Co-helmers Josh Gordon and Will Speck broke onto the Hollywood stage in 2007 with the outlandish Olympics comedy Blades of Glory. For their follow-up, they teamed up Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman for the unconventional rom-com The Switch. And now the whole team reunites for the subversive and hard-R holiday laugher Office Christmas Party.
Set in a failing Chicago tech company, Office Christmas Party follows the quest of a caring branch manager (T.J. Miller) to save his employees’ jobs by throwing the biggest and best holiday rager the city has ever seen. Bateman stars as his right-hand man, while Aniston plays Miller’s hard-nosed sister/demanding CEO. But that’s just the beginning. This festive flick also boasts appearances by Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Randall Park, Jillian Bell and Deadpool cabbie Karan Soni, not to mention the modern upgrade on sitting bare-assed on the photocopier: 3D-printed copies of worker genitalia.
Naturally, when Screen Rant spoke with Gordon and Speck we talked about some of Office Christmas Party‘s most gleefully deranged scenes. But moreover, we discussed how casting served to subvert tedious–and sometimes damaging–comedy tropes, challenging the way audiences typically see CEOs, STEM fields, Asian men and pimps!
You have a really incredible cast in this movie but I was particularly taken with Jillian Bell. Can you tell me about the development of the pimp character?
Will Speck: Jillian was someone we had our eye on for a long time and really wanted to work with and there were a lot of parts in the movie we thought about putting her in. One night we sort of had a complete subversion of thought because we wanted to avoid the cliché of what you’ve seen a million times in every eighties movie, which is: hooker, pimp – guy controlling woman-for-hire. I think we thought, “Wow! Jillian plus pimp – that just feels natural.”
Josh Gordon: And it’s another work relationship, a boss employee relationship – we thought it was hilarious.
Will Speck: She’s brilliant and she’s tough. So that was like a great combination and she really brought a lot to that role.
Yeah, it’s really fun. Speaking of subversions: There are other subversions in the film where you have a female CEO, and you have Olivia Munn playing an engineer and even with the casting of Nate and Fred – typically when you have Asian men in movies, particularly comedies – they’re very desexualized…
Will Speck: …Not this guy…
Well, either of them. So was representation something you really looked to while casting the film?
Josh Gordon: It really was. We really didn’t want to do the expected thing or the thing you’ve seen a hundred times. Offices are incredibly diverse places in the real world and we wanted to tell those stories and not get into an eighties clichéd version of everything.
Will Speck: But I think we also did lead with our heart, in terms of who is great. We’ve wanted to work with Randall for an amazing amount of time and actually, Karan Soni we saw in an online series three years ago and said, “Let’s save this guy and think about where we can plug him in.”
Josh Gordon: And when we saw him in Deadpool we were like, “He’s got to be Nate.”
He slays. He’s so funny. This, because it’s a big ensemble comedy with a lot of threads that are interconnecting, it reminded me a lot of Love Actually.
Will Speck: Good! That’s a good thing.
I’m curious, how do you think those movies compare and contrast?
Josh Gordon: You know, it’s interesting. We wanted to make – Love Actually is a great movie and obviously we looked to a lot of Christmas movies when making it – and one of the things we wanted to do was not just make a party movie, we also wanted to make a holiday movie. So, even though it’s hard R – it goes for it – we really wanted to deliver a message at the end.
Will Speck: I think our fantasy is, we already made a movie that is Olympic-based, that every Winter Olympics it somehow comes out and off the shelf, and I think we wanted to make something that every Christmas you sort of love to watch.
Josh Gordon: Now we need to make a summer movie…
Will Speck: Exactly, the July 4th Picnic.
Sure. Is there any trivia about the film that you want people to know about?
Will Speck: Hmmm…let’s think about it. There’s so much but we don’t kiss and tell. *laughs* I don’t know.
Was there anything with there anything too crazy that went on in the film that had to be cut?
Josh Gordon: No. Everyone was pretty great. We were talking about this a little earlier. We had three hundred and fifty extras with us during the entire production, and when you get that many people in a room for two-and-a-half months, and you’re just partying every day for twelve hours – stuff comes out. So we really got to know those people.
Will Speck: And they actually had their own little HR seminar a few times just to remind everybody of onset conduct.
Josh Gordon: What’s appropriate and not appropriate in the workplace?
Will Speck: It became its own office.
In a workplace where you have a 3D printer…
Josh Gordon: Right…on camera.
Will Speck: One hundred percent. You know, that’s actually a good piece of trivia: a lot of people kept taking and stealing the 3D genitalia from the set.
Josh Gordon: The art department was really upset. They’re like, “We don’t have anymore! We gotta make more!”
Will Speck: We need more penises!
It seems to be a running thing. It happened on Pain and Gain too.
Will Speck: Really? Well there ya go.
Josh Gordon: You give people a new piece of technology, they’re going to use it.