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Jason Bateman: First time-director, Toronto hit

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm •  Published: September 8, 2013

TORONTO (AP) — Actors making their first stab at directing are mainstays at festivals, often never heard from again. That is not the case for Jason Bateman.

Over the weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival, Bateman premiered his spelling bee comedy "Bad Words," a foul-mouthed R-rated riot. Just hours after it had festivalgoers roaring with laughter, it was picked up for distribution by Focus Features, with Universal Pictures distributing internationally.

"It was exactly what I would have scripted," says Bateman. "It was pretty surreal to see such a long dream come true."

Bateman's career has already undergone several evolutions, from child star to an "Arrested Development"-powered comeback. His next chapter, he hopes, will be as a director.

"I want to be able not to act," Bateman said in an interview. "My ambition is true."

The film, from a script by first-time screenwriter Andrew Dodge, is about a 40-year-old man (Bateman) who enters a national spelling bee with uncertain motives for sabotaging the children's contest. For Bateman, so often the mild-mannered straight man in the middle of chaotic stories, it's a cathartic shift into a darker comic personality.

He plays a man on a questionable and mysterious mission, with no patience to explain himself or coddle his younger competitors. He calls one 10-year-old Indian boy (Rohan Chand) "Shawarma" and "Slumdog." And that's just what's printable. In the quaint spelling bee environs, Bateman is a cruel but hilarious villain.

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