Time to play Five Questions with Jason Bateman, the popular and critically acclaimed actor now making his directorial debut with "Bad Words," opening this weekend.
1. How difficult was it to direct your first movie? Any tension between you the director and you the actor?
A. There wasn't. When you're the director, you're like the conductor instead of the actor, who is usually the lead violinist.
It was difficult not to be able to see what the camera was getting at all moments. The director usually gets to watch the monitor and see what's getting captured. When we got a take that felt just right, I'd go back and watch playback and then move on. I could make a case that it made things simpler in that I didn't need to direct the main actor.
2. When you were growing up, your dad preferred to take you to the movies instead of the ball parks. What was that like?
A. It was our bonding. It was one of our favorite things to talk about. We would go to the movies. He'd talk about how movies are made, cite examples of good and bad ones. Every kid wants to have a subject that he or she wants to be able to talk to parents about, aside from school work or behavior. This was ours. So early on, I began to develop strong ideas about what was good and what was bad.
3. What's the secret to keeping your inner kid alive?
A. It probably begins and ends with trying to maintain a decent level of happiness. There are many components that go into maintaining that happiness: health, personal ethics, employment. For me, it's about keeping an eye on what it is that makes me happy. What's true to me. I try to stay with that and keep my room clean.
4. If acting and directing hadn't worked out, what do you think you'd be doing?
A. I'd be an architect. I really love architecture, whether it's residential or commercial. I have no idea how to do it. I was terrible in math, so I would have to bring in a partner who knows how to add and subtract.
5. What's the trick to preventing a fairly despicable character from alienating audiences?
A. By showing someone as deeply flawed. Then you get to explain those flaws, not that they are excused, but are understood. When people understand their flaws, it's a little bit easier to empathize with them. That's why we go to the movies, to see people different from the norm going through situations more challenging than the norm.
Bonus question: Are you a good speller?
A. I am. Don't test me.
Film critics notebook
• If you're an Xfinity cable customer, you've probably been bombarded by the trailer advertising Liam Neeson's action film "Taken." You know the one, where Neeson's on the phone and says, "What I do have are a particular set of skills..."
How about, "What I do have IS a particular set of skills"? If Neeson had more than one set of skills, "are" would be fine. Apparently, the screenwriter's set of skills includes the ability to murder English.
• Not to be outdone in the subliteracy department, Walt Disney's "Monsters University" film short preceding "Muppets Most Wanted" shows a nervous dad telling his son, "There is monsters in our closet!"
Thanks, Disney filmmakers, for undermining the work of thousands of elementary school English teachers. You is on the job.
• The After Hours Film Society presents Asghar Farhadi's "The Past" at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 24, at the Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. General admission $9. Special guest host: Chicago Film Critics Association member Lee Shoquist of chicagofilm.com. Go to afterhoursfilmsociety.com.