Extract star Jason Bateman plays it straight

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      LOS ANGELES—After working in the film and television industry for almost three decades, Jason Bateman has finally become a leading man. Bateman, who started out as a child actor in 1980s TV series like Little House on the Prairie and Silver Spoons, was relegated to small roles for most of his career as an adult actor. Now he is the star of Extract, which opens next Friday (September 4). In the film, he plays Joel, the owner of a factory that makes various flavours of extract. Life isn't good for Joel. An employee is suing him, and he is beginning to regret paying for a gigolo to sleep with his wife.

      Watch the trailer for Extract.

      In a room at a Los Angeles hotel, Bateman, now 40, says that his own life has been pretty good since Arrested Development creator Mitchell Hurwitz hired him to play Michael Bluth. The show led directly to a number of film opportunities, including Juno, Hancock, and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. And he has half a dozen projects that are in various stages of production. He says that Extract director Mike Judge saw similarities between Michael Bluth and Joel and felt that he would be believable in the role.

      “Mike and I both felt that the character in this film and that character are the centre of craziness. They are the audience's proxy and the straight man, and I like serving that function in comedies. It is a necessary component, and not a lot of people are attracted to it or enjoy doing it. Usually those parts are available, so I snatch them up as much as possible. Maybe I will look for more antagonistic parts in the future, but when you get a chance to be in the centre of something that is written and directed by people as talented as Mike and Mitch, you say, ”˜Great, I will be there every day.' ”

      Having distinct memories of being unemployed, Bateman is not too concerned about being stereotyped as the guy who keeps calm at the centre of a storm. He says that few people who have been unemployed for a while complain too much about working, particularly in a business as volatile as the one he has chosen.

      “I will bank on myself to be able to do other things, given the opportunity. If someone thinks, ”˜I don't know if he can play that,' I have some tape from movies like Smokin' Aces and The Kingdom that will give me a shot at it. But I really like to stay employed. This business is tricky enough that you don't want to get overly picky. There are people at the top of our business who are waiting for their next gig, and I can think of at least three who don't have their next job. So getting to a position of relevance has always been a slippery thing. Now there are fewer films and fewer studios making them, so I think it would be a mistake to be overly confident.”