Considering how long it takes to actually get a movie made — even the most hard-working of filmmakers can go three or four years between projects, through no fault of their own — it’s not surprising that many A-list screenwriters, or writer-directors, get through the lean years by taking script doctor gigs. It’s fast, well-paid work, it rarely amounts to more than a dialogue polish, as the films are generally too close to production for major structural changes to take place, and, if the film turns out badly, it doesn’t reflect badly on you, as any doctoring generally goes uncredited, which is why names from John Sayles to Joss Whedon have made hay from it over the years.
The latest to join their ranks is Jason Reitman, the extremely talented helmer of “Thank You For Smoking,” “Juno” and “Up in the Air.” While he’s still perhaps best known for his collaboration with Diablo Cody on “Juno” (and the upcoming “Young Adult“), Reitman wrote his other two pictures himself, and his Oscar-nominated screenwriting chops have landed him a profitable few weeks of work as he completes his latest film (and gears up for his next, “Labor Day,” which added Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet to its cast yesterday): The Hollywood Reporter say that Reitman has been hired to punch up the script for the Steve Carell vehicle “Burt Wonderstone.”
Surprisingly, Reitman’s never worked as a script doctor before, and it’s unclear how deep his rewrite will go, but the helmer was apparently enthusiastic about working on the film, about a washed-up magician (Carell) unseated by a younger rival. Although that may have just been the wheelbarrow of cast that New Line delivered to his front door. Novelist Chad Kultgen wrote the original draft, while “Horrible Bosses” scribes John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have been working on it in recent years, so the pedigree is already there, but presumably Carell and studio executives were attracted by the idea of Reitman adding his own voice to the process.
Of course, don’t go expecting a full-flung Reitman-esque project from the finished film: Charlie Kaufman did a similar, much-heralded polish on the recent “Kung Fu Panda 2,” but there’s little in the finished product that’s reminiscent of “Being John Malkovich” or “Adaptation.” The film, to be directed by “30 Rock” veteran Don Scardino, is currently looking for its second male lead, Wonderstone’s nemesis, and is moving towards a fall shooting date, once Carell is wrapped on “Seeking A Friend At The End of the World” and “Great Hope Springs.” Reitman’s “Young Adult,” which stars Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson and Patton Oswalt, will hit theaters sometime in the fall.