Interview: From ‘Office Space’ to ‘Extract’ With Writer, Director Mike Judge

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CHICAGO – Last week, the writer/director of “Extract,” Mike Judge, took some time with to discuss his many comedic creations from the characters of “Office Space” to “King of the Hill,” “Beavis and Butthead,” and, now, “Extract”.

In my role as a film critic, I’m regularly asked why there aren’t more good comedies out there. It feels like people want more quality laughs. And yet, the box office of the very good “Extract” this weekend, starring Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, and J.K. Simmons is a massive disappointment. Go out and see it before it’s gone.

“Extract” is clearly the blue-collar response to the white-collar comedy of the cult hit “Office Space,” even if Judge seems more sympathetic to (and admits he’d rather work on) the factory floor than the cubicle world. In fact, Judge considered making it right after his breakthrough non-animated venture but studios thought it was too close to “Office Space”.

Mike Judge on the set of Extract.
Mike Judge on the set of Extract.
Photo credit: Miramax/Sam Urdank

He says, “I thought about doing something that was sympathetic to the boss. I enjoy the making of something, steering the ship and seeing it through, but I don’t get off on the management part of it. So, to me, the managers in Office Space were the kind of people who just enjoy telling people what to do. And, you know, when you try to be a nice boss, you can get taken advantage of. I also wanted to do something with a blue-collar setting because I think that world has its own unique set of characters in the same way that cubicles do.”

Jason Bateman as Joel and Mila Kunis as Cindy in Extract.
Jason Bateman as Joel and Mila Kunis as Cindy in Extract.
Photo credit: Miramax/Sam Urdank

“I’d actually talked about the idea right after Office Space and Fox had another option for a screenplay. My agents and managers thought it would be too like Office Space. At that point it hadn’t come out. Then by the time Idiocracy came out…that was one where the studio was going “That’s commercial,” and the focus groups said “We liked it but we wanted something more like Office Space.” (Laughs.)”

The drastic mishandling of “Idiocracy” could have scared off a director, but Judge has a very zen-like approach to it all, understanding that he doesn’t have any control over what happens with a movie once he’s done with it. He also recognizes that “Office Space” took time to find its audience.

Judge says, “I think nowadays that if people really like something, they’ll find it and they’ll tell people about it. I didn’t worry about that part too much. What did scare me is that I knew that I didn’t want to do something again where I didn’t have complete control. It just makes people nervous when you get above a certain budget level. I wouldn’t put myself in that situation again. I ended up pretty much having control over Idiocracy but I had to fight hard battles for everything even if I won all the battles.”

You may have watched it a dozen times but Judge hadn’t even seen most of “Office Space” in years, recently seeing the first half-hour at a tenth anniversary screening in Austin. He laughs when he says, “I was actually like, “Hey, this is pretty good.””

Jason Bateman as Joel and Kristen Wiig as Suzie in Extract.
Jason Bateman as Joel and Kristen Wiig as Suzie in Extract.
Photo credit: Miramax/Sam Urdank

As for what he would change in his films, nothing in “Office Space” and nothing in “Beavis and Butthead Do America” He says, “There are episodes of the show…we just cranked that thing out and no one knew what they were doing and sometimes it was just a train wreck. Some are just great and then there are some episodes where I just think, I wish I hadn’t done that. Little things like that. Not so much in the movie.”

As for whether or not Judge will make another Beavis & Butthead movie? Don’t get too excited. “I don’t know if it will happen again. There’s nothing in the works right now. Somebody always seems to announce it and there’s not really anything happening. Originally, it was…I think we made that movie faster than anyone has ever made an animated movie. We made it inside of a year. (Pauses.) I’ve got different ideas. I guess it takes…to really do it right, it’s going to take a few years.

“I like to leave the door open, but it seems like every time I do that someone announces it as happening. Right after the movie, I said, “No way I’m ever doing that again. Screw these people.” But then I end up missing the characters. When I was writing Idiocracy, the guy I was writing it with, Etan Cohen, and I kept coming up with ideas. I wanted them to just randomly end up working tech support. You have a computer problem and you end up getting Butthead. (Laughs.)

“Or something like that. Etan was buying a car at the time and we would talk about the tactics that car salesmen used and how Beavis and Butthead would be funny in that world. We could see how all those tactics would play on them. I also had an idea that was probably too quickly after September 11th where they would get involved with some group the government was looking for. The promise of 70 virgins would motivate them…the CIA would be after them… (Laughs.)”

Jason Bateman as Joel in Extract.
Jason Bateman as Joel in Extract.
Photo credit: Miramax/Sam Urdank

After the series finale of “King of the Hill,” it will be the first time since 1992 that Judge hasn’t had something on the air. he’s ready to “See what it’s like. Might be kind of nice for awhile.”

Jason Bateman simply rocks in “Extract,” giving arguably the best comedy performance of the year. He’s the perfect straight man for Judge’s brand of lunacy.

Mike goes into more detail - “I guess it’s what I love about Bob Newhart in particular - Jason has that thing where it’s fun to watch him react to things. Jason can also be a great character actor but, seeing him in Arrested Development, it’s fun to watch him react. He’s good at letting other people be funny without getting so over-the-top. That’s part of the problem. I found that when I was looking for actors in Office Space…Jason Bateman has that thing where ridiculous things are happening around him, he reacts in a way that’s appropriate and doesn’t make the whole thing seem ridiculous. He’s also been doing this since he was five or something. I’m 46. I’m older than him but he’s been doing it WAY longer than me. He’s completely comfortable being an actor and being on-set. So you can get these inspired moments out of him just being in the scene.”

Judge admits that he’s always been fascinated by the human capacity for stupidity and bad decision-making. As for Bateman’s character in “Extract,” “He can run a factory and be smart but when it comes to his personal life….And Ben’s character, he’s one of those guys who can make a really bad idea sound good. You know the kind who lead you down a path and then later go, “Oh, no, that was a really bad idea.” Full authority about something and then go, “Oh, did I say that?””

Do your part for the institution of comedy and see what Jason and Ben say in “Extract,” now in theaters.

‘Extract’ stars Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, Clifton Collins Jr., and J.K. Simmons. It was written and directed by Mike Judge. It opened on September 4th, 2009. It is rated R. content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director


Mike Wynn's picture

Nice article, thanks… I

Nice article, thanks… I have always thought was Mike Judge was just genius. I hope the B&B things happens, I know alot of folks from that generation would love to see it.

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