Juno director Jason Reitman and first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody seem to go together like hand and glove. While they don’t complete each other’s sentences, they do share the same sensibility when it comes to films, character development and dialogue. They also share the same sort of sense of humor when it comes to discussing their critically acclaimed movie.
Accepting a compliment from a journalist during the film’s Los Angeles press day, Diablo Cody blurted out, “Thank you very much. I'm like allergic to cheese in many ways so I try not to be too cheesy in my responses, but the fact of the matter is it really has been a very… What are you laughing at?”
“Allergic to cheese,” replied Reitman. “I'm lactose intolerant,” clarified Cody. “That's even better. That was a polish right there, ladies and gentleman.”
Dairy product issues aside, the combination of Reitman and Cody works despite the fact they come from two vastly different backgrounds. Cody is a former stripper and highly read blogger who made her screenwriting debut with Juno. Reitman comes from a showbiz family (his dad is producer/director Ivan Reitman) and grew up around the film industry.
However, Reitman’s about as un-Hollywood as it gets. In fact, Cody thinks she’s more likely to be considered ‘Hollywood’ than Reitman. “Don't you find that interesting that this guy has like the quintessential Hollywood pedigree, the quintessential Hollywood kid, and you would never know it? In fact, I have always said if you had to gauge it simply on like douchebaggery, if someone had to guess who grew up in Hollywood, they would totally say me. They'd totally say you were the down to earth nice guy from Chicago,” said Cody, pointing to Reitman.
“I'm not Hollywood. I've got nothing to do with Hollywood,” confirmed Reitman before adding, “That's true. They'd look at you and go, ‘You're the one who grew up in Hollywood.’ …I think at first glance they'd probably think you were the one who grew up in Hollywood.”
“I think they would too. It speaks highly of you and denigrates me, but I'm always willing to do that,” replied Cody.
Stripping and blogging is an unlikely pathway to screenwriting, but it’s worked for Cody who comes off as candid and witty as her characters in Juno. “It's been such an incredible experience for me because I had never written a screenplay before and I was never really even published as a writer up until a few years ago,” said Cody about her strange entry into films. “Then suddenly things just started to happen for me kind of serendipitously and I was discovered, as lame as that sounds. I was very lucky because I never imagined that I would be in this world. Just to put it this way, I got married three years ago and that was just three years ago and I took my honeymoon in LA because I thought it was an exotic place I'd never get to see. Now I live here and have a premiere tonight. It's very mind boggling.”
Speaking of the planned Hollywood premiere of Juno, Cody recalled her first experience on a red carpet at a major movie premiere. “Remember we went to the - you don't like this story because you think it makes you sound like a douche, but it actually was a nice story. When we went to that premiere in the springtime and you were like, ‘This is going to be us when Juno comes out.’ I'd never been to a premiere before so it was very exciting. It was Disturbia [which Ivan Reitman executive produced] and I was so excited. It really got me excited. Then I finally had a concrete image in my head of what the Juno premiere is going to be like.”
“My dad has enormous premieres. Disturbia was at the Mann Chinese. That's not exactly a tiny joint. I think it's respectable but yeah, this is certainly a highlight of my life,” admitted Reitman.
Cody was never pregnant as a teen but the character of Juno MacGuff (played by Ellen Page) is, in many ways, autobiographical. “I relate to that character on a really deep personal level,” explained Cody. “Although I do think that the character evolved significantly when Ellen Page entered the picture. Even though she is very different from Juno, there is just a lot of her soul in that character. I feel almost like I can't completely take credit for Juno anymore.”
Central to the film is an unplanned teen pregnancy. “I actually see the movie as completely apolitical,” said director Reitman of the film’s tone and approach to the subject matter. “It has a unique perspective of coming from a writer who grew up in a very kind of Juno MacGuff-like house and a director who grew up in a very Loring-like house [the Lorings are the couple who hope to adopt Juno’s baby]. Because of that, there's kind of an air of non-judgment around all of the characters. One of the things I loved about it is that it was open-minded. Like Thank You For Smoking the novel, it took on an issue that is normally considered tricky and had a very frank attitude about it, and just spoke about it openly without being condescending and never really got into the politics. You never really see politics in any of the choices, any of the conversations, any of the moves. That's probably why I liked it.”
Reitman isn’t deliberately seeking out touchy subject matter for his films. “The material I'm drawn to, I like stuff that's unusual. I like unusual perspectives on things and I generally get frustrated with political correctness. Movies, books, stories that are afraid to just talk about things, so when I hear the voices, like the voice of Juno, when she calls for an abortion and says, ‘I'd like to procure a hasty abortion,’ I immediately fall in love with this girl.”
“That's why I think our collaboration went so well,” added Cody. “I can't imagine either of us working with somebody who's that politically correct. It would be disastrous.”