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UP IN THE AIR

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In his first two feature films, Jason Reitman established a distinctive talent for taking provocative anti-heroes – a tobacco lobbyist in Thank You for Smoking and a pregnant teenager in the Oscar®-winning Juno – and telling deeply human, funny and appealing stories in which these tricky characters defy expectations. He continues in this vein with the well-timed tale of Ryan Bingham, who, on the surface has a rather disagreeable job: he fires people when corporations downsize.

And yet, Ryan's story is also about a man who is instantly, poignantly recognizable – a charming, decent man who has enthusiastically embraced our world of speed, technology, comfort, individual ambition and material perks; a man who leads a smooth, enjoyable life; a man who has it all and yet, finds something vital is missing. His tale raises intriguing questions: in an age of global travel and machine-mediated conversations, how do we get to the real, lasting connections that once sustained American communities? And what happens when we avoid them?

Those questions lie at the heart of the screenplay for Up in theAir, based on a novel by Walter Kirn. After an earlier draft by Sheldon Turner, Reitman took it in a new direction tapping into how Ryan Bingham's story reflects how we live now, in an intersecting moment of technological advances and communication breakdowns.

"When I first read Walter Kirn's novel, I couldn't get Ryan Bingham out of my head,” comments Turner. "I was captivated by his job, his unique world and the collateral toll exacted by firing people for a living. How does one sow the seeds of misery and preserve his soul? Ryan Bingham speaks to the disconnect and insulation of our times. All the things meant to bring us together have only driven us apart.”

"I saw it as a story about a guy who has to deal with the fact that, even though he thinks his life is complete, he's been ignoring something very important, which is the responsibility to be part of something larger,” adds Reitman. "Ryan Bingham is so scared off by the burdens of joining a community that he's been missing out on the value of that.”

He continues: "It's something I think we're exploring as a society right now. We're all using our cell phones and twittering and texting and it seems as if we are more connected than ever – while, in reality, people don't look each other in the eye much anymore, and we have fewer real relationships. Ryan's life in airports is a metaphor for that. You can go into an airport anywhere in the world and instantly know where everything is; they have the same shops, the same restaurants, the same newspapers. We're comfortable everywhere, yet nowhere really seems to be home. We're so global that we've lost that sense of local community.”

Reitman's inspiration for Up in the Air began with the novel by Walter Kirn, which Reitman used as a jumping off point for a screenplay that evolved into its own journey. "The book spoke to me on multiple levels,” says Reitman. "I love Walter's language which I used a lot. But as I was writing, my own life changed. I met my wife, fell in love and had a child. And in that process, Ryan Bingham also started to mature and look for more in life. The script grew into being about how imperative connections are in our daily lives.”

Kirn recalls that his novel's subject matter originally arose out of a chance encounter. He was flying to Los Angeles, when he asked the man in the seat next to him where he was from. "He said, ‘Oh, I'm from right here; right from this seat, in fact.' When I asked what he meant by that he told me he used to have an apartment but, because he was on the road 300 days a year, he traded it for a storage locker and called extended-stay hotels home. When I pressed him, he said, ‘You know, there are plenty of me around.' I realized as I t

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