Bad Words is a subversive comedy (not for the politically correct demographic), about a ruthless, dysfunctional 40 year-old man, Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) who finds a loophole in the rules of the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee and goes up against overly ambitious 8th graders in a bid to hijack the competition. His emotionally-challenged brain validates his reasons for such unruly behavior.
The original screenplay, which is R Rated for it’s constant profanity, is penned by Andrew Dodge and made the coveted The Black List in 2011. We visited the set of Bad Words to speak with co-star Allison Janney (The West Wing, Masters of Sex) about working with Jason Bateman on his directorial debut.
SR: Who do you play?
Allison Janney: I play Dr. Bernice Deagan. She is the director of the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee. This is her world. This is what she lives for. She has been doing this for twenty years. She is as hard as nails. She means business and Jason’s character enters into her world and she wants him out. He’s ruining my life basically and everybody is looking at me to fix it. And I try and so it becomes my job to get him thrown out of this Spelling Bee.
SR: How far is your character willing to go to make that happen?
Allison Janney: She will do whatever it takes. She goes to places she didn’t think she could ever go to, and beyond. She risks her life in this movie.
SR: What was your relationship with Jason before this film? How well did you know him?
Allison Janney: I wish that we had dated and that he was my husband. I met him funnily enough on ‘Juno’, but we didn’t have any scenes together. I met him on the press tour and absolutely fell in love with him. They would break us up into groups and I was always in his group and he just made me laugh so hard. He’s so fun to be around. ‘Juno’ was in 2007 and I said: “Please can we do something together.” And this finally happened. I said yes before I read the script!
SR: What do you make of the Spelling Bees?
Allison Janney: I’ve never actually been in one. I would be terrible, I’m the worst speller on the planet. I’m so glad for spellcheck on my phone.
SR: Is it tough to keep a poker face in the scenes with Jason especially when he improvs?
Allison Janney: Yes and he does it a lot. He’s so fluid with it. It just comes out of his mouth. I think all of my years on the West Wing I lost my confidence with ad-libbing in a scene because with Aaron Sorkin, you’re not allowed to change an apostrophe. But he’s brilliant at it. I tend to let him do it and I just nod or shake my head.
SR: How much are you working with the wardrobe department on your outfit (it’s a hideous librarian look)?
Allison Janney: (Laughs) I’m proud to be wearing a dickey, which goes under most of Bernice’s outfits. It’s just an extraordinary look. I’m also wearing a wig I must point out. Our costume designer, April and I had a great time putting Bernice together. This is not even a sexy librarian look!
SR: Does your costume help you channel your character?
Allison Janney: Oh yes. When I put these clothes on, I start feeling like her. Like she has cats; she likes Chinese food; and maybe she listens to old Aerosmith a little bit….
Bad Words hits theaters on March 14, 2014.