I was able to sit down for a couple of years and pump out a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.
PUBLIC ENEMIES - DVD Giveaway
Shoot me a message at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com to be entered to win one of a few copies I have to give away.
In the action-thriller Public Enemies, acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard in the story of legendary Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger (Depp)—the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public.
No one could stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone—from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression.
But while the adventures of Dillinger’s gang—later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi)—thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw’s capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI. He made Dillinger America’s first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing “Clark Gable of the FBI.”
However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis’ men in wild chases and shootouts. Only after importing a crew of Western ex-lawmen (newly baptized as agents) and orchestrating epic betrayals—from the infamous “Lady in Red” to the Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti—were Purvis, the FBI and their new crew of gunfighters able to close in on Dillinger.
Jason Reitman of UP IN THE AIR - Interview
If you’re ever in a room with Jason Reitman and your job is to interview him, you need to bring good questions.
This isn’t to say that asking the young lad the usual, empty questions like “What was it like working with George Clooney?” won’t get answered. They will. In fact, he’ll answer as he scribbles in a small notebook that keeps track of his commonly asked questions. He’ll then make a pie chart out of it. It’s not a problem if you’re really interested in knowing what it was like working with George Clooney, but if you’re trying to have a talk with the man in a honest, open way it’s as distracting as someone who is chatting with you as they hammer out an e-mail in the background. UP IN THE AIR is a wonderfully composed film that deals with one man’s journey who is trying to realize his goal of being the ultimate road warrior while also trying to indulge in the affections of a woman on his terms before the terms unexpectedly change.
UP IN THE AIR opens in select markets today.
JASON REITMAN: I was in the bookstore and at the time I was looking for something to read. I liked the cover and started reading it and it completely spoke to me.
QUESTION: Jason, the ending worked for me but at any time during the making of the movie or afterwards was there any talk of an alternative or different ending?
REITMAN: No. The ending was one of the first things that came to me. I wanted to make a movie about a character who learned the importance of companionship through loss not through romance. There plenty of times when you look up on screen and say you know, I am kinda like that myself. But, I wanted a film where – it was right at the moment when you realize that she’s unavailable that not only did his character realize that he wanted something but the audience wanted it for him.
QUESTION: What has the reaction been to the ending because it took me by surprise?
REITMAN: Mixed. Half the people think he’s going on the road to find someone and spend his life with them and half the people think that he’s going to stay on the road for the company for the rest of his life. And, that’s kind of what I want. I want half the people to think one thing and half the people to think another. That’s when I think I’ve done my job when the audience is split. Like in Juno. Half the people thought it was pro choice and half the people thought it was pro life. And Thank You for Smoking, conservatives thought it was theirs, liberals thought it was theirs, so I really want you to see yourself in the film. And the end of this movie is just a shot of clouds and hopefully it’s a moment for the audience themselves to think about what they want for themselves. It really doesn’t matter what the character does – he’s fictitious.
QUESTION: You felt good about the casting and meeting up with George Clooney?
REITMAN: Yes. Certainly. I wrote it for George and I told his agent that and he said you should go see him in Italy. I thought that was an awful idea. And I got to his house and he had not read the script yet and spent a couple days at his house in Lake Como and he finally walked in and said to me I just read the script and it’s great. It was such a wonderful holiday. He’s lovely. Everything you hear about him is true. He’s magnanimous and makes you feel comfortable. Unlike most movie stars who want to create barriers he breaks that barrier down immediately. Within a group of people he’s working with, he makes you comfortable and that’s really nice. I work with all kinds of people and part of the job is understanding people and learning how to manipulate people – that’s the whole job.
QUESTION: Were you the victim of any George Clooney practical jokes?
REITMAN: No, that’s funny. Everyone asks me that and I kind of wish now that there had been some pranks on set because I have nothing to report. Guess he pranks people that deserve it and I guess he liked us.
QUESTION: Are you keeping track of our questions?
REITMAN: I’m keeping track of every question that I’m asked. I am going to show you a pie chart of all the questions I’m asked…..asked about Ghostbusters 3 twelve times in the last week. Make it 13…
QUESTION: How tough was it for you to make George kind of detached, kind of a propagandistic? He’s kind of hard to like in the beginning but obviously at the end we feel great, he warms by the end of it. Creating this character he’s very cold and very standoffish. It was a rift I would think to take a character like him and make him not so likeable in the beginning and then shift that towards the end.
REITMAN: It’s funny, because I find that sometimes audiences find Michael likeable from the beginning and sometimes they don’t and it has a lot to do with your perspective of his lifestyle. If you kind of embrace his version of life at the beginning of the film then he doesn’t come off cold, he’s more likeable. There’s something oddly exotic being around strangers all the time instead of the same old people. I don’t get along very well with my family so I really think that character in the film is just as much me. Really, it’s not about making somebody likeable or unlikable or positive or negative. I don’t really believe in that. I think that human beings are grey, not black and white. Unlikable just means that one person….hey, someone married Hitler. We’re all grey. So I just want to humanize his life as much as possible.
QUESTION: What did you learn after this experience that you didn’t know before?
REITMAN: I think I’ve become a better director. Just over my three films I’ve become more detailed in my filmmaking. I think my first film was basically a satire and lived in an elevated reality and was much more contrarian and funny. And over the last few films, Juno and now this one I’ve become more and more interested in the human experience rather than just being funny. This film has as much of me in it as any film I can imagine. And a lot has to do with trusting my instincts.
QUESTION: There is a lot of depth and substance going on in this film.
REITMAN: We are all faced with what we want in our lives and who we want in our lives and it’s becoming a more complicated question because of technology that we view ourselves oddly closer to more people – let’s say we have 1,000 friends on Facebook but we not ever see them. And because of technology we are actually distancing ourselves. We are in a strange moment in time where we can be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. And that raises a lot of questions as to who are you going to be lose to and how are you going to be close to them?
QUESTION: I was just going to ask you about Twitter. I see you tweet quite a bit.
QUESTION: I’ve noticed in the last few days you tweet as much as I do.
REITMAN: Is it entertaining?
QUESTION: Yes it is actually.
REITMAN: Am I tweeting too much? Should I hold back a little? It’s a very tricky entertainment form.
QUESTION: So do you think Simmons is your good luck charm?
REITMAN: Yes. He is. Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock had all these beautiful women as their muses and I have J.K. Simmons.
REITMAN: He’s in every movie I do. He’s just my voice.
QUESTION: It seems like J.K. Simons and Jason Bateman are always in the same movie. Are they a package deal?
REITMAN: That’s true. They were in Extract. That’s funny. Do you know what it is? They are just great guys. Bill Macy also. When you start to see people cast over and over, there is a reason why. It’s one, they are great to be on set and two, they know how to do their job – cine-technicians.
QUESTION: You said this movie is about the closest thing you’ve written to an original screenplay. I’ve seen your previous interviews where you said you have distilled more of your own life experience into this book – how did you approach writing this knowing that you had a book and also wanted to diffuse your own elements into that. How long was that process?
REITMAN: It took six years to write and to give you an idea, Alex is not in the book, Natalie is not in the book, firing on line is not in the book, the backpack speech is not in the book, the wedding is not in the book, cardboard cut-out is not in the book, so, the plot is very much my own. I took a character philosophy that I really identified with and went from there and made my own film. It was a journalist who actually put it best, and I wish I could say I wrote this but I didn’t, he said to me the book is about a man losing it and the movie is about a man finding it. I thought that was appropriately said.
QUESTION: How much did the economy affect the film?
REITMAN: When I originally started writing this I saw it as a satire, a corporate satire and as I changed and the world changed, I realized that I need to be more authentic in the way I approach people losing their jobs and I’m sure you know this but we put ads in the paper and got real people to come in and go on camera as people get fired in the film.
QUESTION: After the success of Juno it is still difficult to get movies made. Do you still have to struggle to execute your own particular vision?
REITMAN: Juno really changed my life. That was a movie that was made for $7 million dollars and went on to earn $230 million. It’s so strange. I wrote the script and no one ever pushed me on anything. Paramount really supported me and the vision of this film and it’s harder and harder to make these kinds of movies these days but they really went to bat for me.
QUESTION: Even your co-producer?
REITMAN: My dad you mean? Yeah, my dad went to bat for me too.
QUESTION: Did you meet Walter Kirn at all?
REITMAN: Yes. Walter and I are friends now. I make a cordial reach out to the authors that I work with – Chris Buckley, Walter Kirn, Diablo Cody and I are very close and now I work with Jenny Lument and Joyce Major in two different projects. I have become close with both of them. Never really want to get into a Stanley Kubrick situation – there’s no point. So, I reach out and try to make it very clear from the beginning that look a movie and a book are two different things and I’m making a movie here and not a book but I have a tremendous amount of respect for the work they did and try to keep them in the loop but a movie is not a book. Some authors feel like they have been kicked aside and I try and make them feel the opposite.
QUESTION: I flew back from LA this morning and I used my Southwest Avis card to cut in line. What kinds of cards to you have that you feel powerful – cards with points?
REITMAN: I am proudest of my Academy card. It is the most exciting to me. I carry that everywhere proudly. I took a flight from out of Chicago and back in the summer once just to retain my status.
QUESTION: You mentioned the Academy – just before you came in we were talking about the best picture nominees, how do you feel?
REITMAN: I don’t like it. It could wind up very favorable for me. I think that – look it’s been around for 80 years and call me a traditionalist but I like that there were five. That made it a more exclusive club and Juno got in when it’s was there was just five and doesn’t have an asterisk next to it. I would like to have been consulted. I’m a member of the academy. It’s not like I voted on this. I just woke up one morning and there was a new rule and it seems to have been done for the wrong reasons. The Oscars is one of the few achievements that seem to mean anything and it’s just sad – I don’t know what they were going after. I don’t think GI Joe is suddenly going to be nominated. I don’t buy it.
QUESTION: Isn’t it also about the music?
REITMAN: I think the music category is a little messed up and I’ve had two movies in a row with great songs and songs that are ineligible. Songs that were unpublished songs. The song from Juno, and the song that Brad Smith wrote for this movie. Never published. It is an original song and rules just made it ineligible. It’s a Disney rule.
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: I read in an interview you related a great story about when you first started doing a lot of this film work in high school when you were investigating something going on in your school and you literally had a camera flipped on you. It struck me as interesting that a process of something so simple could suddenly change the way you view something. To a larger point, how do you keep things fresh about the way you see yourself as a director to make sure you are not going to stay in your own comfort zone?
REITMAN: I just try to keep myself open to new experiences. I love going into places where I know nobody and talk to strangers and hopefully that constant influx of conversation will keep me a little bit fresh. Everyone runs out of things to say.
QUESTION: Do you think you will?
REITMAN: Every director. Except maybe Kubrick. I think everyone does and it’s just a fact of life. Musicians, every artist does. And at that point I hope I’ll find happiness from something else.
CS: That speaks to the point of the movie that you’re doing it because you need – these people that are getting fired depend on these little jobs to keep their lives in balance and once these things go away people are like in freefall – did it have an effect on you personally or the way you look at your job?
REITMAN: Yes. A real sense of purpose from the filmmaking. I do it 7 days a week and it’s what I live for. That’s the only way to be a filmmaker because it’s too competitive. If anyone took that away from me, it would be really tough.
QUESTION: You mentioned Jenny Lument. Are you in a position to elaborate on that project?
REITMAN: A little bit. Basically she written a wonderful screenplay – I’m working on it with her right now – she approached the girl who wrote Rachel Getting Married and I just love it.
QUESTION: A period piece? Contemporary?
REITMAN: Contemporary. I don’t think I could make a period piece. I don’t really care about people who lived in the past. I don’t understand why their stories need to be told and retold. If you’ve ever seen someone making a movie with someone in a petticoat – it’s…
To be fair, Thank You for Smoking was a time piece and we made it to that time. It was about 1997 and Joyce Major’s book takes place in the late 80’s, but I have a point of view on those because I was alive during that time but I won’t be making a movie about an era I don’t have some sort of perspective on. Maybe that will change. I don’t know. You never say never.
QUESTION: The fashion design, you had the uniformity of the hotel rooms you had the sparseness of Ryan’s apartment and then cue up to the sequence in Milwaukee where you had that arcane, older chalet type hotel. Can you elaborate more on that?
REITMAN: We made a decision that we were going to make an arch across the film that costumes, lighting, extras, shooting, design, everything in which the beginning of the movie was going to be beautifully lit and stylish and shot slickly and over the course of the film it would become more and more warmed it up and by the end of the film, we’d be shooting hand held, using long lenses, and warm lighting. Even the extras at the beginning of the film were chosen because they were better looking and in better shape. We were looking for more average at the end of the film, walking through the airport, it’s hand held, people are dressed sloppy, people are mopping the floor, the lighting is not as pretty and the movie goes through an overall transition from slick to real.
CS: There’s the old adage that a movie is made three times, once when you write it, once when you shoot it and once when you edit it. Did you find along those lines you were discovering those things you weren’t expecting?
REITMAN: Oh yeah. The movie tells itself. It’s even more than three times. One movie changes every day. I like to consider it one long process. Yea, I want to get it to the screen and it’s going to require me to do all these different things along the way – involving many different departments making thousands of decisions a day, whether you know it or not and it’s a constant discovery process. In other words, the process starts with an idea and then ends with the same idea.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite Ivan Reitman movie?
REITMAN: It’s tough because what was his most import film? What was his most influential film? It would be a different answer for each. If I was to sit down and watch any one of his films right now I’d pull up Stripes. That’s the most fun to watch. He’s the most culturally impactful film is either Ghostbusters or Animal House depending on what you’re looking at. And his best movie is probably, Dave.
QUESTION: Did you take that patch that you found at the TV station?
REITMAN: No, I’m not that rude. It was crazy to see that. The Arizona state flag / Ghostbusters patch where this ghost picks up this symbol of the cross that was made out of the Arizona state flag.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts about film critics?
REITMAN: Film critics, I think in my case, are very important because they are the reason people see my kind of movies. In increasing noise, they are one of the last voice boxes that give people to see movies that are made for adults. There’s plenty of marketing out there for films that are made for kids. So as one of the few people who try to make movies for adults, I am very grateful that the critic still exists and hold weight.
QUESTION: Bet you weren’t impressed with GI Joe? Not your best picture nominee?
REITMAN: GI Joe? I liked the scene when he puts his arm out and the venom finds it’s way out. That was pretty cool.
CS: If you are a director, does Michael Bay through school saying, “I’m going to make Michael Bay kind of movies?”
REITMAN: I don’t think you go through school thinking you’re going to make a certain kind of movie, you just start making movies and say, “Oh, I guess I’m that kind of a director.” I would love to co-direct a movie with Michael Bay. I’d like to do a movie where he directs all the drama and I direct all the action.
“From the makers of Transformers and Juno…”
I think that would be awesome. I did float that to Paramount. I’m still up for it but not sure Michael would be up for it.
QUESTION: Would you be up for MTV music video awards or movie awards?
REITMAN: No, no
QUESTION: Oh, full feature length
REITMAN: Yeah, gotta spend $500 million – should cost a fortune. But, again, if I run out of things to say, maybe I’ll direct one of those films. But in the meantime I like small personal films. That’s what gets me excited.
QUESTION: I was there last night when you talked about that quote from the writer who made…
REITMAN: I still have to do research. I work from the heart and it’s a story I want to tell. That’s more important to me than details of what actually happened. The story was, there was an interview and the guys asked “How to you figure out all these kinds of things that various explosives work” and he goes, “I don’t even know what a detonator is. I just like the word.” What a great quote, right? You can tell sometimes when a writer cares too much about the details and what happened and cares too little about real drama. But you guys are journalists; it speaks to what you do. Like Shattered Glass.
CS: The movie itself is sort of a meditation on the nature of work of doing what you love or doing what you like or doing what you’re feeling comfortable in doing. Because I have a job and I like my little place and I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’ve been laid off 3 times before and I’m 34 and I’m not really big on “the man” but what is the nature of work to you?
REITMAN: It defines me. It’s who I am. I’m a director. When you introduce me to someone, that’s the first thing you would say about me. It’s what I wake up and go to sleep thinking about. I think this film. Someone told me when a film works it’s a mirror. When any story works, it’s a mirror. You simply see yourself in it and that’s very important to me. I won’t let you see me in my work, I will only let you see yourself. Like when I did “Smoking”, I didn’t do The Insider. I didn’t make a movie to end up asking you a question - in the fact that the movie speaks to you in that way makes me happy because it speaks to you individually in that way. I don’t make movies to change people, I just want people to see themselves in them.
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