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Exclusive: Jason Reitman Talks Casting ‘Labor Day’; Hopes To Do Make Dark Ninja Film ‘Bonzai Shadowhands’ One Day

Exclusive: Jason Reitman Talks Casting ‘Labor Day’; Hopes To Do Make Dark Ninja Film ‘Bonzai Shadowhands’ One Day

Also Talks Developing Projects ‘Elliott Alagash’ & ‘Whispers In Bedlam’

Director Jason Reitman’s fourth feature-length effort, “Young Adult” – a story about a hot mess of a 30-something female YA author (Charlize Theron), who goes back to her hometown with the deeply misguided idea of rekindling a romance with her ex-boyfriend, now married with kids – is just three weeks away from release. But despite it being his darkest effort to date, he’s not particularly nervous. Even if audiences don’t connect with the Diablo Cody-penned script, their second collaboration after “Juno,” the director seems confident enough the film will be a conversation starter.

“Some people don’t want to feel uncomfortable,” Reitman said over the weekend in an interview with The Playlist, alluding to the picture’s aim and sometimes painful-to-watch tone. “And perhaps they’re only going to understand the movie once they’ve had a conversation with a friend about it. This is the kind of movie where it’s not just going to settle immediately. You don’t walk out the door and go, ‘Yay! I wanna go buy the t-shirt!,’ you know? I think [for some] it might be a couple days of talking to your friends who have also seen it and or convincing your friends to see it so you can talk about it.”

“It would be sad if people went, ‘eh,’ that would be unfortunate, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I think it’s going to create conversation,” he added.

During our chat – which you can read more of in the upcoming weeks as we get closer to the film’s limited release on December 9th – we also asked Reitman about the future, which he is already planning.

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin will topline his next effortLabor Day” which he says will shoot next June. Based on Joyce Maynard‘s book of the same nane, the film is set on a late summer Labor Day holiday weekend in the 1980s. And it opens with a divorced, depressed single mom (Winslet) who encounters a large, fearsome man — who also happens to be bleeding badly (Brolin) – while clothes shopping with her 13-year-old. He asks for a ride and against their better judgment, they agree. Meanwhile, they learn that police are searching their town for an escaped convict and put two and two together. Are they his hostage, or his accomplice? As the mother and son gradually learn his true story , everyone’s options begin to shrink. 

But the story is mostly told through eyes of the lonely, friendless thirteen-year-old named Henry who spends most of his time watching television or daydreaming and his only real friend is his emotionally fragile mother. Reitman is fully aware that the film can live or die on this character so he’s starting a major casting process in January. While he didn’t say he’d be going with an unknown specifically, that was definitely the feeling we got. “We’ve got to find someone very special,” he said simply.

Reitman also gave us some small updates on some other gestating projects he has in the hamper. On “Elliott Allagash,” a coming-of-age story about a new student transferring to an exclusive private school with an unsavory reputation takes an eighth grader under his wing, he said simply. “We have a script now, it’s in a great place.” File that one under: almost ready to go.

As for “Whispers in Bedlam.” a comedy written by Max Winkler (“Ceremony“) and producer/writer Matt Spicer, involving a football player who undergoes experimental surgery and finds himself with the remarkable ability to hear everyone from far distances, you might have to wait. “There’s no plans on that right now,” he said.

But Reitman was a bit more effusive, if possibly pessimistic about its chances, about an old circa 2007 project called, “Bonzai Shadowhands” which at the time, was set to star Rainn Wilson and was about a once-great ninja who is now living a life of mediocrity.

“I would love to make that one day, I really love that concept, but I dunno, we’ll see if we can get that off the ground,” he said. “It’s not as broad as you think, the tone is really depressing. It’s like ‘Midnight Cowboy’ with a deranged ninja living in the valley.” Would Rainn Wilson still be the star? “That’s the concept, we’ll have to see if we can ever get that made.”

“Young Adult” starring Charlize Theron (in a stellar performance, mind you) hits theaters in limited release on December 9. The film begins wide expansion on December 16.

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