Hollywood has the tendency to look for something fresh and different—the next thing. As a short-film director, I saw people constantly searching for something new at film festivals. And now, after three features, I can relate: there is something truly addictive about finding fresh voices.
Often, I find myself wanting to tell a specific story and am looking for someone who can express it, someone who bucks every trend. I want to write stories that, when you meet these characters and when you hear what they’re about, make you feel like you’re meeting someone new. When I was writing and casting for Up in the Air and Juno, I saw those sensibilities in Anna Kendrick and Ellen Page.
I have been blown away by actresses like Reese Witherspoon in Election and Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls. When I watched them, I thought, Why aren’t there more parts like this? Similarly, Anna Kendrick represents the type of girl I never see portrayed in movies: someone who is just too smart for her own good and who thinks she has the world summed up, but is completely vulnerable at the same time.
I don’t want to make it sound as though I went into my career thinking, I’m going to discover talented young actresses! That was never my agenda. Really, I just feel lucky that I’ve had the chance to work with Ellen and Anna. They’re obviously very different, but their commonality is the uniqueness of their voices. They possess an authenticity that really stands out.
In this industry, it’s difficult to keep people interested year-to-year, decade-to-decade. Ten or 20 years from now, if I can look back and see actors who’ve had careers that I helped start, I might have an “I did that!” Bob Evans attitude. But for now, I’m young myself, and feel tremendous excitement to work with great talent. People who give voices to my characters and depth to my stories keep me as fresh and unique as they are. —Jason Reitman, Filmmaker, as told to BlackBook