Bad Words: An Interview with Jason Bateman
Typically at the beginning of the year, theaters are rife with low budgeted critical flop horror movies and comedies that are some how able to pull in millions and keep people kind of entertained until the bigger and better films of the year begin to be released towards the beginning of May.
We saw this happen even this year with The Monuments Men, Ride Along, Pompeii and Need for Speed. But every once in a while a movie, sometimes even a comedy, comes out of the woodwork and proves to be actually worth the growing expense of paying a trip to the theater. I am referring to Jason Bateman’s foulmouthed spelling bee dark comedy Bad Words.
The film marks Bateman’s directorial debut and yet another comedic success in the actor’s 30 year long career. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to partake in a conference call interview with the Arrested Development star about what it was like to direct for the first time, his inspirations in doing so and what it was like to watch a young child talk about groping a prostitute’s breasts.
Bateman was very relaxed throughout the interview which consisted of over 20 college newspaper writers and bloggers from across the country and he provided thoughtful answers to many thoughtful questions. One main aspect of the movie is that it is pretty brash. It’s not everyday that you watch a grown man enter a spelling bee only to play mind games with the other children so they fail on stage in front of all their loved ones.
So when asked if he was worried about any controversy that may surround the film Bateman seemed almost tired of hearing that question as he replied, frankly, “there are people sunbathing nude in Europe around children all the time and that country isn’t popping out adolescent murderers left and right,” and after being repeatedly asked about the language content and if he ran into any problems making some kids swear of having them act in scenes with strong language he explained how every kid and most of their parents read the script even before they auditioned so if any of them were to have had any problems with the language they should have just left the audition right then and there.
A lot of questions pertained to his experiences between directing and acting and whether one was more challenging or not to which he responded “Acting you’re only working to create a new individual, compared to directing where you’re trying to create a whole world,” which Bateman noted was indeed daunting throughout the whole process but he was “excited by the challenge of taking a larger responsibility.” As for the future of his career in directing he admitted he would do it full time if “they would have me,” and would love to work like Clooney and Affleck meaning he would continue to act and direct for the same project (which he is doing for the upcoming adaptation of Kevin Wilson’s acclaimed novel The Family Fang starring Nicole Kidman and Bateman himself).
He also looks towards directors like Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood), The Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men), Alexander Payne (Nebraska), and Spike Jonze (Her) for being the main sources of finding the style with which Bateman sees himself using when directing.
As for his inspiration to direct he noted there is no one person or movie that directly inspired him but more of a combination of people and feelings that brought him to the realization that maybe acting wasn’t all he wanted to pursue. The realization to which I am referring came about after having a great “seat” as an actor for over 20 years to learn the ropes and come to understand what it is like to be a director from directors themselves. Bateman stated that he “has always been a team spirit guy,” and directing allows him to combine that passion and his passion for movies. He always wanted to direct he just needed to learn how to speak their language first, and seeing how Bad Words turned out he clearly learned from some of the best.
So if you are looking for something more low brow and risky to start off your film-going year, look to Bateman’s wonderfully wacky and albeit raunchy as hell black comedy, Bad Words. The cast is impeccable (lead by Bateman and supported by comedic greats such as Allison Janney, Philip Baker Hall and Kathryn Hahn) including newcomer Rohan Chand who plays a particularly colorful and undeniably sweet contestant whom Bateman’s character befriends during the tumultuous spelling bee process.
One last note to round this out, when Bateman was asked, rather fittingly, as to what word in the film’s spelling bee scenes he enjoyed the most, he chose “floxinoxinihilipilification” which is the largest word in the English language and is defined as when something is useless/pointless, such as the length of the word itself.
Bad Words proves to be a fun, adult and surprisingly sweet beginning to the 2014 film season that has already set the bar for the rest of the comedies to co