When compared to good ol' Michael Bluth, the character Jason Bateman plays in The Ex (a comedy hitting theaters today) is a real... stinker. The creative whiz at a small ad agency, Chip Sanders licks his chops when his high-school flame (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip's Amanda Peet) returns to town with her smart-mouthed husband (Scrubs' Zach Braff) in tow. That's right, Bateman, Braff and Peet, the veritable Underappreciated TV Show All-star Team — minus, of course, Nathan Fillion.
Soon the stage is set for Bateman-versus-Braff imbroglios, with the former trying to usurp the latter, and win back the girl. Oh, and did I mention that Chip plays on everyone's sympathies — and purposely makes Braff's alter ego look b-a-d bad — by the fact that he uses a wheelchair? Yeah, there's a word for Chip, and it certainly isn't printable here.
Surveying what could have been, in the hands of a lesser actor, a most unlikable character — if not the most unscrupulous sort he has played since It's Your Move — Bateman tells TVGuide.com, "I like playing the bad guy." Expounding on the thought, he says, "Usually when bad guys are written, the redeeming qualities are somewhat hidden, and that becomes fun to play — to give you the boring 'actor' part of the answer." Then, factor in Chip's paraplegic state, and "he gets away with a bit more," says Bateman. "He seems to be the kind of guy who is taking advantage of that and reveling in that, which makes him even worse. So yeah, he's a fun character. I liked him a lot."
Presenting moments in the Farrelly brothers' style as it does, The Ex at one point sends Chip — poor, poor Chip — tumbling, helplessly, down a flight of stairs. But fear not for Bateman, who left that fall, as well as an extended fight with Braff, to the pros. "A comedy fight becomes a comedy fight when it gets kind of heightened and silly, and that sometimes leads to injury," he notes with a laugh. "A dramatic fight goes a bit slower and us pansy actors can do stunts like that, but when you want to be flopping around like a fish on the ground, it's best to have your stunt guy. You actually take money out of [stuntpeople's] pockets by catering to your ego, so I sit on the sideline."
The Ex is but one of several films in the pipeline for Bateman, who has not exactly lacked for employment since Arrested Development's unfortunate and fan-protested demise. In September, he has a role in the war drama The Kingdom; come November, he appears in the family-fantasy Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium; and on tap for the summer 2008 blockbuster season is Tonight, He Comes, a sci-fi tale in which he plays the publicist for Will Smith's superhero. "Many, many people did not watch Arrested Development, but the few who did are handing out some nice jobs in L.A.," Bateman says of his good fortune. "So I'm trying to keep that going, because careers are slippery little things."
And as for someday returning to the smaller screen? "I like the steady work of a [TV] series," he says, "and I like the 'in-town' of a series. If you're doing really well in movies, you're not at home, whereas in television you can be doing really, really well and still sleep in your bed at night." That said, the actor says with a wink, "I think I've pretty much worn out my welcome in television — I had been there a wee bit too long five years ago — so I'm enjoying a bit of access to movies now, and I'll see where that takes me. I'll try not to screw it up!"
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