The Change-Up stars Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds as a couple of old friends who decide their lives would be better if they switched roles.
After witnessing the two talk about the film, it's easy to see how their chemistry is effortless and why a body-switching movie - not exactly a novel concept - that works within the framework of an R-rated comedy could be pure gold.
The film offered a unique challenge to Reynolds and Bateman, as each had to establish a character and then hand it off to the other approximately 10 minutes into the story. The duo said that was actually one of the film's biggest selling points: the opportunity to take characters they've played before in some ways, and turn the performance completely on its head. An exclusive interview follows:
Movie Fanatic: What was your first reaction to the script?
Jason Bateman: The thing I liked the most was how funny it was, it was the funniest one I've ever read. Because of all the R-rated humor in it -- it's done in a really hard R-rated way, but it's not gratuitous with F-bombs and stuff. Somehow, it's really worked into the story.
Ryan Reynolds: It was fun to see this kind of premise -- which is usually a PG premise -- executed in such a hard way, in such an edge. It was no-holds barred. It was the first script I've read in a long time where I cried laughing.
Movie Fanatic: How difficult was it to capture each other's mannerisms?
Ryan Reynolds: We take about 10 minutes at the beginning of the film setting each other up. As an actor, it's fun, because I set up this actor and hand it off to him to take care of and he does the same for me. I hadn't seen Jason do a lot of that kind of character, where he's a guy who eats ketchup for breakfast and sleeps with anything with a pulse. It was cool to watch him go through that. During our rehearsal phase, where we got to experiment with the material, initially we didn't know what roles we wanted to play -- we just knew we were going to do this movie together. We didn't have a particular preference. We thought it would maximize the comedy if we did it this way. Man, it was just a treat. Every day just getting to watch him go [laughs]. It's rare you get to work on a set where your biggest challenge in a scene is not ruining the take with falling over laughing.
Movie Fanatic: We've seen body switching comedies before, but not with the R-rating. How much freedom did that provide you in The Change Up?
Jason Bateman: What gave us the most freedom was realistic approach. Frankly, Ryan, his brand of humor for a long, long time has been realistic reaction to the absurd. That's what you need in a film like this if it's going to succeed and to make it palatable. With a concept as absurd as this, it needs to be relatable. It needs to be tangible. You need an actor that can react the same way we in the audience react if we were in this absurd situation -- if it's going to pop. Ryan does that in his sleep [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: Was the fact that you embody a Ryan Reynolds character in many ways, another aspect that appealed to you?
Jason Bateman: It's an actor's dream to play both sides. To be able to play a straight man, and also play the antagonist -- Ryan and I have both done each part a few times and to be able to do them both in the same movie is what you dream for.
Movie Fanatic: And playing two characters, how much of a challenge was that?
Ryan Reynolds: We're capturing the essence of each other, not impressions of each other. Both these characters are guys that Jason and I have in our wheelhouse. I was comfortable playing the lothario and I was also comfortable playing the neurotic, uptight guy who's very reactive.
Movie Fanatic: Jason, it sounds like working with Ryan Reynolds was a horrorshow?
Jason Bateman: Ryan is a guy who I have admired for a long time. I think I first saw him do his thing in Van Wilder. I was at the premiere and we met briefly. He's someone I've always wanted to work with because of our shared comedic tone. We don't do the same thing, but it comes from the same place. Personally, it's been effortless. He's such a good guy and we're good buddies and it's always nice to work with your friends.
Movie Fanatic: And you Ryan, what was it like working with your good friend Jason Bateman? He's sitting right here, so don't be too mean.
Ryan Reynolds: The hardest thing about it is keeping a straight face. His kind of take on this character really got to my funny bone [laughs]. I ruined a lot of takes laughing. He's an inventive guy and having a teammate like that is not something I've ever experienced.
Movie Fanatic: If there's anyone you would switch bodies or lives with, who would it be?
Ryan Reynolds: I would take a particular Hollywood starlet, because I would really like to know what the prison system is like, inside and out.
Ryan Reynolds: I would like to know what that is like to spend 45 minutes in jail -- for the fourth time.
Jason Bateman: Is she up to four?
Ryan Reynolds: I don't know who you're talking about.
Jason Bateman: I think we all do!