Jason Bateman may have spent the last 30 of his 42 years acting in Hollywood, from ’80s work on Little House on the Prairie, Silver Spoons, and The Hogan Family (and, of course, Teen Wolf Too) to cult TV favorite Arrested Development and films like Juno and Up in the Air. But he’s never had a summer like this. Bateman headlines two major comedies: Horrible Bosses (July 8), costarring Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, and Kevin Spacey; and The Change-Up (Aug. 5), where he and Ryan Reynolds get in touch with their inner Freaky Friday as best friends — one married, one sluttishly single — who switch bodies.
EW This is quite a big summer for you.
JASON BATEMAN I try not to think much about it, because I’m not bright enough to figure out whether it’s a good or bad thing. It’s certainly exciting to have a couple of things that you are proud of come out when a lot of people are going to the movies.
EW Do you let yourself get caught up in the expectations of opening two big movies?
BATEMAN What’s that saying…expect the best but prepare for the worst? I’ve been doing it long enough to manage my expectations a bit and not buy the confidence that I really need to be renting. [Laughs] It would be great if these films perform well, but you try not to hang it all on the success or failure of your projects. Having said that, my fingers are definitely crossed. I’m certainly enjoying this moment of relevance that I’m having and would like to keep going.
EW In The Change-Up, you and Ryan Reynolds do the old body-switch routine.
BATEMAN And my torso has never looked so good. [Laughs]
EW Before the switch, you play the settled-down married guy and Ryan Reynolds plays the single cad. It seems like either of you could have taken either part.
BATEMAN We actually talked about that during rehearsal. Like, hang on a second, should you play this part and I play that part? We share a similar comedic style, tone, and sensibility. [The film] tries to do the real version — if you can possibly do the real version of body swapping. It’s a very broad concept and…stupid. [Laughs] But if you try to execute it in a real way, maybe it will pop for the audience.
EW Horrible Bosses looks like it was a lot of fun to make.
BATEMAN Yes, it was. Sudeikis and Day are really, really fun guys and we got along extremely well. It was just the three of us jerking around for three months.
EW Was there a lot of ad-libbing?
BATEMAN The truth is, if you have a script that is really, really good, you don’t need to do a lot of improvisation. The chemistry between the three [of us] was just us getting along, but also the writers wrote three really good characters.
EW Speaking of great characters, can you give us an update on what’s happening with the Arrested Development movie?
BATEMAN I have no update at all. As far as I know, [creator] Mitchell Hurwitz is working on the script and he wants to start shooting at some point this year. So while I haven’t heard anything new, I haven’t heard anything that would contradict that. The show was a career saver for me, and also happened to be the job I’m most proud of, so of course I would want to jump back in there again.
EW You’ve struck a good balance between being a star and having a nice, stable private life. You don’t usually show up in the tabloids.
BATEMAN Well, I’m just not that exciting to follow. I’m happily married [to Amanda Anka], I’ve got a cute little girl, and all my drugging and drinking was done back before there were camera phones.
EW There was no TMZ then to catch you.
BATEMAN Media is certainly bigger now. But you know, there comes a point where you can either keep misbehaving or you can kind of say, well, that was fun, and now let me get back to my job and my life and the person who I really am. If you wait too long, who you really are can actually change, and that’s when people lose sight of the shore. But that’s how we all learn. You don’t really appreciate things until you are humbled by them.
EW And now you seem to get cast a lot as the solid, conventional man. Is that weird?
BATEMAN Well, I take what I get. And I do enjoy playing the center because it allows you to surprise the audience when your character is a bit arch in one scene or stupid in another. You’d never put Kramer on every single page in an episode of Seinfeld — you’d get sick of him. You need Jerry on every single page.
EW Are there other kinds of characters you’re itching to play?
BATEMAN I think that’s one of the things that drew me to Change-Up. I start out exactly like the guy you always see me play for the first 10 pages, and then boom, this slacker, misogynist, sort of high-five-y dumb-ass comes flying into my body. That was just a dream for me. If that film works and people really enjoy seeing me play a dumb-ass, mouth-breathing knuckle dragger, you might see me get nothing but those parts for the next 10 years.