The Texas-dwelling filmmaker remains resolutely un-Hollywood, very pro-factory, when discussing his upcoming film, Extract.
WHAT Judge’s Extract stars Jason Bateman as a bottling-factory boss
WHEN Opens Sept 4
Mike Judge is talking slowly. Though he doesn’t have the rich twang of Hank Hill, the King of the Hill character he created and voiced, Judge does have Hank’s slow-rolling, considered cadences, perhaps a side effect from his years living in Austin, Texas. Or maybe Judge is just being careful to weigh every word; often in past interviews about his creations (Beavis and Butt-head, Office Space, Idiocracy, The Goode Family), he’s come off as a guy pissed at Hollywood’s mishandling of his work. Then again, it could be because he’s conducting the interview on his hands-free cell phone while driving.
Whatever the reason, Judge seems very earnest and thoughtful about his new comedy, Extract. Set in a small factory that bottles vanilla extract, the film turns the tables on Office Space; this time, we side with the boss (Jason Bateman) trying to deal with his blue-collar workers. As was the case with Office Space, Judge found inspiration in his own experience. “When Beavis and Butt-head started, I went from never having had anyone work for me to having lots and lots of people working for me,” Judge recalls. “You know, when you try to be the nice boss, people try to take advantage of you.”
But why an extract factory? Judge suddenly loosens up, sounding very much like a guy shootin’ the breeze by the back fence over a beer. “South of Austin, there used to be an Adams Extract company. And that was the kind of vanilla extract I remember we had in our house growing up. I was with a Realtor looking at houses once and he points to a really fancy house and says, ‘That’s where the Adams Extract people live.’ I really liked the way the factory looked….”
But beyond childhood memories, Judge says, “When I would tell people that [Extract] is set at a place that makes vanilla extract, they’d start laughing. I figured I was ahead of the game a little.” And then he’s off again, into another story delivered in his slow, rolling style. “But also, um, you know, I just kind of like bottling factories and places that mass-produce food. A friend of mine had a really small version of it where he was making low-fat salad dressings for a while, and he had a little bit of a mini assembly-line thing in a little warehouse in Austin. And then also, when I was a musician, I played with this guy, Anson Funderburgh. Well, Anson Funderburgh and Sam Myers, they were sponsored by Miller Genuine Draft, and so they would fly us up there and we’d see the bottling factory. I just kind of like the way that stuff looks, and I haven’t seen a movie in a bottling factory in a while. Well, I guess there was Laverne & Shirley. It’s kind of a cool setup.”
It’s hard to reconcile this folksy reminiscence with the Mike Judge who criticized MTV’s handling of the Beavis and Butt-head DVD, and took 20th Century Fox to task over the marketing of Office Space and the dumping of Idiocracy with virtually no advertising. He’s even talked about his dislike for some King of the Hill episodes from a period when he was less involved with the show.
When we bring up his rocky history with Hollywood studios, he gets reflective. “It comes out that way in an interview, but I always say that Office Space was a hard thing to market, so I don’t really blame [20th Century Fox] about that. And Idiocracy also didn’t test well. I actually don’t think they made such a bad decision, because it is catching on and making money the way Office Space did on DVD. If you want to make movies or TV shows, you’re choosing the most expensive art form there is and you gotta take people’s money and they’re nervous about it and you can’t blame them. I try and I try to not come off as a whiner, but it never comes out that way when it gets printed.” Not this time, Mike.
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