Seth Gordon looks like a pretty affable guy … kind of big bear guy with expressive hair and a sincere voice. Exactly the kind of guy you could kick back a few beers and shoot the breeze with.
And it’s exactly in that laidback mode that we shared a light hearted conversation about Horrible Bosses, only his second studio feature since his 2008 movie, Four Christmases.
Not to suggest that this is a lazy guy. Not in the least. Gordon has been busy directing some of the hottest television shows since then and at least one cool documentary.
And much like our 3 repressed, oppressed and abused guys in Horrible Bosses, he also has a worst boss story to share (don’t we all?). It seems that his career as a dishwasher was cut short by a woman who supervised him when he used to do dishes at an old folks home … and who just was not a fan of his.
“Everything I did was wrong in this woman’s eyes. I was not good enough at cleaning dishes, I always had to redo the work and others had to redo my work. I don’t think I actually was screwing up, I think it was just a power play of hers…”
Perhaps just like Dave Harken (one of the 3 villains in Horrible Bosses played with much gusto by Kevin Spacey) a character that he finds “relatable” but not that it means him, of course.
As a boss himself, Gordon states that he “tries really hard to be an open minded and thoughtful director rather than some tyrant…”
Of course, I could not find anyone to validate this story before I turned it in … so we will have to go with his version!
For a guy who graduated from Yale University with an architecture degree and who claims to be a mostly self-taught filmmaker, Gordon has been very lucky in Hollywood.
It was while living and teaching in Kenya that he first dabbled in filmmaking, by trying to captured the daily routine of his village with a camera. Unsure about what do to next, he moved to Los Angeles after graduation and became an editor while exploring what the ultimate game plan would be, but believing all along that he would be an editor. But destiny had other plans.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a documentary about the legendary Billy Mitchell (legendary to some anyway) who set a Donkey Kong record that stood for almost 25 years and the earnest teacher who challenged that record, was his very first feature. This first venture not only got widely distributed, but even won awards.
Not bad for a first feature. Not bad at all for a self-taught guy. And perhaps a vindication to his parents, who put him through Yale and to whom he has “apologized many times for making very little use of my degree.”
Apparently it was more than luck what made his career.
“It was a couple of specific people believing in me … the producer of the documentary, Ed Cunningham, he saw my approach and believed in my ability to get the job done and funded that documentary and helped get the rest of the funding together. So people believing in me is the answer. When that movie turned out in a way that people related to it, that opened all the rest of the doors.”
In terms of casting his movie, he had a very specific idea as to what needed to be done.
To anyone watching television, the actors names will be very familiar: Jason Bateman (Arrested Develpment, Little House in the Prairie, Silver Spoons), Jason Sudeikis (SNL), Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Jennifer Aniston (Friends) and Julie Bowen (Modern Family).
This selection was totally on purpose. His work in television had already informed him of something he wanted for this movie: television actors.
“My intention was to have guys who are associated with TV presently because of the speed that I wanted.” And speed he got.
As for his talented cast, he considers Bateman talented and underrated, Sudeikis a natural comedian, Charlie a breakout star and Jennifer much more talented and funnier than anyone realizes…
And since there is always a positive that goes with a negative, the best boss question must be asked: “I have actually never been asked that question … I gotta say probably, and this isn’t the ass-kissing, but the guys at New Line have given me these jobs. They bought Kong, they gave me the job in Four Christmases and they gave me this job. I mean, what more can I ask for, right?”
But not allowing himself to ruminate is also part of his philosophy. Will his nice bosses at New Line grant him a sequel? A very matter of fact Gordon replies, “that job will come if we do well enough in the theater…”