When I’m offered a dinner with director Mike Judge, there’s very little convincing needed.
Not only is Judge responsible for the underrated comedy “Extract” (available on DVD and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, Dec. 22) but he’s also the sly genius behind FOX’s Emmy-winning “King of the Hill,” the 1990s iconic cartoon “Beavis and Butt-head” and one of the best workplace comedies of all time, “Office Space.”
It was a cool December evening when my fellow reporters and I descended upon Joe’s Restaurant in Venice, Calif., where a custom-designed four-course tasting menu with wine pairings awaited us. With the help of champagne, the conversation kicked off with talk of Comic-Con, which Judge said was filled with “very likable nerds.”
Speaking of nerds …
I am one for taking this picture. Yes, I was seated next to Mike Judge. Okay, my name is misspelled, but still — Mike Judge!
Our humble director probably caught on very quickly that he had signed up for dinner with rabid fans (aka lovable nerds) masquerading as journalists. For every tidbit of knowledge he let slip about his work, we responded in kind with trivia we had gleaned online, through work and our personal lives. Many, many Mike Judge-inspired Halloween costume stories were shared, lines were quoted, stripes were earned.
And while a convivial time was had by all, we did eventually bend to the task at hand, which was discussing “Extract.”
In the low-key comedy, Joel (Jason Bateman) runs an extract factory while trying to keep the marriage fires burning with wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) while trying not to fantasize about new hire Cindy (Mila Kunis), who has her own secrets. When best friend Dean (a long-haired Ben Affleck) suggests a scheme to hire young gigolo Brad (Dustin Milligan) to test Suzie’s fidelity, let’s just say Joel has problems “extracting” himself from this self-devised mess.
Was Jason Bateman your first choice for Joel?
Mike Judge: When I did the rewrite on “Extract” — I had written it a long time ago — I was actually thinking about Jason Bateman. And when I gave it to him, he wanted to do it. He was the only actor I gave it to. Mila Kunis read with Jason like a screen test. I had seen her “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and thought she was really great.
What do you like on the “Extract” DVD?
Mike Judge: I actually like the extra longer scenes with Ben [Affleck]. I’m a big believer in leaving them wanting more when you can. There’s one deleted scene with him. I actually was bummed to delete it but I kind of realized it was a similar version to him walking out of the bong scene. It was him calling and apologizing the next day. I just really liked it. He was just so fun to work with. He really got into character.
Did you have a say in Ben Affleck’s long hair?
Mike Judge: I was thinking I wanted him to have long hair. I think independently he wanted the same because when I was testing the waters, it turned out he was way into it. In fact, there was a big gap in the shooting schedule where he was off for like three or four weeks and he came back when we were shooting at the factory. He seemed to be really happy to put the wig back on, come back and be that guy.
Dustin Milligan from “90210” was such a find as the clueless gigolo …
Mike Judge: Oh my God, we almost didn’t get him too. We had problems with his visa because he’s Canadian and he was only cleared for “90210.” It was down to the wire. You realize pretty quickly in casting that you kind of have to get the joke or it doesn’t work. It’s like the best people who play stupid are pretty smart. I think Dustin is a really smart guy and good actor. He’s just the right combination. He hardly did any improv except his physical comedy he did here and there. He did a thing where he was checking out his bicep.
The colorful characters don’t end there. In “Extract,” KISS bassist
Gene Simmons plays sleazy lawyer Joe Adler, who takes on a workman’s
comp case against Joel’s company. Although Simmons isn’t sporting any
stage makeup in the film, he’s still pretty frightening.
How did casting Gene Simmons come about?
Mike Judge: The only time I had seen him without his makeup was when he was on “Politically Incorrect” a long time ago. So I saw him in the suit and thought, “Yeah, this guy can play a seasoned businessman.” He’s got that great voice. We want somebody who just comes in and makes Jason’s character feel horrible. We tried different stuff with his hair. We tried it in a ponytail and stuff. But then I thought, “I kind of like the way it is. It kind of looks like the guy spends a lot of time on his hair.” You know, this is how naive I was; I thought no one would recognize him without his makeup. I didn’t realize how huge his reality show was.
Check out what else Judge has to say about Gene Simmons’ casting [Warning: Contains some adult language]:
Unfortunately, I stopped recording just before Judge slipped into his Gene Simmons impersonation. In fact, Judge performed many voices during the night, including Rodney Dangerfield, Beavis and Butt-head.
“BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD”
Judge also happily discussed “Beavis and Butt-head” with us throughout the evening, offering us insights into the ultimate in slacker cartoons:
- Famous “Beavis and Butt-head” fans: David Letterman, author Stephen King, director Bernardo Bertolucci, Patrick Stewart, the late Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp
- The Spike Jonze-directed video of WAX’s “California” that features a guy running while on fire that puts Beavis into fiery paroxysms of self-denial still hasn’t been cleared for a “B&B” DVD yet because the guy on fire hasn’t been tracked down for approval.
- “Beavis” is the last name of a football jock Judge used to know. The real-life Jeremy Beavis is nothing like his animated namesake though.
- Judge is a huge fan of Rob Zombie and recalls seeing “Thunder Kiss ’65” for the first time: “I remember thinking, ‘Wow this is really cool. He kind of looks like he’s dressed like he’s George Clinton but it’s heavy metal.’ And back then it was sort of unusual to find something that sounded metal that had a really strong funky groove.”
- Judge still plays with ideas for more Beavis and Butt-head adventures: “I had a rat that was in my kitchen. They poop everywhere they go, rip open the bread, got onto my counter. I started thinking Beavis and Butt-head versus a rat would be a really good story. Like they set the trap and then forget and go, ‘Oh, cheese.’ Also, there’s just a lot of things that would be fun to do that we never did. I would love to have them working tech support so when you call you’d get them.”
Finally, Judge dashed our hopes that “King of the Hill,” which saw its final new episode in September will make it to the big screen.
Mike Judge: I would work with Fox again under the right terms. “King of the Hill” I don’t know if it lends itself to a movie the way “The Simpsons” does. I’m not sure what it is. I guess the same reason you wouldn’t make a “Bob Newhart” movie. “The Simpsons” was more cinematic maybe in the way they went crazy with the animation. Yeah, I think “King of the Hill” is inspired more by classic television like “Leave It to Beaver,” “Andy Griffith,” that kind of thing.
Sorry, “KotH” fans, but if you want to see (and hear) more of Judge in action, definitely check out the “Extract” DVD.
I leave you with one last photo of the memorable dinner, in which I am apparently saying something hilarious and/or embarrassing.
‘Extract’ star Mila Kunis reinventing herself after ‘That ’70s Show’
‘King of the Hill’ to reign nightly on Adult Swim
Skeet Ulrich on ‘CSI: NY’: My day with a serial killer
Photo credits: Hanh Nguyen, Miramax Films, Wire Image, Buena Vista Home Video