The Jason Reitman Takedown Begins
Jason Reitman's Golden Globes screenplay win for Up in the Air last night was a fairly expected event -- his film was one of the best-liked of this awards season (though it's been eclipsed somewhat by the full-throttle force of Avatar), and the screenplay category provides the strongest place to congratulate him. It won't all be smooth sailing though, as the LAT just put out an expertly timed article questioning Reitman's claims about his screenplay, and those allegations -- coupled with the sudden appearance of co-credited writer Sheldon Turner -- have people buzzing.
Reitman's put together a notorious pie chart that sums up all the topics he's discussed during his Up in the Air press tour, but notably, Turner doesn't rate a place in the Top 20. To take it from the LAT article, that's because any acknowledgment of Turner -- who literally wasn't allowed to speak by Reitman at the Critics Choice Awards this past week (a situation remedied at last night's Globes) -- might detract from the image of Reitman as an Air-discovering auteur:
The genesis story that Jason Reitman tells is by now well-honed. He discovered Walter Kirn's novel "Up in the Air" in the independent bookshop Book Soup and spent a long time whipping a script into shape before getting behind the camera. "When I started writing this screenplay," Reitman told NPR, "we were in the midst of an economic boom, and by the time I was finished we were in one of the worst recessions on record."
What he hasn't been saying as much was that the script was actually already in development for several years, first as an independent project and then at Fox, before he became involved, and screenwriter Sheldon Turner wrote an entire draft before Reitman put pen to paper. Turner's draft would be recognizable to anyone who's seen the finished film; significant elements from it, sources who read it say, appear in the finished movie.
The invention of George Clooney's whippersnapper partner played by Anna Kendrick, for instance, came from Turner (in Turner's version it was a man; another writer who wasn't Reitman later changed it to a woman). A key plot point about a laid-off worker committing suicide came from Turner. And while Reitman invented many memorable lines, sources noted Turner made his mark too: he was responsible for the trademark line from George Clooney's character to laid-off workers about founding an empire.
Reitman's claim that he invented Anna Kendrick's character Natalie has come in for some scrutiny before. Despite the fact that Reitman says he wrote the role with Kendrick in mind, THR reported at the time of her casting that Ellen Page and Emily Blunt had been contenders for the part, an archival fact that Kendrick alluded to her in her interview with Movieline: "You know, a bunch of agents from other companies have told me that they're really happy for me, but when they made that announcement, they wanted to kill me."
Will the LAT piece hurt Reitman's Oscar chances? It remains to be seen, but if anything, it seems to have opened up a line of discussion that Up in the Air's team would rather clamp down. Already, over at Hollywood Elsewhere, in-the-know commenters have been alleging that the last shot of the film was Turner's invention and that Ted Griffin (the first writer hired to adapt the film, and the first to attach Clooney to it) was given an executive producer credit to keep quiet about his contribution. Reitman's been a chatty awards season presence -- he even convened a conference call with bloggers recently just to discuss a cancer subplot that had been dropped from Kirn's source novel -- but on this subject, the LAT notes, "Turner and Reitman separately declined to comment."