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Labor Day - Jason Reitman interview

Labor Day

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JASON Reitman talks about some of the challenges of adapting Labor Day for the big screen and why he was so impressed with his leading lady, Kate Winslet. He was speaking at a press conference held during the 2013 London Film Festival.

Q. This is your third feature film to be adapted from a book. What was it about Joyce Maynard’s novel that inspired you to transfer this to the big screen?
Jason Reitman: That’s always such a tricky question to answer because I don’t think there was anything at the time that made me go ‘oh, I was looking for this exact movie’. As a matter of fact, my producer… when she gave it to me she said: “This is unlike anything you’ve ever done and doesn’t resemble anything you’ve said you want to do but I just have a feeling that you’re going to love this.” And that was the absolute truth. I just started reading the book and it started coming to life in my head. And by the end I had fallen in love with the story and wanted to make it. But I was also really scared because it was completely different from anything I’ve ever done.

Q. Are you interested in films that deal with female loneliness?
Jason Reitman: Wow, this could be a political answer! I’m interested in women in general and that maybe my most honest answer to that question. I’ve never really thought about the idea of loneliness as an interesting subject. I’ve thought a lot about how we live our lives and whether it would be better if we lived alone or next to other people and that’s something that you see in all my films – characters trying to learn to live together. One thing I loved about this book, and what made it very tricky to make as a movie – and I live on the shoulders of Josh [Brolin] and Kate [Winslet] here – is inexplicable love. It’s a very tricky thing to direct a movie where characters do things that don’t necessarily make sense. But these are the moments that I love about life. It’s all of the things that I look back on in my own life and say: “Why did I do that? Nothing about it makes sense on paper but it turned out for the best…” And one of the things I fell in love with about this book is that when she took him into her home, somehow it felt right to me even though I couldn’t think why it made sense. But it took two actors to portray that. I don’t know… I’m not answering your question whatsoever. Maybe in 20 years I’ll figure out why I made this film, or any film I’ve ever made [laughs]. So, I’m going to go back to my first answer – I’m really interested in women [laughs].

Q. How did you go about creating such a believable mother-son relationship between Kate and Gattlin Griffith, who plays her son in the film?
Jason Reitman: Well, I think what Kate did was incredible because she co-directed that relationship in a way that I’ve never experienced as a filmmaker. I admit it scared me on day one but by the end I realised how brilliant it was on her part. It was remarkable. Kate, from day one, started to bond with Gattlin and would take him aside and talk to him about… actually, there’s a lot of things that I don’t frankly know what you talked about to this day! But I know some of it had to do with being an actor and what it was like being on-set. It’s the first time he ever had a role like that. She would start to mother him in this way that meant they had this bond that was on-camera, off-camera and it meant in the scene where she was distancing herself from him, you could sense his loss. Kate did a scene where she was getting closer to Josh, you could sense that he was actually stepping in between her and Gattlin. It was always the question we were asking ourselves: how do you get a 12-year-old boy to feel that Kate is his mother and somehow his partner in life – that somehow he becomes the man of the household in this vacuum. And that came from all the time they spent together in between takes. They would go off and talk. I think sometimes it was about the take they just did and sometimes it was about what life is like as an actor.

Read our review of Labor Day

Read our interview with Kate Winslet