Please be aware that, due to the nature of film, the following contains some strong language.
It’s another week of the daily grind for best friends Nick, Kurt and Dale (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day) and as usual, they’re meeting up at the local Rivetti’s (think T.G.I. Friday’s) for a drink and to commiserate over their respective Horrible Bosses. As bad as their jobs are, though, the boys are about to find out that it could get a lot worse.
From the crowd, the trio is approached by an old high-school alum, Kenny Sommerfield (P.J. Byrne). He seems jovial enough, but begins to explain that he recently lost his six-figure job at Lehman Brothers. As his story goes on, the smile is quickly revealed to be a grimace.
“I can’t even pay for this drink!” he says, pleading to borrow some money.
Embarrassed for him, the group tries to look away, but Kenny begins propositioning, offering handjobs for cash, starting off with somewhat subtle hints and rapidly getting filthier and filthier.
“[W]e’re so clearly, firmly R as our approach to this movie,” laughs director Seth Gordon, “As we should be, right? Given the topic.”
After all, things are about to get decidedly darker. When the boys realize that simply quitting their jobs won’t be enough, they conspire to take care of their bosses once and for all with the help of a hitman named Motherfucker Jones (Jamie Foxx).
“He earns that name,” adds producer Jay Stern, “By the way, you say that ‘Motherfucka,’ not ‘Motherfucker.’ That’s one of the things he says.”
With a character moniker like that, Horrible Bosses doesn’t skirt a PG-13. The determination to bring the script to the screen in its adult form was something that has kept the project in development for quite awhile.
“I started out over five years ago by bringing this to New Line and saying, ‘This is a great script and a great idea and let’s make this movie!'” recalls Stern, “They were pretty eager right from the start, but we had a bunch of stops and starts. At the time, it was hard to do an up-and-coming — a great up-and-coming cast — at New Line because they were so internationally-oriented.”
While Bateman, Day and Sudeikis are well-known, they’re not necessarily the superstars for whom an R-rating would be no obstacle, or at least, they wouldn’t have been a few years ago. Stern admits that the success of The Hangover in 2009 helped get “Bosses” the greenlight, enabling them to really push the edge of the envelope. What’s more, the film banks some extra star power on the bosses themselves, casting Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey in the supporting roles.
“We haven’t really done the scary stuff yet,” says Bateman of working with Spacey, who famously portrayed a sadistic employer in Swimming With Sharks, “but you never really catch him acting. He’s very intense about what he does. It’s certainly perfect for this character.”
“[Colin’s] exercising a lot of demons from his past I would imagine,” jokes Sudeikis of Kurt’s supervisor, “His character has a love of cocaine. He knew his way around that stuff. I would say he was definitely into it, and yet also good at going back into his lovely Irish accent. I wish I could do that.”
“He has a great comb-over,” adds Stern of Farrell’s Bobby Pellitt, “I think he has a world-class comb-over that will be remembered for years to come. But he created a character. There was a great character on the page, but he took it in a really wonderful direction. He plays this character as somebody that doubts his manhood all the way along the line, but compensates all the time for it.”
“I’ve never been sexually harassed by a gorgeous dentist,” Day laments of his own character’s dilemma in the film, “so I can’t really draw from experience. I haven’t had the right boss, I guess.”
In the film, Dale is getting married to a woman played by Lindsay Sloane and Aniston’s character’s extreme advances put his relationship in jeopardy. He does admit, though, that rejecting advances from Jennifer Aniston isn’t the worst problem in the world.
“Everyone says ‘I can’t understand why you wouldn’t just sleep with her,'” he explains, “But 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?” jabs Sudeikis.
“She hasn’t done that since ‘Friends’!” laughs Day.
On the other side of the camera, Gordon faces the tricky task of matching his leads’ quick wits on a technical level, having to edit around copious amounts of improvisation. To take on that feat, he’s making use of a camera called the Genesis. A high-end digital device from Panavision, the Genesis allows for 42-minute takes and lets the actors run wild with alternate, on-the-spot lines, giving Gordon free-range in he editing room.
“What’s great about that camera is you can roll and roll and roll and you don’t have to worry about circling takes,” says Day, “It frees us up to be able to really experiment and try other things.”
In the case of the scene today, Gordon was particularly interested in pushing the ratings boundaries, giving Byrne free rein to throw out as many handjob euphemisms as he could.
“My instinct is probably to try the dramatic first and see if it works,” says Gordon of maintaining a “real world” approach to the film’s humor, “Obviously, we’re a comedy, but there’s great comedy in drama. I think some of the funniest stuff taps into real human emotions. So that’s what we were exploring here. But it’s pretty heavy, the heavy version. So I’d be crazy to only capture that.”
On-set, the actors are all too happy to run with the more extreme versions. One repeated take involves Byrne going into graphic, graphic detail about his handjob techniques, including describing a game he’s dubbed “the cum-tucky derby.” At the end of Byrne’s speech, Sudeikis punctuates the scene with a bewildered question, also changing with each take.
“What kind of hats would you wear to the cum-tucky derby?” he wonders.
“What are the horses named?”
“What’s in the mint juleps?”
If any of those questions have answers, you’ll have to wait to hear them until July 8th when Horrible Bosses hit theaters everywhere.