When I first heard that Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds were going to star in a body switching comedy, my first thought was, “Hasn’t this concept been beaten to death?”. But, when I found out the guys who wrote The Hangover (Jon Lucas and Scott Moore) were writing the script and the director of Wedding Crashers (David Dobkin) was helming the project, I thought The Change-Up had the chance to be very funny. And it is. It’s actually the hardest I’ve laughed in a theater in a long time and I absolutely recommend checking out the movie this weekend.
Anyhow, I recently got to sit down with Bateman and Reynolds for an exclusive interview. They talked about making the movie, the babies (you’ll understand after you see the movie), whether or not they were nervous to sign onto the project, the line between realism and “Hollywoodising” a scene, and a lot more. Reynolds also gave me an update on R.I.P.D.. Hit the jump for more.
As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below. If you have the time, I definitely recommend listing to the interview.
Jason Bateman: Ok, let’s make sure that part is transcribed verbatim.
It will be! I will be more than happy to. I will be writing that on the site.
I seriously laughed my ass off. It opens with a strong scene. I loved the use of the CGI baby thing. There’s a lot of little bits that I really dug. Every project when you are doing it changes along the way. How much of what we finally saw in the movie was there from day one and how much were you guys finding on the set, improv, reshoots, whatever?
Reynolds: It’s a lot of everything but what I found most interesting is that we actually ended up going back to the script more by the end than we… We’re so used to departing from the script so much that in the end we sort of went, wait a minute, why did we all fall in love with this to begin with. We reread the script and realised what’s on here is actually fantastic.
Bateman: Well there was that but there was also a two, maybe three week process where Ryan and I and David Dobkin sat in a room along with Jon Lucas and Scott Moore and just went through every single page and said, you know, does this sort of, keep us on track perfectly? Can we top this joke? It was just sort of a mutual, sort of, fine tuning kind of effort that was incredibly fun, incredibly educational for me, because this guy over here has got a pen as sharp as any writer I’ve ever worked with. He threw me some incredible things to say and claim as my own in the movie.
Bateman: But, so by the time we started shooting we were all as proud of the script as we possibly could, and then, yeah, of course there are always little variables as you’re shooting it on the day, but for the most part the script was in really, really good shape before we started working on it.
I’ve been asking this of people recently, it’s like a fill in the blank kind of thing: “I’m happiest with…” and then you can answer it however you want.
Reynolds: Well. I’m happiest with blank.
Reynolds: No no, I’m actually happiest with blank. Blank is a friend of mine. And she is just, a real knock out!
Well, I’ll be more specific. Was there a scene that you were nervous about, that say, came out a lot better than expected or…
Reynolds: I’m happiest in leather pants.
Something you weren’t expecting.
Reynolds: I wasn’t expecting to wear leather pants – I did in the movie. Yeah, you know, I’m happiest with the way ended for me, only because like, I like it when in a movie that’s PG or PG-13 the characters have to be completely and utterly transformed by the end, and what I like about our movie is that our characters just kind of integrated the darker and the lighter aspects of themselves and become sort of, slightly better. I like that. I like that more so than the massive transformations that happen in these kind of more saccharine movies. In a rated R comedy you are allowed to kind of get away with a lot more and in the end you don’t have to really tie it up with the big bow in the way you do with like a Freaky Friday or something like that or those other body switching kind of comedies.
Bateman: Yeah, I would second that. There’s…well I don’t know if this is part of that answer, but there’s an effort to do more with this movie than I think we really needed to do with it. You know, it’s an R rated body switching movie, so we could probably get away with satisfying an audience that’s coming in and looking for, okay, this is going to be a fish out of water thing and it’s going to be kind of raunchy and risque because it’s R rated so just make me laugh a half dozen times and I’ll feel like it’s money well spent. And hopefully we do that times three or four, but there’s this sort of, not to turn people off, but there’s an unexpected I think, kind of, heart and reality to the whole thing, if there can be such a thing at such an absurd concept, that’s pretty satisfying. Because you actually end up caring for these characters because we tried to do it pretty real. This is not a big, silly, broad, you know, salsa water in the face kind of humour. So you actually become somewhat emotionally invested in these characters and so you like to see the finish lines that these people had and it’s done in a very tasteful, sophisticated way I think, so it delivers on levels that I think will please the conservative, the risque, the men, the women, it’s a pretty full movie.
When you were first approached for the project, when you first hear about body switching, I mean immediately there’s like, “okay, really? Body switching?” was it a hard sell for you guys or was the script sort of like, okay, wait a minute, yeah – this is it.
Reynolds: I said I’ll do it if Jamie Lee Curtis does it.
Bateman: No no, it’s Jason, it’s Bateman. Jason Bateman.
Reynolds: If Jason Bateman does it, I will do it.
Bateman: Bate, Bate, Man. Bate. Bateman. It’s B and not BAI.
Bateman: It’s BATE. And not MEN.
Reynolds: Oh no.
Bateman: I think we probably both had the same reaction which was, you know, really? Another body switching movie? And frankly the only reason that I would entertain, even reading the script, was because it was written by the guys who wrote The Hangover, and it was going to be directed by the guy who directed Wedding Crashers, so that sounds like these guys already know that the cynics are ready to drive their teeth in to this thing and you know, rip it apart, and so if they took it on, then it’s probably pretty good. And I started reading it, and it’s the funniest script I’ve ever read. I had the same reaction, because it was kind of a no from me just out of the gate and then somebody said, no, really, just give it a read and then say no. Yeah, this version of a body switching movie has never been done and it’s done by the most capable guys in the New York comedy world. So I read it and then I was like, okay, who do I need to call, email, what ring do I need to kiss to get this part? And I did fire off emails and I did kiss some rings and I begged and pleaded for a long time to do this part. On top of it all, it’s an actors dream, it’s Jekyll and Hyde. You know, you get to play two polar opposite parts inside the same movie, justifiably. You get to show an incredible range and sort of like, stretch all your hokey acting muscles or whatever those phrases are, and you know, I get to do it with one of the guys I like the most in the business personally and one of the comic actors that I respect the most and like watching the most, so it was this great, what’s wrong? This is too perfect, this’ll never happen, and it did, and it came out so well and I feel really lucky.
Reynolds: We were friends before though.
Oh, so you guys were good friends beforehand?
Reynolds: Yeah, Jason Bateman was actually the first guy who was nice to me in Hollywood. I’m actually not making a joke.
Bateman: You are gonna make me cry again!
Reynolds: I met him when I must have been 19 years old and we had the same manager and I went in there and I must have just looked like a deer in the headlights, I couldn’t believe this town, I was right out of Canada -
Bateman: You were fat as shit too.
Reynolds: Yeah, big fat guy. I mean, I floated here on a pool toy from Canada. It was a long, long journey across the Pacific. And I got here and I shook it off, and I was at this management firm and Jason was also with these guys and I met him there, and we had a nice hangout, I told him who I was and what I was doing here and all that kind of crap and I got a call a couple of days later just from him, he just left me a message saying, hey, if you need anything, I know it must be weird when you’re in a new town and you don’t know anybody, and said just call anytime if you need anything. I saved the message because I was like, he’s hitting on me!
Bateman: I was simply looking for an HJ, I hear the Canadians really know how to tug on it and I never did get that!
Reynolds: I didn’t bring any of that primo Canadian weed with me Bateman! I fucking, I’m here cause I’m trying to forge a career!
Reynolds: I mean, we kind of knew each other, but no, we weren’t real close during that time, but we are like a degree away from each other in our circles of friends so later on we got to know each other a lot more. His wife, I worked with her dad years ago, and we have a lot of mutual friends as well so…
So how was it on set, like mannerisms and all that other stuff? How much did you guys study each other, you know what I’m talking about. Were you there to watch each other, to sort of give pointers?
Bateman: No because it was never…you know, we don’t do impressions. We’re not as talented as those people on SNL and those that really know how to establish that and hold that, and keep that ball in the air for an hour and a half to the point that it wouldn’t be distracting. Because if we were to try and do impersonations of each other, it would suck so often that it would be distracting—
Reynolds: The audience would be like “That’s the worst Jason Bateman I’ve ever seen.”
Bateman: Right. And I can not concentrate on this movie. So we basically said mutually to David Dobkin, hey are you cool if we don’t try to replicate the facial ticks and meter and motions and all that stuff of each other and I’ll play my version of a straight arrow and then of a slacker and he’ll play his version of a slacker and then a straight arrow. Won’t that work? Because we’re really only in the first character for ten pages and then the whole balance of the movie we’re in the other guy, and he said, yeah yeah yeah, absolutely. So we did, we tried to carry one or two or three, I don’t even remember what makes it in the final movie…
Reynolds: We did a few mad little things that we just kind of carried through the movie just for some symmetry.
Bateman: Yeah, but for the most part we just hope that the audience gets used to me in this character and him in that character.
Reynolds: And I mean, the first ten minutes of the movie is just set up, I mean, you want to set up Mitch as the worst guy you could ever have to take care of your children and you want to set up Dave as this guy who feels like he has just missed out on everything in life. It’s a lot of pipe to lay and establish, like mannerisms and those sort of things that are going to be carried over later on, so we just thought fuck it with all that.
Bateman: Are you talking about the nudity?
Sure, but you know what it is, I know people are going to read this or listen to this before the movie comes out and I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes, but you know, like the opening scene alone, I didn’t know you could do that in a PG13?
Bateman: Oh you mean like, taking a shit in a guys mouth?
Perhaps I’m talking about that. What’s funny, and I think the reason I connected to it so much is my sister has kids and there is a lot of realism in the movie, like, with stuff. Where was the line between like, Hollywood-ising, you know what I’m saying?
Bateman: I think there’s areas with raunchy R rated comedy, there is a way to make it palatable and not gratuitous and offensive and I think that lies in the execution of it, obviously. In the way that it’s shot, the way that it’s directed, the way that it’s performed, the music that’s under it, the editorial strategy and all that stuff. I mean, a perfect example in Bridesmaids is when Maya Rudolph takes a shit in the middle of the street you know, if she had done some big and wonky face as she was sitting down to take the shit in the street, that would have been stupid and silly and over the top, but she doesn’t, she sits down pleasantly, and with some shame and totally straight faced with no winking at all and she’s mortified.
Bateman: [laughs] And you actually empathize with her as opposed to going, oh well that’s just a stupid fucking, raunchy comedy bit. So hopefully in the scenes that we have of that ilk in our film there is hopefully something similar in our execution. Something tasteful, if you can be with some of this stuff.
Let’s talk a little bit about CGI babies and those scenes. Was all that scripted, and can you talk about filming that stuff, because that’s really funny shit, especially in the kitchen?
Reynolds: Because of some things that happened in my past, I wasn’t actually allowed around the babies, but Jason was.
Bateman: That subsequently got cleared up though, don’t you worry about that.
Reynolds: The babies were amazing. They were real. They did basically everything aside from the poor kid slamming his head against the crib, but those kids did everything. What was fake were some of the walls actually, so for instance when that baby licks the light socket, he’s just crawling forwards, we put the wall in front of his face afterwards and put the sparks in afterwards. There were men in green suits, like a green screen suit, a guy all wrapped up in green that could be there manipulating the babies so they didn’t crawl off the counter and fall and then of course you just eliminate the green guy later.
Bateman: One of those babies loved me and one of them just fucking hated me. Like, really just saw me as the antichrist, I don’t know why. You put that one baby in my arms and it just bawled. The other one, we had a love connection. I was ready to steal that kid, which I hear is frowned upon.
Reynolds: Yeah, not allowed in this country.
Reynolds: Oh, it is? You’re allowed to just take a baby. If you have a better plan for that baby you could just snatch it and take it away.
Atlanta’s a whole different beast in case you didn’t know these things. I gotta wrap with you, but I am going to ask what’s coming up for both of you, specifically a little R.I.P.D…
Bateman: I’m not in that.
No, not yet. We’ll see how this thing with this young kid named Jeff Bridges goes.
Bateman: I’m ready, I’m waiting.
Reynolds: Yeah, R.I.P.D., I start that soon. The end of August. We’re going to head out there and just start workshopping it and then we’ll be shooting it a couple of weeks later.
Bateman: Where do you shoot that?
Reynolds: It should be great.
Bateman: Yeah, we’re both dead cops and I’ve got a fantastic dead cop partner named Jeff Bridges who’s playing a kind of a sheriff from the wild west, and I’m of course, recently deceased. A great story, to me it feels like one of those stories that Spielberg would tackle a long time ago.
And it’s Jeff Bridges!
Reynolds: Yeah, that too. Can’t go wrong there.
Not at all. And Mr Bateman?
Bateman: I don’t have anything as of end of this in the pipeline, but we’re doing some heavy flirting with a couple of things that are exciting. But they are not R.I.P.D.
I understand. Contracts have not been signed.
Bateman: Exactly sir.
I have heard this before from other people.
Reynolds: It’s always tough to see you doing anything until you have a break for lunch on the third day. I always feel like there’s still, you’re not really making a movie until like, something is definitively in the can, because the first two days they’re scrutinizing like, “is it really worth it? Should we keep going?”
Bateman: “We could pull the plug now and still call insurance!”
I’m going to say thank you so much!