Let’s light this candle,” Director, Producer, Actor, Screenwriter Jason Reitman said while starting his interview with a spark.
San Fransicso, Rome, London, Orlando, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York and Minneapolis are just some of the stops during the promotional tour of his newest film Up in the Air.
“I know nothing of what it’s like to travel. I really cherish my time in the air,” Reitman said jokingly. The fast-paced life of a Hollywood director can be seen as a parallel to the life of Ryan Bingham, a character in Up in the Air.
Bingham, played by George Clooney, is a smooth talking, globetrotting ladies man.“I’m drawn to writing smooth, suave characters because I’m not that guy. Writing a character like that gives me [a way] to say the right things all the time,” Reitman said. While he may not admit to being a smooth talking ladies man, he’s been able to evoke them both in Up in the Air and Aaron Echardt’s character Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking.
Reitman adapted both Up in the Air and Thank You for Smoking from books for the silver screen. In doing so, he worked closely with the writers of the novels. “I reach out to the authors immediately. I share my drafts and scripts with them,” Reitman said. He emphasized the importance of knowing that there is “a difference between book and movie” and how important it is that the original author stay involved in the screenwriting process.
Not only does he work closely with authors, but actors as well. “I work best with people I like. … I often write parts for people. It’s easier to write once I’ve identified the people I’m writing for,” Reitman said. He wrote eight parts in Up in the Air specifically for the actors who played them. Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons have both been in more than one of Reitman’s films.
Reitman has had impressive success with critics, which is not always the case. “I think it’s because I’m so talented. Talented and have good looks. But really, some stories work and others don’t. There’s no magic to it. Not everybody is going to like every film. Nobody’s perfect. I’m just closer to perfect than most,” Reitman said.
He’s well known for movies with exquisite opening sequences—the animation in Juno, the aerial shots of the U.S. in Up in the Air, the cigarettes in Thank You for Smoking. “I’ve always liked [opening titles]. They offer a nice separation from movie trailers and the outside world. They set the tone for the film,” Reitman said.
Not only does he use exceptional opening sequences, he chooses unique films and projects on which to work. “I want my movies to entertain people. Move people. I want them to serve as a mirror [and show that] life is infinitely complicated,” Reitman said.
With his unique outlook on films and knack for working on the right project at the right time, Reitman doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere anytime soon.