While second-generation filmmaker Jason Reitman grew up in the comic shadow of his father, director Ivan Reitman of "Ghostbusters" (1984) fame, he had no problem establishing his own individuality and point of view, earning significant acclaim in his own right. Reitman cut his teeth directing commercials and went on to develop his satirical style as a short filmmaker. He successfully brought his wry social commentary to feature films with "Thank You for Smoking" (2006), an adaptation of Christopher Buckley's novel about a slick lobbyist for the tobacco industry, starring Aaron Eckhart. He went on to direct the indie success story of 2007, "Juno," showcasing Ellen Page in a coming-of-age story that balanced breezy pop culture references with real heart. When Reitman's follow-up feature "Up in the Air" (2009) was released to nearly unanimous critical applause, the former indie talent went wide as one of Hollywood's best new filmmakers, giving his father a run for his money at the box office and in the all-important critical arena.
Reitman was born in Montreal, Canada on Oct. 19, 1977 to Ivan Reitman and Geneviève Robert. Only a short 11 days later, the younger Reitman landed on his first film set - that of the soon-to-be monster hit, "Animal House" (1978) - a film produced by his father. While Reitman was still a child, he and his family moved to Los Angeles, where his father would go on to make some of the best loved comedies of the 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, Reitman's first film-related memory was as two-year-old on the set of Bill Murray's "Meatballs" (1979), literally growing up on his father's film sets, surrounded by the best comic talents of the day. As he entered adolescence, Reitman tried his hand at acting, working as an extra in a number of his father's films, including "Twins" (1988) and "Ghostbusters II" (1989).
Growing up around such funnymen as Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, young Reitman inevitably explored filmmaking on his own. At age 10, he began making short videos using his father's camera. By the time he was 13, Reitman worked as a production assistant on the second cinematic collaboration between his dad and Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Kindergarten Cop" (1990), also working as a film extra to soak in the whole experience. Reitman continued exploring film throughout his teens. As a 15-year-old, he made an award-winning public service announcement about AIDS that aired on national TV. He also made another onscreen appearance in "Dave" (1993). The political satire starred Kevin Kline as both the U.S. President and his spitting image, a down-to-earth small business owner who takes over when the President slips into a coma. Of all of Ivan Reitman's movies, "Dave" (made during his son's formative teen years) was closest in tone and style to the younger Reitman's later films.
Like so many teenagers, however, Reitman strove to find his own place in the world, wrestling with the belief that, if he were to pursue filmmaking as a career, people would view him as simply his father's son. Therefore, after graduating high school in 1995, he chose to study pre-med at Skidmore College in Upstate New York. That lasted a single semester in which he nearly failed. The world of medicine was not in his blood. He returned to Los Angeles and attended USC film school, where he found his own unique film voice. Wary of charges of nepotism, Reitman used profits from a business he started to finance his first short film, "Operation" (1998). It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, and Reitman returned to the festival two years later with his best-known short film "In God We Trust" (2000). The latter film, a comedic look at the power of good and bad deeds through the lens of the afterlife, played numerous festivals and won many awards. That same year, Reitman began directing television commercials for clients such as Heineken, Honda, Nintendo, and Burger King. His work received recognition at the Addys, the Cannes commercial awards, and the One Show. He also continued making shorts, such as the wry "Consent" (2004), about pre-sex consent forms, complete with supervising attorneys. All of the shorts he had worked on through the years helped shape Reitman's sense of comedic timing and develop his uniquely satirical voice.
Calling on all the lessons learned, Reitman made his feature debut as writer-director of "Thank You For Smoking" (2005), an adaptation of Christopher Buckley's novel about a spin-doctor lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Reitman had fallen in love with the book, impressed with how closely it matched his own brand of comedy. It then took four years for the fledgling filmmaker to secure funding, and for producer David O. Sacks to wrestle the book rights away from both Mel Gibson's Icon Productions and Warner Brothers. Finally, after attaching some big name actors, Reitman began production with a $5 million budget.
Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in late 2005, "Smoking" was the lucky beneficiary of free press, due to two very different controversies. One involved Paramount Classics and eventual distributor Fox Searchlight, both claiming to have purchased the film. The other controversy drew even more ink when at a festival screening, a humorous but drawn out sex scene between star Aaron Eckhart and Katie Holmes strangely disappeared. The gossip was that Holmes boyfriend Tom Cruise had ordered it removed. Reitman claimed it was mistakenly removed and upon wide release in early 2006, the film garnered both good reviews and earned a solid box office. Critics were complementary in pointing out that by creating an intimate and realistic low budget satire, more in the vein of his personal heroes, writer-directors Alexander Payne and Wes Anderson, the younger Reitman was able to forge his own cinematic comedy path.
Reitman achieved another critical and financial success with his second feature, "Juno" (2007), a black comedy about a whip-smart, sardonic teenager (Ellen Page) dealing with a sudden and unwanted pregnancy. Instead of taking the easy way out, however, Juno decides to have the baby and allow an affluent suburban couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) to adopt. But she ultimately faces very tough, adult decisions along the way, leading to a discovery of who she really is and where she truly belongs. Reitman's film, written by first-timer Diablo Cody, was almost universally hailed by critics, who bestowed "Juno" with numerous critic's awards. Meanwhile, "Juno" was nominated for four Independent Spirit awards, including Best Feature and Best Director, before going on to earning nominations at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, that latter of which saw Reitman honored with his first Oscar nod for Best Director.
Turning to producing duties, Reitman helped shepherd Cody's horror comedy, "Jennifer's Body" (2009), starring Megan Fox, to the big screen. By the time it flopped at the box office, Reitman was already basking in the adulation over his next directing effort, "Up in the Air" (2009), a bittersweet romantic dramedy about a corporate hatchet man (George Clooney) always on the go - so much so that most of his free time is spent traveling or living in hotel rooms - who finds a simpatico fellow traveler (Vera Farmiga) who has him considering the frightening possibilities of actually being grounded and having a home. For his work, Reitman earned two Golden Globe award nominations; one for Best Director, the other for Best Screenplay, which he shared with co-writer Sheldon Turner. The writing duo took home the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. He also received a nod from the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film, which was soon followed by a nomination for Best Director at the Academy Awards. Reitman next collaborated with scribe and friend Diablo Cody on another critically acclaimed comedy, "Young Adult" (2011), which starred Charlize Theron as a writer of teen lit who returns home to recapture both her high school glory days and her old boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), only to discover most people had long since moved on. Reitman shifted gears with his next film "Labor Day" (2014), an erotically-charged hostage drama starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet that opened to mixed reviews.
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At 13, worked as production assistant on "Kindergarten Cop"; directed by his father
At 15, made an AIDS public service announcement with high school friends; film went on to win several awards and played on network television
Wrote, directed and appeared in his first short film "Operation"; premiered at Sundance
Helmed the short film "In God We Trust"; also premiered at Sundance
Signed with the commercial production company Tate and Partners; directed commercials for Heineken, BMW and Burger King
Directed and co-wrote with wife Michele Lee, "Consent"
Helmed first feature length film, the controversial "Thank You for Smoking"
Formed the production company Hard C Productions with producing partner Daniel Dubiecki
Directed second feature, the festival favorite "Juno," co-starring Ellen Page and written by Diablo Cody; earned an Independent Spirit Award Nomination and an Oscar nomination for Best Director
Produced the film "Jennifer's Body," a horror comedy written by Diablo Cody and starring Megan Fox
Wrote and directed "Up in the Air," starring George Clooney as a traveler who is fanatic about collecting his ten millionth frequent flier mile; earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director and a Directors Guild nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement; also earned Oscar nominations for Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture
Nominated for the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Director - Motion Picture ("Up in the Air")
Nominated for the 2009 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film ("Up in the Air")
Nominated for the 2009 Academy Award for Best Achievement in Directing ("Up in the Air")
Directed Charlize Theron in Diablo Cody written "Young Adult"; also produced