08th Jul2013

‘Identity Thief’ Interview – Jason Bateman

by Phil Wheat

ID-Bateman

Unlimited funds have allowed Diana (McCarthy) to live it up on the outskirts of Miami, where the queen of retail buys whatever strikes her fancy. There’s only one glitch: The ID she’s using to finance these sprees reads “Sandy Bigelow Patterson”…. and it belongs to an accounts rep (Bateman) who lives halfway across the U.S. With only one week to hunt down the con artist before his world implodes, the real Sandy Bigelow Patterson heads south to confront the woman with an all-access pass to his life. And as he attempts to bribe, coax and wrangle her the 2,000 miles to Denver, one easy target will discover just how tough it is to get your name back.

Horrible Bosses’ Jason Bateman and Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy lead the cast of Identity Thief, an all-star comedy in which a regular guy is forced to extreme measures to clear his name. With everything to lose after his identity is stolen, he’ll find out how crazed you can get trying to settle a bad credit score. With the film set for a DVD and Blu-ray release here in the UK next week we’ve scored interviews with both star Jason Bateman and director Seth Gordon.

First up is Jason Bateman (pictured above with co-star Melissa McCarthy)…

What does identity mean to you? You are a celebrity, that is one identity; you are a parent [another identity], but what happens if someone steals your identity? What are they taking, really?

I think Melissa (Diana) and I are really lucky; we do not have a different identity that has been created for us by the media, through tabloid journalism. We are kind of left alone, fortunately. I think we are both pretty boring, that is really the problem.

Is it when you have a really common name, that people steal your identity?

In this film we made it about how that name, Sandy, can work both for a man or a woman, but that really does not matter to these people. It is mostly about, as Melissa [McCarthy] said, numbers. I think they just arbitrarily pick whoever. If you can get somebody’s checking account, social security number, and mother’s maiden name, all that stuff, then, as far as I understand it, you do not really show up. All of the identity thievery, and the fallout from it, happens via the internet. People start moving funds around and buying things. But that would not have made for a very fun movie.

The original idea was for the character of the thief to be a man and then you changed it, can you talk about why?

It was simply a matter of going to see the premiere of Bridesmaids (2011) and just being as blown away as everyone else. I said, “We should switch the thief to a woman and make it Melissa McCarthy” and they said, “Well, see if she will have lunch with you.” She did.

You had to be the straight man in this. You basically set Melissa up, lobbing softballs in for her to hit home runs. So, how outrageous did Mellissa go, and when did she have to tone it down? Can you talk about the two tightropes you were walking with your characters..

Melissa has an amazing ability to sense what she needs to do to make the two halves make a whole, whether it is 30 percent on my side and 70 percent on hers, or vice versa, depending on the construction of the scene. It is really fun to work with every day, especially in a comedy. So it is somewhat innate, she has just got a great ear. Sometimes you work with, especially comedic actors, who will swing a little too hard all the time because they really want to score and they want to make everything funny, even when you might just be saying a line of exposition, and she is just not greedy like that.

Craig Mazin (screenwriter) did a really good job of writing these scenes where, like, I am very angry at her for a certain thing, and then, in another scene, she is very angry at me, the antagonist versus the protagonist. Then basically, in the third act, we kind of both become the protagonist and we are trying to fight back against these physically antagonistic characters, so it is nice we team up together at the end.

There is a lot of physical comedy in this. We have not seen you do as much as in this film; there are fights. Did you hurt each other? Or was it stunt doubles?

You try to do as much as you can. There are certain things that just are not smart and that the studio will not insure you for, like getting hit by a car, but Melissa wanted to do it. All of our tussling and wrestling and that stuff we did – it was painful at times, and I accidentally threw her to the pavement at one point.

Can you talk about Eric Stonestreet playing Big Chuck in this movie? I thought it was such a great romance between him and Diana for that one night!

Melissa spent a lot of time working with Eric [Stonestreet] and with Craig [Mazin], the three of them together along with Seth (Gordon – Director), really make that scene what it is. However, there are plenty of spaces in that scene that are really honest and of high-quality drama, so if you ground it in that, then all that other stuff is so much more satisfying. You do not feel quite as dirty when you finish laughing at something that is so broad. If you have got the talent that those two have, to start with something that is really honest and then go crazy, it is pretty fun to watch.
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Identity Thief is released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 15th courtesy of Universal Pictures UK.

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