If you loved “Office Space” and “Idiocracy”, you must be beyond excited for this Friday, as that’s the day writer-director Mike Judge’s third feature “Extract” arrives in theaters! So to help promote the film, I recently participated in a roundtable interview with Jason Bateman and he talked about making the film, what he has coming up, and a lot more.
In the film, Jason plays the owner of an Extract factory and a freak workplace accident sets in motion a series of disasters that put his business and personal life in jeopardy. Trust me, the film is very funny and you should definitely check it out this weekend. Read what he had to say after the jump. It’s a great interview.
As usual, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio of the roundtable interview by clicking here. Finally, for a taste of the awesomeness that is “Extract”, click here to watch some clips.
Jason: How’s it going?
Good. So were you surprised when you got the call to promote this at Comic-Con?
Jason: No because the people that go to Comic-Con are Mike Judge friendly. Makes sense. I was excited because I’ve never been there and I was actually working on something that Comic-Con plays a big part in the script so it was kind of nice to go there and sort of pretend to be doing research.
What did you take away from that experience because it’s a pretty singular kind of event?
Jason: What I took away from it was that it just seemed very current and adult and professional in that this is…that’s the new junket effectively. I mean, no one’s really watching E News or Entertainment Tonight anymore. Everyone’s getting their entertainment news on the web. I was just talking to my publicist about it. And, you know, those people are driving the web. It’s a conference for them basically and so it makes sense to bring your wares there and ingratiate yourself to that community and hope that they champion your product and sort of disseminate it out into the ether and create some momentum. So it was exciting.
To what extent was Mike Judge the reason you did this movie?
Jason: Well, I think it was 90% him and then 10% the script because we share a manager-Michael Rotenberg. And he told me about this project that Mike had been playing with for a long time and I guess got the blessing from Mike to send me the script. And I read the script and loved that and then Mike and I had lunch and we talked about it and seemed like maybe he was going to maybe give me the part. We kept talking about and kept meeting and then eventually Michael Rotenberg found the right kind of money for this thing. Money that wouldn’t overly participate in the creative process because Mike’s got such a specific sensibility and comedic tone that if he got money in there that’s sticking their finger in the cooking, it can start to kind of dilute the product and so it took about 3 years until we got the right kind of money so he could have some autonomy.
Did you always get him? Were you a “Beavis & Butt-head” fan?
Jason: I didn’t really watch “Beavis & Butt-head” that much or “King of the Hill”, but I was a huge “Office Space” fan. And there are certain people that make kind of louder in your face a little bit more obvious comedies that are just as good. They’re just a different kind of funny whereas Mike makes stuff that is a little less in your face. A little more muted. A little bit more on my taste. It was no better, no worse. It’s just a little bit more consistent with what I do best. So I’m attracted to what he does and was really excited he wanted me.
You’re connected to Jason Reitman to a large extent and wonder how you would contrast those two styles? You’re going to TIFF with Jason right?
Jason: Yeah. Jason is, I think, a little bit more interested in using multiple departments to create the environment he’s trying to build for the audience. And Mike, I think, is a little bit more focused on more of a consistent sort of comedic tone. I think I would say that Reitman concentrates a bit more on taking full advantage of his access as a director and Mike is content to give those people a bit more sort of free reign and just sort of approve or disapprove of their contributions as opposed to guiding those. I don’t think either way is a better or worse way to work. It’s just I think Jason is excited about different things than Mike is and vice-versa.
You have some great scenes with Ben Affleck. You guys have worked together before. You’ve worked with his wife before. Does that help in a sense when you’re working that you’ve spent some time even though you’re entirely different characters?
Jason: Yeah, especially in a comedy. If there’s an overall sense of comfort, relaxation, safety you can kind of work off your extinct a little bit more and usually that’s where the better stuff comes from. I mean, if people are not very friendly or you’re not very comfortable with them, you kind of pull back a little bit and you play safe and there’s not a lot of comedy in that. So yeah, Ben and I got along really well and like you said we knew each other a little bit from before and he’s just…I don’t think it’s necessary to know him before because he’s very affable. That’s how he got his last name. I don’t know if you guys knew that.
It’s a family trait.
Jason: It is. But yeah, we had a good time.
Somewhere, maybe it was even in the press kit, I don’t know. There’s a quote from Mike Judge saying that once he finally got around to watching “Arrested Development” that’s when he became really interested in you as an actor. What do you think of his ability? There’s very different kinds of comedy but if you can answer what you think it is about your work in that character that would make him think you were right for this?
Jason: I think that it’s because both the character in this film and the character I played in “Arrested Development” are sort of the protagonist, you know? They’re sort of the classics for the center of craziness. It’s sort of the audience’s proxy and the straight man. And I like serving that function in comedies. It’s sort of necessary component and not a lot of people are attracted to it or enjoy doing it so usually those parts are available. So I snatch those up as much as possible. I mean maybe I’ll start to look for some antagonist parts in the future, but when you get to be the center of something that is being written, created, directed by people as talented as Mike and Mitch Hurwitz you know, you say great. If I can be there every day, sure please.
So you’re not concerned about being stereo-typed or pigeon holed or anything then?
Jason: No. I mean I…
Because you keep playing this character and you said you like it but we’ve talked to a lot of actors who are concerned that that might be exactly where they stay and then it runs out.
Jason: Well, listen. There are worse things than being constantly hired to do anything. But I’ll bank on myself to be able to do other things given the opportunity. I mean, I might have to audition for those things, but I’ll take those smaller, spicier parts. You know, “State of Play” and “Smokin’ Aces” were things I really enjoyed doing. And if somebody thinks that well maybe I don’t know if he can play that, at least I’ve got some current tape that I can show them and maybe get a shot at it, but I just like to stay employed, you know? This business is tricky enough to get overly picky, you know?
You had, it seemed like, a lack of confidence that this string would continue back at “The Kingdom” when you were still enthusing over the fact that you had managed to make that jump from television in the first place. Even as I look at films that have wrapped and ready to go for next year, you still seem to be ridiculously busy.
Jason: Sure, well but you know check back next week. You really never know. I mean look at the people at the top of our business are still sweating their next gig. They’ll remain nameless but I can 3 at the very, very top of the list that don’t have their next job. So it’s always been…a position of relevance has always been sort of a slippery place in this business and I think this year vs. 5 years ago it’s even worse. I think there’s less films being made. There are fewer studios and so I think it would be a mistake to be overly confident or comfortable.
What is the state of “Arrested Development” that being one of the films?
Jason: The script’s being written and when Mitch is done with it we can go to the scheduling part of it which will probably prove to be a bit challenging given the size of the cast.
And they’re all attached?
Jason: He is asked us not to speak about specifics, but that he’s working on it.
It seems like 5 or 6 months there was a lot of momentum. A lot of people talking about the film. And then it seemed like it sort of got a little bit quiet. Everyone’s a little nervous it’s actually happening. Is it, in fact, actually being written right now?
Jason: Yeah. Yeah. That’s never changed. I mean people have guessed and “rumored” and all that other stuff in all areas of the media. I’ve always been a little sort of…I’ve always felt bad that I never had more information to give people when they asked me about it, but I guess people kind of got frustrated by that and they just started kind of making up their own sort of “well, we haven’t heard that much” or “news hasn’t changed so it must be going away”. I don’t know. It sort of took a life of its own on and fatigue started to set in I think about the whole story of it. I mean, there’s really no need to write anything about it at all until he’s done writing it. Once he writes it then, just like any movie, then it becomes something a little bit more real and then you try to figure out scheduling and you try to figure out people’s deals. I mean, it’s got the same life that any other project would have. It has just as much a chance of happening as it does of not happening really.
In terms of “Extract”, your character Joel, a very hapless harried kind of husband but top of his game in the business world. How much of Jason is in Joel?
Jason: A lot. I try to figure out how much of the character I can find in myself because you don’t want to get outside of your skill-set. I’m not that great of an actor so I can’t like completely become somebody else. So I try to find as much in common with myself as I can and just kind of bend it a little bit to fit the story and try not to make it too complicated.
You mentioned actors having a position of relevance and you’ve seemed to have had one for the last few years, and have you had a chance to really enjoy that because the momentum on your career has just built and built and built? Or do you always sweat the next gig?
Jason: Well, sweat would probably be the wrong word. It’s more a sense, I think, of my own ambition and desire to continue to use what I’m learning and each year I learn more and more. So I’d love my responsibilities to grow, so basically each time I start to approach a goal I want to set another one, just like probably all of us in this room do. And so wherever that guides me hopefully I can get there but I’m not comfortable sort of just kind of staying at status quo.
What clicks? Like what turned the corner?
Jason: I think it was “Arrested Development” without a doubt. I was looking for anything to do before that and I was lucky to get that part. I said before I would have done a show half as good. Fortunately that show was good and was watched by those who hand out jobs in this town.
In this movie, you are sort of a romantic leading man in an ambivalent sense. I mean the marriage seems to be kind of reconstructing itself at the end and not in the traditional way. You’ve got this other one coming out called “The Baster”. Can you tell us a little bit about that and is that sort of a romance in the….?
Jason: It’s a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston. It’s less than traditional. There’s some sperm swapping going on there. You’ll have to stay tuned for the details on that but I think that’ll probably be the first quarter of next year. I see a little bit of it tomorrow for the first time going in to do some ADR, but I hear they’re really, really happy with it.
Is that something new for you in terms of…
Jason: The sperm swapping?
The sperm swapping and the role. I mean obviously there’s a romantic arc.
Jason: Well, I haven’t done a romantic comedy before, but it’s new for me in that sense and again, it’s nice that I’m it’s another one that I’m sort of on every page and I like being hired to do more and more stuff. Carry more and more responsibility. It’s nice I’m getting that trust.
You just wrapped in New Mexico on “Paul”.
You had a hell of a cast. Could you talk a little bit about working with Simon, Nick, Kristin and your character?
Jason: They’re really obviously the cool kids and it’s nice to get invited to those parties. So I enjoyed my stay there and tried not to get kicked out and stayed and helped them clean up afterwards. It was a lot of fun and it’s always nice to be part of an ensemble with people that you admire. It was an easy yes.
Well, you played an Agent? Could you talk about who you play in the film?
Jason: Yeah, a Federal Agent. A guy, sort of a humorless guy, with aviators and a dark suit that’s sent from the base to go track down the alien and bring him back to Area 51. Sort of the Yaphet Kotto part in “Midnight Run”.
When I talked to you a long time ago about “Juno” you were saying the same kind of acute things of being acutely aware of like working and wanting to keep working and it’s refreshing not to have “no it’s the role” always like to have answers that are that pragmatic. But movies like that, that was a risk in its time, and this is still…a Mike Judge movie is still a risk. Are you afraid that in these economically uncertain times these would be the first movies to go for studios?
Jason: I guess, but I hope there’s always going to be a marketplace for filmmakers with a specific thing they want to say as opposed to directors that just kind of get thrown on with what the industry calls these programmers that are just very safe down the middle with uber-mass appeal that you can just stuff your face with popcorn and the product goes down nice and easy and there’s not much of a sweat. And you get in your car and you go home. It’s movie junk food. And it definitely feeds the beast and keeps the machine running but it’d be nice to think that there’s room for the others, too. I think by definition those will always have to be done at a lesser price because the audience is smaller, but that’s okay. If you spend less, you don’t have to make as much with the movie for it to be a success.
They still say about “Office Space” that he failed even though he made it all back.
Jason: Well, I think hindsight is sort of correcting that assessment.
Did you just have a landmark birthday recently?
Jason: No, January is my birthday. I turned 40.
Yeah, did that change your prospective at all in what you want to do in life and accomplish?
Jason: Not really. I mean, I’ve considered myself an old man for quite a while, so it’s just perpetuated some more so hopefully some more responsible sort of adult decisions that I started the ball rolling on about 5 years ago. So try to keep that going.
Peter Berg started talking a little bit about a “Hancock” sequel. Is that something you’d go back to?
Jason: Oh yeah in a heartbeat. Yeah, that’s not a tough decision. I hope that happens. I don’t know if that’s a significant story. I read that, too. I’m sure he wasn’t really passing on anything more substantive than just anytime Will Smith does anything it lends itself to a franchise. And they were talking about a sequel while we were in the middle of shooting that. So I don’t think he was saying that anything’s happened that’s triggered real movement on that. I’m sure he probably just answered the question if somebody said “Hey what about a sequel for “Hancock”? He probably said, “Oh yeah sure. Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?” I don’t think anything’s really moved.