Jason Bateman Office Christmas Party
Cast: Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, Abbey Lee, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller
Director: Josh Gordon, Will Speck
Running Time: 105 minutes
Synopsis: An A-list comedy cast including Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, T.J. Miller and Kate McKinnon star in Office Christmas Party, the hilarious new film from the makers of Blades of Glory. When CEO Carol Vanstone (Aniston) tries to close her hard-partying brother's branch of the business, he (Miller) and his Chief Technical Officer (Bateman) must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in an effort to impress a potential client and close a sale that will save their jobs.
Office Christmas Party
Release Date: December 8th, 2016
About The Production
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Once upon a time, the office Christmas party was a highly anticipated tradition, an epic night of drinking and festivities that blurred the line between co-worker and friend, employer and employee.
Since the fallout from the night's unbridled events frequently lead to countless hangovers, lawsuits, and weeks of awkward apologies, overzealous HR departments spent decades reigning in the wild and raucous office Christmas ragers until the once legendary celebrations evolved into the staid, polite and family friendly affairs we know today as 'Holiday" parties.
'The office Christmas party is really a throwback to a less civilized time. It's like the dire wolf skeleton you see at the La Brea Tar Pits," says Producer Scott Stuber. 'The 'Holiday" party today is like a house-broken pug… it's not going to hurt anyone, and it plays well with children, but somewhere, deep down it still has that dire wolf DNA."
'An office Christmas party isn't a religious celebration," argues T. J. Miller, who plays Zenotek's Chicago Branch President Clay Vanstone. 'It's a celebration of letting go and not being afraid to tell your boss what you really think without getting fired."
Directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon were immediately drawn to the concept of a magical night where professional and social barriers were less defined.
'There's a universal wish fulfilment in having one night of the year where people live honestly, perhaps with some help from drugs and alcohol," says Will Speck.
'The office Christmas party really breaks down the caste system," says Josh Gordon. 'Suddenly everyone from the top of the food chain to the bottom is equalised and that makes for a great comedic jumping off point."
Producer Daniel Rappaport adds: 'The stakes are high at the Christmas party. It's where hopes and dreams are made, but it's also where they come crashing down. You're one drink away from ruining your life."
The initial idea for the film came after a family member told Producer Guymon Casady about a decadent corporate Christmas party she had recently attended.
'As she was regaling us with just the scale and the fun of it all, it occurred to me that a party like that would the basis for a great, R-rated comedy," says Guymon Casady. 'There's a vicarious thrill to witness that kind of chaos contained in a movie. It can go completely off the rails but you don't have to worry about the consequences or having to clean up in the morning."
Despite the more fantastical elements of the story, the filmmakers approached the story in a grounded way.
'We wanted to see a team of people at its most dysfunctional," Guymon Casady explains. 'Then see how barriers break, alliances shift and people connect over the course of a night. The key was keeping the fun of a no-holds-barred Christmas celebration front and centre while telling these interwoven stories of the various people in the office."
'The party is the star of the film," says Will Speck, 'but that makes our characters that much more important. They have to be realistic, relatable people you'd want to spend a crazy night with. Parties aren't any fun when you don't know anybody."
'We wanted each character to start with their feet on the ground," says Josh Gordon. 'So as things get more and more ridiculous, you're invested and along for the ride."
The Greatest Party Ever Thrown
Morale is at an all-time low at Zenotek's Chicago office after their pragmatic Interim CEO, Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) announces plans to shut down their underperforming branch days before Christmas. Realising no mere Holiday party can lift the spirits of his employees, eccentric branch president (and Carol's kid brother) Clay Vanstone (T.J. Miller) enlists the help of Chief Technical Officer Josh (Jason Bateman), and Lead Systems
Engineer Tracey (Olivia Munn) to make their own Christmas miracle by throwing an epic, unforgettably over-the-top Christmas party to win over a high profile client (Courtney B. Vance) and save everyone's jobs.
When assembling the all-star cast of disgruntled office workers, Jason Bateman provided the first piece of the puzzle in the role of Josh, the office's designated adult.
'Jason Bateman's at his best when he's at the center of outrageousness and he can react to what's going on. It's a skill very few actors have," says Will Speck.
'Jason Bateman hits that sweet spot of having a grounded sense of comedy but isn't afraid to look ridiculous," adds Josh Gordon.
Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston were Will Speck and Josh Gordon's first choice for their respective roles, having worked with both previously on 2010's The Switch. Office Christmas Party marks Jennifer Aniston's fifth collaboration with Jason Bateman and second with Will Speck and Josh Gordon.
'Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston are very close friends," says Scott Stuber. 'They spend a lot of time together on and off camera, which results in their great chemistry. The relaxed fluidity of their performance style really sets the tone for the whole cast."
'We're all like family at this point," says Jennifer Aniston. 'There's definitely a shorthand and confidence as to how we all work together. If you have that trust, you can immediately tell one another what works and what doesn't."
'We created this character for Jennifer Aniston because she's absolutely fearless when it comes to playing somewhat unlikeable characters in comedies," says Josh Gordon. 'For her, the more daring the role, the better."
Rather than play Carol as a villain, Jennifer Aniston framed her character in terms of her relationship with Clay in their youth. 'I looked upon Carol as sort of a grown up Jeanie Bueller to Clay's Ferris Bueller," says Jennifer Aniston. 'She has incredible resentment toward him because he's a goof off and got every break growing up. She wants to prove herself as the smartest, most competent person in the room. Sadly, she didn't really develop her soft, fuzzy side."
For the character of Clay Vanstone, the directors needed an actor who could bring equal parts mayhem and legitimacy. They found both in stand-up comedian and actor T.J. Miller. 'T.J. is the kind of guy you walk into a bar with and 10 minutes later he's the center of a hundred people," says Josh Gordon. 'He's as charismatic as the characters he plays."
'T.J. delivers an incredible amount of heart and humanity that we never envisioned," adds Will Speck.
'I subconsciously based my character on an actual boss I had once who believed you could have a great time and still get your work done," T.J. Miller recalls. 'She never saw having fun as an obstacle to productivity, and that's a philosophy I've used to inform Clay's management strategy."
'Working with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston was intimidating," T. J. Miller confesses. 'But they're so warm and professional. Even though I've been watching them my whole life, they were incredibly supportive to a less experienced actor like me."
When casting the role of Lead Systems Engineer Tracey, Olivia Munn proved to be especially qualified for the role.
'Olivia Munn has great comic timing. She always knows where the joke is and how to set it up perfectly," says Josh Gordon. 'Still, we never anticipated she'd be as tech savvy as her character."
'When we sent her a few pages of the script, she somehow unlocked the entire thing and read it before our first meeting," recalls Will Speck.
'When I read the script, I appreciated that Tracey was an integral part of the team," says Olivia Munn. 'A lot of roles for women in comedies are whiny, or just there to chase the guy or tell him what he missed out on. I like that Tracey brings a real skill set to the table and is the kind of person that's trying to look ahead and bring the company into the future."
In the film, Tracey engineers a game changing form of Wi-Fi that could save the company, provided they can land a big time client like Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance).
'Walter's at the point where he feels like every company is basically the same," says Courtney Vance. 'Walter would rather do business with a company that cares about its people. T.J. Miller's character latches on to that, and invites Walter to this big crazy party at the office to prove they've got a positive corporate culture."
'Courtney Vance was a great get in the role of Walter," says Will Speck. 'We needed someone who felt intimidating and played things close to the vest, so each character had to figure out the thing that would unlock him."
'When Courtney Vance does finally let loose, it's crazy and unexpected and outrageous," says Josh Gordon. 'It's amazing just how game he was and how he really went for the absurdity of his character."
Once Clay, Josh and Tracey hatch the plan for the Christmas party, they immediately encounter opposition from Mary (Kate McKinnon), their rules-obsessed Head of Human Resources.
'Mary takes her job very seriously, and wants everyone to be safe and comfortable," says Kate McKinnon. 'The irony is a lot of her rules make people uncomfortable."
'When we first meet Mary, she's pretty buttoned up," Kate McKinnon explains. 'As the night rolls on, she gets some encouragement from her co-workers and goes to some interesting places. At one point, I have a scene with Courtney B. Vance. I just finished watching him in The People v. O.J. Simpson and I think he's one of the greatest actors of our generation so I have this incredible cognitive dissonance as I'm serenading him with this very silly German folk song while wearing this sort of ridiculous dickey dress."
Will Speck and Josh Gordon were fans of Kate McKinnon's work on Saturday Night Live long before she was cast in the film. 'In her sketches on SNL, Kate McKinnon makes each of her characters so idiosyncratic. They're all so layered and hilarious, we knew we could just let her run with an idea and she'd make it sing," says Gordon.
'The first time we see Mary, she's wearing a non-denominational holiday sweater," says Will Speck. 'Since it doesn't exist in the real world, it took months to design and days to knit by hand, but it tells you about all you need to know about Mary as a character."
'We discussed Mary's backstory and came to the conclusion that she was probably German, given her love of rules," Will Speck recalls. 'We found this German folk song for her to sing, and without really translating it, she just decided it was about little ducklings. She embraced it."
'Kate McKinnon came up with the idea that Mary has parrots, and keeping those birds alive is what's motivating her professionally," Gordon says.
Standing in stark opposition to Mary's personal brand of law and order is Jeremy (Rob Corddry) a broken shell of the man who began a career at Zenotek many years prior as Head of Customer Service.
'Jeremy is an incredibly sad sack because he's one of the few people left in this incredibly toxic office environment who actually cares about the state of the company," says Rob Corddry.
'He's been there too long and seen too much, so he's become a bit defensive and combative, but he's completely forgotten what he's angry about."
Kate McKinnon's SNL co-star Vanessa Bayer plays Clay's good natured but foul-mouthed assistant, Allison, who attempts to balance Clay's chaotic life while sharing custody of her children with her deadbeat ex-husband.
'Based on our heated phone conversations, we know Allison's ex isn't the greatest," Vanessa Bayer explains. 'So she's trying to move on with her life and thinks she may have found the perfect guy in Fred (Randall Park), but he turns out to be kind of a nightmare. Even with all the disappointment she encounters, Allison remains a pretty positive person."
Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat) plays Fred from accounting, the object of Allison's misdirected woo.
'Fred and Allison get to talking at the party and their attraction is palpable," says Randall Park. 'Then…I don't want to judge Fred, but he's definitely got his thing…and when he opens up to Allison, it's a huge red flag for her."
Despite a gruelling schedule concurrently shooting SNL in New York and Office Christmas Party in Atlanta, Vanessa Bayer learned to enjoy the simple pleasures of life on set. 'There was a bowl of jelly beans on my desk, which we had fun sneak-eating in-between takes. We later found out production had sprayed them with something, so hopefully we all live."
Veep's Sam Richardson plays Joel, Zenotek's mild mannered but frustrated Legal Counsel, with the secret ambition to be a DJ.
'Joel's really afraid of being marginalised," says Sam Richardson. 'When Clay needs a DJ in a hurry, Joel sees it as his time to shine, and the party immediately gets out of hand."
Jamie Chung plays Meaghan, the underworked, under-appreciated Social Media Coordinator who finds a reason to love her job before the sun comes up.
'When we meet Meaghan, she's giving a proverbial middle finger to Mary's HR rules by wearing a low cut blouse. It's not to be provocative; she's just beyond caring about the rules and not particularly motivated," says Jamie Chung. 'By the end of the party, she's bonded with her teammates and really become part of the family."
Karan Soni, Deadpool's scene stealing cab driver, plays Nate, the put upon Head of IT who hires an escort to pose as his girlfriend.
'The guys Nate works with are just the worst, so he created a fake girlfriend named Becca as a defense mechanism against them," says Karan Soni. 'Instead of making Becca a normal person, Nate claims she's a model and actress. They don't believe him, so he ends up hiring a high-end escort named Savannah to play the role."
The arrival of Savannah (Abbey Lee) and her pimp, Trina, played by 22 Jump Street's Jillian Bell, provides the match that ignites the metaphorical powder keg that is Zenotek's Christmas Party.
'My character is a drug dealing bad-ass pimp," says Jillian Bell. 'I based my character on Drexl from True Romance, one of my all time favourite pimps. It was important to Josh Gordon, Will Speck to keep her scary to provide a real threat to the other characters. I thought it'd be fun to also give her some anxiety issues, as that's not something we've seen in many previous movie pimps."
'Jillian Bell's role was originally written for a man," Scott Stuber explains. 'But we really loved what Jillian Bell brought to the character. She provided a fresh take, made it something you've never seen before."
'All of these comedians are so talented, you don't want to strictly confine them to what's in the script," Scott Stuber continues. 'They have such great instincts, that whenever they had ideas for jokes, we'd give them the freedom to do another take, which gave us a lot of great material to play with in post."
'The cast is such an unbelievable who's who of comedic actors," says Rappaport. 'It's like combining all these great ingredients to make a really satisfying meal."
Deck The Halls – Building A Winter Wonderland
'We knew early on that we wanted the movie to be set in Chicago," says Josh Gordon. 'Some of our favourite movies were shot there, a lot of classic Christmas movies as well as John Hughes's early films."
'We wanted to bring that classic sensibility to the film that while it's new, it feels somewhat cozy and familiar," adds Will Speck. 'We wanted to capture the iconic Planes, Trains and Automobiles Chicago we grew up with."
Production began on April 2nd, 2015 at the Federal Plaza building in Chicago. The weather gods smiled on the production that day, as the scene called for Jason Bateman's Josh Gordon to walk past Christmas carolers as snow fell. With the special effects team on hand to provide artificial snow, the skies opened up and provided a late season dusting of the real thing. 'For the next few days, whenever we'd shoot outside, we'd get snow," Josh Gordon recalls. 'It was pretty incredible."
Later in the film, T.J. Miller's Clay strolls across the State St. Bridge and tells Josh that he doesn't need much clothing in the winter because he adds 30 lbs of weight for 'insulation."
In reality, T.J. Miller wore multiple layers underneath due to an unusual cold snap in Chicago creating Fahrenheit temperatures in the high 20s [approx. -3°C]. The natural snow and wind made the scene all too real for the actors.
After initial coverage of Chicago had wrapped, the production moved to Georgia, where Bateman, Munn and Miller had to herd reindeer into a freight elevator in the loading dock of the AT&T building in midtown Atlanta.
'It's hard shooting reindeer in the middle of the summer when they're losing their coats and their antlers," Josh Gordon recalls. 'We actually had to construct our own antlers to be fitted on each deer. They were a lot of work, but completely worth it."
Interiors were shot at the Atlanta Film Studio in Hiram, Georgia where Production Designer Andrew Laws had constructed the primary office set, based on designs of German American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Scott Stuber was thrilled to work with Laws and his team after previously collaborating on 2006's The Break-Up. 'Like Office Christmas Party, most of The Break-Up took place in one location," Scott Stuber recalls. 'Andrew is extraordinarily talented at providing a space with the needed nooks and crannies so the set never felt like a four walled office. It was really satisfying to get that crew back together, because every aspect of what they created is A+." Laws used the designs to create a believably aged office building where most of the film's action could take place. In particular, Andrew Laws and his team took inspiration from Mies van der Rohe's Dominion Centre in Toronto. 'The look of that building really lit a fire under the guys in terms of the type of company that they wanted to represent and the type of building they would be in," says Andrew Laws.
'We'd looked at shooting in some actual Mies van de Rohe buildings, but it'd be cost prohibitive to do a lot of the things we had planned," Rappaport recalls. 'Sometimes the best way to shoot it is to build it."
Appropriately, the exterior to the Zenotek offices was shot in Chicago at the Federal Building, another Mies van der Rohe design.
Federal Building's lobby is seen on camera up to the elevator bank at which point the shots were combined with the larger stage set in Atlanta.
Andrew Laws and his team created a gargantuan 30,000 square foot office space on two levels that took up two soundstages (production took down the adjoining wall between the stages to build out the office set) with a two story atrium in the center with offices surrounding it on three sides with a prominent staircase.
'It was important to maintain a cinematic feel to the action and that necessitated an expansive space," says Andrew Laws.
'The set was built to visually accommodate shooting the movie with anamorphic lenses," says Josh Gordon. 'I think when the mayhem starts in the movie that it happens on a stage that has sort of a patina of filmmaking to it. The set had to be big enough to accommodate Clay's wild imagination, which in this case meant big enough for Jesus to ride a white horse through the office with the party in full sway."
Will Speck and Josh Gordon cited the Nakatomi Christmas party featured in Die Hard as another inspiration for the look of the space, making the location feel like another character in the film.
The set was ringed with a 250-foot long translight, of Chicago's Near North neighbourhood primarily around State and Wabash.
'Since the set is such a large space with windows everywhere, we didn't want to go the green screen route," says Scott Stuber.
'With the translight of Chicago, the cast didn't have to imagine being at a party in the city at night. You really felt like you were there," Will Speck recalls. 'If we had cheated it with visual effects, I don't think it would have felt as real."
The set was so large and comfortable that many crew members would sleep on the various couches during lunch and even the actors found their special areas to hang out during down time.
'It's amazing how quickly it felt like a real office," Josh Gordon recalls. 'Everyone began to inhabit their own areas. T.J. Miller spent a lot of time in Clay's office and bathroom, even though it wasn't working."
After her first exploration of the stage, Jennifer Aniston was impressed with the scale and detail. 'It seems so real. I haven't been on a set like this in a long time."
'It's a nice thing to hear from the actors because when they feel that they're in an environment which allows them to give more, when everyone gets imbedded in it, the process feels very natural," says Will Speck.
'When we wrapped, leaving that office was rather sad," Josh Gordon recalls. 'We spent so many days in this amazing place, it really had started to feel like home."
Office Christmas Party
Release Date: December 8th, 2016