Jennifer Aniston, Olivia Munn, Jason Bateman and T.J. Miller star in 'Office Christmas Party.'
In Office Christmas Party, when the CEO (Jennifer Aniston) tries to close her hard-partying brother’s branch, he (T.J. Miller) and his Chief Technical Officer (Jason 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. The latest comedy from directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory) co-stars Kate McKinnon, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Jamie Chung and Courtney B. Vance.
This is the fifth film in which Aniston and Bateman have worked together (The Break-Up, The Switch and the Horrible Bosses films). The longtime friends jumped at the chance “to party like their jobs depended on it” – to paraphrase the film’s tagline. Office Christmas Party also reunites the pair with their directors from The Switch. Aniston and Bateman were thrilled to have a Switch reunion – with the directors and with each other.
Bateman explains, “Will and Josh have been with the project for so long that they had a clear idea about what they wanted to deliver to the audience. In the title of the film, there’s the promise of an ensemble. It’s basically all you need to know. There’s basically a Christmas party happening in an office with a big group of people. Since it’s an R-rated comedy, things are going to go sideways pretty quickly and you hope there are funny people driving that car off the road. That literally happens in this movie actually.
Will and Josh and I are very close. We’ve done a film together and we’ve been very good friends since then. I don’t think it was a big mystery to them about what I do or what I’d bring to this. Since they’ve been with this project for so long, they knew exactly what they’d be getting with me and whether they wanted that or not. When they asked me to do it, they probably thought, ‘he’s going to do his thing and that is what we want so let’s get him to do that.’”
Aniston elaborates on the directors’ synergy. “It’s fun watching them. It’s almost like watching a relay race. One is really beautiful and amazing with the technical and the other is amazing with the actors and the sets and then they’ll swap roles. They both know where to focus so they’re not overlapping or contradicting each other. You’re not going, ‘he told me this and now you’re telling me something else.’ Maybe that happened once, but that’s it.”
All of us prefer to work with people we like. Bateman is no exception. “Jennifer and I have known each other for, I don’t know, maybe twenty years now, maybe more. I’m not sure, but we’re very close. With anybody in any profession, if you can work with your friends, that’s something to look to do. I hope this certainly isn’t the last time we work together. I think this is maybe our fifth movie together or something like that – four, five, maybe six, I don’t know. Hopefully we’re only half way done.”
We’ve all experienced the awkwardness when working with people for the first time. Aniston explains that there was no such awkwardness on the set. “Will and Josh and I, since The Switch, have become such good friends. Them and Jason and I are like family so there’s this shorthand and a confidence and a trust we have with each other. It almost doesn’t feel like work. I think this is our fifth movie together and I think that’s really great. Again there’s this shorthand and trust you have with each other so you know you can go to this place and know your partner is going to believe in you. I’m glad Hollywood is letting us work together.”
The official movie synopsis is pretty short and Bateman was happy add details. “Josh (Bateman) and Tracey (Olivia Munn) and Clay (T.J. Miller) are confronted with the reality that their branch is going to get shut down or severely downsized by Jennifer Aniston’s character who happens to be the sister of Clay. In an attempt to keep the branch open, they reach for an account that could save them. In order to attract that business and court that CEO, Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance), they throw a Christmas party to impress him by showing him they can have fun. They try a little too hard and things go wrong. We leave the party and hit the streets of Chicago in the middle of the night and things escalate.”
Aniston has a pretty antagonistic relationship with her brother Clay and likens their sibling rivalry to a classic cinematic brother and sister. “I had an idea of who Carol and Clay were. I thought they were sort of a Jeanie and Ferris Bueller relationship grown up. There’s still that resentment but now we’re in professional worlds and that sibling rivalry comes out in the most inappropriate ways at the most unexpected moments. She’s not a terrible person. She just hasn’t been given anything on an emotional love level. She can only think, ‘I’m going to prove myself. I’ll be the best. I’ll be the smartest.’ Sadly, she didn’t develop her soft, fuzzy side. Just imagine Jeanie Bueller grown up. That’s Carol. I’m a woman with a grudge and I’m basically The Grinch who wants to steal Christmas away from all these hardworking employees. They’re not doing as good of a job as they should be doing and I know that and I’m actually right. I just don’t go about it the right way. I’m also paying back a childhood vendetta that I have.”
From Arrested Development to Hancock, Bateman has carved himself a successful career playing the straight man and Office Christmas Party is no exception. “My character’s name is Josh. He’s not too dissimilar from characters I’ve played in the past. It’s a necessary element of a comedy where you have a central lens into an absurd world – someone who’s kind of like us – the normal guy, the every man, the protagonist. That’s Josh in this movie. He’s someone who’s trying to keep the office running at a good clip and being productive – making sure everything stays professional.”
With a resume that includes stints as co-host of Attack of the Show! and a Daily Show correspondent, Olivia Munn brought her comedic energy to the set. While some beautiful women might be high maintenance, Bateman is quick to shoot down that assumption. “Olivia has a comfortable, easy presence about her. She’s got a really good sense of humor and there’s nothing too precious about what she says or what she does. She doesn’t take anything too seriously. Guys are attracted to a beautiful woman with a great sense of humor. She’s incredibly talented. You look for something to say that’s not perfect, but she’s got it all. She’s a lot of fun to work with.”
Co-star T.J. Miller has been stealing scenes all year in Deadpool and Silicon Valley. Bateman explains that not only did Miller steal scenes in the film, but he stole scenes on the set too. “T.J.’s such a great guy. He’s another good example of someone who’s really, really kind. He’s really good at what he does and really appreciative his opportunities and his access and his relevance. He gets it. There’s no entitlement there. He’s just a real fun guy to be around and he’s real polite on the set which is really important. We had a great time and he made me laugh left and right. We lost a lot of good takes because I messed up giggling. He’s great for this role with a great, unique energy for his character.”
Aniston adds, “he’s a comedic force. He’s also the gentlest, kindest, most creative and thoughtful man. He’s quite large in stature and quite warm and fuzzy inside.”
Like Miller, 2016 has been a breakout year for Kate MacKinnon. Besides starring in Ghostbusters, she followed up her Emmy win this year for Saturday Night Live with zeitgeisty impersonations of Hilary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway. Bateman explains that MacKinnon brought a surprising comedic sensibility to the party. “Kate is such a unique, comedic talent. I feel like we’re really, really lucky to have her. I don’t know how undiscovered – I say that relatively speaking – because Ghostbusters has come out and she’s a presence on Saturday Night Live, but she’s still relatively new to film audiences. She’s so unique in the way she reads lines. Her sense of humor and her rhythms are really, really fun. Will and Josh have built a really interesting ensemble in this movie and Kate adds such a unique feel to it.”
Aniston succinctly sums up. “It was almost hard to get through scenes with Kate and Vanessa.”
Office Christmas Party opens in theaters December 9th.