In addition to working with Diablo Cody with “Juno” and “Young Adult,” Jason Reitman has directed the novels of Christopher Buckley (“Thank You For Smoking”) and Walter Kirn (“Up in the Air”). For “Labor Day” Jason Reitman took on Joyce Maynard’s book about an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) who takes a single mother (Kate Winslet) hostage over a long holiday weekend. To hear Reitman tell it, any success he’s had as a director is all down to his leading ladies.
How did you approach adapting the novel into a film?
The narrative follows the book so carefully. I was trying to recreate how the book made me feel. The book is told so beautifully, it’s so emotional and I had such an immediate reaction to it that I wanted to create a cinematic experience that mirrored the book. I wanted to tell a story all the way to the end and leave people with a sense of romance. You can’t always punch people in the ribs. Not every time.
You’re developing quite a track record of working with great actresses.
Frankly, I’ve just been very lucky, you know? To have worked with Maria Bello, Ellen Page, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Charlize Theron and now Kate Winslet? I mean, it’s an unreal group. I’m lucky that they’ve chosen to work with me. It’s wonderful. I mean, it makes me look better than I am. That’s the truth. In their hands, it makes me look like a decent director.
You could try to go out and make a movie…
With the worst actors possible? I would think given the option of working with brilliant people? Yeah, I’ll continue to do that. I find that I know when they’re right when it just seems honest and real. When I’m watching an audition, whether it’s for a lead or the tiniest part, do they make the words seem honest? It’s not if it’s funny, it’s not if it’s dramatic, it’s not if it’s moving. It’s just does my bulls— detector go off?
Was that how it was with your young star, Gattlin Griffith?
We looked at a lot of young men, and he came in and it was just instantaneous. It’s those eyes. The whole movie is his point of view looking at the world — watching this man, watching his mother, trying to figure out what they’re doing, trying to figure out his own sexuality. He could do everything without talking, and that’s what I needed.
And you cast a remarkably accurate look-alike for young Josh Brolin for the flashbacks.
Tom Lipinski looks exactly like Josh Brolin. My girlfriend at the time said, “When he heard you were casting this movie he must have shot in his pants.” (laughs) Use that in your paper.