IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'The Change-Up'

Thursday, 04 August 2011 13:33 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'The Change-Up'

The body-swap comedy is an age-old tradition in Hollywood that dates all the way back to the 1976 Walt Disney film Freaky Friday starring a young Jodi Foster. While that film featured a mother and daughter swapping bodies, since then we’ve seen many different versions of that idea including father and son (Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son), grandfather and grandson (18 Again), and even geek and goddess (The Hot Chick) switching lives. Now a new take on the classic comedic theme is about to hit theaters with The Change-Up, which opens on August 5th and features two best friends (Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds) trading places in a hard R-Rated movie.

Directed by Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin, the film promises to push the hard R-rating, in a summer of R-rated comedies, and deliver an over-the-top body-swapping movie the likes of which has never been seen before. The film stars Bateman as Dave, a successful married lawyer with three young children, and Reynolds as his best friend Mitch, a part-time actor and full-time ladies man. The two friends have begun to drift apart due to their different lifestyles but after getting together for a night of drinking and catching up, the boys urinate into a “magical fountain” and make a wish to trade lives. The result: they both wake up in the other person’s body. Now, Dave and Mitch must literally step into each other’s shoes and keep up appearances until they can find a solution to their predicament.

IAR recently attended a press conference for the film, along with several other members of the press, and had a chance to speak with director David Dobkin, as well as the film’s stars Jason Bateman (Horrible Bosses), Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern), and Olivia Wilde (Cowboys and Aliens).

In the film, when the two friends swap lives rather than the actors continuing to play their roles but having everyone else in the movie see them as the other person, the filmmakers chose to have Bateman and Reynolds actually take on the persona of the other actor’s character. I began by asking Reynolds if he would have been as interested in working on the project if the “body switching” aspect of the film had been done the other way. “I wouldn't have. Every actor loves a challenge like that where you get to play two different people in the same film,” explained Reynolds. “For me, I think the only way to do it was that. Plus, it allows you to inhabit the bodies that these guys are in, to really experience their world. The film revolves around two drunken idiots that piss in a magic fountain and switch bodies, then what happens after that is what was to me the reason for doing the film. To have this mentally unhinged lunatic be looking after your children was very appealing. There's something fantastic about that setup and that payoff and vice-versa. This conservative guy inhabits the world of a guy who, unbeknownst to him, is working in porn. It's absurd, but that's what it's all about. If you're seeing it all through the perspective of other people, I don't think it would be as rewarding.”

I also posed the same question to Dobkin and asked the director if he had always intended to make the film this way, or if he ever considered having the actors not switch roles when the characters swap lives. “I thought about it a lot. I didn’t want the destination of their performances that are the majority of who they play in the movie to be the role that you see them as,” he explained. “I don’t really need to see Jason Bateman play that guy the whole movie. That’s not the event of the movie. The event of the movie is watching him turn into something. Part of the shock of the film is seeing him talk, behave in that way and cross boundaries in a way that you really haven’t really seen Jason … as sarcastic as he may have been on Arrested Development, you’ve never seen him go to the mat like that before. So that to me was the thrill of seeing that happen.”

Ryan is actually playing a guy that’s a nebbish and it’s really weird and interesting to see him do that,” the director continued. “The thing that was always interesting was that Ryan’s a gorgeous man, and he’s going to be playing someone who has no idea what it feels like to be in that body and actually getting that attention. So I think that’s what it was. I thought about it a lot and to credit the script, it actually said, 'The actors will remain in their bodies.’ There was a screen direction in the original screenplay that indicated that it was the way that it should go. We had a moment of thinking about it, and then we kind of decided that it was not as challenging.”

Dobkin also went on to discuss the difficulties of actually pulling off the “switch” in the movie. “I thought the switch was really the hardest part, because neither of these guys are, for better or worse, have personalities that are so incredibly distinct like Nic Cage and John Travolta,” the director said. “You can see that when they’re playing each other (in Face/Off) that they are also imitating each other because they each have distinct personalities. So it’s kind of them doing like a ‘fuck you’ to each other when they play it. That’s part of the fun of Face/Off. So when you have personalities like that, you can do that. Ryan and Jason are much more everyman in that sense and don’t have such quirky, weird personalities. They’re also not Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis (From the Freaky Friday remake), where the polarity of the switch is there because it is a parent and a child. So it really required the characters to be created clearly and distinctly from each other, the single guy and the married guy, and for them to truly have to swap the inside characteristics of those characters so they can play that from an honest, authentic place. It’s very complicated, honestly. I know it works in the movie, but it was hard keeping track of it.”

In a summer that has seen several R-rated comedies already come and go including Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part II, Bad Teacher, Friends with Benefits, and Horrible Bosses, which also stars Bateman, the actor was asked what sets this film a part from the rest. “You're not going to R-rated comedies to get a study in acting,” he explained. “You want to go in there, have a good time, laugh your ass off, maybe get offended a couple of times and get the hell out. We're not trying to win Oscars here or teach anybody any lessons. Having said all that, this movie is about as high quality, if I do say so myself, as you can get with an R-rated comedy. It’s a comedy that absolutely pushes all boundaries, barriers and happens to sneak in quite a bit of heart and reliability, if that's possible in a concept where people switch bodies.”

“It's the reason that Ryan and I jumped at the chance to be in the film, Bateman continued. “It was the quality of the script, what the writers did with what is obviously a concept that people are more than familiar with. There's no reason to do another body-switching movie unless you're going to do something different and we do here. It's an R-rated body-switching movie, and it hasn't been done before. You put the director of Wedding Crashers on that, and I'm already in. We were lucky to be a part of it, and we couldn't be prouder of it,” the actor finished by saying.

Actress Olivia Wilde plays a co-worker of Bateman’s that he has a crush on. After the “switch” occurs, Reynolds’ character (as Bateman) suggests that Bateman’s character (as Reynolds) go out on a date with Wilde’s Sabrina. The actress also talked about the film’s concept and what made her think that this film would be different from the body-swapping movies that we’ve seen in the past. “I loved how outrageous and funny it was. I loved this idea of taking a concept that the audience is familiar with, that they understand the logic to and can except, and then they can just have fun with it. It's just a launching pad for ridiculous fun situations. I really appreciate that they were going to make a hard R-rated body-swap comedy and that it was going to involve two fantastic actors who the audience really wants to see play in these different kind of environments.”

“I love that when you do a body-swap comedy the reason it's so funny is because the stakes are always high,” Wilde continued. “It's always outrageous and terrifying. I think it's something everyone can relate to. You know, have you ever wanted to be someone else? Well, if you actually found yourself in that situation what could you handle? I knew that they were pushing it. It wasn't like they were just going to show a day in a life. It was really much more extreme than that and I loved that they weren't afraid to push the boundaries and that's what I'm all about,” she said. “It's very hard to shock me and when I read the script I found myself gasping and shocked and really excited. I also very rarely laugh out loud at scripts and I was just howling. It was just well written and I loved that they were taking this opportunity to take a concept people understood and blow it out of the water.”

Bateman, who has children of his own in real life, had to look competent as a father when he was playing his character but then uncomfortable caring for the kids when he was portraying Reynolds’ role. The actor discussed taking on that unique challenge. “My fatherly skills are questionable to start, let's be clear,” Bateman joked. “I didn't need any lessons on how to change diapers when I was playing the Dave character. I'm upset I didn't need to do any swaddling in the film, because I can swaddle like a Mofo. I can wrap kids like a little burrito but these kids were too old to be swaddled. I was comfortable with them, even when I was playing the idiot, Mitch. He's got to handle them like a guy who doesn't know how to handle kids, but I was able to do that in a safe way. I know how to find parts on a kid that, as long as you've got a firm hold on that part, you can pretty much you can just about drop them and they're still safe.”

David Dobkin also talked about casting his two lead actors and why he felt they were the right men for their roles. “When I first read the script, I wrote down a very short list of actors and they were both on that list. It was a list I actually brought to the studio,” the director explained. “There were eight actors that had been pre-approved for the movie, and Ryan and Jason were on that initial list. They kind of fit it perfectly. You could see clues in both of their careers that they had performances that touched upon these things, but neither had really gone all the way with it, in my opinion. I felt like both these guys really nailed it on either side and it wasn’t easy. They worked really hard to share their characters in a believable way.”

Wilde also discussed working with the former Wedding Crashers director on this latest project. “It was great. Dobkin loves to push the boundaries. He knew that we were pulling no punches on this movie. He knew we were making this a hard R-rated movie and as far as we were willing to go was as far as he was going to push it. So we would often keep the cameras rolling and just see what happened,” the actress explained. “That's where a lot of the great moments were born. I really appreciated Dobkin's collaborative spirit. He was very open, and since I was new to this type of film, he was very encouraging of me to go all out. Especially in terms of making Sabrina smarter, making her really have a purpose behind everything she did and it's certainly even in her wildest moments. She's in the midst of this kind of feminist manifesto. I love Dobkin's intelligence and his respect for women. I think that's why you see these funny female characters in his movies.”

Finally, since both Bateman and Reynolds began their careers relatively young (Bateman joined the cast of Little House on the Prairie at the tender age of twelve) the two performers were asked if they felt a special kinship towards the child-actors on this film. “I think it's a win that we don't have a record,” Reynolds joked. “Personally I haven't spent a lot of time in jail or anything like that so I feel like we did alright,” he added. “I did well getting mine expunged. It was expensive, but I'm back in the black now,” laughed Bateman. “Sydney Rouviere, who played my oldest kid, has got her head on square and she doesn't need any advice from us. She's got great parents. You know, it's a complicated thing to practice being somebody else before you really know who you are but she seems to be navigating that okay,” the actor said in closing.

The Change-Up opens in theaters everywhere on Friday!

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