Horrible Bosses: Wanna Kill Your Employer?

“Horrible Bosses” is directed by Seth Gordon and produced by Brett Ratner and Jay Stern.  Warner will release the comedy July 8, 2011.

Producer Brett Ratner, who developed “Horrible Bosses” with producing partner Jay Stern, notes, “The title alone says it all. It got an immediate reaction from everyone who heard it. People don’t want to admit that the person they work for now is a horrible boss, but they’ll refer to former bosses, or tell us about their ‘friend’ who has one. Everyone has bad experiences to draw on, and that’s why this is so much fun.”

“Almost everyone has had a horrible boss at some point in their lives, someone who made life miserable,” says director Seth Gordon.

“We all know how tempting it is to fantasize about how much better things would be if they were out of the way. This is a story about three guys who decide to do something about it. But, it doesn’t turn out exactly the way they expect.”

If bumping off their tormentors seems a little extreme at first, it soon becomes clear that, for one reason or another, these three browbeaten and manipulated workers are out of reasonable options. And it’s not as if they started out as homicidal malcontents.

Average Joes

Actually, quite the opposite. Gordon sees the story’s heroes, played by Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, as “just average suburban working Joes. They’re not bad guys, really; they’re doing their best, but they’re trapped and victimized by the people they work for in ways that are truly heinous and profound until they just can’t take it anymore.”

Jennifer Aniston as Never Seen Before

Week after week, longtime buddies Nick, Dale and Kurt meet for a few rounds to commiserate over their distinctly different yet equally desperate predicaments and the individuals responsible: Dave Harken, Nick’s control-freak boss, played by Kevin Spacey; Bobby Pellit, the unconscionable heir to his father’s company and the bane of Kurt’s existence, played by Colin Farrell; and Dr. Julia Harris, the predatory dentist, played by Jennifer Aniston as audiences have never seen her before.

As the conversation (and the beer) takes its natural course, the guys end up reflecting on how much brighter their lives and careers would be if only their despicable bosses were out of the picture. How nice it would be if they turned up dead one day.

No Skills

The problem is, apart from their outrage, their furtive fantasies and the knowledge gleaned from umpteen seasons of “Law & Order,” they have no qualifications, no experience and certainly no aptitude for the assassination business.

“They’re completely incompetent,” states Gordon, a fact that is brought home to them immediately, and pretty much every hour thereafter, and which prompts them to enlist the bargain-priced assistance of a self-promoting parolee named Dean ‘MF’ Jones, played by Jamie Foxx.

From that springboard, “It becomes a linear story where one thing sets off another, and it just keeps getting faster and crazier as the guys quickly reach the point where there’s no turning back,” explains the director, who cites “Horrible Bosses” as one of those rare scripts that made him laugh till he cried.

Over the Edge

If the average moviegoer can’t relate to a murder plot, however ill-conceived, the filmmakers feel it’s a safe bet they can at least relate to the escalating frustration that finally pushes these three working stiffs over the edge.

“Actually, in discussing the movie, I discovered that a lot more people have wanted to kill their bosses than I would have guessed,” offers Jason Sudeikis, who stars as the normally easygoing Kurt. In that respect, “Horrible Bosses” is a tale of wish-fulfillment on a grand scale for anyone who has ever imagined, say, heaving his or her immediate supervisor off the roof, but with Nick, Dale and Kurt taking all the risks and making all the stupid mistakes.

“They carry the water for us,” says producer Jay Stern. “These are tough times for a lot of people, and many of us feel thankful to even have a job. At the same time, if someone is oppressing or abusing you, you think, ‘Do I really have to take this? Do I really have to deal with this maniac?’ I think there are plenty of people who don’t necessarily want to kill their bosses but wouldn’t mind seeing them hang off an overpass for awhile during rush hour.

Extreme Revenge

“When these guys decide to take revenge in the most extreme way, it might seem a little dark at first,” Stern continues, “but they screw it up so badly that it’s not really a movie about three workers who get off on killing their bosses; it’s more about the outrageous and hilarious adventure they take together after they decide to empower themselves and end up getting involved in something way over their heads.”

Starring as the beleaguered Nick, Jason Bateman concurs: “This is not exactly rational behavior and I hope there’s no one like these guys out there. We’re just trying to make people laugh. If they find a correlation between the story and their own lives, great. But I wouldn’t advise trying any of this at home.”

To do the story justice, the filmmakers took an uninhibited approach to “Horrible Bosses” and let the humor — and everything else — fly. Says Ratner, “The movie doesn’t pull any punches. We really went for it. Seth came in with a very strong point of view and a great vision for the casting and the execution. He knew what the movie needed to be, tonally, and he really delivered. It’s a fine line between creating real stakes and real danger, and making it fun and funny. What I like most is that it never feels as though the jokes are there just for the sake of jokes. The humor always comes from character, and from the circumstances, and everything is grounded in the real world.”

“People just want to go to work, be treated with respect, and go home. Is that too much to ask?” screenwriter Michael Markowitz wants to know. Markowitz confirms that “Horrible Bosses” was largely inspired by his own office experiences. “Writing this was my revenge.”

What audiences should keep in mind, lest they judge too harshly, is that “these guys are fighting for their dignity. They need to do what it takes to stand up and be men,” says screenwriter John Francis Daley. Referring to one scene in which this spirit is vigorously demonstrated, his writing partner Jonathan Goldstein adds, “…and if it means sticking a toothbrush up your butt to maintain that dignity, well so be it.”

“There are probably more appropriate movies to see if you’re looking for heart-warming growth,” admits Charlie Day, who stars as the timid but ultimately tenacious Dale.

The bottom line, Gordon states, “is there’s really no message here. It’s just a fun, rude, escapist comedy about three guys who decide to kill their bosses and are out of their depth as soon as they start.”