In The Change-Up Jason Bateman sheds his nice guy image which sees his family man swap bodies with Ryan Reynolds’s 's brash womaniser. The Change-Up's crude humour gives way to a soft heart as Bateman's Dave reconnects with his long-suffering wife and Reynolds's Mitch falls for legal assistant Sabrina (Olivia Wilde). Bateman can currently be seen co-starring as Nick in the Warner Bros. ensemble comedy Horrible Bosses, alongside Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis.
What did you think of the script when you first read it?
I was laughing all the way through it. The second I put it down, I emailed the head of the studio and introduced myself.
What appealed to you about THE CHANGE-UP?
I liked that I could play the character making all the noise and being an idiot, instead of being the smart guy that is sort of reacting to the idiot. I actually get to play both roles in this film, which is an actor’s dream.
Would your parenting style be closer to Dave’s or to Mitch’s then?
It’s a good combination of each. I guess I just kind of figure it out as I go along.
What were the babies like to work with?
Yes, we got lucky with them. There is no way to know how they were going to react when they were around a big crew. Obviously, you wouldn’t be able to negotiate much with them if they didn’t want to work. We were lucky that they did want to work most days. Their parents were very cooperative and tolerant with some of the things we wanted them to do.
We tend to think the grass is always greener on the other side, but this film proves that it’s not always true.
Yes, and hopefully you don’t need to switch into someone else’s body to realize how good you’ve got it. One of the things that makes this movie so relatable is that everybody sort of fantasizes about the grass being greener on the other side and changing into someone else, which is something you obviously can’t do. THE CHANGE-UP takes you there and spits you out the other side without any damage.
What was it like to work with each other?
We knew each other a little bit, enough to really want to work together. I think we had good rhythm and it made for a lot of fun on the set. The truth is that when you work with someone in a movie you learn a great deal.
Was it difficult to keep a straight face at times during the shoot then?
I would just drive my fingernail into my hand. So, I had to make sure I started the scene with my hands in my pockets. Other times, it was just great to let it go. Laughter is too rare these days.
Did you get to improvise?
And the writers encouraged us because they were involved in the rehearsal process. They were there with their laptops as we would start to make up different stuff and say, “Yeah, it’s better for you to say it like that!” In the end you forget what was yours and what was originally in the script.
But as you both play Mitch and Dave, whom do you think you are closer to?
And I am maybe a little bit more like an idiot than people may think. There are probably equal parts from both of us in each character.
Do you ever fantasize about living someone else’s life?
Don’t forget that we get to pretend being other people by definition as actors.
What makes good comedy?
For me it’s all about the execution.
THE CHANGE-UP is much more than a comedy about body-switching.
I think it’s important to do something multi-dimensional because you are asking the audience to sit there for an hour and a half. It’s not sketch comedy. You have to develop characters and a plot line, which takes you to heart and emotion.
What is director David Dobkin like?
I see THE CHANGE-UP as a tri-pod with these two guys that Ryan and I play, and then the director, trying to navigate the tone of a movie that has a concept people are familiar with and like to go back to. You need someone that has a very current and savvy sense of humor to be able to know how to keep that fresh on a day-to-day basis. David was invaluable for us.
What can you say about Leslie Mann and Olivia Wilde?
They are both intelligent, beautiful and have a good sense of both comedy and drama. And they are very flexible at making those gear changes. They were great partners in this and certainly don’t take a back seat to the importance of Ryan’s character or mine.
You both seem very comfortable in the genre.
It’s funny because I thought I was going to be a dramatic actor, but comedy started off first. Maybe I’ll get to do more dramatic roles further ahead in my career.
Are you surprised sometimes by what ends up getting the best laughs on the screen?
It’s interesting to see what people react to, which is often a result of the later stages of making a film. Once the editing and music come in, and the scenes have being processed through the audience, they are in a different mood than you anticipated being in, so different stuff will click. They say a movie is made three times. First when it’s written, then when it’s shot and finally when it’s edited. You never really know, so you just try to throw as many things against the wall as possible and see what sticks.
Were there any jokes that went too far and didn’t make it in the end?
We put everything in the film that we wanted to. At the end of the day, it’s the writers who created it. Our job was to try to execute it as cleverly or tastefully as possible.
Your characters in THE CHANGE-UP make a wish that is granted while pissing in a fountain. What wish would you make?
I am happy with where I am right now and would probably hesitate to change anything.
“The Change-Up” is released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment. Corp.