After “Juno” nabbed four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, director Jason Reitman was worried he’d become creatively frozen, consumed with the fear his next project could never live up to the praise of the Ellen Page-starring teen-pregnancy comedy.
Reitman decided his best bet was to dive into a script he’d been working on for years, even before his directorial debut in 2005: an adaptation of the Walter Kirn novel “Up in the Air.” And he decided an even better bet was to cast George Clooney as his star. With the understanding that the Oscar-winning actor had already read the script, Reitman flew out to Clooney’s villa in Northern Italy, only to learn he hadn’t so much as skimmed the first page.
“When I arrived, [Clooney] said, ’So, what are you working on these days?’ ” Reitman recalled in an interview with MTV News.
Reitman hung around the house for a couple of more days, wondering not so much if Clooney would sign on for the staring role of Ryan Bingham — a consultant specializing in mass firings who spends most of his time in airports, planes and hotel bars — but if he’d ever read it. “Finally, one day,” Reitman told us, “he walked up to me and said, ’It’s great. I’m in.’ ”
Cut to the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, where their film became the talk of the town, drawing glowing reviews and making clear the director had served up another winner. Though Reitman began work on the script six years ago, the film’s focus on the perils of corporate downsizing is perfectly timed for the current economic environment. Obsessed with the perks and efficiencies of a life spent constantly in transit, Bingham’s own standing becomes imperiled when a young college grad (Anna Kendrick of “Twilight”) concocts a computer program that will allow their company to ax workers without leaving the conference room. In the world of “Up in the Air,” as in our own, technology has the potential to disrupt lives as much as it can bring people together.
Co-star Jason Bateman told MTV News that Reitman, well aware of the movie’s current relevance, actually sped up post-production to get the film into theaters in November instead of sometime next year. Casting Bateman, who’d co-starred in “Juno,” as Clooney’s boss required substantially less work for Reitman: The actor agreed to take the part without even reading the script.
“[Reitman] said, ’The character’s name is Craig Gregory,’ ” Bateman laughed. “And I said, ’That’s all I need to know!’ ”
Bateman showed up on set with an eight-week beard he had to keep for a subsequent role, so the facial hair ended up becoming an essential trait for Bateman’s portrayal of the corporate chief. “We trimmed it in sort of that douche-y, overly sculpted facial-hair thing,” he said. “Along with the suspenders and the pleated pants, it was very Craig Gregory.”
The 24-year-old Kendrick, meanwhile, got the chance to share the dance floor with Clooney and even to snuggle into his shoulder as she cried in one scene. “He’s charming and kind and a really, really generous person,” she said. “He’s one of those people that ends up being everything you wanted them to be.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Up in the Air.”
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