In "Horrible Bosses" and "The Change-Up," which opens Friday, Aug. 5, Jason Bateman plays a hardworking guy who loves his job but yearns for something new. In real life, Bateman is an actor with three decades of experience who loved starring in two fun summer comedies but longs to direct.
The 42-year-old stands to be the season's comedy king with his two R-rated flicks coming out just a few weeks apart. In "Horrible Bosses," he plays Nick Hendricks, a management candidate so frustrated by his twisted supervisor that killing him seems like a good idea. In "The Change-Up," Bateman is Dave Lockwood, an attorney about to make partner who loves his wife and two kids but envies the no-responsibility lifestyle of his best friend, played by Ryan Reynolds. One drunken night, the two buddies talk about switching lives with each other, and the next day discover they have changed bodies.
Bateman talked with The Associated Press about his big comedy summer and deep desire to direct.
Question: What drew you to "The Change-Up"?
Answer: It's the R-rated version of the body-switching movie. No one's ever done that. And who better to write that than the guys who wrote "The Hangover" and who better to direct it than the guy who did "Wedding Crashers," so it's really an all-star execution of this kind of funny.
From an acting standpoint, it's every actor's dream to be able to play two sides of the coin, Jekyll and Hyde, or what have you. In this case it's sort of the conservative guy to the philanderer. So I sent e-mails to the studio, to (director) David Dobkin. I really, really, really wanted this.
Q: Was the experience everything you hoped it would be?
A: It was more than what I wanted it to be... Fortunately, my instinct on how to play the character really matched everybody's expectations about how the character would be played, so it was just very simple all the way through, and the end result is something I'm incredibly proud of.
I'm pretty confident that people are going to really, really like this movie. They're going to get all the R-rated laughs they can handle - and probably a few more than they're comfortable with - but it's couched in actually a very real and touching domestic story that's a little unexpected but certainly adds to the film.
Q: Was it just coincidence that you played these two overachiever-types this summer?
A: Let's face it, those are the parts that people think of me for ever since "Arrested Development," because that is basically the type of character I played there and that was certainly a career restart for me, a re-identification of who I am and the kind of thing that I do, the kind of humor that I do. So, understandably, those are the kind of roles that come my way. But the more chances I get to play characters like Mitch in "The Change-Up" and if people like that character and the movie is well received, maybe I'll start getting roles that are a little more left of center, a little more obtuse, and any actor loves to mix it up.
(That said, though, Bateman says he'd be up to reprise his Michael Bluth character should the anticipated "Arrested Development" film move forward. He had no update on the movie's status other than to say creator Mitch Hurwitz was in negotiations about the project.)
Q: You write, direct and act. Which is your favorite and why?
A: Writing, that's super hard but is very gratifying when you finish. Acting I find the simplest, probably just because I've been doing it a long time and it's very gratifying. But, really, directing is the job I would most like to do because it would allow me to exercise all the things that I've learned all these years.
It's just ultimately much, much more challenging and I'm at a place in my life where I'm just very eager to challenge myself more. I'm not feeling lazy or lethargic or that I want to wind things down. I'm more ambitious than I've ever been and feel more excited to contribute creatively than I ever have. Directing is definitely the position you want to fill on the set if you want to contribute fully.
Q: Do you have a directing project coming up?
A: We're flirting with a few but it's a tough thing to schedule. It's almost like trying to schedule doing a play. You have to commit way out in advance and that commitment is usually about a 12-month commitment.
I'm a very, very lucky boy right now that I'm getting invites to participate in projects as an actor from some people that I respect and admire greatly, so it's tough to pick and choose and to block out the time to do the directing, although there's nothing I'd rather do.
So don't be surprised if I disappear for 12 months and go off and direct something.
Q: So what's next for you?
A: We're very close on a couple of things, but I can't say anything about them yet. Things look to remain busy, thank God, because I do love to work.