Most everyone’s had that boss that made their skin crawl. Maybe you even fantasized about some kind of elaborate revenge acted out in front of the entire office where you’re the hero. Maybe, just maybe, killing your boss even crossed your mind once or twice. It would end your suffering and save future victims from similar misery. But you’d never actually do it, right? Right?
Dale (Charlie Day), Nick (Jason Bateman) and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) are three working stiffs with bosses from hell. Dale is a dental hygienist whose boss (hottie though she might be) Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) is sexually harassing him at work and threatening to destroy his impending marriage. Nick’s boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), is Satan minus the horns, a psychotically mean S.O.B. who amuses himself with dirty tricks like making Nick look like a drunk in front of the entire office. Finally, Kurt works for the lowly Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell with a prosthetic gut and comb-over), a reprehensible human being who tasks Kurt with firing colleagues because they are too fat or too... handicapped.
So after a number of beers sharing war stories, these three longtime friends decide it’s time to take a little action. Friends to the end, they agree to kill each other’s Horrible Bosses. Since they are new to whole killing thing, they head to a shady part of town and enlist the help of a “murder consultant” named Motherf***er Jones (Jamie Foxx).
Movies.com spent a day on the set of Horrible Bosses last summer in Woodland Hills, California at a T.G.I. Friday’s (renamed Rivetti’s for the movie). We spoke to Day, Bateman and Sudeikis, director Seth Gordon (King of Kong) and producer Jay Stern (Rush Hour) about their work on the dark comedy, and observed some filming of a lengthy improv scene with the boys and comedian P.J. Byrne that firmly cemented Bosses’ status as a hard, hard R comedy.
In the scene, Byrne plays an old friend who runs into the three friends at Rivetti’s. They mention he was class valedictorian and ask what he’s been up to since high school. Turns out Mr. Most-Likely-to-Succeed has fallen on some hard times and is pretty hard up. He offers to take his old pals into the restroom and give them hand jobs for cash. “I have very soft hands,” he says persuasively. “Look at them. I use Lubriderm.” From there the riff machine is off and running with a slew of alternate takes we, quite simply, cannot print. Dirty, dirty, dirty stuff.
When his friends ask him if he’s gay, Byrne responds matter-of-factly, “Since when is it gay to give your friends a handy?”
“Since forever,” says Charlie Day.
“Since the dinosaurs,” Jason Sudeikis adds.
Shooting on Genesis cameras allows Gordon to roll continuously rather than cutting between inspired moments of improv brilliance. As such, they are free to run off as many hand job jokes as they can muster. And that’s a lot.
“You can roll and roll and roll,” says Day. “It frees us up to be able to really experiment and try other things.”
“And shoot a bunch of things that will never be in the movie,” adds Bateman.
After the shockingly dirty scene, we asked if the whole film will be that dirty?
“No,” says Bateman. “That’s one of our spikes right there.”
“We were getting some filthier alts than we might end up using,” says Day. “There is sort of a happy medium between where that actor was taking it and where we’ll actually end up.”
“He was giving the director options,” deadpans Bateman.
Director Seth Gordon was happy with the scene and the many options Byrne provided. “The initial instinct I had with P.J. and why I cast him in that part was because he's able to sell that almost car salesman version of the character he's playing. Very positive, very optimistic.”
Horrible Bosses is a project that has been around for a number of years with casting rumors such as Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson and Ashton Kutcher. But when you look at the ensemble Bosses now boasts, it’s hard to imagine more inspired choices.
“I did a movie with New Line last year called Going the Distance,” says Day, “so once I was done giving out hand jobs over at New Line, they let me be in their movie. (Laughs) I was the first to sign onto the movie and then I felt like a pig in s**t or the luckiest guy in the world with the cast that followed.”
“I liked it and wanted to be a part of it,” says Bateman.
“I was very excited when Bateman came on and basically called Sudeikis and begged him to come on too,” says Day.
To go along with the boys, it’s hard to picture more intriguing boss choices than Aniston, Farrell and Spacey. One big question for Charlie Day in regards to his character, however, was exactly how horrible it could possibly be for his character to be sexually harassed by Jennifer Aniston?
“Yeah, everyone says, ‘I can’t understand why you wouldn’t just sleep with her?” says Day. “But she gets to the point of blackmail. It’s either sleep with her or lose my job at the expense of my marriage. I’m a happily married man in real life and if she was asking me to sleep with her, I wouldn’t sleep with her. It doesn’t seem like such an outrageous thing.”
“You’ve gotta go for the threesome though, right?” Sudeikis asks Day.
“Well yeah, I would bring it up to my wife,” Day responds.
“We somehow find sort of safe harbor in the notion that we’re all going to die one day anyway, so why not just a little bit earlier?” explains Bateman. “Because it would be for the greater good.”
Kidding aside, Gordon hopes the movie will resonate with many Americans. “If it comes together the way I see it,” says Gordon, “it's gonna tap into all the emotion and upheaval for a lot of Americans right now; people who can't afford their mortgages and have to renegotiate with the bank or something gets repossessed after you worked your whole life. You follow the rules and you do the right thing and you still get screwed. I'd love to tap into that because that underpins the desperation that a lot of Americans are in at their jobs and why they can't leave their jobs. They're stuck.”
Along with Aniston’s unlikely sexual harasser, the normally hunky Colin Farrell sheds his good looks to transform into the creepy Bobby Pellitt. “He has a world-class comb-over that will be remembered for years to come,” says producer Jay Stern. “He took it in a really wonderful direction. He plays this character as somebody that doubts his manhood [and] compensates all the time for it. It’s a masterful comedic performance.”
“He’s got a real funny look,” says Sudeikis. “He’s exorcising a lot of demons from his past I would imagine. His character has a love of cocaine. He knew his way around that stuff. I would say he was definitely into it.”
Having played one of the more memorable horrible bosses as Buddy Ackerman in Swimming with Sharks, Kevin Spacey brings some experience as a horrible boss. “I think he was eager to put maybe a slightly different twist on [that],” says Stern. “He just seemed like the best possible pick for a really, really psychologically sadistic boss.”
“He’s very intense about what he does,” says Bateman. “It’s certainly perfect for this character.”
“None of our antagonists in this movie are playing their normal characters,” says Gordon. “I think that's going to be really exciting; to have all our folks try their hand at a really different thing.”
“Their bosses are so amazingly horrible that they have to kill them,” says Stern. “Partly to help themselves but also to help the world. If you had the chance to kill Hitler at the right moment, would you kill Hitler?”
“I’m not gonna touch Hitler,” says Day. “I feel like that’s just a sound bite waiting to happen.”
“That’s a hot one,” says Bateman.
Horrible Bosses opens in theaters nationwide July 8, 2011.