CinemaCon Exclusive: Horrible Bosses Director Seth Gordon

As our coverage of last week’s CinemaCon winds to a close, we are going on the record that we think New Line’s R-rated summer comedy Horrible Bosses will be one of the biggest sleeper hits of the summer. After all, how can it not be with a cast that has Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis from “Saturday Night Live” and Charlie Day from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” being tormented by their bosses played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston and deciding to do something rather drastic about it?

You can watch our description of the trailer and an interview with the three leads here, but Horrible Bosses is the second major studio comedy from director Seth Gordon, who followed his breakout documentary The King of Kong with the Vince Vaughn-Reese Witherspoon comedy hit Four Christmases. (He was also involved with the highly-underrated 2010 doc Freakonomics.

We actually hadn’t talked to Gordon since the days of King of Kong, so this was a good chance to sit down with him to briefly discuss how he approached his second studio comedy as well as to find out whether there’s been any progress on the planned dramatization of his earlier doc.

ComingSoon.net: This footage shown earlier, is this trailer going to be out pretty soon?
Seth Gordon:
I hope so. I imagine they’ll start leaking it, but I don’t actually know. They’ve certainly told me it will be on “The Hangover 2,” attached to that.

CS: That’s still a ways away, but one thing that really impressed me was how it really showcases Charlie Day. That trailer was really a lot of Charlie stealing things.
Gordon:
It’s a breakout performance I think for him.

CS: Which is great because with all these big names in the movie, Charlie would not be the first person you’d think of.
Gordon:
Yeah, but he’s amazing.

CS: How did you first come on board this project?
Gordon:
An agent sent it to me, and I read it, and I cried, cried laughing. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, and a lot of it was at Aniston’s lines. I’ve certainly personally had a few horrible bosses, so that’s probably why I was crying laughing. I could identify very much with that.

CS: Was she already attached and was anyone attached to the movie at all?
Gordon:
No, it’s just I know how good of a comedian she is, and that just seemed like an exciting possible opportunity, because it isn’t something I’ve seen her do, and I’d much rather see people do things new, fresh, and I’m just glad she got it ’cause it’s edgy. Some of the stuff she says is intense and great.

CS: She seemed to start going in that direction with the Sandler movie, which I actually kind of liked because I thought she was really funny in it. I think she already had that in her but tended to shy away from it.
Gordon:
Oh, yeah. I don’t know the pressures or the decision process at all, but I just know that this was a role that was perfect for her.

CS: How did the cast come together? Jason Sudeikis and Charlie had already been in “Going the Distance”…
Gordon:
Well, they also have a long standing thing because Sudeikis has been on “Sunny” and they’ve known each other for a good long time, and I love them together, and I thought they were perfect for these two parts particularly. Somehow, Charlie getting taken advantage by his dentist boss felt appropriate. (laughs)

CS: What about Colin Farrell? I have to admit that when I saw the footage the first time, I had no idea it was him.
Gordon:
I know, right? Listen, I’d seen “In Bruges” and I knew from that and just sort of intuition and interviews and things how funny he was, and I just thought I hadn’t witnessed that in a striking role yet, and he presented the idea of changing his look for it, and I thought it was a terrific idea, to take him to a new place we haven’t seen before. I think he did really wonderfully and he sort of put on that outfit and became this demon.

CS: It’s really hilarious because he was another one of those hot young actors who came around who has great looks and can get romantic roles and here, he gets to play the opposite. It should be obvious I guess but is this R-rated?
Gordon:
Very, yeah.

CS: You can’t often tell from trailers.
Gordon:
Well, just “Motherf**ker Jones” (Jamie Foxx’s character) makes it pretty hard.

CS: Right, you can say “F**k” once but as soon as you put “mother” in front of it, the chance of a PG-13 is over.
Gordon:
Yeah, and I’m sure there’ll be a TV version that’s like “Mamajama Jones.”

CS: They should leave that joke out of the TV spots as that would just make it worse.
Gordon:
Right? That would suck.

CS: I was curious about your approach to comedy, especially when you have guys like Charlie Day and Jason and Jason.
Gordon:
I think a documentary is a great training ground for comedians like this who constantly discover new things as they’re working through the material, because documentarians have to discover the story as they go, and that’s a far more extreme version of this same exercise, which is to kind of be willing to let things emerge that are better ideas than you’d ever had before. You’ve seen them interact. Their dynamic is so fast and so smart and so quick, every idea, and you just need to be able to realize, “Whoa, that was gold, that was gold, that was gold” and then find a way to capitalize.

CS: Of course when you do documentaries, you have tons and tons of footage and you have to go through it, so you’re able to keep track of that while you’re watching on set what you have for later?
Gordon:
Mm-hm. Needle in a haystack, whatever that mindset is, you have to be willing to not be stuck in your ways.

CS: I don’t want you to have to play favorites but which of the three guys generally had the most nuggets when they went off script and killed?
Gordon:
Oh my God. I’m sorry that there is no way to pick. I mean, they each discovered something incredible and they pitched ideas that had nothing to do with the words, some of which made the final movie. For example, it was never in the script before we read it out loud, they dropped the cocaine, it went everywhere, but it was them that went “Why don’t we just get high off it when it drops? Why doesn’t that affect our guys?” And then we started playing around with that and it was like, “Oh my God, that’s amazing” and they got all excited.

CS: So them dropping the cocaine was in the script though.
Gordon:
And that’s it and them going, “Oh, God, we have to clean this up.” Nowhere near as fun as trying to clean it up while you’re being affected by it.

CS: You mentioned “King of Kong” when we spoke earlier (see below) and at one point, you were going to try to make a non-doc version of the story.
Gordon:
Yup, we have a half-completed script right now that’s in process.

CS: Is that something you’ve been working on as well?
Gordon:
Yeah, and the idea is to tell the whole story, not just what we were able to witness the first time around.

CS: Because over the years, there have been a lot of interviews with the different guys involved in the movie…
Gordon:
Yeah, well there’s that aspect and simply in the original storytelling, we had to get very crafty with the fact that we weren’t there for the first couple years, right? We had to tell a lot of past tense so I would want to put things on camera that pre-dated us.

You can also watch a short introductory interview we did with Gordon before the Warner Bros. The Big Picture 2011 presentation:

Horrible Bosses opens on July 8.

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