Seth Gordon is out on a promotional tour of his new film “Horrible Bosses,” which stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as three disgruntled workers, as well as Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell as the bosses they decide to kill.
It’s been a busy week for Seth Gordon.
The director of the oddball documentary “The King of Kong” and the romantic comedy “Four Christmases” was embroiled in trying to find financing for his next project, “The Only Living Boy in New York.”
In the middle of that, he found out he was officially named to direct a remake of the 1983 thriller “War Games,” and he set out on a promotional tour of his new film “Horrible Bosses,” which stars Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as three disgruntled workers, as well as Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell as the bosses they decide to kill.
Gordon sat down to talk about the goofy, fast-paced, nerve-racking comedy at the Ritz in Boston, Mass.
“The script was sent to me by New Line Cinema, the same company that distributed ‘The King of Kong,’” he said. “So I was joining their project, but there were no actors yet.”
The studio wasn’t just giving the script to him to direct. They wanted some input from him.
“Studios make careful decisions,” said Gordon. “They have to hear how a filmmaker would approach it. The script was in great shape. I did make some changes, but not huge ones. Then I said let’s get three guys that are better known for TV, let’s get cameos from bosses, and let’s arrange their schedule so they only have to be there for four or five days.
“The studio was very involved in the casting process,” Gordon added. “But once we got into production, they really let me do whatever I wanted.”
Gordon now admits that he was a little nervous with a hilarious script that happened to be as dark as it was funny.
“It is really edgy material,” he said. “I guess, in the back of my head, I thought the studio people would get nervous about the financial risk of an R comedy. I mean, we have a character named Motherf***r Jones!”
He lowered his voice and said, “I loved the fact that there was a character with that name.”
Gordon’s worries pretty much evaporated as soon as he got his three lead actors together.
“After I heard them read the script together the first time, and I saw how compatible they were and how good their chemistry was. I wasn’t really concerned.”
There was so little concern that Gordon didn’t bother to put his cast through any kind of rehearsal process.
“I’m not a big fan of rehearsal,” he said. “We read it through a couple of times, then I had little meetings with the three guys and Jamie Foxx (who plays the character with that great name mentioned above), then the three guys and Jennifer. And that’s all I need as a director to prepare. I need to hear it out loud a few times by the actors, talk about the idea behind the scenes, and then get on set and shoot it.”
Gordon freely admits that all films are made in the editing room, where a director-editor team goes through all of the takes, then fits the right ones together for the right effect. But this experience was a little different. It all had to do with those three actors.
“Because their chemistry was so good, I changed the way I shot the movie,” he said. “Instead of building the comic timing in the editing room [with separate shots], I would occasionally have all three of them in one shot. With these three guys, it became a much richer experience. Their timing is better than anything you could possibly edit. The plot’s great, there are great twists, but their chemistry is what’s special about the movie.”
And Gordon takes nothing away from his trio’s love of improvisation ... of a very particular sort. Simply put, there’s a whole lot of slapping in this movie.
“There’s much more than we included on the screen,” said Gordon, laughing. “None of the slaps were scripted, by the way. They just started slapping each other. Charlie and Jason Sudeikis slapped each other all the time, and more and more as we got further in the shoot.”
Sharp-eyed viewers will also notice a very personal Seth Gordon reference. Think about his first film, “The King of Kong.” Then look around when a scene is shot in the apartment of Kurt, the Sudeikis character. You can see, not so subtly, a poster for the 1933 film “Son of Kong” on one of the walls.
“Good catch, man!” said Gordon when asked about it. “We put that in Kurt’s apartment because Sudeikis loves ‘The King of Kong’ and was constantly putting ‘Kong’ references into ad-libs. My son was born shortly before we shot the movie, and his name is Drake. Then our production designer found the ‘Son of Kong’ poster that actually played at the Drake Theater. So he had to put it in. Then I stole it, and now it’s at my house.”