In directing child actor Rohan Chand on the set of his directorial debut, “Bad Words,” Jason Bateman drew on some useful background: his own experience.
“I remembered what I needed to hear as a little kid to feel comfortable and safe on set,” Bateman told The Times at the film’s Hollywood premiere. "I tried to call upon a lot of that stuff to make Rohan feel comfortable."
Bateman, 45, known for his role as Michael Bluth on the television sitcom "Arrested Development," started his career in 1981 on the television series "Little House on the Prairie" and also starred in such '80s sitcom staples as "Silver Spoons" and "The Hogan Family."
"Bad Words," set for release March 14, follows Bateman’s character Guy Trilby, a 40-year-old who is obsessed with winning a national spelling bee for pre-teens. Trilby, who is prone to harsh words and insults, uses a loophole to gain entry to the competition, in the process angering parents and spelling bee officials and setting up a complicated relationship with a spelling-bee rival (Chand).
The first-timer, who plays contestant Chaitanya Chopra, said he learned a lot from Bateman on set.
“It was so cool, because Jason’s a really nice guy,” said Chand, now 10. “He was a kid actor too, and I think he knows how I would like to be treated and how I feel.”
Though only 8½ when the film was being made, Chand said Bateman treated him “like a professional.”
“He basically taught me how to be conversational [when in character],” Chand said. “So instead of people saying, ‘Oh, that’s really good acting,’ I’d like people to say, ‘Oh, that is really natural.’”
Kathryn Hahn, who plays reporter Jenny Widgeon in the film, said she also believed Bateman’s experiences came in handy.
“I think he was armed with this particular project in knowing exactly how he would want to be treated when he was that age,” she said. “He armed Rohan with such incredible confidence, he didn’t make him at all feel micromanaged."