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What Jason Bateman Would Be Doing If Ozark Failed

It would be a stretch to say that Ozark was a make-or-break situation for Jason Bateman. He's been a television and movie star for decades, and has been working in Hollywood since he was a child. He would have been fine without the Netflix hit. Still, there's no denying that Bateman would be on a different track if his blue-hued rural crime drama had tanked — or not happened at all.

In an interview with Collider, Bateman engaged in the hypothetical. He turned to his recent directorial work on HBO's Stephen King adaptation The Outsider, saying that he would have been able to oversee the entire production if it weren't for his ongoing commitment to Ozark.

"I would have done probably every other episode just simply because you can't do them all, from a prep standpoint," he said. "But I would have been on that set every single day like I am on Ozark and overseeing the whole thing."

What Jason Bateman has learned about directing from Ozark

Bateman didn't see this alternate timeline all the way through, of course. Ozark was a proving ground, showing that he could fill the role of showrunner and giving him a relationship with The Outsider's production company MRC. It's unlikely that he would be given the leeway to direct and star in a series like Outsider had Ozark not proven to be a hit. 

Bateman has been very vocal about the learning experience of Ozark, however, and that continued in this interview. For one, he admitted that he could not direct all of the episodes. Bateman famously planned to direct every installment of Ozark's first season, only relenting when the schedule proved impossible. But beyond accepting those limitations, Bateman said he learned how to drill down on technical aspects of filming. He learned where to make the quiet parts loud and where to let other ideas simmer in the background. 

"Having gone through two years at that point on Ozark really helped me fine-tune some of the things I was experimenting with and I just got more knowledgeable and a little bit more courageous with some things and then more subtle with other things," he explained. "When you're looking to kind of create these aesthetic worlds for an audience, there are obviously different levers you can pull... You really can't figure out where great is (versus good) until you go through the process with all your trusted colleagues."

The one trick that Bateman can't master

Although he's gotten better with practice, Bateman admits that he has one glaring weakness when it comes to directing. Namely, he struggles with giving his actors specific directions for how to read a scene. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he noted that he gives a remarkable amount of free reign to the actors under him. 

"I might be the worst at directing an actor. I just have so much respect for the actors' right to play the character the way they want to play it," he said. "I have a very, very light touch when directing an actor. I'm assuming they're doing the best job they can. I'm assuming that they're playing the part the way they want to play it."

Bateman told Collider that he focuses heavily on the blocking and composition of scenes, while allowing his camera operators wiggle room to make things better. He shared that he tells his camera crew to be open about their possible improvements: "If you have a better version of that, then please plus it." And that freedom is clearly working, as fans can't get enough of the final product.