Interview: Jason Reitman from “Up in the Air”
Interview: Jason Reitman from “Up in the Air”

The Massie Twins recently had a chance to sit down with director Jason Reitman, the man who brought us “Thank You For Smoking” and “Juno,” to discuss his new film “Up in the Air,” starring George Clooney.

Jason Reitman: I take photos of everyone who interviews me, so I hope you don’t mind.

The Massie Twins: Well we’d like to take a photo with you!

JR: Nope! I only take photos of the interviewers (laughs).

MT: You can just take a photo of one of us, although that might cheapen the experience. So how’s Arizona treating you?

JR: Alright so far. I couldn’t get to Chick-Fil-A. They don’t have one in Los Angeles and I need to get there before 10:30. I want the Chicken Biscuit, so that’s been the disappointment for the morning. I discovered Chick-Fil-A in Atlanta on a tour for Thank You For Smoking and my god, that Chicken Biscuit is just about the greatest thing ever.

MT: (laughs) So do you enjoy people with despicable jobs?

JR: Yeah, although it’s funny because I don’t find their jobs despicable, I find them necessary. I like to put a regular human being rather than a villain into those jobs. This isn’t a movie so much about firing people as it is about a guy deciding who he wants and what he wants in his life. Pretty much the majority of the shooting is about him connecting with his family, with this woman romantically, and with this girl who’s a surrogate daughter character. The first couple days when we were shooting with the real people who lost their jobs – that wasn’t exactly the brightest mood. In a strange way it really informed the rest of the shoot. The hardest part was shooting in an airport. You can’t even imagine how hard it is. You have to send every single person through security, all your equipment has to be sniffed by dogs, the amount of people who want to say “hello” to George Clooney in an airport is a nightmare. We shot in four international airports that comprised of almost 20% of the shoot.

MT: Were you as organized in the airports as George’s character in the film?

JR: Oh yeah. I travel every day. I’ve been on 12-13 flights in the last 14 days. I have a very specific way of doing it.

MT: Are you trying to rack up frequent flier miles?

JR: I’ve been racking up miles for years. I am very loyal to my airline. I choreographed the whole travel portion, including how he went through security, how he packs his bag, all of that.

MT: So are the Japanese the best people to get behind in line at an airport?

JR: The best person to get behind is me. I’m the one goes through security so seamlessly. I find Asians are good, except they often wear belts, and that’s the downfall. What’s your guy’s background?

MT: We’re half Asian (Japanese).

JR: So is my daughter. I can tell. My wife is Chinese. They make the most interesting and best looking people. Although they say the “halfies” are lazier than the “fullies.”

MT: We believe that (laughs). So how were you first introduced to the Walter Kirn novel?

JR: I was in a bookstore and at the time I was looking for something to do because no one was interested in Thank You For Smoking. I saw it on a shelf and judged it by the cover. The story completely spoke to me. The ending was one of the first things that came to me. I wanted to make a movie about a character who learns the importance of companionship through loss, not through romance. There’s plenty of films where you see two people in love and you say, “Hey, I kinda want that myself.” I wanted a film where the audience wanted something for him. The reaction to the ending is mixed. I want half the people to think one thing and the other half to think something else. That’s how I know I’ve done my job – when the audience is split. On Juno half the people thought it was pro-choice and half the people thought it was pro-life. I want you to see yourself in the film.

MT: Can you tell us a bit about casting and meeting up with George Clooney?

JR: Certainly! I wrote it for George and I told his agent that and he said I should go see him in Italy. I thought that was a terrible idea. I got to his house and he hadn’t even read the script. I spent a couple days at his house and one day he walked in and said he’d just read it and that it was great. It was such a wonderful moment.

MT: Did you have a contingency plan in case he wasn’t interested?

JR: I’ve worked with all kinds. As a director you have to be able to read people and a lot of the job is understanding and manipulating people. I’m kind of ready for both, but it’s a lot nicer when they accept.

MT: Are you keeping track of how many times you’re asked the same questions?

JR: I keep track of every question that I’m asked.

MT: What if we ask you something very unique?

JR: I’ll be very impressed.

MT: How about whether or not Vera Farmiga used a body double in Up in the Air?

JR: I’ve been asked that, but I don’t answer that one.

MT: It seems like J.K. Simmons and Jason Bateman are always in the same movies together – are they a package deal?

JR: That’s funny. You know what it is? They’re just great guys who elevate everyone around them. People that are cast over and over are great on set and they just know how to do their jobs. They’re specific technicians.

MT: Do the book and the movie end the same way?

JR: No. The book is about a guy who fires people for a living but is terminally ill, is dying, has a “garage philosophy” he thinks a mythical company is trying to contact him, he hears things, he winds up in a warehouse in the middle of Oklahoma… it’s much stranger.

MT: Have the new rules for the Academy Awards affected the music in the film?

JR: The music category is a little messed up. I’ve had two movies now with great songs in them that are ineligible. Songs that were unpublished. Original songs. And some bogus rules make them ineligible. The Disney rule.

MT: What’s your favorite Ivan Reitman movie?

JR: It’s a tough question. What is the most fun to watch? What is the most important or influential? I think it’s a different answer for each. If I was to sit down and watch any film it would be Stripes because it’s the most fun to watch. His most culturally impactful film is either Ghostbusters or Animal House. His best movie is probably Dave.

MT: What are your thoughts on film critics?

JR: Film critics? I think they are very important. In my case, they’re the reason people see my films. In the increasing noise, they’re one of the last voices that give people a reason to see movies that are made for adults. There’s plenty of marketing for films that are made for kids. As one of the few people who makes films for adults, I’m grateful that the critic still exists and holds weight.

MT: What kind of research do you do for your films?

JR: I don’t do research. I don’t think it matters. For the most part, I write from the heart and that’s more important to me than the details of what actually happens. The guy who wrote Die Hard did an interview once and was asked how he figured out all the various explosives worked. And he said he didn’t even know what a detonator was – he just liked the word. I thought that was a great quote. That’s the perfect way to write.