January 18, 2010
A screenwriting dispute over Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air”
I wasn’t surprised when Jason Reitman won the Golden Globe for best adapted screenplay last night; I was surprised that someone named Sheldon Turner did, too. Until last night, I had never heard of Sheldon Turner. I guess I was too busy anticipating George Clooney’s screen time to pay enough attention to the opening credits of “Up in the Air,” but then again, I thought I already knew the screenwriter of “Up in the Air.”
But things, especially in Hollywood, are rarely what they seem.
According to a timely piece in the L.A. Times yesterday, deciding who gets screenwriting credit on produced movies is a fairly complicated web. And it looks like Hollywood’s favorite young Jewish director got caught amidst some suspicious activity.
The Times writes that throughout awards season, Reitman has been taking sole credit for writing “Up in the Air”—a screenplay supposedly inspired by his own special find, a Walter Kirn novel he discovered at Book Soup. In truth, a film version of that novel has been in development for years, and in particular, a screenplay written by Sheldon Turner. Turner wrote “The Longest Yard,” an installment in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise and has been recently hired to write “X-Men Origins: Magneto.”
That he’s getting more attention for his predicament with Reitman than for any of his work is proof that there’s no such thing as bad press. In a weekend, Turner has gone from a complete unknown to someone on the public’s radar.
Long before Reitman had ever read “Up in the Air,” Turner had adapted Kirn’s book into what insiders say is a close version of the finished product. Reitman ended up writing his own draft anyway, though no one quite knows how Reitman’s screenplay became a movie that looks a lot like Turner’s original. In order to get the matter settled, the two writers were brought to arbitration at the Writers Guild, where in the end, the guild ruled in Turner’s favor.
So far, neither parties are commenting on the matter, though Reitman did step aside last night to allow Turner to the podium first.
The question is: Is Reitman the menschy, well-regarded talent we think he is? Or is he just like everyone else in Hollywood, susceptible to the same power-grabbing impulses?
Read more at the L.A. Times:
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