Up in the Air's Jason Reitman
Jason started writing Up in the Air seven years ago, long before the economy took a turn for the worse, but over time the movie evolved into an honest look at how the economic downturn affects everyday people on a very personal level. "I thought I was making a movie about a single man, about a guy who was trying to figure out who and what he wanted in his life," he says. "And over the course of writing it, the world changed. ... We went from an economic book to one of the worst recessions on record. So the film just began to reflect what was going on."
LaMorris, Marlene and Arthur were three of the real-life unemployed who were cast in Jason's film. All three of them say that the role validated their own experiences of being laid off. "What was going through my head was, at the time, I had my family, my wife, my kids and how am I going to support them? Times are hard, the job market's tough," LaMorris says. "It was real."
Marlene says that, after 27 years at the same company, she was fired with an impersonal letter and is still unemployed. "When it happens, you're basically just going through the motions. You're numb. Then after you process it, you realize that you're not going to see your work friends anymore. You're not going to have a paycheck or health benefits or vacation time or sick leave," she says. "So after it settles in, you realize that by just being handed a letter, in a day your whole life changes."
Jason says that using people like Arthur, Marlene and LaMorris made the film real in a way that he never could have as a filmmaker. "You said the kind of things that I would have never written and you said them in a way that I could have never directed you to do," he says. "You gave all the actors a run for their money. They were very intimidated when they saw your performances."
Jason's quick to point out that Up in the Air is not all serious. "It's a movie that is dramatic and is also comedic," he says. "It is just as much a mirror of George Clooney as it is a mirror to America, and hopefully you will not only kind of recognize what is going on in this economy in the film, but you'll recognize what it's like to go through a midlife crisis."
His father is also the man who convinced Jason to follow his dream of making movies. "I was pre-med, and the reason I'd gone pre-med was I was scared of being a director. I'm well aware of the perceptions of the children of famous filmmakers," he says. "I thought: 'Why enter a career with there is the presumption [that you have no talent]? And, outside of that, if I find success, I'll be in his shadow my whole life. And if I fail, I'll fail on a very public level.'" But Jason says his father came to visit him while he was in school and explained that being scared isn't a reason to do anything. "He's the person who pushed me to come back to Los Angeles and pursue being a storyteller."