Reitman dials down satire for ‘Up in the Air’

Jason Reitman has built his young career on the razor-sharp comedies Thank You For Smoking and Juno. But when the economy tanked while he was writing his latest movie, Up in the Air, the Oscar-nominated director knew his trademark satiric tone would have to change.

Canadian director Jason Reitman

TORONTO — Jason Reitman has built his young career on the razor-sharp comedies Thank You For Smoking and Juno. But when the economy tanked while he was writing his latest movie, Up in the Air, the Oscar-nominated director knew his trademark satiric tone would have to change.

The film stars George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a businessman who has embraced a life of almost non-stop travel as he jets from city to city helping companies fire their employees. In nondescript offices across the United States, Bingham offers a few perfunctory words of advice to devastated workers before flying off to his next job.

“When I first started writing this, I wrote the firing scenes as comedic satire, and as (the economy soured), I realized: ‘OK, I need to be more authentic here,”’ Reitman said during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival.

He found the genuineness he was looking for in real-life laid-off employees.

In St. Louis and Detroit — two cities particularly hard hit by the recession — Reitman’s crew took out newspaper ads inviting axed workers to take part in a documentary about job loss.

The director said they received a “staggering” response. They called about 100 people, put 60 on camera and included 25 in the finished film.

Participants were brought into a room where they couldn’t see the camera or crew, said Reitman, and were interviewed by a producer about losing their job. After 10 minutes, they were told they were going to be “fired” on camera and asked to respond they way they did in real life, or the way they wished they had.

“It was really an extraordinary experience for me, because I’m a guy who, for a living, tries to get people to be honest on camera,” said Reitman.

“All these people — the second they would hear that kind of legal document that’s used in every firing . . . you would just see their demeanour change.

“They’d just fall in their seats, their eyes would go soft, one girl broke into hives. . . . They would begin very real improv acting where they would say: ‘Why did you choose me? There’s a hundred people in my department. Why didn’t you choose Steve? Is it because of my age? . . . Or: ‘How long is my health insurance going to stay on? Is there another job in the company? How could you do this to me?

“They would say these things that were so real and so heartbreaking. It was very hard to shoot and very hard to edit.”

Reitman said those interviews influenced the rest of the film.

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff… Continue reading

Swath of South faces wintry mess: Snow, sleet, freezing rain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A massive storm brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain… Continue reading

‘I killed my best friend’: Opioids’ fatal grip on mayor, pal

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

Most Read