Director Mike Judge is rare in Hollywood as he tells hilarious stories that arise from mundane situations. The cult classic Office Space and his animated work on television shows like Beavis and Butthead, and King of the Hill focus on everyday people and the hilarious situations that come from everyday life. His newest endeavor is the Jason Bateman, Ben Affleck comedy Extract, coming to DVD December 22nd. In a recent interview Judge talks about where he gets his stories from, the amazing cast amassed for his latest, and his possible future projects.
Extract tells the story of the residents working in an extract plant and the mild-mannered boss Joel (Jason Bateman) who runs it. While Joel may have a successful job he deals with a string of personal problems including his possibly unfaithful wife (Kristin Wiig), a stoner best friend (Ben Affleck) and a pretty young temp (Mila Kunis) who might just turn his world around.
Judge has always felt the need to tell stories about blue collar workers and the lives they lead. When asked where this comes from he discusses how major Hollywood movies don't even take the time to show people at their place of employment, they seem to have “endless cash and free time” with very little information about how they got it. Judge goes on to say, “I've worked these kinds of jobs, and I remember feeling like Hollywood was sometimes out of touch with us, and always appreciating it when it felt like a movie or TV show got something right -- like there was someone out there in Hollywood who understood what most of us go through.” It's a subtle blend of “finding the humor while still having some dignity” that is the main thrust for his storytelling, a process he hopes is developed naturally in his writing. Overall his stories come from a place everyone can relate to, “Sit[ting] around with my friends telling stories about people I work with and doing imitations of them.” So then how many of the brilliant characters Judge has crafted are based on real people? The director says no one is specifically based on anyone in his personal life, but that most writers “base characters on people they have known.” An example is the character of Nathan, the annoying neighbor played by David Koechner in Extract. Again the character isn't a specific person but does have traits a chatty neighbor of Judge's used to have. This leads into the particular locations his stories are set in, usually suburban areas near big towns, a situation Judge is familiar with as he's lived in many such locations. In talking about setting the director says, “I think that a lot of writers in film and TV in the past have tended to come from NY or big east-coast cities, and there have also been great stuff written about really small hick towns, and so I feel like I can maybe bring a different perspective on things with a suburban setting.”
Unlike his previous work on Office Space, a film that had a boss totally out of the loop with his employees. Bateman's character Joel is a boss with a heart, something that Judge could relate to when it came to his job saying “I enjoy directing movies, making animated TV shows, and in order to do that, you sometimes have to tell people to do things they don't want to do, or make choices that people don't agree with. And I really don't enjoy telling people to do things they don't want to do, but it goes with the territory.” Judge mentions certain employers who “get some kind of weird pleasure out of making people do things for the sake of making them do things. They get off on the power of it all.” That's not the character of Joel who Judge describes as a boss who “genuinely likes making extract.” The idea of an employer whose decisions come from the heart is an employer the direction can endorse and does so with this film. This movie can also boast that it was filmed in a real bottling plant, something to look for when you watch the DVD. Judge says to notice, “A lot of the background that you see in the movie is actually real people working -- not extras.”
The bottling plant may have been populated with real workers, but what about the diverse cast Judge amassed for Extract? The director says the chemistry between the group was “instant” and “gelled nicely” due to everyone knowing each other through past projects and the like. Actor Jason Bateman, who plays the extract boss Joel, came to mind after his appearance on Judge's animated series King of Hill. Along with his phenomenal work on Arrested Development, Judge rewrote and finished the script for Extract with the actor in mind. He says, “t's a similar character to what he did in AD, but I think Joel is a little less slick or something.” One of Bateman's memorable scenes in Extract, and one seen in the previews, is his first attempts at taking a bong hit. Judge says to look for a deleted scene on the DVD Blu-Ray that comes after that moment saying, “ It's a scene I loved, but somehow didn't fit where it was in the movie.” Hollywood star Ben Affleck is also in the movie, playing a supporting role as Joel's friend Dean. Judge says he was “pleasantly surprised” that Affleck wanted the part in the movie. He goes on to say, “We did a read through of the script early on and I just loved watching him and Jason do these scenes and play off each other.” That brings up the question of improvisation used in the film. The director says in the editing room everything tends to line up with what was on the page but “If you write good dialogue, it sounds like people spontaneously talking, so audiences think it's improvised, which is a good thing.” The director says the majority of the improv used in the movie comes from Affleck's character when it was used at all.
The big question that arises when Judge's future projects are mentioned is a possible sequel to his cult film Office Space. In a sense Judge considers Extract the sequel to that particular movie saying, “I based Office Space on my own experiences working in the cubicle world, and I based a lot of this on my experience being a boss and running what was basically an animation factory on Beavis and Butt-Head.” The transition between films he says is “go[ing] from complaining about the man keeping you down, to becoming the man” which is just as difficult a position. While he did, at one time, consider a sequel to his hit movie he says he won't know, taking into account both the US and UK versions of The Office and numerous other “cubicle” shows as proof there isn't a need for a sequel. Judge was also asked about the possibility of doing another animated film in the vein of Beavis and Butthead or a live action television series. Judge says, “I would definitely like to do a live action TV series. I don't know that I would do another feature-length animated film any time soon. Unless maybe it was a CG project.” This brings up the question of which format the director prefers. From a directing and writing standpoint Judge says they're the same. Judge enjoys doing animation, more so in the short form category when he was the sole creator. He elaborates saying, “Making a film one frame at a time, getting it back from the lab and watching it for the first time. That was about as good as it gets I think.” He also talks about the cinematic approach of making an animated series. Judge considers the work on The Simpsons as cinematic in scope, although he says “I never got too cinematic with King of the Hill just because of the nature of the show and the characters, not really because it was animated.”
Be on the lookout for Extract on DVD and Blu-Ray on December 22nd!