Jason Bateman: Making Comedy Tolerable

February 17, 2018
We spoke with the producer and star of the US R-rated comedy Game Night, who is realistic about the art of filmmaking.

A married couple (Bateman and Rachel McAdams) host a weekly game night, which is escalated when Bateman’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) arranges a murder mystery party. When Brooks is kidnapped, it’s initially thought to be part of the game, however, the participants soon discover that it may be real, sending them out into the city on a night these suburban types will never forget.

Jason, you’re a producer on this as well as star. Tell us how the project came to you?

I’ve got a company out of Universal [Aggregate Films] and somebody brought us this idea and we really liked it, so we started developing it. We had a couple of drafts written. I was going to direct it for a while and then it became something that I no longer really understood from a directing standpoint. I feel like there are some people that could probably do a better job of this particular concept than I could, and I immediately thought of John (Francis Daley) and Jonathan (Goldstein), because it’s got similarities to the fun we had on Horrible Bosses. They took a look at the draft that we had, and they thought they could do a good job with it and they did.

Do you feel a different sense of ownership of something when you’re producing it?

A producer can affect the project at different stages. My work on this as a producer happened during that time that I just laid out. There are smarter people that take care of the stuff during production and then I’ll probably start chiming in again once we get into post and marketing and things like that, but not a lot. I don’t have a real heavy touch unless I’m directing something.

You directed Family Fang, why not this?

I really just thought that somebody else could do a better job with it than I could. I was just thinking about other things at the time and I didn’t want to hold up its progress, because it was really starting to move down the tracks.

Can you describe the atmosphere on set?

When you do an ensemble comedy, you’re always trying to keep it loose and light and you’re usually working with really funny people, and that’s the case here. There’s a bunch of times where we make each other laugh, so many that it’s tough to remember, because there all little tiny jabs here and there. We are really happy about the fact that something that takes place all in one night, we only had to shoot two weeks of nights in an eight-week shoot. There was some really good planning done there. Some good money spent in figuring out locations and tenting them and doing stuff on stage with green screens. The crew and the cast appreciate efforts like that. Oftentimes, it’s not the cheapest way to go, but I’m really appreciative that New Line gave us the money to make it a tolerable shoot.

You’ve done a lot of different comedies in the past, what sets this apart from the others you’ve done? Is it darker?

A bit. John and Jonathan really liked this notion of embracing the whole night of it all. There are films that have existed all throughout the night, the one that comes to my mind is After Hours, and there was a noir feel to that, that to go fully towards might take away some of the commercial elements to this project, which we didn’t want to do, but we’re trying to borrow just enough from that kind of feel. Again, to reference Horrible Bosses again, a lot of that happened at night and it helps when you’ve got people that are basically suburbanites like we are, out, exposed in the night when they’re usually underneath their duvet covers watching Jimmy Kimmel. We’re out there battling people that are kind of dangerous.

It’s like a hell night for them?

Yeah. Griffin Dunne kind of played us a bit [in After Hours]. He was an everyman trying to navigate through that city.

You and Rachel (McAdams) seem like a perfect screen couple. Was she somebody that was on your radar to work with?

I’ve always been a big fan of hers and was really excited that she was looking to do a comedy. We really thought that we landed a big fish there. She’s been great, and I think she lends a lot of class and pedigree to it.

She hasn’t really done comedies since Mean Girls.

Exactly, so it was great to get that initial response of interest from her and then we sat down, and we talked. She could not be nicer on top of it all, it was great.

Game Night is in cinemas February 22, 2018

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