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Theron, Reitman, Cody Talk Young Adult: Go-for-Broke Screenwriting, Assholes Don't Change, C Word

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood November 2, 2011 at 5:44AM

After the sixth and final pop-up screening of Jason Reitman's Young Adult Tuesday night at Los Angeles' New Beverly, Reitman, writer Diablo Cody and stars Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Reaser did a Q & A. TOH! guest blogger Beth Hanna reports highlights from the conversation. Paramount is releasing the film December 16.
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After the sixth and final pop-up screening of Jason Reitman's Young Adult Tuesday night at Los Angeles' New Beverly, Reitman, writer Diablo Cody and stars Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt and Elizabeth Reaser did a Q & A. TOH! guest blogger Beth Hanna reports highlights from the conversation. Paramount is releasing the film December 16.

Creating their own festival: Juno it ain't:
Reitman kicked off the evening by explaining Young Adult's unusual pop-up screening route: "We've been on a little run the last two weeks, we've been showing this movie in a few different cities. We realized early on this is a very different movie for every one of us. If you were expecting Juno, I apologize. We decided early on that if we're not going to play film festivals, that we should have a film festival of our own, and that's what we've done for the last two weeks. We went to Chicago and played the Music Box, and went to Toronto and played the Light Box, and we were in Austin and played the Alamo [Drafthouse], and I cannot think of a better way for us to finish this small tour, this small film festival, than to play at the gem of Los Angeles, the motherfucking New Beverly."
 
Theron's excitement on meeting Reitman:
"I did that horrible, embarrassing thing at the Oscars -- it was the year that Up in the Air was nominated - where I got to the Oscars really early and was stuck in a corner with my mom drinking way too much champagne. Jason happened to be in front of me, and I did that horrible thing where I was like, 'Dude, I really liked your movie.' A month later, I was at a restaurant and he happened to be there, and it was the right time and the right place, and he said, 'I read this script, and I think you'd be great for it and you should look at it'... and I shit my pants."

Love at first table read.
Oswalt recalled that Theron was so in character during the read that he thought to himself, "Oh my God, if I get this part, getting to play off of her is going to be really amazing," and that her dedication to the role was "relentless." Reitman added that his whole outlook on the film changed from that initial dry run: "Table reads reveal a lot about what the movie's going to be, and it's the one time when you get to hear the movie from start to finish, where you get to watch the actors build their characters and really figure them out on the fly. Watching [Theron and Oswalt, they] had chemistry immediately, and it was the moment I realized, 'This is a love story.'"

Pessimism and difficult protagonists: "Assholes don't change."
Cody talked about the pessimism in her screenplay and the difficult-to-like Mavis (Theron): "This kind of film is a tough one to get made, particularly because Mavis does not have a classic redemption arc... I am of the mind that assholes don't change. I just think people in general don't necessarily change in the dramatic way that we see them change in the third act of movies. So it was very important for me to retain that realism and keep that alive. There are other versions of this movie that sort of exist in an alternate reality--like the romantic comedy version or the feel good version--and that was not the movie that I wanted to make, or that Jason wanted to make." Oswalt added, "How great that we got to show [the film] here in the New Beverly, where the audiences have been trained to watch movies like Five Easy Pieces and Fat City and The Conversation, where the protagonists do not change or, if anything, get even more embedded in how they are."

The C word.
One word captures the vicious sting of Theron's character-- and no, it isn't "bitch." Theron got the expletive ball rolling: for a certain scene, she said, she needed a "total funt face." Oswalt added, "I'm going to say this because I was too much of a pussy to say this in New York. One time in the bar [scene, Jason] went up to Charlize and said, 'I need way more 'Cunty' from you.' And she said, 'I can give it to you, but I don't think you want it.' [In the character's negative expression and demeanor], you absolutely understand that Mavis is doomed, and she doesn't know it yet." Reitman agreed: "This is the only movie I've done where I've had 'More cunty' or 'Less cunty' as a continuous direction."

Reitman on rehearsal:
"I don't do any rehearsal. I'm not a big believer in it. I feel like movies are about capturing one specific moment that's never going to happen again, and if you nail it in rehearsal, you're never going to have it again. I'm confident enough in the actors that I work with that I know in three or four takes that they're going to get there. Really, it comes down to finding people who have chemistry. And finding people who have a nature about them that exists in the character that they're playing."

Who chose the music?
As in Juno, the music in Young Adult is distinct and evocative. "I did choose the Teenage Fanclub song that plays over the credits and recurs in the movie," admitted Cody, "and I'm very proud of that, because usually Jason steamrolls my musical decisions. And in this case, that [song] lived. The rest is all Jason." Reitman gives Cody more credit: "One of the great things about doing Diablo's screenplays is that there's so much detail -- not just music. The characters are perfectly described, their wardrobes are perfectly described, the production design, the stuff that they have on their shelves. There's been times when I disagree with the music. I have to admit, I'm not a fan of the Teenage Fanclub song, I don't like that song. But I heard it, and [I thought] this song is right."

Oswalt on future roles and the allure of a great script:
"I don't know what I'm going to do in the future. I'm a film nerd like all of you, and what attracts me is a great script. This [Young Adult] is a great script. This is no different -- for me, at least -- from Big Fan or Ratatouille. I think like any film nerd, you want to go beyond genre and read really good, risky, go-for-broke stuff. And this movie, more than anything this year, absolutely puts every chip on one color, one number, and spins. I hope I get to do more stuff that aspires to this level of screenwriting."

Watch the film's trailer here and read an early review of the film here.

[Picture of Cody, Theron, and Reaser courtesy of Jeffrey Wells.]

This article is related to: Directors, Genres, Headliners, Independents, Interviews , Marketing, Jason Reitman, Drama, comedy, Will Smith


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.