By: Katie Christoff, Assistant A&E Editor
Funny man Jason Bateman boasts an impressive resume as an actor – he won a Golden Globe for his role on “Arrested Development,” has received countless nominations and took the lead in wildly successful comedies like “Horrible Bosses” and “Identity Thief.” Having established himself as an actor, Bateman is now trying his hand at something new: directing.
“Bad Words” will mark Bateman’s directorial debut. He directs and plays the lead role of Guy Trilby in the raunchy comedy, which tells the story of a foul-mouthed 40-year-old man who exploits a loophole in the National Spelling Bee, allowing him to compete against kids.
Directing and acting are
He began by explaining that acting and directing are completely different artistic outlets.
“With acting you’re trying to convince people you’re someone different,” Bateman said. “With directing, you’re creating a completely different world for the audience and you have to shape that world.”
He called directing an extremely gratifying experience.
“I’ve been acting for the last 15 to 20 years with the goal in mind of trying to create enough capital, enough relevance, enough of a profile in the business as an actor so that I can ask for the directing reins,” he said. “And it’s been going well for me for the last few years, so they finally let me.”
Balancing the dark humor
So why did he choose “Bad Words” as his first directorial project? That seemed to be the million dollar question, and the answer was simple: he identified with the humor.
“I have the same dark sense of humor, fortunately or unfortunately, and it just really made me laugh,” he said. “I also knew that with that dark humor in the script comes the obligation to counter balance that with something more sophisticated and a little more human.”
He was instantly attracted to the script of “Bad Words” because he had a vision for how to achieve that balance.
“You’ve got to earn those big, uncomfortable comedic moments for people, otherwise it just feels gratuitous or arbitrary, so it required me to do a lot as an actor and director to strike that balance,” he said.
Taking the lead in his directorial debut
Bateman had a clear vision of how his main character, Guy Trilby, should be played, so finding the right actor was a crucial first step in his directorial process. He specifically sought out a few actors to play the role, but they were all unavailable or uninterested. With such a specific goal of how the role should be played, he decided to embrace it himself.
“I thought I could give it a shot, since I feel so clear about how this character needs to be and get away with all of these things. In other words, I knew how to make him likeable when he’s very unlikeable on paper,” Bateman said. “And I also thought it might kind of lighten my workload by not having to direct the main character. So I went for it, and it was very comfortable.”
Turning Guy Trilby into someone the audience would end up rooting for was one of the biggest challenges Bateman faced in directing the film, so he was careful to avoid overly crude humor.
“There is a very crude, tactless, generic ‘popcorn’ version of this kind of humor and that is not something that I was ever interested in making,” he said. “There is a guy that is going through something cathartic with this film, this guy is deeply hurt, he’s wounded. And there’s nothing funny about what’s going on in this movie to him.”
Future directorial plans
Bateman is very pleased with how his directorial debut turned out. He admitted that it’s not a film for everyone, but hopes that people will see more to Guy than his horrible character on the surface.
“I was able to accomplish something that we all try to get to at some point in our lives and hopefully multiple times, which is being proud of yourself,” he said. “You know, if you challenge yourself and you step up to it and you execute in a way that you hope that you would, that’s some of the stuff that fuels a lot of great growth.”
Bateman has clearly caught the directing bug. He is currently working on “The Family Fang,” which he will direct and star in alongside Nicole Kidman. He said he’s really looking forward to it after the great experience he had with “Bad Words.”
“Bad Words” will be released in theaters on Friday, March 28.