Bateman, Day and Sudeikis in “Horrible Bosses.” (John P. Johnson)

At first, talking to the stars of the movie “Horrible Bosses” — Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day — via conference call sounded like a fine idea. In theory.

Then I got the three guys on the phone, all of whom spoke to me on a recent Saturday from the same hotel suite during their New York press tour. Let’s just say things started to go awry.

As I put it in a Style story I wrote abut the film, it played out like pretty much every conference call in the history of offices: “At least one person can’t hear, the intended tone behind some comments fails to convey and nothing of consequence gets accomplished.”

Our conversation about the film — in which they play a trio of beleaguered employees who decide to bump off their respective horrendous supervisors (played by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell) — began like this.

Chaney: Did any of your characters have workplaces with human resources departments? Because it seems like they would have been a good place to consult.

Bateman: That would come from three bright characters. These guys are not that smart and so, um —

Recording of a woman’s voice interrupts: HAS JOINED THE CONFERENCE

Bateman: — make it a, uh —

Recording of a woman’s voice interrupts again: HAS JOINED THE CONFERENCE

Bateman: Hello?

Chaney: Yeah, this woman is announcing that we’ve all joined the conference.

Bateman: Can you still hear us?

Chaney: I can hear you just fine.

Sudeikis: I can’t hear anything.

Bateman, to Chaney: It’s tough to hear you.

Chaney, borderline shouting: IS THIS BETTER?

Day: That’s much better.

Eventually I switched gears and decided to test their workplace ethics by asking them to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, how reprehensible they consider certain office conduct. Here’s how that went.

Chaney: Using a co-worker’s coffee mug without asking first. How bad is that?

Bateman: Now is 10 your worst, or is one your worst?

Chaney: One is not that bad, 10 is your worst.

Bateman: All right. Repeat the question, please.

Day: It was using a co-worker’s coffee mug.

Chaney: Yeah, like picking up a coffee mug off of someone else’s desk and just using it.

Day: I’m going to say that’s one or a two. I mean, that could be an honest mistake.

Bateman: Well, hang on. Is the person’s herpes active or is it dormant?

Chaney: Uh, it’s dormant.

Bateman: I give it a five.

Day: That’s right down the middle for Bateman.

Chaney: Jason Sudeikis?

Sudeikis: I drink tea.

Day: He can’t relate.

Chaney: Second one: taking credit for work that a colleague actually did.

Bateman: Taking credit for work that a colleague did...

Day: That’s pretty bad.

Bateman: That’s top 10 for me.

Day: Yeah, that’s up there for me, too. Sudeikis is nodding. And he’s chewing.

Chaney: Oh, okay. Chewing is an 8, I guess. Next one: sending a false e-mail from a co-worker’s account — going into their e-mail and sending a message as if you were them.


Day, getting harassed by Aniston. (John P. Johnson/AP)

Day: I mean, these seem like pretty despicable things to do. Do you do this stuff?

Chaney: No, I’m just working on the script for “Horrible Bosses 2,” so a lot of this is coming from that.

Bateman: I’d give that one a 1 or a 2. The e-mail I’m imagining has got some adorable emoticons on it and uh--

Day: It depends on the e-mail, I guess.

Bateman: — it’s a shout-out.


Colin Farrell, giving Sudeikis the business. (John P. Johnson/AP)

Chaney: This one is pretty benign: calling in sick when you’re not sick but just want to go to a baseball game?

Bateman: That’s a Ferris Offense.

Chaney: Yeah, it is a Ferris Offense. That’s the official name.

Bateman: I throw the Ferris Bueller flag on that.

Day: It really depends on what your job is. Like, if you’re supposed to deliver someone’s baby, that’s up there.

Chaney: Is Sudeikis nodding again?

Sudeikis: What’s that?

Chaney: I just asked if Jason was nodding again.

Sudeikis: Nodding off.

Chaney: I’m sorry.

Sudeikis: It’s been a long day. Sorry.

Chaney: I’ll just do a couple more of these. I don’t want to put Jason Sudeikis to sleep.

Sudeikis: Don’t start worrying about me, now.


Bateman vs. Spacey. (John P. Johnson/AP)

Chaney: Dating somebody who used to date your boss: How bad is that?

Day: Dating somebody who used to date your boss...

Bateman: I’d give that a zero.

Day: That’s not a problem.

Chaney: Okay. And this last one is more directed at Jason Bateman — being a manager who karaokes inappropriately with his own niece during a company holiday party.

Bateman: You know, that was the one [“Arrested Development”] episode I directed.

Chaney: Was it?

Bateman: Yep. “Afternoon Delight.”

Chaney: So I guess you don’t think it’s that bad.

Bateman: If you’re speaking about the episode, I would say no. It was tip-top.

Chaney: It was. Absolutely.

Bateman: The offense? Listen, as long as all hands are above the table, continue singing.