Jason Reitman on 'Tully,' getting Cyndi Lauper's blessing and why bad reviews are 'no fun' (exclusive)

Director Jason Reitman arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of “Tully” at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Director Jason Reitman arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of “Tully” at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

When it comes to Hollywood team-ups, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s partnership has proven time and time again to be golden.

The director and writer have been working together for over ten years, ever since her script about a pregnant teen giving up her child for adoption caught Reitman’s eye. That little indie film, Juno, went onto make over $230 million at the box office against a budget of $7 million, earning four Oscar nominations including a win for Cody in the Best Original Screenplay category to boot.

Four years later, the duo released Young Adult, with Charlize Theron as a divorced ghostwriter, who peaked in high school, hellbent on getting her married high school boyfriend back. Now the three are back once again with a new examination of the American female experience with Tully, and it’s more emotionally wrenching than their previous collaborations.

Theron plays Marlo, a pregnant mother-of-two struggling with post-partum depression, a young child on the spectrum and an absentee husband. Once again Reitman and Cody take what can be a traumatic experience in a woman’s life and present it in a bittersweet yet witty and thoughtful way.

Yahoo Movies caught up with the director to discuss the film as well as his impression of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and why getting bad reviews for his last two movies weren’t ‘fun.’

YAHOO MOVIES: You and Diablo obviously have a brilliant relationship. How do you work together to bring her story to life but also retain your vision?

JASON REITMAN: Our relationship is something that I can’t really explain, which is not very helpful for you! I didn’t even know when I met her that this was going to be a life-long storytelling marriage. I met her for the first time when I had read her script for Juno, which I thought was absolutely brilliant, and we went for a drink and what I didn’t know it was the first date. We’ve been making movies every five years so I just hope that continues from here on in.

YM: A lot of the films you make are relatable and are about “normal” people. How did you relate to Tully?

JR: I think both Diablo and I are a bit obsessed with the concept of growing up, either too fast or too slow, but not feeling like you’re at the right moment or timeline, or somehow have missed the off-ramp on a highway, and you can really feel it her writing, and my directing. I think it’s that towing the line, the continuity between the three films that also is the connective tissues that allow Diablo and I to make what we’re making.

Speaking of continuity, do you think of all the films you make as existing in the same universe? The Reitman Cinematic Universe maybe?

Yes, this is a big Kevin Feige Marvel plan, you know, that will resolve down the road with Diablo Cody: Infinity War! Haha, but in 15 years down the road there are as many characters, and instead of a war they just go to a school reunion together!

Charlize Theron plays pregnant mother-of-two Marlo
Charlize Theron plays pregnant mother-of-two Marlo

I can honestly see you directing a Hawkeye movie as he has a wife and three kids at home so perfect for a family comedy-drama. Would that or a Marvel movie be of interest to you at all, if you could have the creative freedom to make it?

Is Hawkeye the one with the bow and arrow? I’ve only seen a couple of the movies. I really loved Thor: Ragnarok and I really loved Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy. What I’ve found in that universe is when they take a director like Taika Waititi the results are just magical, and I just can’t imagine what I’d have to offer that universe other than a very self-reflective Hawkeye movie. Where he’s trying to figure out where his life has got to where it is and, just, microwaves dinner and watches reality TV. I’m not sure you really want to see my Hawkeye movie!

I don’t know, you’ve seen The Incredibles and how they weave family into the superhero genre, but there you are, that’s my pitch for you!

I don’t know… Hawkeye’s just there, staring at his arrows. “Why do I fire these anyways?” haha!

Your films always have great movie soundtracks and this has a kind of Cyndi Lauper medley going on. Was that easy to get the rights to?

I actually reached out to her personally and I showed her the film, and explained the idea, that there’s a scene in the film where two characters are going on a one hour drive and we wanted a quick way to articulate how far that journey was and I said “when you get in the car and put on an album, it’s the perfect way to equate distance.” You know it was her first album, everyone knows every one of those songs, and I think she was delighted with the idea, she liked the film and she made it a lot easier.

We also have a James Bond cover in the movie for “You Only Live Twice” and I had to reach out to Barbara Broccoli and, once again, spoke to her about the themes to the film, why we made it. It starts with a cover by Beulahbelle, which we were really proud of; it’s something that I listen to over and over, so it was really cool that the Broccoli family let us use it.

Have there ever been any songs you’ve had the rights owners say no too?

I remember on Thank you for Smoking we wanted to close the film with “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”, a really classic 1940s song that’s all about positivity. I thought that was the perfect way to end the film but I could not get the rights to that.

Diablo Cody with Charlize Theron and Reitman (Getty)y
Diablo Cody with Charlize Theron and Reitman (Getty)y

Your films are primarily about white people. Is that because they are the only scripts you get offered or that you feel you couldn’t tell a story about a person of colour and their everyday lives?

Erm, well on my next movie [The Front Runner], about Gary Hart, it’s a movie about all real people and in one case we took a role that was originally a white person and cast it as a person of colour. Honestly, my tendency is just to go for the best actor in movie casting unless there’s a specific reason not to, you know? I tell my casting people to bring in people from every race and people of all genders and just find the best person.

I adore Jennifer Garner, who has starred in two of your films and gave an amazing performance in Juno. Why isn’t she leading more movies?

Jennifer Garner is so talented and one of those few people who is just as believable kicking ass as an action star as she is being delightfully funny but she also lives a very busy life. She has kids and has a full life but I look forward to each time she decides to get on camera or go on stage or anything.

And finally, now that you’ve had some time, how do you feel about the critical and commercial reception towards Men, Women & Children?

Look it’s no fun or enjoyment when people do not connect with your film and I was very lucky that my first few films really found their audience. With Labor Day and Men, Women, and Children, there’s something in that that represents something I feel and something I wanted to say but clearly, it did not connect with the audience, whether it was the filmmaking or the DNA of the movies. I guess it’s all part of the filmmaking career and directors that I admire had these moments so I have to take stock and keep telling stories.

Tully is out on Friday May 4

Does Vision have a penis? Paul Bettany discusses (exclusive)
The Russo Brothers talk ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’s’ Quantum Realm explained