'Extract' Gets 'Office Space' Boss Mike Judge Back in Business

By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mike Judge planned to step out of the office only briefly. Instead, he disappeared from his desk for a decade.

Back in 1999, Judge -- the creator of such immortal animated characters as Beavis, Butt-head and Hank Hill -- attempted his first live-action feature film, based on his own workplace experience. Judge's hot streak suddenly came to a halt: His cubicle-life comedy "Office Space" -- given little hype or studio "flair" -- flopped at the box office, prompting Fox execs to tell him, in effect: You're talented, but maybe this live-action comedy isn't quite your thing.

Bummed, Judge shelved his prospective follow-up film -- "Extract," another workplace comedy, but one that traded in the white collars for blue. "I was already writing 'Extract' when 'Office Space' came out," he recalls.

But a funny thing happened on the way back to the animation studio: Slowly -- be it by TV, DVD or Netflix -- fans gradually turned "Office Space" into a hit, as Milton, Lumbergh and the Bobs became increasingly noted and quoted. Judge was redeemed. And the long-mothballed "Extract" finally hits theaters on Friday.

During the "Office Space" shoot, Judge says, "I thought: 'I was born to do this.' But when it came out and didn't do so well, I thought: 'I was born to do something that no one wants to see.' "

Now, as Mila Kunis, who stars in "Extract," says of the celebrated office satire, "it gets better every time you watch it."

That success finally brought the filmmaker back to the workplace, with his factory-set comedy that also stars Jason Bateman and Ben Affleck.

"I think of 'Extract' almost as a companion piece to 'Office Space,' " says the filmmaker, speaking a couple of days after the new movie's red-carpet premiere in the sauna that is Austin in August. ("The studio thought it would be a good idea to have it there," he says. "And I got to see my [hometown] friends.")

Thanks largely to "Office Space," Kunis -- who's been busy with such films as "Max Payne" and the upcoming "The Book of Eli" with Denzel Washington -- didn't need any prodding to work with Judge.

"I've been a fan of his for a long time," says Kunis, the former "That '70s Show" actress whose comic skills have been on display in such works as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and as a voice actor on Fox's "Family Guy." "As soon as I heard Mike Judge wrote it, I said: 'Sign me up.' We have a similar sense of humor -- very dry."

"Extract" returns Judge -- who in 2006 came out with the broader social satire "Idiocracy" -- to a genre in which he became comfortable and confident.

"I feel like in the blue-collar factory setting, there's the same kind of recognizable but unique characters in that world as in cubicles," the filmmaker says. "A friend of mine was working in a parts warehouse and [described the floor employees]. He said there was a woman, 65 years old, sitting on a stool wearing a Tweety Bird T-shirt and a fanny pack. And I said, 'I've seen that exact same type of worker.' "

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