There are plenty of great-looking hard-R comedies headed our way this summer, but Horrible Bosses has a cast that makes it a serious contender for the best of the bunch. The film stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charile Day as a trio of hapless employees who agree to kill each others’ bosses played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston, respectively. As if that cast wasn’t impressive enough, the film also stars Jamie Foxx (playing a character named “Motherfucker Jones”), Donald Sutherland, “Old Spice guy” Isaiah Mustafa, and Julie Bowen.
Last summer I got to visit the set and participated in an intimate roundtable interview with director Seth Gordon. He talked about the great cast, how the film is using real world issues to “tap into all the emotion and all the upheaval for a lot of Americans right now,” is it difficult to sell the Aniston offering sex as a villain, and a lot more. Hit the jump to read or listen to the interview.
Before going any further, I suggest watching the trailer:
As usual, I’m offering the interview two ways: you can either click here for the audio, or you can read the full transcript below. Horrible Bosses gets released July 8. I’m extremely confident it’s going to be very funny.
Question: Are there any more hand-job euphemisms that you haven’t used yet?
Gordon: I don’t know if there’s any left.
Do have a list of them?
Gordon: The writer did. He had all kinds of ideas. You must have seen this morning. Gotcha.
Talk about the scene we saw. We saw the long, R-rated take, a short R, a moderate version and a TV safe version.
Gordon: Yeah. Against my best wishes, TV safe. Because we’re so clearly, firmly R as our approach to this movie. As we should be, right? Given the topic.
Did you have a gut feeling as to which version of the take would make the final cut?
Gordon: 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 then 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.
What he’s talking about — being fired from Lehman Brothers — is a very real-world thing. How much of the rest of the film revolves around stuff that is really going on right now?
Gordon: I’d say, 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.
You have a huge celebrity cast in this. Do you sort of feel like you’ve won the lottery in this?
Gordon: 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.
Is it difficult to sell the Aniston offering sex as villain?
Gordon: No, because she’s a great actress. I think it’s not a role that I’ve seen her do before. But I think it’s in her wheelhouse and I think a lot of people are going to be excited to see her step into slightly different shoes, if you will. To be general.
So we’ll hate her even despite the fact that she’s hot?
Gordon: I don’t know if I’d say hate. It’s more about Charlie being put in an impossible position where he’s tempted by something he can’t have and the sort of undeserved misfortune of that.
We were told that when you went in to pitch, you had made a chart of all the different characters. Can you tell us about that?
Gordon: Oh, yeah. I mean, it was clear even in the very early stages of this that it was sort of a matrix casting situation. It wasn’t one of those things where you need the two perfect people to be the poster and your movie is sunk if you don’t have that exact pairing. It was much more about what’s the ensemble and how do they balance as a group? I came in there essentially with the cast we have. Very close. That was my presentation to them and then it was just a matter of crossing our fingers, rolling the dice and getting the word out. Then it slowly built into something really exciting. The whole and the sum of it’s part and whatever the phrase. It’s a really exciting synergistic cast.
Do you approach the directing of an ensemble cast differently than you would one with a single central character?
Gordon: Oh, I think so. Because you don’t have to put all the eggs in one basket. In this case, who’s the guy we’re rooting for? What’s the funnest foil for that person to have? I would say that Bateman ends up playing the straight man within the group of crazy friends and each of the guys plays straight man to — and perhaps I overuse that phrase — to the sort of crazy boss. The straight man strictly in the dramatic sense. And then Jamie Foxx is one of a handful of characters that throw them a real curveball.
I’m curious if there’s any possibility of guys in a restaurant like this walking by a Donkey Kong machine?
Gordon: You know, it’s funny. In an adlib, Sudeikis, who I’ve discussed Kong with, throws in “It’s on like Donkey Kong” and like eight different reference in different situations. I’m actually trying to find a good cameo for Wiebe because I love to have him in everything if possible. He was in Four Christmases and he was in a pilot we shot this year. So I’m trying to figure out a good place for him.
There has been word that King of Kong is being developed into a narrative film. How is that project coming along?
Gordon: Yeah, we recently did a roundtable, which is getting a group of screenwriters in a room to kind of put pressure on the script to find flaws and weaknesses in it generally. We found a phenomenal writer in that group and I almost have the deal closed. We’re in the home stretch. Kong never dies, is the answer. I’ve got a great relationship going with New Line and that’s who Kong would be with, too.
What’s the dream casting for Billy Mitchell?
Gordon: Oh, god. I can’t touch that. Then there’s a whole thing online about who we wanted. I mean, it’ll depend on the script is the safe answer. But I will say that the dream actor for Billy would be a true dramatic actor that you’re not used to in comedies.
Here’s more coverage of Horrible Bosses: