up in the air jason reitman Jason Reitman Interview Part 1 Director Of Up In The Air

Sorry for the delay with this interview, I’ve been having laptop issues! Here’s part 1 of my interview with Jason Reitman director of Up In The Air (and Juno), which is one of the front runners to bring home a heap of Oscars this year.

The Film is based on a book, I haven’t read the book myself but how does the book differ?

Jason Reitman: It does slightly, the book is about a man who fires people for a living and obsessively collects air miles, but if I had directed the book exactly as it was, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga wouldn’t be in it, because their characters are not in the book. The way I use source material is I see it as a tool box, there’s a story I wanna tell and I’m looking for the right words, so I’ll read a book or read an article and suddenly it will be the language I’ve been looking for, it will say something I’ve been meaning to say, or ask something I’ve been meaning to ask and at that point it becomes a tool box of ideas that I sometimes follow literally but sometimes I don’t. In this case I took a main character that I liked his occupation and I liked his life philosophy so I built the plot around that.

I read that you wrote the role with George Clooney in mind.

Jason Reitman: Yeah, I wrote the role with him in mind and also Vera and Anna in mind as well. It’s easier for me to write, when I know who I’m writing it for, that’s often how I identify with the character. I had met Vera before and seeing many of her films I knew that there were things she was able to do that no other actress was capable of doing, she’s able to walk that very fine line of being aggressive but feminine at the same time, that was the reason I was able to write her character the way I did. When I saw Anna in Rocket Science I knew the sparkly brilliance of her mind and how fast she is, because of that I was able to write her character the way I did. If your gonna make a movie about a guy who fires people for a living, but you still want him to be likeable, that actor better be charming (laughs). I don’t think there’s a more charming actor alive than George Clooney, I was very lucky he said yes.

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What would have happened if he never accepted?

Jason Reitman: It’s funny you know I had been writing this for 6 years, I told his agent I’m a week or month away from finishing this screenplay but in the middle of that I’m going to Italy on vacation with my wife, so he said if your gonna go to Italy you might as well just go and see him, I said that sounds like an awful idea, I don’t want to see him if he hates my screenplay, he says no no go and see him, he’d love to see you, so I said I’ll send him the screenplay and if he enjoys it I’ll certainly drop by, so I get to Italy and I call up his agent and say did he like it? He says go see him, so we drive there and one of the first things he asks me is what are you working on these days? I said there’s a screenplay called Up In The Air, he says OH I got that, I’ve got to find that, I’ve got to read that.  So for 2 days my wife and I stayed at his home and I was just trying to prove I was a man to George Clooney, I played Basketball with him, which I havn’t played since 8th Grade, I never drink, I tried drinking with George Clooney, finally at the end of the 2nd day he disappeared for a while and out of nowhere he came into our room and said I just read it, it’s great, I’m in and those words were one of the greatest moments in my career.

One of the fun things about the film was how it balances the darkness of getting fired, to the happiness of these people finding new jobs. The cherry on top was the song at the end of the credits, how did that come about?

Jason Reitman: That was a bit of dumb luck, after Juno I had gotten used to teenagers sending me songs, with the idea of them appearing in my films. I had been speaking at a college in St. Louis where we had been shooting and a man in his mid 50s came to me with the song, that was unusual. So he handed me a cassette tape,  first of all I had to find a place to listen to it, eventually we found a car with a cassette deck and I was really ready for something ridiculous but instead came in this voice which is in the credits, he introduced himself, explained how he had lost his job after a decade or so and was now in the middle of his life trying to figure out his purpose in life, he then started to sing the song, it’s not the greatest song ever written but it’s an authentic song. I guess my feeling was we’re in one of the worst recessions on record in America, but we really have no experience with who these people are, they just are seen as numbers and percentages but here was a guy who sang very authentically about how he felt about it, I thought what could be a better tribute than to end the movie with this song. I knew half way through listening to it, this is gonna be in the credits.

Up In The Air is in cinemas January 15th