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The Untold Truth Of Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman has been a Hollywood name for more than four decades now, and in that time he seems to have transformed multiple times. He went from child star to teen heartthrob to troubled partier all before age 30. Then in the last two decades, starting with "Arrested Development" in 2003, Bateman has emerged as a bigger star than ever. He has proven himself to a master at both comedy and drama, TV and film, acting and directing. He also seems pretty darn cool.

Before "Arrested Development," Bateman was best known for his television work in shows such as "Little House on the Prairie," "Silver Spoons," "The Hogan Family," and a lot of failed sitcoms. He was also in a few films, most notably the "Teen Wolf" sequel, "Teen Wolf Too." Since his cultural rebranding, Bateman's movie career has skyrocketed. This has included dramas like "The Kingdom" and "The Gift," dramadies like "Juno" and "Up in the Air," and many comedies, like "Couples Retreat," "Horrible Bosses," and "Identity Thief," to name a few.

In 2017, Bateman started playing money launderer Marty Byrde in Netflix's smash hit "Ozark," a role that is certainly among his most memorable. Not only has "Ozark" earned Bateman his first Screen Actors Guild Award (two, actually) and his first Primetime Emmy Award (for directing, not acting), but it has also allowed his fame to reach even greater heights. Still, there is much to learn about this Hollywood bigwig. Here is the untold truth of Jason Bateman.

He started acting in commercials at age 10

His overwhelming success as an adult might make it easy to forget Jason Bateman was a child actor, but many who watched TV in the 1980s remember him well as David Hogan on "The Hogan Family" with Valerie Harper and later Sandy Duncan. But it is not actually in TV shows where Bateman started. According to The Guardian, Bateman began his career in a Golden Grahams commercial back in 1980, when he was 11. Another account is that it actually began with a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial at age 10, which was uncovered on an episode of "Late Show with David Letterman."

Regardless of whether he was 10 or 11, and cereal of choice notwithstanding, Bateman was convinced that acting was the right path for him at an incredibly young age. "When I had an opportunity to become an actor, just starting out doing commercials, I jumped at it. And once I was on a set, I started asking questions and watching crew members work to create kind of this fake life," he told NPR in a 2020 interview. Per Variety, Bateman signed with the Dorothy Day Otis/Jack Rose Agency when he was 10, and the rest fell into place shortly thereafter.

His love of film was cultivated by his father

We all know that Jason Bateman is not the only thespian in his family. He is brother to Justine Bateman, who shot to fame herself as a teenager when she starred as Mallory Keaton on "Family Ties." Lesser known to the general public is that Kent Bateman, Jason and Justine's father, was also in the business. According to IMDb, Kent has a handful of directing credits, including four episodes of "The Hogan Family," then known as "Valerie," and one episode of "Family Ties." He also has some writing and producing credits and, unsurprisingly, served as an executive producer on his son's movie "Teen Wolf Too."

Though Kent was not especially successful, Jason credits him with inspiring his love of the screen. "My father was a director and producer so when I was a little kid he would take me to movies and show me what's good and what's not good and why, and often that would take me to a conversation about directing," he told The Guardian in 2014. He again discussed his father taking him to the movies in an NPR interview, explaining that their outings took the place of more "typical" father-son activities like playing catch. Around age 20, Bateman fired his father as his manager (per NJ.com), and while we hope it was because of increased opportunities and not any bad blood, USA Today once described their relationship as "off-and-on" -– so that can't be good.

He was inspired by Michael Landon

Jason Bateman may have a complicated relationship with his own dad, but there is one TV father he has only ever spoken highly of — Michael Landon, who played patriarch Charles Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie." The series was Bateman's first big gig after his commercial work, and he appeared in 21 episodes across Seasons 7 and 8 of the original show (in 1981 and 1982). Bateman played James Cooper Ingalls, one of the adopted children of Charles and his wife Caroline (Karen Grassle). The entire experience had an impact on Bateman, who has recalled its positivity. "The way in which everybody functioned was very familial. It was a warm place, and I remember in the few years that followed, when I would end up on sets that were less functional," he said in a 2017 Variety interview.

In particular, Bateman has praised Michael Landon's approach to work, which he once told The Guardian included no yelling whatsoever. He seems to have incorporated this experience into his own approach when he leads. "Michael Landon was somebody who had a huge influence on me in the way he led that set as a director, as an exec producer, as a writer and actor and as somewhat of a father figure for me," he told Variety. Calling Landon the "George Clooney of that time," Bateman added, "The crew loved him, the industry loved him, guys wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him."

Bateman first directed as a teen

Jason Bateman is now an acclaimed director, having won a Primetime Emmy Award for his work on "Ozark" at the 2019 ceremony. He was also nominated for a directing Emmy in 2018, and for Outstanding Directional Achievement in Dramatic Series at the 2021 Directors Guild of America Awards. Though Bateman has garnered much notice for his direction on "Ozark," this is far from his first foray into the field. He was a teenager the first time he stepped behind the camera, directing three episodes of "The Hogan Family" while starring on the show (though IMDb dates do not align with his firsthand account of being 18). 

"It was a few years into that show so I definitely felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of people that liked me," he said in a conversation with Judd Apatow, published in Variety. "My curiosity about what a director does was always something that was really interesting to me." Despite that curiosity, Bateman did not direct again until the late 1990s, starting with an episode of "Family Matters" and, a couple of years later, a few episodes of other programs. He has directed one episode of "Arrested Development," two episodes of "The Outsider," and 10 episodes of "Ozark," all of which are shows he has also acted in. Bateman has two movies under his belt as well, 2013's "Bad Words" and 2015's "The Family Fang." He starred in both.

He hosts an acclaimed podcast with two famous friends

If you have ever seen or read a Jason Bateman interview, you have probably noticed his dry sense of humor and quick wit. These qualities are at full force on his podcast, "Smartless," which he hosts with two of his famous friends, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. Arnett and Bateman appeared together on "Arrested Development" and are known to be incredibly close. Arnett and Hayes also starred on a show together, "The Millers," but first met when Arnett guested on "Will and Grace" back in 2004. Per the Hollywood Reporter, it was around that time that the three of them began getting together for poker parties.

"We just thought it'd be a really fun way for us to take what we do all the time, which is just goof around, and bring other people into it who were more interesting than us," Arnett told The Hollywood Reporter about the podcast, shortly after its debut. Unsurprisingly, there is killer chemistry from the three hilarious men with decades of friendship under their belt. Since its debut in June 2020, "Smartless" has skyrocketed in popularity — so much so that Apple acquired the podcast for $80 million (per Bloomberg) and Discovery+ is filming a docuseries that will follow the hosts on a six-city tour (per Deadline).

Bateman never finished high school

Like many child actors, Jason Bateman's career forced him to grow up quickly and intensified as he became the biggest breadwinner in his home. In fact, by the time they were teenagers, Bateman and his sister were financially supporting their family. In a 2008 interview with USA Today, the actor detailed the stress that this put on his home life and the dynamics within the family unit. "I don't think there are many people who would say that was a healthy situation," Bateman said. One other consequence of Bateman's career was that it was not exactly complimentary to his schooling. Bateman has no college diploma and, somewhat surprisingly, did not even graduate high school.

"During finals of my senior year, we were shooting 'Teen Wolf Too,' and the workload was such that I couldn't take two of my four finals," Bateman explained to Jennifer Aniston in a video for Wired. "So they didn't give me my diploma." It seems as though kid thespians go one of two routes -– they either disengage from academics early on like Bateman, or they end up at a fancy Ivy League school. Natalie Portman went to Harvard, Brooke Shields to Princeton, and Jodie Foster to Yale. Bateman? Well, he just went back to work. While we are thankful for the art he has given us, Bateman often speaks of missing out on the college experience on his podcast, "Smartless." 

He has been married for over 20 years

Jason Bateman has been married for over 20 years, no small feat in general and one giant milestone in Hollywood. Bateman's wife is Amanda Anka, daughter of Canadian singer Paul Anka, who is famous for hits like "Lonely Boy," "Puppy Love," and "Put Your Head on my Shoulder." Like Bateman, his wife is also an actor, though her success has been limited. Anka has 27 credits listed on her IMDb page, but many of them are glorified walk-on roles like "party guest" and "Joe's wife." Her career seems to have peaked with three episodes of "Beverly Hills, 90210" in 1996.

According to US Weekly, Bateman and Anka met at a hockey game in 1987 but did not start dating until a decade later. They wed four years after that. "I thought, if I only wanted to get married once, I should probably marry a friend," Bateman told the Daily Telegraph. "I just waited until I found a girl that really was that in my life." Bateman and Anka share two daughters, Franny and Maple, and Bateman has repeatedly praised his wife in public for the work that she does keeping the family whole. "She's got a full-time career herself and she's able to be an incredible mom, and she's also almost a full-time dad too because I'm out of town so much," he said backstage at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2019 (per People).

He partied hard in his 20s

Like many child actors before and after him, Jason Bateman went a little off the rails once he was old enough to buy into his own fame. This period of time –- which a profile in The Guardian referred to as his "lost decade" –- coincided with a downturn in his popularity and was filled with partying and substance abuse. "It was like 'Risky Business' for 10 years," Bateman once said in an interview with Details magazine (per Access). "I'd worked so hard that by the time I was 20, I wanted to play hard. And I did that really well."

Bateman eventually started going to Alcoholics Anonymous after an ultimatum from his wife, though he told Details he was not in a place where he felt he needed rehab despite engaging in alcohol and "some blow." But even after getting sober, getting back to work was not exactly an easy sell. "I'd lost my place in line in the business," he told The Guardian. "It was a case of trying to claw that back towards the end of the 90s, and not getting a lot of great responses."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Arrested Development reinvigorated Bateman's career

Bateman achieved the kind of success as a child that most actors will never find, but the transition from teenage to adult roles was a difficult one for the thespian. While he never stopped working, Bateman's 20s and early 30s were mostly filled with failed television shows and TV movies with titles like "Hart to Hart: Secret of the Hart" and "Confessions: Two Faces of Evil." None of his many series -– "Simon," "Chicago Sons," "George and Leo," "Some of My Best Friends" — lasted more than a season, and he only appeared in three feature films for all of the 1990s. "You hit those valleys sometimes and it's really frustrating," he told NJ.com in an interview. "It's like getting stuck in traffic on the freeway. But there's not much you can do about it."

Bateman's luck changed when he landed a lead role in the sitcom "Arrested Development," which first aired on Fox from 2003 to 2006 and was later revived by Netflix. He credits the show with giving his career a much-needed resurgence. "If that show hadn't come along, I don't know what I'd be doing today," he told Variety. "I was so appreciative that I had another whack at employment, then I just scrutinized my choices a little bit deeper and, as I knock wood, I'm still going."

He likes playing the straight man

Jason Bateman has 93 acting credits to his name, per his IMDb profile, but very few of these roles are showy, peculiar characters. Bateman's strength is in playing the everyman, the character onto whom the audience can project itself. "These more eccentric characters ... as funny as they're being, I have to be equally still, because I'm the audience," he told The Guardian. Bateman has also confessed to enjoying being the "straight man" because it allows him to be in more scenes.

The everyman is a role Bateman often fills in dramas as well. Even when playing a money launderer like "Ozark" dad Marty Byrde, he gravitates toward understatement and moderation in his portrayal. "My taste in acting right now is I really appreciate actors that do as little as possible as opposed to some actors are fantastic at being big and playing these eccentric characters," he explained in an interview with Gold Derby. "I'm just not one of those actors."

He once had an unfortunate accident in a greenroom

Most people would probably tell only a handful of others their embarrassing poop accident story, if that. But Jason Bateman has never been and will never be most people, so the actor shamelessly recounted one of his most unfortunate plights on his podcast. It all went down when late night host Stephen Colbert visited "Smartless." Colbert did not mince words when he sized Bateman up as a talk show guest, saying that while Bateman was a "pleasant" enough visitor, he could also come across as "a little hostile." Well, it turns out that Bateman had a pretty decent reason for not being on his A-game — a gastrointestinal disaster that occurred just minutes before airtime.

"Let me explain the hostility the last time I was on your show," Bateman started, before launching into the full story of how he misjudged some flatulence when trying to pass gas to make his suit less tight. With a makeup artist waiting outside the door of his bathroom-less dressing room, Bateman had few options at his disposal, so he submerged his underwear in a trashcan. "Suit's still tight, I'm now in commando, I'm not feeling great about myself," he explained. "And I sit down, and we do our interview and that is the reason why I was less than chatty."

He chooses roles based on the talent involved

A lot of younger actors are really concerned with what is in the script, but seasoned professionals like Jason Bateman know that you can only tell so much from what is on the page. Like many experienced thespians, Bateman is equally concerned with the talent as he is with the content. "I just look for who's involved. It's not about the script: it's about who the director is and who the other people in the cast are," Bateman said in an interview with The Guardian.

He continued, "You can look at a great script and execute it in a very sophomoric way, and you can look at an OK script and you can execute it in a very sophisticated way and come out with something really good." This is something Bateman knows well, as he has had not only big hits but also major flops. The refreshing thing about him, however, is that he is open to admitting when something just does not translate for audiences. On the "WTF Podcast with Marc Maron," Bateman once referred to "Horrible Bosses 2" as "garbage at the box office" and asked whether audiences actually cared about watching the sequel. The movie made over $107 million worldwide (per Box Office Mojo), so someone cared, but it certainly was not the critics. The film has a 35% Tomatometer score on Rotten Tomatoes.

He is not directing any of Ozark's final season

It's arguably a travesty that Jason Bateman has yet to win a Primetime Emmy Award for acting, given how fantastic he has been on "Ozark" and "Arrested Development." While there is still time for him to win for the former, it's good that he has already earned an Emmy for his directing on "Ozark," since Season 3 turned out to be his final time behind the camera. Bateman has opted not to direct any episodes for the show's fourth and final season. 

Bateman's hesitation to direct any Season 4 episodes had nothing to do with a lack of desire and everything to do with a global pandemic. "I just felt like it would be most responsible to leave the directing to someone whose entire job is directing, in the event we have to pivot for certain things," he explained in an interview with Variety. "Plus, it might leave me more exposed to get COVID, and if one of the actors gets it we have to go home for weeks." According to a different interview with Gold Derby, Bateman has purposefully chosen to direct the first two episodes of each "Ozark" season up until now. His interview may leave readers with a sliver of hope that Bateman may direct the series finale when the show returns for part two of Season 4, but that — like the fate of the Byrde family — remains hidden for now.