Comedic actress Kathryn Hahn (Parks and Recreation, Secret Life of Walter Mitty) plays opposite Jason Bateman in his first directorial feature, Bad Words. Based on the script by Andrew Hodge, the dark comedy tells the story of a 40 year-old high school drop out Guy Trilby (Bateman) who discovers a loophole that allows him to enter The National Quill Spelling Bee. Designed for 8th Graders, Guy’s entry draws protest and outrage from parents and the organization’s director Dr. Deagon (Allison Janney).
Kathryn Hahn plays insecure, highly sexed reporter, Jenny Widgeon, who agrees to fund Guy’s travel expenses in exchange for his exclusive story. But it appears this is not the only thing she’s gaining from this experience! The film also stars Ben Falcone and Philip Baker Hall.
In our chat with Hahn, we talk about Jason Bateman’s directorial style and shooting some of the more funny and awkward scenes in Bad Words.
Did you need much bribing to work on a Jason Bateman project? How did you get involved?
Kathryn Hahn: Oh so much…. The courtship, it was like a year!
Especially when you learned you’d be making out with him?
(Laughs) Let’s just say, it was a long, long process. No, I saw that he was attached to direct it and I just knew it was going to be special. I just knew the first one that he decided to sign on to direct was going to be something extraordinary.
Tell us about Jenny. What kind of person is she?
Jenny Widgeon who I play. Hmm, how would I describe her? She’s a journalist.
With no self respect.
With a lack of boundaries and a lot of shame. Horrible barometer in men. She just cannot find the right guy. And has just like a crazy libido.
Now were those scenes uncomfortable to shoot? You know Jason, you have a history with him. You’re friends right?
The scenes looked hilarious to watch. Were they just as hilarious to shoot?
Oh yes. We just giggled. It was hard not to… (laughs). Yes, we did, there was a lot of giggling. And also because we were in a practical location. So it was really the shower. Or it really was the closet. So it was like all of us shoved into a small room. I mean the boom guys were laughing. It was very funny. Yeah, of course. It was always hilarious.
Was there much of a rehearsal process?
Not much with us. I think he had a longer one with Rohan who plays Chaitanya. We sat in his office and went through everything beat by beat for like a couple of days. But the script was so tight and so well honed. Andrew Dodge just wrote this perfect piece that it was pretty actor proof. Like, we just kind of had to sit in it.
This is the first time Jason has directed a feature. Describe the ambiance on the set. Because I was on set, everyone was so calm; everyone was having fun. Is he like a one take guy or is he like a Fincher type, a fifty-take guy?
No, because his work ethic is so extraordinary which I so appreciate. He was so unbelievably prepared going into this so that by the time we were on the set and there were cameras, he could relax and allow other things to surprise him because he wasn’t worried about the other stuff. He was incredibly well prepared. The vibe was, well I mean you were there, no one wanted it to end. It was so fun. He is such a good egg and he surrounded himself with good people.
Now can you think of one scene where you just couldn’t hold it together, you were corpsing throughout the whole scene that you took many takes?
(Laughs) I love that word, corpsing… I love it so much I would say the sex scene in the janitor’s closet. That was hard. He was much more professional than I was. I don’t break that often, but when I do it is hard to get back. There was a little bit of an improvised thing in the middle of losing it and having to try to start all over again. And that really really really tickled my funny bone.
And lastly, when was the last time you used a bad word and what was it? This morning…!
Yeah, like probably ten minutes ago. And I think I said Douchebag. So classy!
More: Jason Bateman Interview
Kathryn is currently in production on Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, with George Clooney and Hugh Laurie.
Bad Words hits theaters on March 28, 2014.