In several scenes scattered through Up in the Air, 25 workers express their disbelief at getting pink-slipped by George Clooney's professional downsizer. These candid reactions aren't good acting: Writer-director Jason Reitman used footage of interviews with real layoff victims. ''I realized I didn't know how to write these scenes. They were inauthentic,'' says Reitman. So he placed ads in local papers in Detroit and St. Louis claiming that he was auditioning subjects for a documentary a ruse to attract real people instead of actors. Cozy Bailey, a former Styrofoam technician from Affton, Mo., who responded to the ad, says she was stunned to find that her interview was really for a George Clooney film. ''It sucks to get fired, it doesn't matter by who,'' she laughs, ''but it was extremely exciting.'' She also found the experience cathartic, a feeling echoed by Kevin Pilla, a laid-off engineer in St. Louis. ''It gave us the opportunity to say things that we didn't think of off the top of our head [when we were laid off] because we were in such shock,'' he says. ''Giving real America a chance to tell their story and incorporating it into a Hollywood setting—it's just remarkable.''
With additional reporting by Joseph Brannigan Lynch