Jason Bateman - a child star grows up

Jason Bateman found stardom as a boy in Little House on the Prairie. Now, he tells Gill Pringle, he's making adult choices

"As an actor, I'd rather be a Gene Hackman than a Tom Cruise," muses the former child star Jason Bateman, who has learned a few things in the 27 years since launching his career in the US TV series Little House on the Prairie.

Having largely squandered his twenties on Hollywood's party scene, Bateman, now 39, turned his career around five years ago with cult TV sitcom Arrested Development, and has never looked back. Having appeared in recent films Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Juno and The Kingdom, and next starring opposite Will Smith in Hancock, today his only complaint is that his career is so hot that he's rarely home to enjoy his 18-month-old daughter. Take note, Lindsay Lohan and Macaulay Culkin – child stars can grow up.

Bateman says he owes his comeback to two things: his happy marriage and Arrested Development. "A lot of people in America didn't watch Arrested Development but folk in LA did and they're the ones hiring," says Bateman who, along with former cast-mates Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett and Michael Cera, is currently considering whether to reprise his role in a film version of Ron Howard's cancelled Emmy-winning comedy.

"Maybe I'm a cynic but I've always thought that if you're somebody that a producer or director can brag about over lunch, when they're talking to one of their colleagues about who they've just put in their next film, then you're going to get that job. It's got less to do with talent than it is about heat and buzz."







Watch the Hancock trailer




Having successfully altered his image from washed-up former child-star to in-demand actor, he's sympathetic to the problems faced by today's young actors. "Quite frankly, they're doing what a lot of people their age are doing, only they don't have a flotilla of cameras documenting it. I'm glad I no longer drink. This would be a tough time to go out and try to have fun. I did all my misbehaving at a time when that whole side of the entertainment industry was in its infancy. It's unfortunate for these kids who are trying to balance the books a bit as far as working hard during the day and then going out at night and having a social life.

"My own parents certainly helped me navigate some of the challenges of this industry, although I'd personally discourage any child from getting into this business. There was a lot of stuff I felt I missed out on during my childhood which is why I spent my twenties, when I wasn't being invited to work that much, kinda catching up on that," says the actor, whose older sister, Justine, also began acting as a child, starring in popular TV sitcom Family Ties. Today she's enjoying her own comeback, guest-starring in TV's Desperate Housewives as the tenant of Gabby Solis (Eva Longoria).

"I've spent all my fun chips and now I've parked my drinking boots in the closet. I haven't had a drink in four years. There wasn't any real specific bottom to it. I was just ready to graduate from adolescence and try my hand at being an adult. And, quite honestly, the woman I was in love with was not really that tolerant of it, so I turned it off."

Bateman is only grateful he met future wife Amanda Anka, daughter of Sixties pop idol Paul Anka, at a time when he was looking to change his life. "I made a very smart choice with my wife. I didn't marry a 'girlfriend'. I married a 'wife'. I think my gender is known to pick women that make us feel good, and who are kind of subordinate to us. And I was guilty of that for a long time. I didn't really have the balls to be with someone who was my equal and, as a result, a lot of those relationships were short-term. So I said to myself, 'well I only want to get married once, so make sure I marry a friend that I'm really attracted to.' She was a very close friend, and it's worked because I don't need to be in a certain mood to like her – she's like a friend who you never tire of. And since then I haven't been picking jobs that are frivolous and celebrity-making; they are jobs that are career-making. Hopefully I've made some decisions and I'll reap the benefits. My wife is definitely responsible for a lot of that.

"There are some things that are now coming my way that could probably get me kicked out of the party pretty quick – some popcorny, commercial crap that I'm trying to be disciplined about not accepting although the money's good and the chances of fame are high. I'd much rather be somebody with a small part in a really good film than be on the top of the call sheet on something that might make a bunch of money."

That said, there's little he can divulge about his role as a publicist opposite Will Smith's sozzled, sarcastic superhero in Hancock. Determined to foil bloggers from ruining the film's surprise plot twist, director Peter Berg is still editing so that even Bateman doesn't know if he'll make the final cut: "Well, my cheque cleared. That's all I'm worried about," he shrugs, mute to internet gossip that Charlize Theron, who plays his screen wife, will also be unmasked as a superhero. "If you were married to a superhero you'd probably know it, one would hope," he says evasively. He's only relieved that Hollywood doesn't perceive him in superhero mould: "I don't think they'll be asking me to play a superhero anytime soon. And I definitely wouldn't want to fly. Will didn't look too comfortable flying in harness. If I did play a super-hero, I'd want my superhero to be somewhat flawed and human like Will's."

If playing a genial, happily-married PR guy wasn't much of a stretch for the affable actor, then he's eager to get his teeth into his next role as a fetish-club promoter in the thriller State of Play, co-starring Russell Crowe and Robin Wright Penn. "It's a bizarre and nasty character who wears a lot of leather and likes gags and also has an OxyContin addiction," he enthuses.

While grateful for his role in the recent hit movie Juno, Bateman admits he fails to see what all the fuss is about: "I mean, Juno's a good film but, good God! They talked about it like it was the second coming. And then, there's other films that get slammed like Smokin' Aces, which I had a small part in. I thought Joe Carnahan did an incredible job and they killed him for it. But who knows? All you can do is just act in these things."

'Hancock' opens on 2 July

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

    Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?