• Image about Vera Farmiga
In her latest project, Up in the Air, it’s Clooney’s eyes that zero in on the actress, who portrays a career woman named Alex. Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a self-absorbed, obsessive frequent-flier-mile collector who happily works as a “career-transition counselor,” jetting around the country to fire employees of firms that are downsizing. He and Alex are fellow road warriors who have a flighty affair that soon blossoms into something more. In the novel that serves as the basis for the film, Alex is never fully fleshed out, a cipher whose “sense of space is complicated.” Director and coscreenwriter Jason Reitman fashioned the now-pivotal character around Farmiga when he adapted the book.

“I basically wrote the role for her,” he says. “The Alex in the movie is my own creation. [Unlike in the novel,] she had probably 40 scenes [in the movie], so there was a lot of work for her.”

Even more challenging was that Farmiga had to arrive on the set just weeks after delivering her first child -- not to mention that the role called for her to be a sashaying sexpot, complete with a rather revealing scene. “Her character had to be cool as a cucumber, with family being the last thing on her mind,” Reitman recalls. “I was constantly amazed by Vera, who in real life was an excited young mother, but when I’d say, ‘Action!’ all of a sudden, she’d go toe-to-toe with Clooney.”

The actress laughs in remembering her postpartum shoot and admires what she refers to as the “old-fashioned, Fonda-meets-Stanwyck romance” Reitman weaved throughout the script. She spent a month filming on location in Detroit, St. Louis, Omaha, Miami, and Las Vegas, working about three days a week and bringing her newborn on the road with her.