When a smart, successful, fun-loving single woman has been through a string of relationships that haven’t lasted and she wants to have a baby, you have a classic dilemma. In The Switch, from Miramax Films and Mandate pictures, Jennifer Aniston is that woman, Kassie. Her slightly neurotic friend Wally is played by Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development,” Juno), and the two make this offbeat, outrageous comedy a hit.
The Switch is based the short story “Baster” by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex. In the film, Bateman plays Wally, Kassie’s best friend, who tries to talk her out of having a baby with a charming sperm donor (Patrick Wilson). Unbeknownst to Kassie, there’s a last-minute switch, and she doesn’t realize it until seven years later—when Wally finally gets acquainted with Kassie’s (slightly neurotic) son.
Aniston and Bateman have a raucous comedic rapport. The situations that arise from this momentous “switch” lead to some uproarious situations—and the two stars shine. Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck (of the comedy hit Blades of Glory), the movie has layers of sheer hilarity combined with a deep heart. “We thought [Gordon and Speck] would be a good match because they could deal with the outrageous and the physical,” says Producer Ron Yerxa, “but also they wanted to explore character and crisis of conscience and other, weightier issues.”
For the lead, Kassie, Aniston was the person everyone thought of, and much of the script was built around her comedic chops. “We always had Jennifer Aniston in mind,” says Producer Albert Berger. “She seemed the perfect choice for this movie as an actress who has done such excellent work in comedy. She was really at the right point in her career and in her life for this particular role.”
Aniston found herself drawn to the part for several reasons: “I thought it was a really beautiful, great story that was kind of unconventional, and it’s one of the first movies that our production company Echo Films will be coming out with. I also wanted to work with Jason Bateman.”
For the part of the neurotic best friend Wally, Bateman was a natural pick. He says that he and Aniston had been friends for a long time, and they “used their familiarity” to get into the role of best friends and have fun with it—just as the producers hoped. “Jason Bateman has a kind of comedy, a dry wit, kind of an improvisational feel, very spontaneous, [that] I thought would complement Jennifer Aniston’s style of acting very well,” says Yerxa. “She’s very heartfelt and in the moment and he has this edgy dry wit that we thought would establish the character.”
The actors were happy to work together, too. “Jason Bateman is one of the sweetest,” says Aniston. “I’ve always adored him and he’s just delightful. There’s nothing about him that isn’t just, like squeezable.”
Bonus: Bateman’s improvisational comedic skills are off the charts. “He’s a remarkably gifted comedic actor and one thing that really helped us along was his ability to improvise,” says Berger. “He always stuck to the script, but then at the end of each sequence, or each set up, he would really give us a lot in the way of alternatives. I think it’s going to bring a real spontaneous quality to the film.”
Shot on location in New York City, The Switch also stars Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis and newcomer 6-year-old Thomas Robinson. Jennifer Aniston and Kristin Hahn are also executive producers, along with Nathan Kahane.