Jason Bateman and Tina Fey right at home in 'This Is Where I Leave You'
Tina Fey and Jason Bateman in "This Is Where I Leave You."
Movie stars often refer to their castmates as “family.” For Jason Bateman and Tina Fey – who play brother and sister in the seriocomic This Is Where I Leave You – becoming family was a matter of claustrophobia.
Shot on location in a suburban two-storey home in Great Neck, N.Y., the film from Canadian-born director Shawn Levy (the Night at the Museum franchise, Real Steel) is about a dysfunctional family that comes together to sit shivah after the patriarch’s death. And it saw the cast huddled together between scenes a great deal of the time in an upstairs “holding pen.”
“We hung out in an upstairs bedroom and we just sat and played Words with Friends and joked around. There were no formal boundaries anymore,” says Fey in a joint interview with Bateman during the Toronto International Film Festival.
“It was just like the movie. We were forced to hang out and love,” Bateman says wryly.
“But we didn’t punch each other,” Fey says.
“And there were no girl-on-girl hookups,” says Bateman.
I don’t know. Should I have yelled, ‘Spoiler Alert?’
Fey and Bateman had never worked together before This Is Where I Leave You. But they clearly weren’t long on the promotion trail before their timing synched and they had a shtick going. They play off each other in the movie as well, he playing a radio producer who finds out that his wife is sleeping with his on-air boss (Dax Shepard), she playing his recently-divorced sister who has to play details-person for their eccentric widowed mom (Jane Fonda). The starry cast also includes “it” boy Adam Driver as the charismatic-slacker kid-brother and Corey Stoll as the uptight oldest.
Childhood houses are a “thing” with Fey. She recently completed filming The Nest with best friend Amy Poehler, about two sisters who have one last weekend at their childhood home before they have to sell it.
As it happens, Fey’s parents still have the house they bought in Upper Darby, Pa., when she was in high school. Does it seem small now, we ask?
“Well, it does. But what really amazes me is how bad the water pressure is. How did we all clean ourselves? It’s definitely not big-city water pressure.”
“Wait a minute,” Bateman says to Fey. “Your parents still live in your house from high school? Oh my God, that would be really neat.”
Turns out Bateman’s Los Angeles house from his ‘80s child-actor years on Silver Spoons and The Hogan Family has changed hands a few times since.
“I drive by that house now and it’s like it’s from another lifetime. I’d love to have that tether.”
Would he ever stop and ask to see the place again?
“That would be creepy. If somebody knocked on my door and said, ‘Hey, I used to live here,’ I’d be like, ‘Aww-right. Full stop. End of story.’
“If I got the same reaction, it would be depressing.”
One thing that did feel familiar to Bateman was playing a character who keeps it together amid family anarchy. His Judd Altman has that in common with Michael Bluth of TV’s Arrested Development. He admits it’s his specialty.
“As an audience member, I like having to lean in and guess what’s going on inside a character’s head. And I do like characters that allow me to try that. A lot of the characters I’m asked to play are trying to process dysfunction.”
Adds Fey: “Jason is really gifted at being the emotional centre. You must have that person you identify with who has that warmth. That’s the person who has to keep saying, ‘What?’ to the funny people.”