Directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon met in the film program at New York University and began working together as a writing and directing team making several award-winning short films, including Culture starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. In 2007, Speck and Gordon directed their first feature film, the Will Ferrell ice-skating comedy Blades of Glory.
Their new movie The Switch stars Jennifer Aniston as Kassie, a 40 year-old woman whose clock is ticking and who longs to have a baby. So she holds an insemination party for herself. When her best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman) gets drunk at the party, he switches his sperm with the donor’s. Kassie moves away for seven years, and when she returns Wally meets his son for the first time, not knowing how to tell Kassie the truth.
Will and Josh spoke with us about their new movie, which uses a subtler style of comedy than Blades of Glory.
In The Back Up Plan and The Kids are All Right, sperm donors seem to be more and more the norm in Hollywood films. Do you think we’re on overload with them?
Will Speck: I think it’s enough just like stories of any kind of conception or adoption. There are lots of different versions of that story. I think what’s unique here is that it starts in a real place of truth with Jason and Jennifer’s character and their relationship. The catalyst is a decision that Kassie makes.
The movie is really about how the choice that this character makes ultimately calls into action her best friend and their relationship. We thought it was a really unique way into a romantic comedy. We love that it was based in something that was happening in real life.
The Kids are All Right is a fantastic movie about doing this movie in reverse, which is tracking down the donor years after the fact when the kids are grown. It feels like there are a lot of stories that can be told uniquely under this same sort of premise. What we really love about ours is Jason and Jennifer’s relationship at the core of it and how they come together at the end in a very special way that really feels earned.
Because there is a real reality to a lot of the film it’s a little jarring when you move it along seven years later and both actors look exactly the same – did you think about aging them?
Will Speck:We certainly explored it, it’s not something like, ‘Oops, we forgot.’ We actually thought about it and we did some (make up) tests.
The truth is if you look at Jennifer and Jason, they are an anomaly. They look incredible and they look exactly the way they’ve looked for 20 years, so our feeling was to just gray Jason’s temples and lengthen Jen’s hair.
It was more for us internally, how they reacted to with each other. How they treated each other. How they carried themselves. That was much more important than doing some sort of weird age technique so that (the audience would know) we were doing something seven years later. So it was a conscious choice.
The key to a lot of the comedy in this film is Jeff Goldblum, who plays Leonard, Wally’s business partner. Did you always have Jeff in mind and how did you go about lassoing him to this project?
Will Speck:Lassoing is a good word. Jeff was our first choice. We got really lucky, We were like, ‘What is he doing? Where is he?’ We literally pulled up his IMDB page. He happened to be shooting a show in New York City and so we knew we could get in and beg him. He happened to also be a huge fan of both Jennifer and Jason. He had the whole box set of Arrested Development fructuously in his dressing room. So we had the perfect moment of all the (stars) aligning.
Josh Gordon: We’ve been huge Jeff Goldblum fans our whole lives. The thing that’s great about Jeff is he is so funny. He’s also an amazing dramatic actor, so he has been working a lot in drama. We were so excited to be able to have a part for him to showcase his comedic chops, which are incredible.
Your previous film was a lot broader with more physically comedy, were you looking for something to dial down the comedy a little bit?
Will Speck:No, we read scripts on their merit. We loved the idea of Blades of Glory and ultimately that world is so over the top that it was kind of being accurate to what that was. It’s really hard to do a subtle reality-based version of male figure skating. That was actually a documentary. (he laughs)
Josh Gordon: Exactly. It’s like when you watch the Olympics and Johnny Weir has a swan on his hand and he’s screaming at the camera. We were pretty accurate to what it was. But we were looking to do something that stretched our muscles a little bit and when we read The Switch, we loved it. It was something that felt very reality-based.