CGI Babies, The Freedom Of The R-Rating & More We Learned From Jason Bateman & Ryan Reynolds About the Body-Switching Comedy
This weekend sees the release of another candidate for the R-rated comedy of the summer: bro-rific body-switcheroo film “The Change-Up.” Starring Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds, the story centers on two friends living polar opposite lives; Bateman as Dave, a family man and lawyer on the rise, and Reynolds as Mitch, his best friend, who makes a meager living as an actor, but mostly uses his charisma and physique to bang anything with two legs. After a night of drinking the two friends — ahem — relieve themselves, in what they will soon learn is a magical fountain, and the next morning wake up to find that they’ve switched bodies, and consequently, lives.
The body-switching premise is certainly not breaking any cinematic ground, but “Wedding Crashers” director David Dobkin’s take on it might be. Aided by a script from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore — the duo who penned the first “The Hangover” — the film starts with a premise typically geared toward more family-friendly fare, but has switched the leads to two grown men and the results are decidedly less adorable then any similar out-of-body experiences we’ve seen in theatres before. We recently had a chance to speak with Dobin, Reynolds and Bateman about the film and they told us about the freedom the R-rating brought the production; bringing your Mom to the set; CGI babies and how this is not like those other body-switching movies you might have seen.
Popular on IndieWire
1. David Dobkin would like you to know that this isn’t “Face/Off,” nor is it “Freaky Friday” either
Dobkin admits that creating a convincing body switch with two regular guys of a similar age had its challenges. “[In ‘Face/Off’] you can tell when they’re playing each other, they’re imitating each other… when you have personalities like that you can do that. Ryan and Jason are much more everyman in that sense and don’t have such quirky, weird personalities, they’re also not Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis where the polarity of the switch is there.”
So, instead of doing straight imitations of one another, Dobkin and his leads decided to approached the roles as “shared.” During rehearsals before shooting, the leads and their director collaborated on how both actors would similarly approach the two characters they’d be playing. Said Dobkin, “It wasn’t easy, they worked really hard to share these characters… it really required [Mitch and Dave] to be created distinctly from each other and to truly swap the inside characteristics. You have to believe that Mitch is Mitch, not here’s Ryan’s Mitch and here’s Jason’s Mitch. Preparation-wise, we just talked about what the different characters would do in an emotional situation.” They also used visual cues and wardrobe to help make the distinction. “There’s a lot of subconscious stuff, they switch colors, David wears blue, Mitch wears red.”
2. There’s no switching the feelings Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds have for each other
Bateman and Reynolds, who have known each other for about fifteen years, count themselves lucky to have had the opportunity to work on this script together. “Working with this guy [Reynolds] — we had to do a whole lot of work. We did a lot of playing, there was a lot of support,” said Bateman, crediting his co-star with coming up with fresh directions for scenes and jokes that saw multiple takes. But for Reynolds, Bateman was the on-set crack-up, “I used to pride myself on the fact that I could not break in a scene — you could do and say anything — but he turned it into an actual disability for me. There is an entire movie that could be cut of my just tearing up and trying to hold it together.”
3. No children were harmed during the making of “The Change-Up”
When Mitch takes over Dave’s body, he also takes over responsibilities for Dave’s twin babies. The level of ineptitude he has with handling such tiny people will make anyone with an ounce of parental instinct catch their breath as they watch Bateman’s man-handling of his tiny co-stars, but the filmmakers and talent of “The Change Up” would like to assure you that no babies were harmed. “The parents were on set,” and were also briefed as to what would be going on, said both Dobkin and the cast when asked. Added Bateman, “In the kitchen scene where they’re on the counter, the studio paid a lot of money for — there was a group of men dressed completely in green that were there on the set that you can’t see because we painted them out, they were in green suits, just there to catch the kids in case they fell off the counter.” The babies were also digitally added to the scene where he douses them in milk, and harnesses were used for some of the less-careful handling that was done.
4. The freedom of the R-rating serves the body-switching genre well
While Reynolds, who’s worked in both PG-13 and R-rated comedy sees the value in PG-13 comedy, he doesn’t see how it would have worked with this premise. “If we were to live in an absurd world where two drunk idiots piss in a magic wishing well and switch bodies, [with the R rating] you get to experience what it would actually be like, and what it would be like is horrible,” he laughs. “Horrible, horrible things would happen. Terrible things would be said and done and to bring that up on the screen in a PG-13 way, there’s no point.”
5. Ryan Reynolds advises looking at the filming schedule before inviting your Mom to the set
During the filming of a raunchy comedy, things are bound to cross a line, and for Reynolds that line was crossed multiple times when his character Mitch is cast in a porn film. “For me there were a couple of moments in the porno that went a little far,” he laughs. “I don’t typically look at a schedule in advance, [but] a wise tip for an upcoming actor, is to know that when your mom is coming to visit, because that was the two days that my mom came out to Atlanta to visit, and I introduced her to my – porn — mate and proceeded to get in there and do the best I could without throwing up on someone’s back…There’s a few moments in that sequence that aren’t in the film that perhaps will be in the DVD, which went way too far.”
“The Change-Up” hits theatres this Friday, August 5th. Look for more from our chat with the filmmakers later this week.