‘Office Space’ creator returns to the workplace

Let those other filmmakers focus on world destruction or masked superheroes or beautiful people doing beautiful things.

Mike Judge prefers to deal with real life. Judge, writer and director of “Office Space” and co-creator of the TV series “King of the Hill,” has long liked to set his work in the world of malfunctioning copiers and beer-drinking propane salesmen. Even his wicked satire of the future, “Idiocracy,” focused on the inanities of everyday life, just set 500 years from now. His new film, “Extract,” is no exception: It’s about a factory owner, Joel (Jason Bateman), who must deal with a host of employee problems as well as a chilly wife. Of course, Joel’s solutions aren’t exactly the stuff of Solomon, but such is the way of comedy. Bateman understands Judge’s motivations. “He likes to keep everything very middle-of-the-road common people, small town, small problems, relatable, blue-collar,” said the actor, who called Judge “a ninja of comedy.” “And those people, they run extract factories; they make drywall. I mean, it’s the stuff that we all need often goes unnoticed; he likes to write about those people, and I’m glad he does.” “Extract,” which also stars Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, J.K. Simmons and a long-haired and heavily bearded Ben Affleck, opens Friday. Judge talked to CNN about his subject matter and his cast. The following is an edited version of the interview. CNN: Where did this idea come from I’d read that you worked in a factory before. Mike Judge: Yeah, it kind of came from all over the place. I’ve worked many jobs, and I did work in a factory a couple times — a place that made guitar amps, and then I worked in a place in Albuquerque [New Mexico], where I grew up, that stuffed those snack boxes with Fritos and candy bars and stuff. CNN: Casting for the film, how did that come together Did you have a set idea in your head Judge: When I first wrote the first draft, I wasn’t thinking about anybody in particular and, then I saw “Arrested Development” years later. I[‘d] put the script on the shelf and thought Jason Bateman would be perfect, so I did a rewrite thinking about him but no one in particular for the other characters. I just wrote it and then just did kind of the normal casting process. But then, we were reading people for the character of [Joel’s friend] Dean, and my casting director comes in one day and said, “Ben Affleck is interesting.” And I thought, “Really, I’ve never met the guy.” And I [also] thought, “Yeah, but he’s like strapping, handsome leading-man guy.” Then I started thinking about it, and I love him when he’s a character actor like in “Dazed and Confused” or “Shakespeare in Love,” and then I met him, and he just got it. He had this take on him based on a guy he went to high school with. We did a read-through the script, and him and Jason just killing me, I just thought it was just really funny. You know, he was willing to get out of his leading man look and grow a beard. It was really fun. CNN: It was fun to see him do that. It was a different dynamic. Judge: Yeah. I think Ben, actually, I think he enjoyed being this character. I think he hasn’t gotten to do something like that in a while. In fact, we had a big break [during shooting]. … And he has one scene in the factory, so he had like maybe two or three weeks between the bulk of it and that last scene in it. I got the sense he was really happy to come back and put on his “Dean” get-up and get back into that character. He was just really fun. CNN: And Joel, he’s a nice guy who just wants to have sex with his wife. It seems pretty simple. Judge: Yeah, and I think he, you know, he, he wants kind of simple things, and he’s worked so hard. It’s maybe be a little bit of a mid-life crisis he’s going through, I think. And he just sort of tests the waters, dips his toe in, doing something a little crazy, and then just everything goes to hell for him. CNN: We saw this with “Office Space,” too, making the workplace funny. What’s that process like Judge: Well, to me, I think there’s a lot of interesting characters [at work], and just the dynamics of a workplace are really … funny to me. I’ve had a lot of jobs, and I think there’s a lot of material there and, I just remember thinking, growing up in the ’80s, thinking like everyone on TV shows and movies, these characters seem to have like endless cash. You never see, [when you] become an adult and even as a teenager, it’s like, “OK, I gotta pay my car insurance, and I gotta do this and that.” And then you get a job, and it’s like, you’re there all day. … I don’t know, I think if your soul doesn’t get stomped out of you, you can still see the comedy in all of it. So I’d wanted to do something that’s set in more a blue-collar place like a factory, and it’s told from the point of view of the guy who owns it and sympathetic to him instead of the employee angry at the bosses. CNN: Why extract Are you an extract expert Judge: (laughs) Well, there was a couple of reasons. There was a book lying around my freshman year in the college dorms that was about food flavoring, and I actually just thought it was kind of interesting. Then years later, south of Austin [Texas], there used to be this really great building; it was the Adams Extract Factory. … My Realtor one day, we were looking at a house, and he points to a really nice house in this neighborhood, and he says, “That’s where the Adams Extract people live.” It’s just this odd item that’s in every grocery store in the country, but you don’t think about it much, and when I’d say that that’s what it’s about, people start laughing. So I figured I’m one step ahead of it there.