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Waiting for Kate Winslet: A Conversation with Jason Reitman

Labor Day
04 August 2014

From writer/director Jason Reitman, the Academy Award®-nominated director of Up In The Air and Juno, comes a beautiful and endearing romance based on the New York Times best-selling novel by ?Joyce Maynard.  Kate Winslet (Titanic, The Reader) and Josh Brolin (True Grit) star in this wonderfully told story of a mother (Winslet) and son  – played by Gattlin Griffith (Changeling) –  who take in a mysterious stranger (Brolin) over a long Labor Day weekend, leading to a second chance at love.

LABOR DAY on Blu-ray includes “End of Summer: Making Labor Day,” deleted scenes and commentary by director Jason Reitman, director of photography Eric Steelberg and first assistant director/co-producer Jason Blumenfeld.  



Jason, Is it true you hired Josh Brolin for this movie because he’s the intimidating type?

I am not sure if I would describe Josh that way but I can tell you that when he moves his eyebrows a certain way, he really does come across pretty intimidating. I just felt he was perfect for this part. He can play tough and tender all within one scene. Josh is one of those actors that can do it all.


“Labor Day” deals with a lot of very serious issues. How relevant is the movie today?

The only reason the film takes place in 1987 is so we could move through time and could move forward. I agree with you, this film could easily take place today. The times might have changed, but people still feel the same emotions our characters feel in “Labor Day”. 


This movie is very suspenseful and a little bit of a departure from your previous movies. Was it your intention to pick a project that was different than your other movies? 

It’s not like I was really looking for it. I had read the book and had fallen in love with it. I wanted to make a movie that was true to the book. In general I want to make movies that are very personal. That’s really what I set out to do. And I do think this is a very personal movie. 


How did this movie land in your lap anyway? 

My producer Helen Estabrook brought me the book. She said I would love it, and she was right. She knows what I like. When Frank was tying Adele up and feeding her chili, I knew I had to do this. 


Is it true that you waited for Kate to make this movie? 

Yes, that is true. I wanted to start this film right after I finished “Up in the Air”. But Kate was unavailable for another year. It didn’t bother me, because I didn’t see anybody else in that role, so we waited for a year and fitted another movie in between.



Labor Day is based on a book, but it feels very personal, how come? 

Well, because it is very personal. I was 13 in the late 80s, and I saw myself in that boy. I think the author of the book totally understood the mindset of a 13 year old. So many details in that book portray a boy of that age perfectly. For me it was very relatable.


Can strangers really become that close so quickly?

I believe in the intimacy of strangers. In other movies I did before this one, I pointed that out. In “Up in the Air” strangers become friends very quickly. There is something very beautiful about that. 


Why is that, you think? 

Have you never felt you could tell a stranger more than you might be able to tell someone that is really close to you? It’s that concept. Sometimes it’s just easier to open up to somebody you just met.


Your dad Ivan Reitman was a very famous producer and director. I was wondering, what did you learn from him about filmmaking? 

A lot. He told me that my job is not to make things tense. My job is to find truth, to just be honest on the set. It’s a great recipe that helps me in my relationship with the actors. Everybody seems to appreciate a director that is trying to be honest. 


You seemed to be pretty adamant about your cast, right? 

Yes, I am a big believer in chemistry. The actors have to want to work together. That is very important. And Josh and Kate liked each other a lot. It was a great mix, and I think it shows on camera as well. 


A lot has been said and written about the pie-making scene. Could you explain to the people that have not yet read the book, why pie-making is so important in “Labor Day”?

Sure. The story behind the pie is this. When Joyce Maynard’s mother became sick, she said she didn’t want to watch her figure anymore, so Joyce made a pie for her every single day and became a brilliant pie maker. Everyone would ask how to make pies and she found that she was actually very good at teaching people how to make them. In fact, the second time I ever met her, I went to her home in Blue Valley and she taught me to make a pie, she taught Josh to make a pie, she taught Kate to make a pie.



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