Jason Bateman gets snarky in 'Bad Words'

Jason Bateman (Handout)

Jason Bateman (Handout)

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 AM ET

Figuring out how to market a movie about a horrible man, an adorable kid, a clueless journalist and a spelling bee sounds about as easy as using “pococurante” in a sentence.

But that’s not Jason Bateman’s problem. He’s just directing and starring in this thing.

“The movie is certainly not for everyone,” Bateman says of his directorial debut Bad Words, about an abhorrent 40-year-old man who exploits a technicality to enter a national spelling bee, competing against 10-year-olds and earning the withering wrath of their parents.

“There are some rough edges left on it, purposefully,” Bateman says,

Rough indeed. Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a sexist, racist d-bag who finds a loophole that allows him to enter the National Quill Spelling Bee, arousing the curiosity – among other things – of an online journalist (Kathryn Hahn) covering the bizarre story. Why is this grown man willing to embarrass himself and traumatize kids just to win a spelling bee?

The movie, which debuted last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival and opens across Canada this Friday, is a dark, thorny comedy. But it’s not a “spelling bee movie” – if that can even be called a category unto itself.

“That was one of the things the movie had going against it,” says Bateman. “Are people going to be turned away from the spelling bee thing? We’ve seen it.”

The 2002 documentary Spellbound is the film most will remember, as it followed eight kids on their quest to win the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. But while Bad Words has children – most notably newcomer Rohan Chand as Chaitanya, a fellow competitor who slips under Guy’s armour by being oblivious to his insults – the spelling bee “is the arena in which this story happens, and it’s the background for a few key sequences, but it is not a spelling bee movie,” says Bateman.

“It’s more a movie about a guy who is tragically inept at fixing an emotional wrong that’s been done to him. And the level of the ineptitude is pretty comedic to the audience, but very tragic to him.”

Finding the youngster Chand wasn’t easy; Bateman and company auditioned a ton of kids, looking for one who could portray the right mix of academic smarts and earnest cluelessness. After Bateman and Chand connected over a Skype call, Bateman flew the young actor out for an audition. “He’s got an infectious quality to him that was essential for this character,” Bateman says.

It won’t be the last time Bateman is auditioning talent. From Kenneth Branagh to Sean Penn, lots of actors have sat in the director’s chair, but many have remained actors first and foremost. To hear Bateman tell it, he’s a director who has spent the last 30 years acting just to get to the point where he can finally do his dream gig. He is not pococurante – definition: nonchalant or indifferent – about directing.

“I’d love to do it 100% of the time,” says Bateman. “I think realistically, I will be maybe splitting my time, if I’m lucky enough to do the kind of split ratio that Ben Stiller or Ben Affleck or George Clooney do. In a perfect world, it will probably be like that.”

 

HOLDING OUT HOPE FOR TEEN WOLF 3

Actor Jason Bateman took to reddit for an Ask Me Anything session with readers to promote his comedically vulgar Bad Words. Here are some of the highlights.

How does it feel to be ONE e away from Jason Batman?

It only hurts when they're casting a new Batman movie.

If you could time travel, would you explore the past or the future and what would you do?

Sorry to dork out, but it would be lunch with Beethoven. Seriously. Sorry.

If you could make a sequel to any movie you've done what would it be?

Teen Wolf 3 in 3D.

Pick one: boxers or briefs? Beach or mountains? Coffee or tea? socks or barefoot? mani or pedi?

Boxer briefs, mountains, coffee and lots of it, socks always, and both once a decade.

How do you keep your hair so wonderfully luscious?

I zip on a fresh hair piece every morning.

What are your top 3 choices for words that aren't actually bad, but sound like they are?

Tough to pick, but I do find it effective to call a guy you don't like a 'clown' and a girl you don't like an 'a—hole.'

 

Twitter: @stevetilley

steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca


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