You know, I wasn’t going to bother with this story because it didn’t seem important enough to talk about — it seemed to me like it wasn’t a big deal. But it’s being talked about here and there so perhaps it’s time to talk about it a bit. The story started with an LA Times piece about Jason Reitman trying to get sole credit for having adapted Up in the Air on his own – to not be part of a writing “team.” In fact, they weren’t collaborators at all. Reitman picked up the script after Sheldon Turner had already finished his own draft of it. Reitman felt that he rewrote it his own way and should be able to get credit for that adaptation – Turner felt the credit should be shared. That’s basically it. Now, Paramount is holding a special screening of Up in the Air with Turner and Reitman available for a Q&A. Reitman let Turner have the mic at the Globes, etc. In other words, they don’t want to damage the success of the film with this.
So all seemed like it was going to settle down – but then The Playlist has gotten a copy of the original script and has outlined the similarities and differences.
Anyway, the Playlist’s conclusion:
“So Turner’s script, while clearly from the the same source material, is a very different take. Is it any good? Not really.”And that Reitman’s version is “objectively, far superior to Turner’s script, which is the glib, mainstream rom-com version of the story; it’s hard not to imagine Matthew McConaughey in the lead, somehow… First among its flaws is the deeply unpleasant nature of its lead. The most interesting thing about Clooney’s character in the final film is the fact that, despite the unpleasant nature of his job, he does care about the people he fires, as evinced by his horror at Keener’s proposal to, essentially, sack people over Skype. Turner’s Bingham, however, is just kind of a dick ‚Äî at work, to a hipster about to be given the boot, who asks “Dude, why I’m here…?,” Bingham responds “You’re not. Anymore. Dude.”
There’s some things to like in the earlier draft; Bingham constantly surrounds himself with TV or radio noise, which is a nice character trait, and there’s a good scene where he meets another frequent flier, whose son has killed himself. The fact remains, however, that there’s little-to-no crossover between the two versions despite being based on the same source material. However arrogant Reitman appears in interviews (and it’s hard to deny that, even if much of the criticism that’s appeared recently boils down to “his dad directed “Ghostbusters””), any anger he may or may not have over sharing credit with Turner seems fairly justified. But like we said, maybe a later draft of Turner’s was closer to the finished film. As it stands, it seems like a typical case of the WGA granting credit to the first writer on an adaptation as a matter of routine, rather than as a measure of their input (it’s happened many times before, Scott Rosenberg on “High Fidelity” being one example that stands out ‚Äî but the WGA always favors those that filled those initial blank pages and in many ways, their thinking isn’t off).
Check it out – definitely worth the read.