Interview with Juno's Director Jason Reitman
by Alex Billington
December 17, 2007
Ever since I saw Juno at the Toronto Film Festival in September and attended a roundtable with Jason Reitman, he's been one of those filmmakers that I've always wanted to spend a few minutes chatting filmmaking with. He's such down-to-earth and cool guy who loves movies as much as you and I and takes that to heart when directing. Now that he has both Juno and Thank You For Smoking (his debut feature film) under his belt, it's obvious that anything Reitman makes is bound to be fantastic. Thankfully I had the chance to talk with Jason on the phone as he was boarding a plane to transfer cities on his press tour for Juno and talk about all things movies, making Juno, Diablo Cody, and his own personal favorite five films.
If you've seen Juno by now you know how great of a film it is and that's a testament to Jason's skills as a filmmaker. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed talking with Jason. If you do like this interview, please let us know in a comment below - thanks!
How did you come across Diablo Cody's script for Juno in the first place?
Jason: A friend called me one night and said, "this is one of the best scripts I've ever read, you've got to read it" and he was right, it just knocked me out.
Where did the idea of the runners who always show up come from, was that in the script to begin with?
Jason: Yea, it was in the script.
Was there any special Jason Reitman touch you added to it?
Jason: Well, I think I probably used it 10 times more than it was in the script. In the script it was originally used just to do the act break, and I just loved the idea, and I ran track myself in high school. So we just kept the runners on set almost every day and we just ran them through scenes. The ending shot wasn't even supposed to have the runners in it, and we did two takes of that and we said, "hey, let's just throw the runners through."
Were there any other inspirations from your own high school experience that you threw in?
Jason: No, but… Her high school colors are cardinal and gold and I imagine you wouldn't have to think too much or look too far to figure out what college that came from.
Yea, I understand. When did you first discover Ellen Page and what was the process of getting her cast?
Jason: I had already seen Hard Candy so I was already a big Ellen Page fan. And when I got the job she just seemed perfect so I went to meet with her immediately and it was just like meeting Juno, she was perfect.
So, was it right from when you got the script that you thought she was the right person?
Jason: Well, yea, exactly… I had seen Hard Candy and I was really familiar with her and so when I got the job, my first thought was Ellen Page and I met her and it just… I went to visit her on one of her sets and she opened her trailer door and smiled at me and it was like, "oh, hi Juno!"
You were in the middle of writing another script before Juno came along, can you tell me anything about that?
Jason: No, it's a book that I'm adapting and I'm actually going to still make into a movie, but I haven't announced what it is. So I can't go into it, but… It's similar to Thank You For Smoking in tone.
Is it your next movie or are you doing something else in between?
Jason: Well hopefully it's my next movie if the strike ends and I can [write]… If the strike ends and I can get back to it. Although I am also producing Diablo Cody's next movie [Jennifer's Body], which we will start in March.
How's that coming along?
Jason: It's coming great! We're going to have a director by the end of the week and Megan Fox is attached to star and I'm really excited about it. It's a horror-comedy.
Yea, I've heard about it, that's one of them I'm really keeping my eye on.
What made you first decide to get into directing, was it to follow in your father's footsteps [Ivan Reitman] or something on your own part?
Jason: I've always kind of been obsessed about movies; I've loved movies since I was a little kid. I'm not sure if it's a response to watching or being on set when I was growing up, or just my love of being in movie theaters. I think the end, I love telling stories… I love telling stories, I love telling jokes, and I think that filmmaking is telling stories on the grandest scale.
What's your favorite part of the filmmaking process?
Jason: Watching my movie with an audience and watching them laugh.
Do you have a favorite part when your working and directing and being on set?
Jason: I love editing. Editing is where it all comes together. Writing is incredibly difficult; it takes a lot of discipline. Being on set is kind of managerial, you're at an in-between stage of storytelling, you've already come up with an idea, you can't yet put it together, so you have to kind of record it to film. And editing is the process where you actually see your movie come together.
You've had a really successful career and it's just getting better and better as time goes on.
Jason: Thank you.
I was going to ask just for fun, what are your own five favorite movies?
Jason: Dr. Strangelove, Election, American Beauty, Die Hard—
The first one?
Jason: Yea, of course! And… Bottle Rocket.
Has it ever been in your mind, since you mentioned Die Hard, that you would do an action movie?
Jason: It's hard to imagine myself doing an action film, I just have a real appreciation for them.
Has anything you've seen this year really stood out to you besides your own movie?
Jason: No Country for Old Men, I thought that was pretty spectacular. It was perfectly directed.
I heard a rumor just the other day that said you were in talks to direct a movie called Pierre Pierre. What happened with that?
Jason: Yea. It's a script that I really like. Have you read it?
No, not yet, I just heard about it.
Jason: It's one of the funniest scripts I've ever read.
Is it still in your sights in the future or has it moved on to someone else?
Jason: No, no, I'm absolutely looking at it. You should try to get a copy.
I'll look into it, I've heard the Black List has a lot of good stuff, so I'm going to try and get a couple of them. I heard Juno was on there a couple of years ago.
Jason: Yea. I'm not sure Thank You For Smoking was ever on there.
What's the disconnect that you had between writing and directing Thank You For Smoking, how many years was it in between?
Jason: I wrote it in 2000 and it came out in 2006.
Wow, so it was about 3 or 4 years until it actually got picked up and until you actually went into directing it?
Jason: Yea, it was really hard to get made and it was finally made independently - the creator of Paypal paid for it. That's the big joke of my life, everyone presumes that being the son of a famous filmmaker meant it was easy to get into the business and [yet] no studio would make my first film and I had to find an internet millionaire to make my first movie.
Obviously it's opened some doors then…
Jason: Yea, things have been going alright.
Well, it wasn't hard to make Juno right?
Jason: Oh no, Juno was really easy to make, frankly. I just loved the screenplay, all the actors jumped on board off of the screenplay. And Fox just kind of stepped up and they loved it and were into it from moment one.
Obviously you're producing Diablo Cody's next movie as you said earlier, but are you hoping she has another script for you to direct in the future as well?
Jason: Oh yea, absolutely. Well, she's so prolific. She's got like three scripts at three studios, she's got that TV show with Spielberg, she's cooking.
Oh yea, that's for sure.
Thank you to Jason Reitman and everyone at Fox Searchlight for the opportunity to interview one of the coolest up-and-coming directors around. Jason is on the path to incredible success and it's not by becoming a big sell-out director, it's by staying true to values and delivering the best storytelling you'll find on screen. Be sure to check out Juno currently playing in theaters around the US and expanding to your local city throughout December and early January.