Will Jason Bateman play the straight man in sci-fi comedy Paul?

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Jason Bateman is credited as Agent Lorenzo Zoil in the upcoming sci-fi comedy film Paul. Get it? Lorenzo's Oil was a 1992 movie based on the true story of Lorenzo Odone, a boy suffering a rare, paralyzing disease whose parents researched a cure on their own and ultimately developed a formula that supposedly saved others afflicted with the disease.

In Paul, Agent Zoil may or may not get the joke. "We shot two versions of that, actually," Bateman (Hancock) said in a group interview over the weekend in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he was promoting the comedy Extract. "That was [co-writer and star] Simon [Pegg]'s idea. When we were actually shooting that scene, we shot it one way where I say my name, because it's always just Agent Zoil, Agent Zoil, Agent Zoil."

Pegg and his Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz co-star Nick Frost wrote the script and star as two comic-book geeks who meet an actual alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) on a road trip of famous sci-fi landmarks. When Zoil finally says his first name, he may just deadpan it. Or ...

"One of the last scenes I introduce myself as Lorenzo Zoil," Bateman continued. "He goes, 'Thank you, nice to meet you, Agent Zoil.' And I go, 'Oh, you can call me Lorenzo.' And he goes, 'Oh, Lorenzo Zoil.' And I go, 'Yeah.' Then I go [does a double-take].' I don't know if they're going to use that one, but it's kind of funny, the idea that the guy's never thought about his name together. It's kind of retarded, but we'll see."

Bateman based his portrayal of Zoil on other famous movie foils. "He is the government agent that is sent to go out and grab Paul the alien and drag him back to Area 51," Bateman said. "He's a very humorless and expressionless government agent, very similar to either Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive or even Men in Black and also Yaphet Kotto in Midnight Run. I've got a couple of ne'er-do-well deputies, Joe Lo Truglio and Bill Hader. It's just really, really fun. It's a road movie. These guys, Simon, Nick and Paul, are in a motor home, and I'm in a late-model black Crown Victoria in hot pursuit."

Paul, from Superbad director Greg Mottola, is scheduled for release in 2010.