Dynamic ‘Juno’ duo

In the first part of a three-part series to be hosted by Jason Reitman ’95, Reitman sat down with screenwriter Diablo Cody Nov. 5 in Ahmanson Lecture Hall.

Reitman and Cody said that “the great collaboration” of their lives was working together on “Juno,” for which Cody won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Reitman was nominated for Best Director.

Having won 18 awards for “Juno,” her debut screenplay, Cody discussed her misgivings about immediate fame.

“I had so many conflicting feelings about winning [an Academy Award]. It is different for someone who has worked all her life and who gets this final big price. For me, I don’t even know how I got here. It was like being hit by a truck,” Cody told an audience of students, alumni and faculty last Wednesday in Ahmanson.

Cody was the first guest in a three-part speaker series Reitman will host at his alma mater.

In a leopard-pattern dress, bright red lipstick, pitch black hair, Cody entertained the audience with witty and often cynical remarks as she sat in a director’s chair, twitching her leg.

Cody also joked about her future career plans.

“It’s all downhill from here. But it has afforded me the luxury to do what I’m doing now. Make lots of weird movies that fail,” Cody said.

An eccentric screenwriter, Cody was voted Strangest Personality in her high school yearbook.

Cody and three friends have formed into what she describes a “gang,” a group of women screenwriters who work together and support each other in a male-dominated profession. The friends sometimes pass screenplays among each other according to their subject interest. On opening nights, Cody and her screenwriter girlfriends have a ritual in which they “storm” movie theaters to hear the audience’s reaction to their films.

“When the lights came up and the audience had tears in their eyes—that was really crazy,” Cody said. “I was pretty blown away by that.”

Although Cody did not have a part in casting Juno, she said Reitman’s choice of actors was exactly how she had imagined the characters. The chemistry between actors Ellen Paige and Jason Bateman worked well enough that no other actors read for their parts, Reitman said.

Reitman and Cody were nervous about the rating “Juno” would receive. It was important that the film not receive an R-rating so that it would be accessible to young viewers, Cody said.

“We kind of slipped by on this one,” Reitman said.

Recently, Cody wrote and co-created a half-hour series, “The United States of Tara” about a mother with multiple personalities. Cody had to move from Minn. to Los Angeles to work on this project. Cody said she disliked the research she had to do with doctors and people with multiple personalities to help her accurately portray a mentally ill character.

“I like writing,” she said. “That’s it. I hate researching, I hate outlining.”

For Reitman, research is part of the job as a screenwriter and film director.

“I think every part of filmmaking is reactionary,” he said.

Reitman preferrs to adapt books that he imagined would make effective movies. Writing a recent script, “Up in the Air,” took five years and numerous revisions to complete.

Reitman said he often uses good screenplays like “Jerry Maguire” to focus the plot of his writing, bu t he tries to stay away from watching well-made movies so as not to be discouraged.

“Bad movies are great,” Reitman said. “You say to yourself, ‘Yeah! I can top that.’”

Cody’s newest screenplay produced by Reitman, “Jennifer’s Body” is about teenagers practicing cannibalism, and is currently in post production.

She described the film as combining funny, dirty and dark elements in a socially impacting story line about girls’ problems and relationships. Cody discussed her plans for becoming a film director and her preference for writing spontaneously over being hired to write on a client’s idea.

Reitman praised Cody for her achievements at a young age and her talent as a filmmaker.

“She’s a fascinating woman who inspired me throughout our work,” Reitman said.

Reitman and Cody made a charismatic duo as filmmakers and while chatting at the series.

“You can see why the movie turned out so well; they have such a strong connection together,” Tim Orland ’00 said.