If all you want for Christmas this year is a chance to witness the corporate holiday bash to end all other corporate holiday bashes, you may be in luck. Office Christmas Party, which hits theaters Dec. 9, reveals a bacchanal that goes bananas, and this week’s EW cover story takes you inside the ensemble comedy featuring Jennifer Aniston, T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman, Courtney B. Vance, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, and Jillian Bell via a riotous roundtable Q&A with four of those aforementioned stars.
The movie centers on the Chicago office of a struggling tech firm, whose steely interim CEO Carol (Aniston) tells the branch president, who happens to be her brother Clay (Miller), that the corporate belt must be tightened harshly, and that includes the cancellation of the office Christmas party. Clay and the CTO (Bateman) ultimately decide to woo a big-money client (Vance) by throwing one crazy bash without Carol’s knowledge, and what results in pure bedlam. We’re talking people drinking vodka and gin from the office watercoolers, flaming Christmas trees, photocopying of naked body parts, etc.
“We have an allergy to Christmas movies, but no matter how coal-filled your heart is, you can’t help but want to connect with people and buy into that fantastical time of year,” says Will Speck, who directed the film (as well as Blades of Glory and The Switch) with Josh Gordon. “The goal was to make a movie that checked elements of that box but also disrupted, and was an anarchistic version of a Christmas movie.”
You can see some of that anarchy in the new issue, and hear from Aniston, Miller, Vance, and Munn about their experiences in the party trenches. It was a movie that Aniston — who worked with Bateman, Speck, and Gordon on The Switch — wasn’t initially expecting to be a big part of. “I’ve known about this movie for so many years,” she says. “So I always was joking throughout the years, “There better be a part for me in there.” And all of the sudden he was like, “Hey, so we’d like you to play a part,” and I was like, “Really?” It started off as a little cameo. It was supposed to be just a small little thing.” Interjects Munn: “And then they go, ‘Wait, Jennifer Aniston is willing to be in the movie? What if we call it a cameo and just extend it and extend it?’ Day 15, she thought it was a cameo still.”
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Meanwhile, Vance, the Emmy-winning People vs. O.J. Simpson alum, impressed the cast by venturing into the comedy world and stealing scenes after a large amount of cocaine is accidentally blown into his character’s face, changing his whole buttoned-up demeanor. “Courtney’s this subdued gentleman – there’s an elegance to Courtney B. Vance – and he’s discussing work and how fortunate he feels and the diversity of projects he’s involved in, and they’d go “Action,” and he’s like, “YEAHHHHH! LET’S PARTY!” marvels Miller. “It was a switch that he would flip.” Adds Vance: “As actors we all love challenges. This is one of those where I said, ‘Oh, they’re going to have me to do some crazy things,’ but I didn’t really know the full extent (laughs) until I really was in it.”
The stars insist, though, that there’s more to OCP than hedonistic showboating and unexpected blow. “The movie is not about the crazy cocaine party, the movie is about the idea of throwing the rules out of the window for one night,” says Miller. “It’s more: ‘The next day, all will be forgiven,’ so everybody goes for it that evening. And that was the feeling, actually, on the set. It was long hours, it was tough, but everybody kind of went, ‘We’re just going full tilt on this one.'”