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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 3, 2010

Airports also star in 'Up in the Air'


By Chris Erskine
Los Angeles Times

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

George Clooney travels the country firing people in "Up in the Air."

DALE ROBINETTE | Paramount Picture via AP

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It takes an army to make a movie, hundreds of cast members and extras, miles of cable, tanker trucks of coffee ... lights, cameras, cranes.

Now try getting that all past the Transportation Security Administration, as the filmmakers did for "Up in the Air," the new release about a love affair with flying, in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.

"The hardest part, by far, was crowd control," says director Jason Reitman. "It'd be going OK, and then everyone would stop to try to get a look at George Clooney."

Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, whose wanderlust represents Reitman's own views. In a script written by the director, Bingham has a hyper-romanticized view of modern air travel that, to audiences, may seem more based in the past than in an era of software glitches and random flight cancellations.

But Reitman's sense of the travel experience is well-earned.

"I started traveling a lot when I was doing commercials," he says. "There was something about unplugging with everyday life. You can read and meet people.

"There's almost something sad about the Internet being on airplanes."

Bingham, the travel-happy henchman, toils for an Omaha, Neb.-based company that sends in down-sizers to handle other companies' layoffs. He thrives on elite club status Hertz Gold Cards, Admirals Clubs. His dream: to log 10 million miles in the sky.

"The slower we move, the faster we die," he likes to say.

Airports, and travel itself, are front and center in the film, which has received strong reviews since its release. It was shot in a mere 50 days and used mostly midsize airports: Omaha, Miami, St. Louis, Las Vegas and Detroit.

"The security was ridiculous," says Eric Steelberg, director of photography. "It was much easier to shoot in the pre-screening areas."

The producers say it is the first feature to film at a TSA checkpoint and that the government required the filmmakers to use actual employees in the shots. Cast and crew had special numbered badges to get them through checkpoints.

"It is really hard to integrate with the normal operations of an airport," Steelberg says. "They were always very nice and accommodating as long as you played by their rules."