‘Game Night’s’ Kyle Chandler game for comedy challenge

Kyle Chandler stars in “Game Night.” (Warner Bros. Entertainment/AP)
Kyle Chandler stars in “Game Night.” (Warner Bros. Entertainment/AP)

Kyle Chandler’s latest movie, “Game Night,” has him playing the older half of a pair of siblings — the other portrayed by Jason Bateman — who have been competitive all their lives. The older brother has dominated their rivalry even to the point of changing what has been a rather mundane weekly get-together to play board and parlor games into a kidnap mystery game. The comedy comes from how that fake abduction turns real.

Dealing with the competition part of the role came easy to Chandler. He grew up with two older brothers and an older sister who not only bested him in every game, but also often compelled to toss Chandler around the room like an old Monopoly shoe.

“Most of my childhood, I was tortured by them,” Chandler says. “I wasn’t allowed to play many games, but my older brothers did throw me around like a football. My sister is seven years older than me and did some really horrible things to me that I can’t talk about because I think they were illegal and legal action will be taken.”

Chandler sounds like he’s joking, but there’s enough competitive spirit in him that he has at least thought about how to get some revenge on his siblings. In a tone that sounds like an evil master criminal detailing his scheme, Chandler talks about the plans he had drawn up to help him get back at his brothers and sisters. The only thing holding him back is “getting enough money to buy the equipment and vehicles he needs to put the plan forward. I’ll get them back.”

All joking aside, Chandler felt nothing but support from his family — especially his siblings — when he decided to leave rural Georgia to go to Hollywood to work on his acting career. His big break came with the TV series “Tour of Duty,” and he’s worked steadily since then, including the new comedy film.

In “Game Night,” it’s Bateman’s character that is out of balance with his competitiveness. He and his wife, Annie (Rachel McAdams), have been holding weekly game night battles with friends. The other regulars include Ryan (Billy Magnussen) and his date, Sarah (Sharon Horgan), along with the couple of Kevin (Lamorne Morris) and Michelle (Kylie Bunbury). Before the night is over, the players will have to rob a gangster, take a bullet, defeat professional hit men, break every driving rule and avoid death multiple times.

Competition — a less physical version — became even more a part of Chandler’s life when he decided to make acting his career choice. Every time he went into an audition, Chandler had to compete with everyone else who wanted the part. Even when he landed a role, there was the challenge to do his best so the next round of competition would grow easier.

“Competition is just part of being an actor,” Chandler says. “I don’t think anyone can get this far in the business I am in and not be competitive. It just doesn’t work. As far as with stupid games we play with our spouses or family or anyone, you’re damn right I’m competitive.

“I am the best loser in the world because I generally lose at everything but I am an even worse winner. I will brag and I will rub it in your nose. Even my kids will tell you that.”

There’s a slight echo of sarcasm in Chandler’s voice when he talks about his competitive spirit. In a more serious tone, he suggests having a competitive drive can be good because it shows that even when things go bad, there generally is something good to be found. The key, adds Chandler, is to find the balance.

Landing the role on “Game Night” helped Chandler find some balance in his acting career. The film gives him the rare opportunity to do comedy. Chandler has had so much success with dramas like “Bloodline,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Argo” and “Friday Night Lights” (that earned him a 2011 Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series).

“I love comedy. Early in my career I got to do a few roles like ‘Homefront’ and ‘Early Edition,’ where I got to mix in some of the characters that I grew up watching like the Jimmy Stewarts and Cary Grants who would do screwball comedies,” Chandler says. “I just loved that timing and the dance they would play.

“But, mostly, I played dramatic roles where people would see this character with this gravitas. To be able to do something this funny was a little bit intimidating at first because ‘comedy’ is a magic word. All the way through, I got to play everything you can do in comedy but it is all in one film.”


If you go


R, 100 minutes

Playing at Niantic, Waterford, Stonington, Westbrook, Lisbon


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