Writer-director Jason Reitman spoke with members of the Chicago press during the press tour for his new film, The Front Runner. I had the opportunity to sit down with the Oscar-nominated director in a 20-minute roundtable interview with four other Chicago area film journalists. While Hugh Jackman and the Gary Hart story were discussed, what follows are the two questions that I asked of the Juno and Up in the Air director.
Congrats on the release of The Front Runner. As you look at how the mainstream media has changed since the late 1980s, what is the biggest thing that you’ve noticed with regards to political coverage aside from social media?
Jason Reitman: They’ve become a circus. When I would talk to people who worked on his campaign and journalists from the time, they said that in 1987, journalists and candidates had a relationship. They socialized together. They would eat together and go for drinks together. There was an understanding of what was public and what was private. Because of that, journalists were given access to who these candidates were as human beings. We—as readers—were given access to who they were as human beings.
When this happened, a wall just went up. It became the press secretary’s job to manage every moment of a candidate’s day and make sure that the voters only got the most manicured moments coming out of the campaign—which forced the journalist of course into the job of having to become an investigative journalist who felt like just to get any human detail, they had to kind of somehow penetrate this wall.
The wall is unfortunate. It would be better if we kind of had regular access. This paparazzi environment that we associate with Hollywood—and maybe Hollywood deserves—became an environment that we associate with politics.
You’ve worked with J.K. Simmons in repeated projects.
Jason Reitman: This is our ninth movie together.
What is it about his work that you admire and keep casting him?
Jason Reitman: I think I just find him incredibly handsome and I’m a sucker for him. No, he’s my muse. I think in the voice of J.K. Simmons. I love working with him. I just think he’s about as good an actor as there is. Whether he’s being caring as a dad in Juno or just brutal as he is as a drum professor in Whiplash, he has complete range. He’s one of a few actors who can go toe to toe with Hugh Jackman. The young actors who were in that scene—you remember that scene Hugh and J.K. get into a fight? The two actors in the scene—Alex Karpovsky and Josh Brener—were sitting on the sofa. After that scene, they walked up to me and said, “I feel like I just watched a title fight.”