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Exclusive Interview with 'Up in the Air' Writer/Director Jason Reitman


Jason Reitman Up in the Air

Jason Reitman on the set of 'Up in the Air.'

© Paramount Pictures
Updated February 16, 2014
Up in the Air writer/director Jason Reitman pulled off an interviewing first, doing something no other director has ever done during my nine years of interviewing filmmakers. Reitman started off our interview by saying he wished I'd hated his movie. No, that's not because I'm some sort of jinx whose support of a film causes it to tank. Reitman made the comment because after a whirlwind tour across the United States promoting his third critically acclaimed film, he was simply tired of hearing the same old questions. "What's it like to direct George Clooney?" "Why did he want to bring Walter Kirn's novel to the big screen?" Etc, etc, etc. Reitman had even created a pie chart out of the questions.

"Oddly enough if you hated the movie it might actually make for more interesting conversation," said Reitman, explaining his reasoning. "I’d have no idea what you were going to ask me. It’s like what the f--k do you ask when you hate a movie?"

So, the gauntlet had been thrown down. My questions had to be different than every other journalist who had the pleasure of speaking to Reitman during his extensive and exhausting publicity tour. That in mind, here's what Reitman had to say about his follow-up to Thank You for Smoking and Juno: Up in the Air.

Jason Reitman Up in the Air Interview

You have such a good voice for women characters. How do you write with such a strong female voice?

Jason Reitman: "I am fascinated by women, and it’s actually only been asked a couple of times… And I appreciate the compliment. I think a few reasons. One, I write well about things that I'm most curious. Two, I've had two long relationships with older women in my life. Seven years, from 16 to 23, I was with a woman who was 10 years older than me. And for the last eight years I've been with my wife who is also older than me. My wife helps me write them. Like that scene, the best scene in this movie where the two women talk to each other."

Where Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga are just sitting across from each other, talking about relationships and what they look for in men?

Jason Reitman: "I sat down with my wife and said, 'If you could have a conversation with yourself and talk about what you look for in a man, what would you say?'"

And their conversation is exactly what she said or did you change anything?

Jason Reitman: "No, she gave me a list."

Did she tell you anything you left out of the scene?

Jason Reitman: "Good question. I've never been asked that. I'm sure she did, and I can't remember. I'm sorry, you've stumped me. No, I'm sure she did but I'm trying to think…like I'm trying to think from her perspective now versus her perspective then. I mean part of it was that she was saying stuff also about settling down, and Alex [played by Vera Farmiga] doesn't want to settle down. So there was kind of less of that in there."

Does your wife like how you ended up playing that scene in the movie?

Jason Reitman: "Yes, she does. My favorite line that she said and the most dangerous line is, 'God, let him make more money than I do. That's a line that women, while I was making the film, they'd come to me and be like, 'How could you put that?' And I always believed in that line. I thought it was a great line. And it’s that kind of tough admission that as much as a woman is supposed to aspire to have no ceiling on her aspirations and work, it is very difficult to live with a man if he makes less than you do."

It's more difficult for the man to live with a woman if he makes less.

Jason Reitman: "Yes, but it makes it hard on you because, you know, he doesn't know what his existence is in the world anymore."

Yes, exactly, because he's defined by that.

Jason Reitman: "Yes. And the female mid-life crisis, the feminist movement pushed the idea that a woman could do anything she wanted, could be anything she wanted and could have everything, but no one can have everything. We all have to sacrifice. And I think mid-life crisis comes from sacrifice. It’s the moment you realize you can't actually be everything you wanted to be. The last few generations of women were promised certain things that have brought up certain problems, and I see this in women right out of college when they start to get an inkling that it’s not as they were sold. And then women right before they're going to turn 30 and right when they're about to turn 40 again, when they hit these giant life milestones they're constantly dealing with what they've been told and what they're experiencing and what their expectations are and what they want and what they feel guilty about wanting. And I find that really interesting and I think it’s hardly explored onscreen."

"Onscreen you see men in mid-life crisis all the time. And you rarely see women in a very complicated way dealing with, 'Do I even want a career? Do I even want to be a mom? Do I want both, is it possible to have both, really? Do I want to have an affair? Do I want to be sexual? Do I want to just have a cross-country affair with a guy and not feel guilty about it? I don't feel guilty about it. Should I feel guilty about not feeling guilty about it?' You know, these kinds of things."

Why don't female filmmakers tell that story?

Jason Reitman: "Well, let’s see if I have an answer for that."

And why is it taking you to give us this story?

Jason Reitman: "I don't know. I mean, look, it’s explored in literature and other places. Who are your favorite female directors?"

I like Kathyrn Bigelow.

Jason Reitman: "She would never talk about this. This is not her interest. That's not her interest."

And Kimberly Peirce. She did Stop-Loss.

Jason Reitman: "Well she's a lesbian and pursues other issues, social issues that are more important to her."

Continued on Page 2

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