Jake Kasan directs Cameron Diaz in the hilarious comedy Bad Teacher, in stores this week
Bad Teacher Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, Blu-ray, and DVD are available in stores now. Jake Kasdan directs this hilarious hit comedy starring Cameron Diaz as Elizabeth, a drunk and disorderly educator hoping to land the sugar daddy of her dreams.
Out of all the teacher movies made in the past couple of decades, Bad Teacher reminds me most of 1984's Teachers, with Nick Nolte. Why was that left off Elizabeth's personal collection of Educator-based VHS tapes that she uses for her curriculum?
Jake Kasdan: Part of it was...We wanted to look at the most ridiculous things she could be showing in class. Which is a slightly different criteria. We wanted movies that depicted "good teaching".
Its probably for the best. I think Teachers has been out of print forever...
Jake Kasdan: Oh, is it not even available?
Last time I checked, it hadn't been released on DVD. It's theme and tone reminds me of Bad Teacher. Of course, I'm solely going off my childhood memories of it.
Jake Kasdan: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah...
What was your intentions with Elizabeth's overall arc in this story? A lot of people complained about the fact that she gets away with her bad behavior, and that she never has to account for cheating the system, or her students by the end of the film. I thought the resolution was, maybe, more realistic than most comedies would dare to be.
Jake Kasdan: When you make a movie like this, to stay true to it, you cannot have her transform into someone else all of a sudden. In a way, you don't want to see that. The idea was that she has the smallest modicum of growth by the end of the movie. The smallest amount of self-awareness, which sets a new direction for her.
We never do learn what Ms. Squirrel was up to in 2008. Did you have an idea about what she did? Does it justify Elizabeth's cruel intentions towards her?
Jake Kasdan: We talked about a lot of different ideas for that. We thought it was funnier to leave that unknown.
Personally, I don't see Elizabeth staying with the Gym teacher. The next rich guy that comes along will obviously catch her eye. She hasn't changed that much, but that obviously opens up this story for the further adventures of Elizabeth. Has that been discussed?
Jake Kasdan: (Laughs) Yeah. You know, people have talked (about a sequel). If we had the perfect story for it? Possibly. It was a total pleasure to make this movie. It would be fun to work with these people again. But, to be honest, I don't really see it happening.
You've made three great comedies with Zero Effect, Dewey Cox, and Bad Teacher. But they all land in different genres of comedy. Has it been your goal to sort of plunder the various different sub-genres found within the comedy genre in furthering your career as a director?
Jake Kasdan: It's about what makes you laugh, and what you are drawn to. I want to do all different kinds of things. I'm reluctant to make the same movie repeatedly. I want to try new things, and try different modes. But I am drawn to comedy. Most of them have been somewhat unconventional, in some way or another.
Bad Teacher is very unconventional, especially in that, for a long time, the audience isn't sure if they like Elizabeth or not. How did you and Cameron Diaz collaborate in bringing this particular performance to the screen, because this isn't a character we've seen before. Not as a lead, anyway...
Jake Kasdan: Basically, we thought this was a really funny person, a really funny dilemma, and it was something we'd never seen before. She is someone, on some level, that you want to hang out with. I think having Cameron Diaz play her enhances that. She brings this incredible charisma and draw to everything she does. She is a hugely appealing person. The funny thing about this is watching her play someone that is not likeable. That is so far from what she is actually like, and her actual persona. Yet, the joke was so closed to her heart, It was irresistible to me. And her, luckily. We were focused on finding a reality level that would allow you to follow her, enjoy her, and then root for her a little bit. Even if she is doing all of this crazy stuff.
Justin Timberlake's character is likeable. Until the dry hump scene. After that, I kind of hated him. That curveball helps us, as an audience, gravitate back towards Cameron's Elizabeth...That is a rough scene...
Jake Kasdan: (Laughs) Yeah. That's right. That is a scene you haven't seen before. I felt that way when I read it. She has this moment of self-realization in the midst of this bad sexual experience. The selfish guy. I thought it was a funny idea, and a funny way of doing that. And of course, Justin Timberlake is just so funny playing it.
Back in the early 2000s, I was doing some work with the organization that handles test screenings. And in the original Scary Movie, there is a 'wet spot on the jeans' joke with David Lander, which got cut out of the movie and never made it to the deleted scenes on the DVD. We saw a similar scenario with the movie Out Cold. And Bubble Boy. Back in the early 2000s, the wet spot joke was too controversial for mainstream audiences, even after the hair gel scene in There's Something about Mary. Now, we've seen it in She's Out of My League, then Bad Teacher. Why are audiences okay with the wet spot joke now? What is your take on the evolution of that?
Jake Kasdan: (Laughs) I don't know. The evolution of the wet spot joke! I think it depends on the context. And the context that we were using it? I think that is a really funny sequence. Up until that point, and then after, the function that it plays into the story is an important moment for Elizabeth. And like I said, it's a very funny scene. This is the point where Elizabeth realizes that this is not the relationship she wants it to be in. She finds herself slightly questioning her agenda. Hopefully, it sets the story up in a way that it doesn't just feel like a gratuitous, gross joke. It's more like a bonus gross joke.
It did a lot for that character. It gave him a 360 twist that made me hate him. He's a jerk. You don't like him.
That scene also makes you feel bad for Ms. Squirrel. It seems as though he is in love with her. But he cheats on her in this really gross, weird way, that he must have justified to himself. That aspect is shocking as well...I have the DVD with the unrated version. It's five minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Did you have a hand in putting that together? And of the two, which version do you prefer?
Jake Kasdan: I did put this together. I don't like it more than the other. In either case, they both work. They were separately prepared by me for their respective purposes. I think it's a cool thing. It lets you put a few extra things in there that you felt inhibited the audience's initial experience with the movie in a theater. For fans, there are great little extra moments. Its subtle stuff, but its real stuff. There are a few additional jokes, a few additional scenes. There are some slightly harder moments. It's the accumulation of hard moments. When I say hard, I mean very edgy jokes. We had certain ones in the theatrical cut that served as tent poles. That is what you are building the thing on, and you don't want to repulse people. But for people that know the character, and like the movie, its fun to have some more of that.
I find that it's the cut I see first that I like the best. If that makes sense...
Jake Kasdan: That's interesting. Yeah. I think that sometimes, there are people that feel that way. Some people will only watch the extended version of it. I'll watch the extended cut if I had a positive feeling about the first one. With certain films, I don't usually go back to see the unrated version.
How involved were you with the special features that we see on the disc?
Jake Kasdan: Somewhat involved. I approve everything. I put together that gag reel thing that I think is pretty funny.
The supporting cast of Bad Teacher is so great. Even in the smallest roles...
Jake Kasdan: When you have a really funny piece of writing, when you are making one of these things, you find a bunch of little parts. You sit there and think, "If I could have anybody, who would it be?" Then you try to get them. That is what we did. A big part of this was me calling people up, and convincing them to do it. Because of that, we got this amazing group of people. It took them just a day or two to do it. We had Molly Shannon, and Eric Stonestreet. John Michael Higgins, and Thomas Lennon. A couple of my favorite guys. Two of the funnest guys in the world. John Michael Higgins is someone I worked with on Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. He was just amazing. We went through and fond the right people, and got them to come out.
The scene where Eric Stonestreet hits the car with his scooter is so well done. That's obviously a stunt guy, right?
Jake Kasdan: Uh...Yes. It was just one moment. On the scooter. The actual slamming into the thing? It was only a stunt guy for a second and a half. The majority of that is Eric Stonestreet. He was doing more than any of us were comfortable with. The actual, most dangerous moment, we were not going to risk it. We got a professional.
How happy have you been with the response New Girl is getting?
Jake Kasdan: Delighted. It has been this incredibly cool thing. We are deep in the mist of making it right now. It's been cool, we keep going and we try to make it good.
How worried were you guys about losing Damon Waynes Jr. after the first episode? He's so good in the pilot. I didn't want to like the new guy. It took me until the third episode to warm up to him. That's a pretty powerful thing to do with just a pilot. But I like him now. I think Lamorne Morris is a good fit.
Jake Kasdan: Yeah. We were really sad to lose Damon Wayans Jr., but we were also very relieved that Lamorne Morris was around, and that he was available. He had been someone that we'd seriously talked to about the part when we were doing the pilot. Then he got another job. We ended up finding Damon Wayans Jr.. That ended up working out great. Then, when Damon was no longer available, which was a surprise to us that it worked out that way, we were grateful to have someone so great that could step in. It was a story challenge in how to introduce a new character in just the second episode. Without complicating the premise. We did our best. So far, people seem to be sticking with it. Hopefully they will continue to watch.
Both you and Zooey have fathers that are quite well established in the movie business. Did you two know each other since you were kids?
Jake Kasdan: I've known her since she was a teenager. I am a little older than her. But I have known her for a long time, yeah. I'd always wanted to work with her. I'd tried to find stuff to work on with her before. This was the natural, perfect part for her. Elizabeth Meriwether called me up and asked if I'd direct the pilot. In that same couple of days, we thought the first thing we should do is get Zooey Deschanel to play this part. We were just excited that she wanted to.
Does that make it easier for you, when you already have that long standing relationship with someone, and you set out to take on a new project with them?
Jake Kasdan: Yeah. It is, a little. Its great to have a relationship like that. And to be able to turn it into something. Maybe, the fact that we did know each other, and we'd been trying to work together for along time...I like to think that helped bring her into this. Primarily, she fell in love with the role. I was there telling her that it would be everything she hoped it could be. And that I was going to do everything I could to do that with her.
I think, right now, Zooey might be the funniest girl on TV. She certainly is giving Kaitlin Olson a run for her money...
Jake Kasdan: That is nice to hear. She is amazing. We have some really fantastic episodes coming up that we are really excited about, and proud of. It's a unique thing. Here is an actress that really inspires the writers. She sets the tone for the whole thing, and she gets it all going.
Do you have a lot of story input as you guys build towards that season ending arc?
Jake Kasdan: You know, I am in the conversations with them. I am not writing the show. But I am around, helping them produce the first couple of episodes.
It almost seems as though Jess is going to hook up with the Nick Miller character. But you keep turning that convention on its head. Are you going to keep Zooey from hooking up with anyone in the house for a while?
Jake Kasdan: People are going to have to keep watching to find out what happens with those two. They have great chemistry, and we love writing for them. They are both seeing other people in the upcoming episodes.
Three's Company was on the air for almost ten years. Jack never got with any of the girls.
Jake Kasdan: (Laughs) Exactly. There is a long, great tradition of people not hooking up on television.