Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, ‘Bad Words,’ tells the story of a 40-year-old man who hijacks a kid’s spelling bee. Best known for his starring role on Fox’s “Arrested Development,” Bateman discussed his challenges, goals and acting inspirations in a conference call with several student reporters from across the
Q: How do you feel about the difference between directing and acting as far as being an artistic outlet?
A: With acting, you’re trying to convince people you’re somebody different, and with directing, you’re tying to create a completely fake world for the audience and trying to shape an experience for that audience for two hours, both with what they see and what they hear and what they feel. And to me, it’s just a much more challenging and gratifying creative effort. I don’t want to belittle acting at all. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been doing it for so long and because it’s so comfortable, but I’m just really excited for the challenge and taking on more responsibility.
Q: You said how gratifying directing is for you, and we know you’re currently in preproduction on another film you’re directing. Is directing something you’re going to continue doing?
A: Yeah, I would direct full time if they would have me. It’s just something that asks me to use everything I’ve soaked up in x-number of years of being an actor and asks me to do everything that makes me really excited about what movies are, which is— as I said earlier—kind of shaping that experience for that audience. I mean I enjoy doing that as an actor, but there are so many other elements that affect the audience that is completely out of the actor’s responsibility and completely would be inappropriate for them to meddle in. So yeah, I’d love to do directing full time. Or probably more realistically what would happen if I could rub a genie bottle and get my wish, it would probably be something Ben Stiller does or George Clooney or Ben Affleck, which is that they split their time between the two and often do both at the same time.
Q: What drew you to want to work on ‘Bad Words’?
A: Specifically in this script, I share the same kind of dark sense of humor, fortunately or unfortunately, and it just really made me laugh. But I also knew that with that dark humor in the script comes the obligation to kind of counterbalance that with something a little more sophisticated and a little more human. You’ve got to earn those big uncomfortable comedic moments for people, because otherwise it feels a little gratuitous or arbitrary.
Q: How challenging is it to direct yourself in a movie?
A: It felt comfortable, but you’re going to have to call me back after you see the movie and tell me whether I should have worked harder. The character is somebody I kinda had a pretty good idea of how I would like to see an actor play it, and so I went after a couple of actors I thought could play it that way but they weren’t interested in doing the movie for one reason or another. So before I went on to (other choices), why don’t I give it a shot? So I went for it, and it was very, very comfortable.