The creators of the 2007 film are re-staging it with an entirely female cast as a one-night-only live-read on April 8 to raise money and awareness for the women’s health organization.
Ellen Page will be reprising her role as the pregnant teen and Jennifer Garner will be back as the hopeful, adoptive mother, but the male parts – like those originated by Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, and J.K. Simmons – will be filled by actresses this time.
Jason Reitman, who earned an Oscar nomination for directing the film, put his live script-reading series aside last April after five seasons, but the 2016 election inspired him to bring it back only a year later. This will be the first show of many in a new Resistance-inspired lineup, touching on topics such as immigration and the fake news epidemic.
“Like many other people, I felt like I wanted to do something. I wanted to find a way to contribute to the causes that have never felt more important,” he told EW. “It occurred to me that I have this show that could be used as a tool to not only raise money for causes that need the help, but could serve as an opportunity for a group like Planned Parenthood to connect with an audience who can be presented with new ideas, or even an action item.”
In some ways, the all-female cast will add an edgy new feel to the story, and in others it will require extra suspension of disbelief from the audience. Two women can definitely adopt a child, but they can’t exactly make one. (In case you needed to have this clarified.)
Reitman has previously done all-women casts for readings of Glengarry Glen Ross and Stand by Me. “Considering how much this election has done against women and what Planned Parenthood has done for women I thought it would be cool to hear this script with an all-female voice,” Reitman said.
The Juno reading will take place at the Ace Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and tickets can be found here. Reitman says they’ll be selling original artwork from the opening titles and other signed memorabilia, with all the money going to Planned Parenthood.
The full cast will be announced via @JasonReitman on Twitter in the days before the show.
Reitman says the Planned Parenthood read will resolve one point of debate about Juno, which was embraced by some anti-abortion advocates because the main character chooses to give birth rather than terminate the pregnancy.
“If there was any confusion about whether Juno was pro-choice or pro-life, this should settle that,” Reitman says. “Juno had a choice, and that was the most important part.”
Last night, Film Independent held its fourth annual Live Read and this year’s selection was the classic Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back. While some of the cast was announced earlier this week (Aaron Paul as Luke Skywalker, J.K. Simmons as Darth Vader, Stephen Merchant as C-3PO, Dennis Haysbert as Lando Calrissian, Kevin Pollak as Yoda), it wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that director Jason Reitman surprised us all with his casting of Han Solo, the male hero and object of Princess Leia’s affection. Here is how the actor brought her on stage:
“In the role of Han Solo, originated by Harrison Ford—I’m so excited to say these words: Ellen mother fucking Page.”
Ellen, clad in a black blazer, white-button down and black leather pants, received warm applause from the audience of Star Wars fans. The kind of following an enterprise like Star Wars has can be a fickle bunch because of their dedication to the world George Lucas created, which has spanned decades, so I was little nervous they might reject a woman reading the Han Solo role. That didn’t seem to be the case, though—instead, Ellen played the part as written, meaning she was referred to as a man; “him” and “his” and having a “scruffy” face. And Alba, in her role as the iconic Princess Leia, did not play down the flirtation between Han and Leia. Their exchanges were just as provocative as Harrison Ford‘s and Carrie Fisher‘s in the film. Exchanges like this:
HAN: Hey, Your Worship, I’m only trying to help.
LEIA: Would you please stop calling me that?
HAN: Sure, Leia.
LEIA: Oh, you make it so difficult sometimes.
HAN: I do, I really do. You could be a little nicer, though. (he watches her reaction) Come on, admit it. Sometimes you think I’m all right.
LEIA: Occasionally (a little smile, haltingly) maybe…when you aren’t acting like a scoundrel.
HAN: (laughs) Scoundrel? Scoundrel? I like the sound of that. (takes her hand to massage it)
LEIA: Stop that.
HAN: Stop what?
LEIA: Stop that! My hands are dirty.
HAN: My hands are dirty, too. What are you afraid of?
LEIA: (looking right into his eyes) Afraid?
HAN: You’re trembling.
LEIA: I’m not trembling.
HAN: You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.
LEIA: I happen to like nice men.
HAN: I’m a nice man.
LEIA: No, you’re not. You’re…
And then the direction is “He kisses her now, with slow, hot lips.” During a live read, actors are not expected to actually do any of the things as directed, outside of reading the words on the page. So earlier on, when Leia is supposed to lay one on Luke, Jessica did not actually kiss Aaron Paul, who read the legendary Skywalker. But the second time that Han and Leia were directed to kiss, a male voice in the audience yelled out, “DO IT!”
The crowd laughed, and Ellen and Jessica smiled, but Jason Reitman handled it perfectly: “This is too important a moment for that!” Meaning, sorry, dude in the crowd—this reading is not for your male gaze. In fact, the casting of Ellen Page in the Han Solo role made the reading much more feminist. While Princess Leia is a powerful force in the Star Wars universe, she’s also reliant on the help of men like Han and Luke Skywalker. Han Solo frequently refers to her as “sweetheart” and “your worship,” which is meant in a flirtatious manner, but spoken by a guy, can also be condescending. If Leia were working alongside a female Han Solo, the script would be much more female-friendly, especially as Leia is the only woman in The Empire Strikes Back. THE ONLY WOMAN. Which makes Jason Reitman’s casting of out lesbian actress Ellen Page in the role of Han Solo even more radical and inspired.