SXSW Interview: Kathryn Hahn (Bad Words)


This was my first time covering the SXSW festival, so I was very nervous. My first big press job was to sit in a roundtable interview (where a bunch of press folks get to interview an actor/actress) with Kathryn Hahn for her film, Bad Words. Thankfully as the interview went on, I had no reason to be nervous as Hahn was energetic, fun, and full of humor. 

During our roundtable we discussed curse words, Hahn’s favorite curse word, what it’s like to wor for your friend, and the dynamics of the two sex scenes Bateman and Hahn share together. 

Is it okay to look at you while we ask questions? 

Kathryn Hahn (KH): No! Please avoid eye contact. Don’t look at me.

I have to ask, was that somehow drawn from personal experience?

KH: That’s from the sicko mind of Andrew Dodge,  our writer. That was kind of the parameters of the sex scene. Her saying “Don’t look at me!”

When you’re looking at that in the script, you’re thinking “Oh my god, I can’t wait” to do that.

KH: Cannot wait. I knew it was going to be twice. And I knew also that with Bateman that it was going to be a beautiful launching pad for us to kind of fill it out. Which I think happened. Very, very funny. And I love that every time he looks at her, she just has to start completely over. Literally from the very beginning. 

Was that also one of those things that while you’re shooting it, you’re trying it in a variety of different ways of doing that?

KH: I mean, we shot in a practical janitor’s closet at the lovely Sportsman’s Lodge in Burbank, California. In the parameters of that, there’s like six of us in there, so there wasn’t a lot of room for trying different positions. We knew that were stuck in a very “Ye Olde Missionary.” But you know, Andrew Dodge wrote such a crazy tight, economic gem that there really wasn’t a ton that we had to do. I think that would’ve diffused what was there. 

Jason mentioned you guys have a personal friendship, and how that could make that scene pretty awkward.

KH: Yeah! So I really was like “Don’t look at me! If you look at me, I’m going to break, and we’ll never get it back!” But we had a pillow between us, a few pillows. 

Is that how you got on to the project in the first place? 

KH: Yes. We’ve been friendly for a couple of years. I adore him, huge crush on his wife. I knew when the script was sent to me, that whatever he decided was going to be his first time out as a feature director was going to be something special. I’ve always just trusted his taste. I just think as an audience member, I’m always checking in with Jason Bateman on screen because I just know that is where the brains are. I just know his POV I trust. 

That dynamic of working with an actor and a director, but then adding friend into that as well. You don’t ever want your friend to be your boss. 

KH: It sounds so cliche, but it was a ball. You can tell that he was having the time of his life. I think he was saying in a interview that he had done so much prep work, so that he armed himself with, that by the time we had started shooting, he was so calm, so comfortable. It would be very hard not to micromanage. I could imagine your first time out to bat, especially with a world that is so specific. He created such a visual, tonal world, it would’ve been very difficult to just relax have you not done all the work up until that point. 

Obvious question here, talk about your own spelling bee experiences, good or bad. 

KH: Awful. I never did an actual spelling bee, but I took Latin in high school. So I thought I had a leg up on the root words, so I can usually did a root word out of something but not every good at spelling. 

Were you familiar with any of the words? 

KH: Nougat. Very familiar with nougat. 


There’s a lot of cursing in this film. Some people might say “The classier the woman, the less they curse.” Do you agree with that?

KH: No. I like a broad! 

What are some of the life situations that would get you to start letting them fly?

KH: Anything, name your poison! I love a swear word, I really do. But again because I have the two peanuts at home, gotta edit yourself big time because they take it all in.

Do you have a favorite swear word? 

KH: A favorite child, yes. 


KH: I love just a simple “fuck.”


KH: That was so horrible to actually say that out loud, but that’s true. In a pinch guys, it covers a lot of it. I grew up in Ohio, I don’t know if this is particular to my parents, but there was a lot of “Oh, poop on a stick!” When you almost just wish they had let it fly, so it would’ve been a little less embarrassing. 

What do you like about playing characters that are a bit shameless, and you seem to have a couple of those under your belt, what about that sort of thing do you like about this movie? 

KH: I’m a fan of bite in comedy. As a character, comedy or drama, it doesn’t matter the genre  to me. I like a woman that’s on the edge of an abyss. A precipice. I’m always just interested in exploring that leap into the unknown.