INT: Jason Reitman
Way back in May of 2008 I had the kick ass opportunity to visit my first movie set. Along the way, I had the chance to interview the talent and stars behind one of this summer's bloodiest horror flicks, JENNIFER'S BODY. At the time Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman were hot off of the success of JUNO and Megan Fox had still been riding high off of the first TRANSFORMERS. Since then, the movie has been sitting on a shelf as, it's studio Fox Atomic has been re-absorbed into it's parent 20th Century Fox, and it's crew have moved onto other projects. Now, it's time to dust off the... dust from my visit and shed some light on JENNIFER'S BODY!I'm Alex from JoBlo.com. Did you say you're from JoBlo? That's funny, I met Kevin Smith a few years ago and he's always been an idol of mine and I said "Hi, I'm Jason Reitman and I'm a director and you're one of the reasons why I became a director." He's like, "You made THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. Your trailer's got three hamburgers on JoBlo!" That was just so cool that he knew how many hamburgers my trailer had. One of the great moments of being a director.
So why the decision to produce rather than direct? God, I never really considered directing this movie, it was never in the cards. I've been writing my next movie for a few years now. Hopefully, I will direct it by the end of the year and when Dan Dubiecki, my producer, and I read JENNIFER'S BODY, the idea was for this to be the first movie for Hard C, our company, to produce. We fell in love with the script, as we do with everything that Diablo writes, and it was never a question of, "Am I going to direct this". It's, "Who's going to be the perfect director for this". Meeting Karen, it was just a match made in heaven. Here's a woman who kind of had a similar birthplace as me, we both came out of the Sundance Film Festival, and she just seemed the perfect fit. What was it about the material that you responded to? I've always been a fan of horror films. I've probably seen more horror films in the theaters than I've seen comedies. I've always found that horror and comedy are almost siblings. Ya'know, they're absolutely related. They both come from storytellers that want to elicit a specific reaction from the audience. It's not drama where a film can simply watch over you. The storyteller that makes a comedy or makes a horror film wants the audience to do specific things at specific times. Because I've always loved both and this film particularly a) Diablo wrote it and I adore that woman and everything she writes is genius and it made me laugh and it scared me and I just saw the story. I dug it. Again, like JUNO, it was a script that took teenagers seriously and there was a warmth to it. I remember specifically the first time I saw NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET; there was a warmth to those 80's horror films that has somehow been lost in the last ten years. I feel like recently, most horror films I see, kind of fall in two categories. There's kind of gore and decimation or kind of this world of very cold horror films that have sprung from THE RING. Like THE RING spawned a whole series of films, whether they're American or Japanese, that are very cold and speaks kind of loneliness. And this is a very warm teenage horror film that reminded me of the stuff I watched when I was a kid and I really wanted to make it. You liken it to these teen comedies rather than these teen horror movies that came out in the 90's, like SCREAM crowd. Yeah, well I mean SCREAM was a very sophisticated film and certainly we could say we made the SCREAM of our generation and we'd be thrilled. I mean SCREAM was really good. I'd say the difference is that SCREAM was very 90's and it was very self-aware and 80's horror films weren't self-aware. Even though Diablo's writing, there's a kind of a self-awareness to it, it kind of acknowledges iconography and advertising and all of that. The emotions are in the moment and real like in the same way I think of 80's horror films. When did you read the script in the process of JUNO? Was it during the shooting of that? It was right before JUNO went into theaters, I think. It was the end of last year when I read the script for the last time. She's written a few of scripts, hasn't she? She's a very busy girl. Did you read a number of things that she was working on? I've read the pilot she did over at Showtime and [something else he couldn't remember]. How do her scripts generally read? Are they usually everything? Does she write a lot of detail? Oh yeah, she's a very specific writer and I feel bad for the film audience because they never get all of that wonderful description. Her descriptions are just as funny as her dialogue and they're very accurate and very funny. There's a lot of precision to her writing.
She's got this thing that most writers don't have. She's a writer that people recognize. What do you think she has... It's a combination of things. Uh, she has an unbelievable name, just to start with. I remember the first time I told Christopher Buckley [author of the book THANK YOU FOR SMOKING], "Hey, I'm going to be doing a movie its written by a girl named Diablo Cody". He's like, "Oh! What a fantastic name". And her history's really interesting. The fact that she went from a blogger to a screenwriter. The fact that she won an Oscar on the first thing she ever wrote. Not the first thing ever produced. The first thing that she ever sat down and wrote won an Oscar. I mean there's so much to her. Her look! She wears leopard print every single day. And also because she's so damn charming and so funny. Most writers, like myself, become writers because we can't express a similar level of charm and humor in our public self that we can on the page. Given the opportunity we can sit down and write and be very funny, but in person much less so. She's someone who is just as quick witted, just as interesting in person as she is on the page. And because of that, she's become an icon. You mention that you're a horror fan, could you see yourself writing or directing one at some point... Actually, I wrote a horror film [and] I was down to two films - there was going to be two films that would have been my first movie. One was THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and the other was this horror film I wrote and I was in-between the two. THANK YOU FOR SMOKING went and the other one didn't and that's kinda how it went at the end of the day. I mean, I'm not as good on horror as Diablo is, including the older stuff. But, I just love the genre and I would one day love to do a horror film. This film has a tricky balance between [horror] and comedy. Do you find it has a hard sell to get it out on the screen... Well the film's not cut yet, so, I think it will be a more interesting balance once it gets to editing. When you shout gore, at least for us when we're shooting gore, you shoot different amounts. We'll shoot a version that's pretty gory and then she we'll shoot a version that's fairly tame. That's just cause you'll have to figure out film tonally in the edit and see what the audience what they've come prepared for. The film kind of finds itself in the editing. During editing the film starts telling you who it is and you have to kind of listen to that. So, I'm not really worried about that. Karyn is so smart and she understands this film implicitly. And what she understands most is very important, is character. Who these kids are and what they're relationships are and everything builds on top of that and she'll know the exact amount of gore to put in. What made her the right person to direct? This is very different from what [she's done before]. Well, when I think of GIRLFIGHT, a film that portrayed teenage girl relationships in a way I really hadn't seen in any other film. So, in that sense she was kind of perfect. When I started talking to her about the look of the film are she started pulling out these tear sheets from magazines and artists that were just perfect. She just understood the film. How could she come to be in the running? Basically, we went out and said we're making this movie and directors who were interested read the script, they told us their availability, we had some meetings and it was clear pretty quickly that she was the perfect person. Even though you say you weren't ever interested in directing this project, was it difficult for you on set to step back and allow someone else... Yeah a little bit at first, ya'know you can't help it. You're on set an my inclination is to like hop out of the chair, go talk to the actors. You just have to hold yourself back a little. It reminds me on THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, my father would come to set and my producer Dan [Dubiecki] would have to stop him from coming to talk to me and talking to the actors. But its kind of easy because she's so damn good. After a while I just kind of relax and enjoy craft service. Finding a whole new role on set. What kind of impact did that new role for you have in terms of your relationship with the staff while... That's interesting. God, it's hard to make a comparison just because JUNO was her first film so I think she was kind of still - everything was still a discovery process for her, as far as filmmaking went on JUNO. Where now, she has a pretty good idea of how things work. And, she is a producer on this and we're collaborators. In that sense it's the same. We were collaborators on JUNO we're collaborators on this. Are you quite a hands-off producer? Are you on set quite a lot? I went on set quite a lot. I left in the middle of it cause I've actually been writing, I've been finishing my own screenplay. But, the first three weeks I was there every single day and after a while I realize - this is going great, I have no concerns. Everything is perfect. A lot of genre films these days are going with a PG-13 rating... This is an R film. This is an R film with no fear of the being NC-17. Basically, as written, it's an R. We all know we're making an R. But, there's nothing in it that will put us in danger of being unreleasable. How early on in pre-production were Megan and Amanda's names being tossed around? Meghan was immediately and Amanda shortly thereafter. As soon as we started looking for a Needy [Amanda Seyfried's character]. We're all fans of her and all fans from different things. MEAN GIRLS fans, I was a big ALPHA DOG fan. Dan [Dubiecki] was a big BIG LOVE guy. We were all fans of her and it was just clear. Did you get any advice from your father on dealing with career moves post huge success? Yeah, he said don't worry you will have failures so just keep on making movies. How often do you two talk about the business? Everyday, everyday. I mean there's something to talk about everyday. That never changes. Do you call him looking for advice? Oh yeah of course on everything from the tinniest details to the biggest stay-up-at-night questions. We have a great relationship and the fun thing now is he calls me about stuff too now. He's got stuff in production and he brings me to screenings and I talk to him about his stuff and its fun.
Is there any talk about grooming Diablo and letting her take a crack at directing? Oh, I'm confident she'll be directing sooner than you think and it won't need my help. I was thinking you two could do a role reversal - you're the writer, she's the director... [Laughs in support] I think if she's directing it'll probably be something she writes. It takes me too long to write. She writes things in a manner of weeks. It takes me years. She'd have to wait a long time. She'd be old by the time I was finished. So where do you feel more comfortable behind the typewriter or on the set? In the editing room is where I feel comfortable. I don't feel very comfortable writing or directing. I really like editing. I think writing and directing are just two necessary evils to get you to editing. With that slight discomfort doesn't it translate on the set? How do you project this image that everybody is cool in charge - I love this... You just have to have a plan and, look, by the time I made my first feature I'd been making commercials and short films for so many years that there's this certain confidence in that I knew what I was doing. After I've made one feature that seemed to work there's confidence in the second one. You just have to have a plan and you have to go by your gut and not worry too much about it. I tend not to over philosophize the ideas. I really go by from my gut and I just trust that. I know sometimes its going to be right and sometimes wrong and that's how I make movies. There seems to be a trend now where a lot of the filmmakers come out of Sundance and art house and indie faves - suddenly you're doing these blockbusters like Jon Favreau and you might not initially associate them with doing something like that. Do you see yourself doing something like that at some point? Or do you want to stick with THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and JUNO? I want to stick with those films for a while. One day I could see myself doing a big film. But it's not the kind of films that are generally in my heart. Like I've been offered a lot of opportunities to direct big movies and none of them really interest me. I like to make small movie and I have many more ideas for smaller stranger films than I have for bigger fare. I have one idea, I have like my GHOSTBUSTERS idea and one day I'll direct it and I think its pretty cool. But... Is it a genre or... Yeah, its a big sci-fi comedy. But that's not what I think about most. Like if I could make only one more movie and it was either my big sci-fi comedy movie or like the weirdest of my weird ideas - which is probably to probably remake PRETTY WOMAN shot-for-shot with a real hooker in the role of Julia Roberts... I'd probably do the PRETTY WOMAN. Like that's kind of where my heart is. Those were the films that got me excited about making movies. I told Kevin Smith once, and he thought it was hilarious, I said - in the 80s, when I was a kid, I was just kind of a film fan. My parents would drop me off at the cineplex. I'd go see big movies and I loved them. And then the moment I decided to become a filmmaker was when I started seeing these films come out of Sundance. I think my dad had a Laserdisc of SLACKER and I was like "What the hell is this?" And then I went to the Laemmle Sunset Five in LA and I saw CLERKS and I saw BOTTLE ROCKET and CITIZEN RUTH and a couple others. "This is my voice, this is what I want to do". And I told Kevin Smith that. He said, "you grew up on the set of GHOSTBUSTERS and you had to see my little 16mm movie that i shot in Red Bank, NJ to realize that you want to be a director?" Yeah, actually that was the moment for me. So, superhero movies like CAPTAIN AMERICA or THOR, you have no interest in that stuff? No. I mean if I was going a superhero film I'd want it to be hyper-real. I've thought a little bit about what superhero stories could be told that way and right now the greatest success seems to be with these Marvel films and I like 'em. I like 'em a lot. I just can't imagine myself making one of those. But if there was kind of a hyper-real version of one that I could do, that would be a lot of fun. I'd probably consider doing it. Will that horror film that you wrote ever see the light of day? Yeah I hope so, I think is a cool film. Hopefully now particularly, because things are kind of going well for me I'll find a way to get it made. I'll probably produce it I probably wouldn't direct it. Just because I have a few things lined up for me. Is it difficult to direct your own writing? Only in that your always wondering "is this any good?" Because when you're directing someone else's writing you can hold onto that gut feeling. Kubrick used to talk about the idea that the most important thing is that you harness the reaction you had the first time you read the material. And everyday you're trying to achieve that. Remember that because that is what you want the audience to feel and if you originate something yourself you're going off of a gut. That movie BABY MAMA just had a decent joke about the stuff - you wake up in the middle of the night and you have this thought that comes out of a dream and you write it down - and the next day you're like 'What the hell was that?' I would imagine that writing original screenplays and then directing them... you just never quite know. But everything I've written so far has been - except for the horror film - has been an adaptation in one way or another. I usually go off my gut reaction to a book or something like that. Was it important for you to go from one project to another that is very different from the previous one? I don't know. I haven't made enough movies to figure that out yet. I've only made two movies and they're pretty different. The next one is kind of similar to THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. I think I'm too young to answer that properly. You mention very briefly that Megan Fox's name came up immediately. Why was it her name that came up immediately? You know what, that happened prior to me to be perfectly honest. Mason Novick, who discovered Diablo, was the producer on this movie day one. They packaged it with Megan Fox and then Dan [Dubecki] and I came on. [pause] The great surprise of Megan Fox was how funny she is. I had seen her in TRANSFORMERS; met her in person, this girl is obviously beautiful, she was great in that movie. But this is a movie that had a lot of comedy and I knew nothing of her ability in comedy. The great discovery for me on this has been that she's really funny. And not like 'Oh look, she can be funny.' No, like real deal funny reminds me of Rachel McAdams in MEAN GIRLS except she's really fucking mean. Does she know what this is based on because she's probably too young for when a lot of them came out. The kind of inspiration... I think she's a movie fan as much as the next person. I've never gone through a list and said what are your thoughts on this film. I've never given her like a pop quiz. But she's really well read and very hip. She's no dummy and she suffers no fools and she knows exactly what she's doing here. Awesome, It has been a blast! Thanks!