At the center of Miramax Films new comedy The Switch, Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman co-star as best friends who unknowingly (on her part) and unwittingly (on his) become co-parents after... well, let's just say an unfortunate spill and a quick fix at a drunken sperm donation party. Based on Baster a 1996 short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Jeffrey Eugenides (who also wrote The Virgin Suicides), this is a decidedly untraditional relationship that results in both a wonderful child and an interesting angle to examine what it is makes up the core values of a functional family.
Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier sat down with Jennifer and Jason in Los Angeles, CA to talk babies, modern families and the ease with which a salacious rumor can be started in the tabloid-infested world of Hollywood...
Emmanuel Itier: Jennifer, How is it that it seems you have great chemistry with everyone you work with... even the dog from Marley & Me: Are you just a people person who gets along with everyone?
Jason Bateman: She’s an actress!
Jennifer Aniston: That’s funny... I’m an actress... [Laughs]
JB: She knows how to fake it. [Laughs]
JA: Oh no! I guess so. I like people. I’ve also been lucky; I’ve only had really great people I’ve worked with... that’s my luck.
EI: Do you encourage women to step up to what they want?
JA: I think that’s with this movie is. The subject definitely supports that. It supports what is currently happening in our world today — that we, as women, have the choices and options of when or how to have children, as we have evolved as a society. I’ve learned something from Kassie. I have learned something from every character I’ve played, especially in this case. The women in my life who have gone through the struggles and heartbreak and frustration of fertility and adoption and all of that… I think that’s why it jumped out of me so immediately - the connection I had to it - because I thought it was something very timely and progressive that hadn’t been really discussed, and to have a love story woven through it was just beautiful, and it’s hysterical.
JB: I think we should charge more for the movie than $15. It sounds like a full package. I’ve gotta see this.
EI: Jason - does the modern woman scare you?
JB: That’s why I stick to men! I’ve had it with them. [Laughs] The modern woman is exciting to me because I’m married to one. I’m sure the old fashioned woman would have been great too, but I’m living in the modern age. I like women. This is something that I guess you would have to label as progressive, but it does seem to be a little overdue because women have been making some of the better decisions for our planet for quite some time. Of course they can have a child without a clumsy man around. In this movie, she decides to have the kid first and the guy second. Why not? A lot of people are doing that.
EI: What are the emotional cornerstones of this film? As Wally Mars and with [your on-screen son] Sebastian, your chemistry with Thomas Robinson is incredible. How did you build that working with Thomas, developing that relationship?
JB: It wasn’t tough to get chemistry with him because he’s such a good guy, and talented and kind. He’s got great parents. The experience I had growing up being a young actor was helpful because I remember that point of view literally from in front of a big black camera and 100 people standing behind it waiting to be released to lunch until you get your line right: It’s nerve wracking. He was six. He’s 14 now. [Laughs] But getting the edit right on this movie was important. I don’t know how somebody who was three years into the English language was able to take what was a new language to him and be able to manipulate it and find some nuance in the way he delivers a sentence that he barely understands.
JA: I’m barely understood.
JB: He’s really talented. We had a great time.
EI: Wally seem very much a part of other parts you’ve played: You often play spiritually strangulated guys... who eventually come around and do the right thing: Why is it that you specifically are drawn to those roles, and more perfect for them?
JB: I got this because a few other more talented, bigger, better names were busy... I don’t know how much of that was in the script and how much of that is just me being interested in that kind of character and me trying to cram that character into what was written... I think what you’re describing is pretty much a part of all of us. I just find that an interesting character to watch on film currently. I like finding that part of a particular character.
EI: Jennifer - in what ways do you relate to this character? Is it truly possible to stay with friends with an ex?
JA: Yes, it is. I relate to her as I relate to all women I know that have gone through this decision in life.
EI: When I heard that you’re doing this movie, I couldn’t help but remembering one of the tabloid covers that we were almost forced to read just a few months ago…
JA: You remember those, huh? [Laughs] It’s powerful reading material, yes.
EI: If you so much as put your hand on your tummy, the tabloids all scream, “Jen’s new baby…”
JA: I have 13 children by now! [Laughs]
EI: Does it ever effect your professional decisions as to which roles you choose to play?
JA: I usually really try to steer away from making my creative choices based on what the tabloids are saying... I would be really screwed if I did. But no, I don’t - That’s all silly...
EI: Does it all ever make you angry, or can you laugh at it?
JA: I think it’s funny.
JB: It’s like reading a good comic book... It’s all fiction, and sometimes they come up with interesting crap, and other times it’s boring crap.
JA: Yeah. Sort of like on Days of our Lives, when Deirdre Hall was possessed. [Laughs] That wasn’t a good phase!
EI: The Back-up Plan, The Kids are All Right… and now The Switch - Sperm donors seem to be more and more popular in recent Hollywood films. Is this the start of a whole new genre? We haven’t had a lot of movies in the past that had sperm donors and that talked women having babies this way...
JA: That’s true, and I think more stories are able to be told. That’s what’s refreshing. We read this a long time ago. This was like three years ago that this came into my realm.
EI: Jennifer, I'm glad to hear that you don’t base your choice of movies on listening to the tabloids, but I do want to ask what do you look for, because you’re kind of becoming the queen of romantic comedies, so I’m just wondering what is it in a script that appeals to you: What are you specifically looking for when you pick a role?
JA: It comes from just having a gut reaction to the story usually, and also about having the story rooted in reality and jumping off from there is always more interesting to me, in the vein of... The Breakup or Marley & Me. They are true stories to life and relatable stories, and then the comedy comes out of that. Or if I’m moved: I usually need to have a moment where the story is poignant in some way.
EI: Do you guys think it’s possible for a man and a woman to be best friends without a physical relationship?
JA: Yes. I mean, I have...
JB: No. [Laughs]
EI: Can you elaborate?
JA: That’s funny, because I think it’s hard - I think women would have an easier time with it than men do: Don’t you agree?
JB: I don’t want to make a horrible generalization, but... a lot of the guys that I’ve met will sleep with pretty much any girl they meet. [Laughs] If you actually are really good friends with that girl too, that’s a homerun... [Laughs] How can you resist that? In other words, the first part you really can’t shut off: A guy and a girl can remain best friends and not have something happen, as long as one of them is in a relationship. As soon as both are single, you just kind of start the clock... then you just soak it in booze and things happen... [Laughs]
EI: Jason, In the film, Wally and his son have all these little things in common... whether it’s eating yum-yum noises or... hypochondria! What do you see in your real-life daughter that’s like you?
JA: ... besides your face...
JB: She’ll grow out of that. [Laughs] God, please! She does enjoy a good carbohydrate. The baby trainer, she’s so expensive, but she’s going to drop the weight... [Laughs] I got kicked out of a couple of schools because I like the sound of my voice, as you can tell: She’s got some of that, but maybe that’s just being 3½. I don’t know... she seems to really like to make people laugh, and she likes playing with different voices, different faces. Again, I don’t know how much of that is 3½: If she’s still doing that at 35, call a doctor.
EI: Jennifer, on behalf of both our male and female readers, can I just say…you look fantastic today. Could you tell us what you are wearing and how you chose it, and also how you stay looking so fit? Pilates? How do you exercise and how strict are you with diet?
JA: I’m wearing an Alexander McQueen dress... I chose it, because it was handed to me! I’m eating very well. I indulge when I want to indulge. I work out often. I do yoga. I do everything, I kind of change it up. I try to do something, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day, just to get my body sweating and blood pumping... it gives for a good day of energy.
EI: Did you run today?
JA: Absolutely, yeah.
JB: She’s doing it right now. [Laughs]
JA: I have the Suzanne Summers thing underneath this desk. [Laughs]
EI: I was struck by the seven-year time gap in the film, and yet absolutely no change to…
JB: I had gray temples!
JA: I had longer hair. We should have done a little age-face.
EI: I wondered about that because there is a real sense of reality to a lot of the film, but then you look at that aspect and it’s much more 'Hollywood'…
JA: I have to say something: this man - I’ve known him for 15 years: He doesn’t look any different.
JB: Ultimately, it’s sort of distracting, I think, to the audience. At least for me, if I’m sitting in the theater, I’m like, you didn’t need to do that to let me... just put the text on this “seven years later” and let me enjoy the story. Don’t remind me with some cheap make-up appliance in every scene. I want to be in the story.
EI: Something you guys are going to eventually discover: Gravity! [Laughs] Jennifer - Your recent Barbra Streisand photos are remarkable. How did that happen, and have you received any reaction from her directly?
JA: I have, in fact: She’s just fantastic... This is an idea that Chris McMillan, who is my hairdresser and I’m his Barbie doll, has basically been saying he has wanted to do for years. Then I met her on New Year’s Eve and we just chatted... we went through Midnight together, me and her and Jim [Brolin]. Then we had a couple of dinners and I told her about this idea at Harper’s Bazaar… I told her the idea and she loved it. Then we even had dinner a couple of nights before and we just were looking at old photos. She was excited about it. She’s darling and lovely and humble and is an icon. It was really special for me to get to play around like that and do that... I was really happy.
EI: Having played a mother in this movie…
JA: ... a lot of movies…
EI: ... do you want to be a mother yourself?
JB: Are you hitting on her right now? [Laughs]
JA: Yeah, I’ve said it years before: I still say it. That’s today: yeah.
EI: Would you be like the character in this movie and take matters into your own hands?
JA: I don’t know... I don’t have plans on that, no.
EI: Do you think the character you play in this movie, who is doing everything pretty much by herself, is a prime example of the modern woman?
JA: I think, more and more, women are knowing they don’t have to settle. They don’t have to just settle with a man to have the child. I think they are realizing, if it’s that time in their life and they want this part, they can do it with or without that. I think it’s happening more and more. People aren’t having kids in their 20s, so times have changed. That’s also what I think is amazing: we do have so many options these days, as opposed to in our parent’s generation when, if they were told you can’t have children or you have waited too long, that’s it: Your only option was adoption.
EI: What’s the job for the boyfriend or husband now, if the girl can do everything by herself?
JA: I don’t know. I don’t think it’s about the handyman or the electrician. I think it’s about really finding that person that means something and not settling. We know a lot of single people who are happy as a lark. We know a lot of married people who are pretty much not as thrilled as they would like to be.
EI: The scene with Jason talking about picture frames was to me, the most moving and heartbreaking scene in the whole movie: It seemed a very strong statement about women being selfish in having these children alone.
JA: This is what a lot of the point of the movie is: What is it that defines family? It isn’t necessarily the traditional mother, father, two children and a dog named Spot: Love is love, and family is what is around you and who is in your immediate sphere. Wally, whether he was the father or not, was the family. That’s my favorite, in this movie, is when after he has confessed to Kassie, he goes to Jeff Goldblum and Jeff finally says, “Wally, just go home.” He says, “But they are my home.”
This is what I love about the movie - it’s saying it’s not the traditional stereotype of what family is in a society, what we’ve been taught: It’s evolved. I don’t think it’s selfish: I think it’s actually quite beautiful because there are children that don’t have homes that can have a home and be loved - That’s extremely important.
EI: Looking into the future, there have been rumors about a couple of television shows you are both closely identified with beuing turned intio movies: Arrested Development and Friends: Are either of those rumors true?
JA: There are no plans for a Friends movie. But [to Jason] there is a plan on your movie...
JB: Yeah, but there is no new news.
JA: Did you say something that got all of us in trouble?
JB: Yesterday, when we were doing the on-camera stuff, somebody said, “You and Jen have done a couple of movies together: You guys have got to keep working together... what about the Arrested Development movie?” I said, “Actually, there is a great part for her in the Arrested Development movie that I’m going to pitch her…” just sort of having fun...
JA: That’s how it gets started…
JB: There are about 25 headlines this morning on crappy blogs saying, “Jennifer Aniston to do the new Arrested Development movie.” I hate talking about it because there is never anything significant to report. I simply politely answer the questions when they’re asked...
Inevitably, someone will take a line out of a perfunctory answer and try to build the headline around it, and then the readers become exhausted and I get blamed for trying to perpetuate a non-update. There is nothing new to report, but it’s something that we’d all love to do hopefully soon...
Miramax Films' 'The Switch' is in theaters on August 20, 2010.