Charlize Theron and Director Jason Reitman Discuss Working Together on Young Adult
12.09.11 by Ryan
The upcoming dark comedy Young Adult is reunion for director Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, the creative team behind the 2007 comedy/drama Juno that scored Reitman an Oscar nomination and Cody an Academy Award. The movie stars Charlize Theron as unlikeable teen fiction writer Mavis Gary, who returns to her Midwestern hometown to reclaim her high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), now a happily married expectant father.
Young Adult is already receiving Oscar buzz, no doubt due to Theron's willingness to play a nasty character, and Reitman's ability to make a movie about the "girl you hated in high school" an appealing and entertaining movie. In an interview with The Playlist, Reitman explained how he and Theron came to work together.
We met at the Oscars. She came up to me and told me she wanted to work with me, I couldn’t be more flattered, intimidated, and I read the script and almost immediately after I saw her at a restaurant and I went up to her and said 'I found a movie for us!,' and she read it and it spooked her a little but in a good way. And we talked about what she would need to do to make this work and she took the challenge, which really excited me. I mean, as a director there’s nothing cooler then an actor ready to jump off the cliff with you.
While Theron won an Academy Award the last time she played a nasty character (in 2003's Monster), the actress admitted to Variety that the role of Mavis did, in fact, scare her, which is why she agreed to do it.
As an actor, you want to be scared. You want something that makes you doubt if you can pull it off. Besides, I'm a bit ADD, so I think I'd hang myself in my trailer if it wasn't something that kept me on my toes.
Reitman said the key to Young Adult was to keep the audience from hating Mavis and turning off from the story.
Getting an audience to feel anything is tricky. The scariest thing about making an audience not feel good is that they may just storm out and tell everyone not to see it. And that you don’t want. So you have to make the audience feel uncomfortable in a way that’s worthwhile and the script did that to me, so I was hoping the movie would do that to an audience.
[Theron's] character’s trying to be mean, but it has a source, which is her vulnerability, her brokenness, her inability to connect with people. That seems to be the source of all her issues. Once it just becomes a scripted line for the purpose of shocking the audience or making the audience laugh then it doesn’t fit anymore.
The results, for Theron, were very satisfying. "It's definitely a highlight of my career," Theron told Variety. "I think this film, on a very deep level, deals with real human conflict, and some of it is not pretty."
Reitman says that while Theron's character in Young Adult might make some audience members uncomfortable, the movie has a "secret weapon" in co-star Patton Oswalt.
They’re going to love Patton I think, who is our secret weapon on this film and who really is the reason this movie works at the end of the day. But, some people don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Perhaps they’re only going to finally understand the movie once they’ve had a conversation with a friend about it. You know this is the kind of movie where it’s not going to settle immediately. You don’t just walk out the door and be like 'yeah, I want to go buy the T-shirt.' I mean I like films that push that kind of conversation. It would be sad if someone just walked out and was like 'Meh,' but I don’t think that’s going to happen, I think it’s going to create conversation.