These days, with his early career anxieties behind him and Up In the Air tipped as an Oscar front-runner, Reitman still finds plenty to worry about, as if his constitution depended on a steady infusion of nervous energy. He worries about whether he’s being a good husband to his wife, Michele, whom he credits for his ability to write strong female characters. He worries about whether he’s being a good father to his young daughter, especially given the long periods of separation that come with making movies.

While shooting Up In the Air, he tells me, “For the first time, in a real way, I felt this strain, particularly because I’m the son of a director and I know what it was like to have my dad go away for months. The tricky thing about being a director is, even when you’re home, you’re not there. I could be sitting at the dinner table across from you, but in my mind, I’m trying to figure out the movie. As soon as I start writing, all the way through postproduction, my mind is in the world of the characters, and I’m trying to figure the movie out. First, I’m figuring out how to write it. Then I’m figuring out how to get it made. Then I’m figuring out how to shoot it, then how to cut it. It’s a year where I’m just not present, and that’s tough.”

Reitman worries that he may not be making movies fast enough. “Right now, I make a movie every two years, and I’d like it to be every year and a half,” he says, noting that, historically speaking, most directors tend to make their best movies early in their careers. “If I have something to say, it’s going to happen right now. So, I don’t want to make three movies in my 30s. I’d like to make six movies in my 30s.” When I ask Reitman where he sees himself 10 years from now, he tells me simply that he hopes he’s made five more films, that they’re all personal and that most of them are good.

Back in the present, Reitman has his sights set squarely on what he hopes will be his next project—an adaptation of To Die For author Joyce Maynard’s recent novel, Labor Day, about the relationship between a lonely 13-year-old boy, his single mother and the escaped convict who enters their lives over the titular holiday weekend. “It’s just strange and dramatic and romantic,” he says. And decidedly not high-concept. “I’m not going to be relying on cute jokes,” he adds. “I’m not going to be relying on anything. I’m just going to tell the story.”

Up In the Air is currently playing countywide. Read our review, “Destination Unknown” (Dec. 4).

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