Fey and Bateman bond as siblings in ‘This Is Where I Leave You’

SHARE Fey and Bateman bond as siblings in ‘This Is Where I Leave You’

Tina Fey and Jason Bateman in a scene from “This Is Where I Leave You.”

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Based on the bestselling novel by Jonathan Tropper, “This Is Where I Leave You” focuses on the unexpected seven-day “reunion” of the Altman siblings, played by Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver and Corey Stoll, plus their mother (Jane Fonda) and their respective spouses and kids. They are brought together by the death of the family patriarch.

What emerges as the family sits shiva, in the Jewish tradition, is a resurgence of old animosities, rivalries, deeply felt emotions and whole bunch of surprises.

I sat down with Fey and Bateman recently to chat about the experience of making “This Is Where I Leave You,” which opens Friday.

Q: Jason, how good a sister do you think Tina would make in real life?

JB: I think she’d be pretty darn good. She’s fair, she’s cheery, she’s supportive and she’s loyal.

(“And I don’t call before 10:30 in the morning,” Fey interjected.)

Q: What was it like having Jane Fonda play your mother?

TF: The thing that was so impressive to me about Jane was because we made this movie kind of on the cheap — we were all in a real house — everyone had to get in there like a working actor, and so did Jane. She hung in there with us in that hot house — and I’m talking temperature — and she didn’t have the fancy camper trailer that she retired to when she wasn’t shooting a scene.

JB: Yeah, there was no high-maintenance, diva, superstar, winner-of-two-Oscars thing going on.

TF: She, just sat there and ate stale matzo with the rest of us.

Q: Both of you are very good at improvising. Did you have the chance to do that?

TF: We did, which was very generous of Jonathan Tropper, the writer, to trust us to do it. Plus Shawn Levy, the director, has a really good sense of letting people improvise, but not wearing them out and wasting their time.Sometimes directors want comedy people to improvise a ton, and then they don’t use any of it in the final film. It just becomes a big, exhausting mess.

JB: When you’re improvising there’s a lot of pressure to be funny on cue. To be great. I certainly am not funny on my feet. I like to have stuff that’s written and then I just like to “plus it up” a little bit, at moments when possibly I can.

Q: Tina, speaking of improvising, do you think back to your time at Second City, when you’re doing all the stuff you’re doing now, like this film?

TF: Yes, I do all the time. I supposedly have some other real acting training, but the only kind of training that I really use all the time is the improv training that I first got in Chicago.

Q: When you both think back on this film, is there one scene you’ll never forget?

TF: For sure, I think sitting on the roof with Jason near the end of the film. We shot that in the middle of the night. It was such a lovely experience, because it showed the deep bond we had as brother and sister.

JB: Yeah, I’ll never forget the wedgie I got sitting on that roof. There’s a pitch on that roof. You don’t want to slide off it, so you have to deal with the wedge — or more accurately, create a wedge simply for safety. This one, Tina, was literally roped in so she wouldn’t slide off the roof.

TF: He’s just more athletically inclined than me. I’m such a klutz, they were just worried I’d fall off!

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