Toronto: Jason Bateman on Talks Directing Himself in ‘The Family Fang’

Jason Bateman isn’t going to quit his day job anytime soon. However, his focus at the moment is more on directing than acting. “The Family Fang” is his second Toronto outing behind the lens (“Bad Words” bowed in 2013). Producer Nicole Kidman, who was keen on “Bad Words,” tapped him to helm and co-star in “The Family Fang,” which also features Christopher Walken as a performance artist who goes missing along with his wife (Maryann Plunkett). The film has its world premiere Sept. 14.

What fueled the transition to feature film directing?
As an actor, you only get to work 15 minutes an hour; as a director you’re fully immersed. It’s incredibly more complex and challenging and I love it. I’m sort of a glutton for work and to direct something that I’m acting in feeds the vein.

Are you pleased with the film?
It’s been a really rewarding experience because it’s not some popcorn, real simple commercial venture. It was challenging to take on; I’m so thrilled it came out exactly the way I wanted it to.

How do you direct yourself?
First of all, I think the relationships I’ve enjoyed most with directors have been with the kinds of directors that recognize what I would like to do with the part and help me execute that, as opposed to trying to get me to do it their way and play a version of the character they see but I don’t. It’s easier for me to direct something that I’m also acting in: it basically means there’s one less actor for me to think about, for better or worse. And that particular actor is reading my mind every take.

Do you think being an actor-director helps attract talent?
I would hope so. It would sound good to me, as an actor, if the director had some acting experience. It is one of the few elements in the process that a director really, really can’t control: an actor’s performance. If you have a director that understands that, it’s comforting to an actor. You’re starting the relationship more as a collaborator, rather than as an employee or some kind of a soldier trying to execute something you don’t organically feel.

Will the TIFF world premiere be nerve-wracking?
I can’t wait for people to see this film and the movie-loving audience there at Toronto Film Festival — not to say they are an easy lay — they are a very smart group. They love films. This is the audience I had in mind, as we took some risks and were subtle with certain areas and not as obvious in others. You make the film for the kind of audience you respect, and one of those audiences is the audience Toronto is known for. I can’t wait for it to be there.

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