Up in the Air’s main thrust is twofold – it’s part the George Clooney empty-life scenario, and it’s also about people lost in the sagging economy, losing their jobs due to downsizing. Reitman apparently used actual fired employees to fill those slots in the film — except for the obviously well known actors. The Guardian’s story about it:
Part of the film’s success has been attributed to Reitman’s decision to cast real people who had been recently fired. From the 100 hopefuls who turned up at open auditions in St Louis and Detroit, 22 made it to the final cut ‚Äì including Kevin Pila. “We would read them this boilerplate legal firing document that I found through an HR person,” explained Reitman recently. “And the second they would hear this legal verbiage‚Ä¶ they would start to use sense-memory without knowing it. Their body language would change, their shoulders would fold, their eyes would turn‚Ä¶And they’d begin asking questions of our interviewer, who knows nothing of their situation. They’d ask them about severance, and their medical benefits, and why they were chosen and why not somebody else.”
Some of them would cry. Others became aggressive. One woman broke into hives. The result is frequently upsetting to watch, occasionally bittersweet but always totally authentic. And although the film itself has no easy resolution, there has been a happy ending for some of the cast. According to Reitman, a few of them have managed to find new jobs: “When we called to bring some people out to shoot the last scenes at the end of the movie, the nicest thing we’d hear was, ‘I have to check with my boss.'”
There have been some great Bill Moyers episodes recently that discuss the reasons for the economy’s bottom dropping out. They are absolutely worth checking out if this part of the film interests you at all. Not sure Reitman would have wanted to bring up Big Corporates involvement in our economic downfall, but Moyers certainly does.