Writer/director Mike Judge, the man
behind both Beavis and Butt-head and Office Space,
recently caught up with Paste about his new movie Extract,
which comes out today (Sept. 4). Ever the busy guy, Judge also spoke
of his little-known collaboration with Oscar-winning animator Don
Hertzfeldt and the idea of making a film version of another of his many creations, King of the
Extract: It’s kind of an off-the-wall thing to want to
center a film around.
Mike Judge: [laughs] It’s a
funny thing, you know. I like the way those buildings look. I like
the old Butterkrust Bread factory. I just like watching the machinery
go. It’s fun to look at. So, I wanted to do something that was in
one of those kind of places. And when I would tell people that it’s
about a guy who owns a factory that makes vanilla extract, they’d
start laughing. I guess it’s like an odd item that’s there in the
grocery store but you don’t think about it too much. I wrote this
kind of imagining a lot of it. Then I went and toured the factory. I
was really pleased with how much I had gotten right. At the end of
one of the assembly lines there was this woman sitting there, a kind
of bossy, older woman. They introduced me and she just scowled, which
was exactly what I had imagined with Mary, the character in the
We all know that person.
Judge: Yeah, I’ve known I few
of them. The place where we shot in L.A., they make flavored water.
If you were going to do that guy’s life story you’d get Jason
Bateman to play it. The guy who started it as a business model in
college and he’s now about 40.
You wrote this not long after Office Space?
Extract has more of a blue collar feel to it.
Judge: Yeah. To me there’s
just as many archetype characters in the blue collar world as in the
cubicle world, and I wanted to do something with that and then at the
same time have it be sympathetic to the boss, to the owner, instead
of the other way around. Because after working so many jobs, I
didn’t become successful in animation until I was pushing 30.
Suddenly I had 50 to 90 people working for me at any given time. And
when you try to be a nice boss you get taken advantage of. I started
getting sympathetic toward all my old bosses. Like, oh, okay, now I
get it. To me [Extract] is a good companion piece to Office Space.
I’d like to think it’s a bookend.
In talking about Mary and some of the other characters, did you get
the people you wanted right from the get-go?
Judge: Not from the get-go, but
I’m happy with the cast. I drive casting directors crazy. I’m
pretty meticulous about that. Like, on Office Space, there were some of
these roles that I didn’t get until the last second. You know, like
the cheery waiter guy in Office Space? I drove everyone crazy cause
we were looking at, literally, like a hundred people in L.A. and
You didn’t get him until the last minute?
Judge: The very last minute. He
was on the TV show Barney. [laughs] That’s what I want.
These are very specific characters. Stuff like this and Office Space
lives or dies on that because it’s not so much jokes; it’s just
about characters being funny.
One of your buddies that you do The Animation Show with, Don Hertzfeldt—it struck me today
that you guys have never actually made anything together, have you?
Judge: No, no, um... If you look
on his website, he did a pretty funny thing. It’s probably the
closest thing to a collaboration. It’s really hard to find. It’s
on his page where he has this random stuff everywhere. You click on
the word “Botany” and “Botany 2.” Believe it or not, there’s
an action figure made of my character that I did in Spy Kids. And I
took a bunch of weird pictures of it with my venus flyTrap I had at
the time. Then he took more pictures and he did this crazy, like
you kind of have to see it. Starting out it was going to be a live
webcam on my venus flytrap, with my action figure—almost like a
comic strip. I think it’s pretty funny. Everyone I show it to likes
A King of the Hill film: Has that ever been talked about?
Judge: It may have been talked
about but I don’t think that will ever happen. It was discussed for
a while. I think there’s something about King of the Hill. I
think some things make sense for a movie. I think The Simpsons
made sense for a movie. I mean, obviously it made a lot of dollars
and cents. It’s kind of like, would you make a Seinfeld
movie? Would you make an Andy Griffith movie? I don’t know.
Maybe someday someone will figure out something. It just didn’t
seem right to me. Maybe down the road something will pop.
I love the show, but I thought it wouldn’t last because the rest of
the country [beyond Texas] is not going to get this. Shows you how
wrong I was.
Judge: When I was playing as a
musician on the road, you realize anywhere where there are white guys
and engines and stuff there’s a similar vibe. Whether it’s Iowa
or even the far suburbs of San Francisco, you have truck drivers and
propane and things that are kind of similar.