he is. We had the idea that Scott could sing the worst song ever written, and do so proudly. And, Justin nailed that, for sure.

How did you get involved with producing Friends with Kids?

Jake KasdanKASDAN: Jennifer Westfeldt, who wrote, directed and stars in that movie, actually came to me and asked me if I wanted to direct it. I was still working on Bad Teacher, but I loved the script and said, “If you want to direct it, I’ll help you out, however I can.” So, I was giving her advice and helping her get it together a little bit, along the way. And then, when the movie shot, I was in New York and around quite a bit, but mainly in an advisory role.

With such a great cast, it will be of interested to a lot of people. What can you say about the film and what it’s about?

KASDAN: Thematically, it’s about the moment in life where suddenly everyone starts having children, and what that does to a group of friends and to their relationships with each other. The story of it is about the last two singles in a group of friends, who are unattached, who decide to have a kid together, and it’s about what happens, as a result of that. That’s Jen [Westfeldt] and Adam Scott.

bad-teacher-movie-posterHow did The New Girl come about? What was it about that project that interested you?

KASDAN: Liz Meriwether called me up and asked me to direct it. She sent me the script and I just thought it was really funny. She’s got a very fresh voice. I just decided on a whim to go do it, and then, a couple days later, Zooey [Deschanel] signed on to do it and it became really exciting. Liz is just a great writer with exactly the write actress. That’s what you hope for, for a TV show. You hope for that with anything, but with a TV show, the writer and the actor being the right mix are more important than the actual writing of the pilot because you hope it’s something that can have a long life. It was a really fun thing. We’re totally stoked it’s going to be a series now.

Will you only be directing the pilot, or will you be involved with any more episodes?

KASDAN: Yeah, I’m going to do the first couple and help them get it launched. Liz and Zooey just have a really cool thing together that I was the very lucky beneficiary of.

Do you know what you’re going to do next?

KASDAN: You know, I don’t know exactly. There are a couple of movies that we’re talking about, that are being written or rewritten, so I’m just trying to figure out what the next thing is.

So, what is Dewey Cox up to right now?

KASDAN: Well, Dewey died, but I’m sure that somewhere he lives on, serenading in the afterlife.

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