Posts tagged up in the air
Up In The Air sits itself comfortably in my list of favourite films of the last year, it’s been showered with awards gaining eight Broadcast Film Critics Association, six Golden Globe nominations , three Screen Actors Guild nominations, six BAFTA nominations and six Academy Award nominations including Best Supporting Actress nominations for both Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Check out my interview with the both of them below.
From Jason Reitman, the Oscar nominated director of ‘Juno,’ comes ‘Up in the Air,’ the timely odyssey of Ryan Bingham (Oscar winner George Clooney), a corporate downsizer and consummate modern business traveller who, after years of staying happily airborne, suddenly finds himself ready to make a real connection. Ryan has long been contented with his unencumbered lifestyle lived out across America in airports, hotels and rental cars. He can carry all he needs in one wheel-away case; he’s a pampered, elite member of every travel loyalty program in existence; and he’s close to attaining his lifetime goal of 10 million frequent flier miles– and yet…Ryan has nothing real to hold onto.
When he falls for a simpatico fellow traveler (Vera Farmiga), Ryan’s boss (Jason Bateman), inspired by a young, upstart efficiency expert (Anna Kendrick), threatens to permanently call him in from the road. Faced with the prospect, at once terrifying and exhilarating, of being grounded, Ryan begins to contemplate what it might actually mean to have a home.
The script has been nominated for nearly every award going, how did you assess your character when you first read them?
Vera Farmiga: I didn’t have the luxury of reading the script and knowing what happens in the end so I had some preconceived ideas. It was challenging to play a woman who is very much like a man and often it was a fine line to tread, to have the softness and yet be forceful unapologetically and make demands you usually see men make in scripts, I really like the male perspective on heartbreak which I hadn’t read much of before.
Your character is a bit more explained, what made her appealing?
Anna Kendrick: Well first off it’s a rare thing that you have this girl who’s so intelligent and complicated and her character does not revolve around a romantic storyline, that was fascinating in itself for me, it just doesn’t happen, you don’t read scripts like that. In real life I’m usually pretty timid so I guess I’m excited to play someone who tells people off and to tell off George Clooney was pretty awesome (laughs).
One of my favourite scenes in the film is when you go to pieces in the airport after you get the message from your boyfriend, how did you prepare for that?
Anna Kendrick: I don’t actually remember what was in the script other than she just starts crying, I knew that some of the scenes are in some ways really heart breaking and there’s a desire to play it that way but I knew it was supposed to be funny, but that it couldn’t be funny for me . It was a long day of trying different noises (laughs), it was kinda of brutal because all day I was so upset, Jason would demonstrate sometimes because he knew I was running out of juice. We had to get something that was not funny to me but hopefully to other people.
What was it like shooting in actual public places like the airports?
Anna Kendrick: At times it was a little uncomfortable, when I had that little wobbly it was in a hotel lobby that we sort of shut down, there weren’t that many looky loo’s but there was still this space and even though the people were extras and apart of the film, you don’t know them so it was sort of embarrassing, I think on that particular day it was less about the people and more about the space.
Vera Farmiga: For me it most often controlled or closed sets, for me what I found most interesting was the fanaticism for George Clooney, that was overwhelming, it was so odd, for me no one ever knows who I am, they probably think I’m a producer, but watching George just opening a door and seeing a standing ovation that goes blocks and blocks from him just peaking his head out. He’s so gallant and gracious with it, I didn’t find it very difficult though working in public places, I think its more difficult for the crew than the actors.
Your character has her views on love and life challenged in this film, how did you find that? Especially with someone like George Clooney trying to bring you over to the lone wolf side of things.
Anna Kendrick: My character had very specific ideas with what she wants and what she expects, I don’t have many of them same ideas, I know that there are things in life I want that I won’t get and refuse to except just yet, but her views on love are not my views on love.
You’ve gone from playing a small role in Twilight to play a big role in this, how did you feel when you got this role?
Anna Kendrick: I was shocked beyond belief, I thought Jason hated me, my audition was very strange, I think Jason was trying to sike me out by not showing any enthusiasm, but when I got the job I was so shocked, I thought he’s just like that, he’s gonna be a tyrant on set, but he’s very very nice, I was very surprised, thrilled beyond words. I didn’t really really think George was doing it, I thought that would be too good to be true, for a script to be this good and working with George Clooney I just thought it was rumoured.
Here’s part 2 of my interview with Jason Reitman director of Up In The Air, Juno and Thank You For Smoking. If you missed part 1 check it out here. Up In The Air is in cinemas now!
Over the 7 years you were working on this how did you have to change the screenplay after the financial problems of the last year or so?
Jason Reitman: When I started writing the screenplay 7 years ago the economy in America was obviously very different, we were basically at the end of a corporate boom. So I wanted to write a corporate satire about a man who fires people for a living. I wrote comedic scenes in which people lost their job, but by the time we started shooting the film it wasn’t funny any more, I couldn’t shoot these scenes as they were written. We did have to change things
How many of those people interviewed in the film were real people?
Jason Reitman: Well we were scouting St Louis and Detroit, with the idea of shooting real people, we put out an advert saying we’re shooting a documentary on job loss, we are looking for real people who would go on camera and talk about there experiences. We had an overwhelming response, we brought in a 100 people, 25 of those are in the film, so outside of the people you recognise like JK Simmons everyone else who loses there job in this movie is a real person. They came in and sat down with an interviewer for 10 minutes answered questions on what it’s like to lose your job in an economy where there is really nothing available, then after that we would fire them on camera and asked them to respond the way they did when they lost there job or if they prefer say what you wish you said. This would turn into improv scenes where they would pelt our interviewer with all sorts of questions that he did not know the answer too, about severance, why they lost there job instead of Jeff, it just went on and on, some people got emotional, some people were really funny, some people got angry, I’m so grateful for there participation in the film, I could never have written some of the things they said.
You’ve got a history of writing strong female characters do you think there is a shortage of them in Hollywood?
Jason Reitman: Yeah to be honest that’s why I think I write them, I like to write original films, many men’s story’s have been told but so many women’s stories haven’t. I’ve fallen in love with really smart women over my life, the most recent being and presumably the last last (laughs) my wife. I enjoy spending time with my wife. The best scene I’ve ever written, which I wrote half of, is a scene in this movie when Vera and Anna talk about what they look for in a man, at each of there ages. The only way I could have wrote that was by asking my wife to have a conversation with herself at 18 about what she looked for in a man, so everything they say is true to her, but it breaks her heart every time she sees it with an audience, because they basically laugh at her for 5 minutes. I enjoy writing for women and working with great actresses, I’ve made 3 movies now and through all of them I’ve been surrounded by great women actresses, I hope I can work with more as my career moves along.
You mentioned you started the script 7 years ago earlier, how did the time line work? You made Juno and Thank You For Smoking in that time.
Jason Reitman: The time line was that no one wanted to make Thank You For Smoking so I started to look for something else to write and direct. So I found this book and fell in love with it. I started writing it, then out of nowhere a millionaire, one of the creators of Paypal, who had sold Paypal to Ebay for $1.5 billion with his partners decided he wanted to make movies, he read my script, he got it from a friend and called my agent and said hey I’d love to make this movie, so he wrote a cheque for $6.5 million and we made Thank You For Smoking, all of a sudden I wasn’t writing Up In The Air any more, so I made Thank You For Smoking then went back to Up In The Air and Juno came in to my life, which was this irresistible screenplay that I knew if I didn’t make I’d regret it the rest of my life. Then I basically finished the screenplay after Juno. 5 years later after never going back over what I had been writing, as I read from start to finish I watched myself grow up, in that time I had become a professional director, I bought a house, I got married, I became a father and I watched myself in the first act be a cynical guy in his twenties who really is just a satirist but over the 6 years I became a bit more sophisticated as a writer and understood more what was more important in my own life, that really changed Ryan’s journey
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.
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