If some of those people up there on the big screen getting fired by George Clooney in the new film Up In the Air look like friends and family, that's because they just might be. Writer/director Jason Reitman used real people who had recently been laid off when he shot his latest film.
That's what he told viewers at a special screening of Up in the Air held, appropriately enough, for mostly "aspiring" (aka: looking for work) writers held at a branch of the Motion Picture Academy in Hollywood. "When we were shooting in Detroit and St. Louis, we put an ad in the paper for people who had recently lost their jobs, like you would do for a documentary," said Reitman. "We ended up interviewing about 60 people, and 22 of them you see in the film."
In order to set the tone for the entire project, the first four days of the 50 day shoot were spent on these interviews. Up In the Air, which has been drawing rave reviews and was recently chosen as the year's best by the National Board of Review, has Clooney playing an executive hired to fly around the country, fire employees and help them transition into other jobs. A few of those fired were played by real actors, but in most cases, it's hard to tell the difference.
Hanging out with George Clooney and co-star Anna Kendrick is nice work if you can get it, even if it does involve revisiting a very difficult situation. "We told them to say just what they said, or what they wished they would have said, when they were fired themselves," said Reitman. They actually got paid to vent for all the world to see, which must have been some pretty sweet consolation.