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Jason Reitman on Up in the Air

Published November 30, 2009 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Paramount Pictures
Up in the Air Poster Up in the Air
Up in the Air is Jason Reitman’s ode to traveling. Based on the novel by Walter Kim, the film explores the world of corporate travel. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is the king, with nearly 10 million airline miles and a system down pat. This is not the film about the grind of traveling. It’s a salute to the joys of it.

Jason Reitman Takes Us Up in the Air

“I never wanted to make Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” Reitman said. “I wanted to make a love letter to travel for the reason that I love traveling. For the same reason I started going to movie theaters when I was a kid, I like being on a plane. It’s like the last refuge for those who like to be alone. It’s a place where I turn the rest of the world off and I have conversations with a stranger, the kind of which I would never have with someone I knew well. So I actually do love travel. I don't think I’d love firing people for a living but I think he sees a certain dignity in what he does and how he does it. For me, that’s always a more interesting story. Or, simply being good at what you do brings you passion in life.”

Reitman discovered the book when he was trying to make Thank You For Smoking. At the time, nobody would make the smoking lobbyist comedy. “So I went looking for something else, I was in a bookstore and I found a copy of Up in the Air, literally just sitting on a table at Book Soup. There was a quote from Christopher Buckley on the top and I thought that was a bit of serendipity, picked it up and I found two things. One, a guy who collected air miles religiously, which is something I do, and two, I found my favorite thing in a piece of source material: a character who does something tricky to humanize, a job that is polarizing. I’m immediately drawn to these things, particularly when an author has a kind of fresh, open minded perspective on it. So I just started reading it and falling for this book.”

Then a producer did offer to make Thank You For Smoking. Then Reitman got to make Juno. By the time he got around to finishing Up in the Air, a lot had changed.

“Now it had been six years at the beginning of which I was a guy in my 20s, single, living in an apartment. By the end of which, I was married, I was a father, I had a mortgage, I had completely changed. What began as a script about a guy who fired people for a living became a movie about a guy who’s trying to figure out who and what he wants in his life.”

As an expert in travel, Reitman had to be obsessive about production design. “Here’s the thing. When someone makes a movie that takes place in the 17th century, your average audience has no idea what that looks like so they don’t know if it’s correct or incorrect. They’re like, ‘Oh wow, it’s beautiful and lavish.’ But people know what this world looks like. If we did conventions wrong by even half a percent, people would call bullsh*t on us in a second so we needed to get it right. We worked tirelessly. I travel 100,000 miles a year. I know this world. You can ask my production designer and costume designer. I was very specific. I choreographed how George packed, I choreographed how he went through security and I was obsessively detailed about everything in this film.”

Perhaps the only downside to Up in the Air is that it might have ruined traveling for Reitman from now on. “I used to love travel and now that I’ve made a movie about it, it’s like I can’t love it in the same way anymore. Now it’s the object of my film and it belongs to everybody else. I don't know. It’s been a little different. I love the efficiency of it. I love having a place where I can read undisturbed, but it’s not as special as it has been in the past.”

Up in the Air opens to theatres December 1st.

For the posters, trailer and more movie info, go to the Up in the Air Movie Page.
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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Paramount Pictures

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