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Vera Farmiga grabs complex role

Character's relationship with Clooney at heart of 'Air'

When Vera Farmiga read the script for “Up in the Air,” she relished the multidimensional aspects of her chameleonlike character.

“What struck me about her is that she represents everything that is so hard about being a woman,” says Farmiga of the dilemma her character faces. “It’s the choices about career and family. It’s the struggle to be respectable. It’s the conflict between sexuality and restraint. It’s the full dimension of what it means to be a woman these days.”

Farmiga has a reputation for taking on strong female characters — specifically in Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” and indie “Down to the Bone,” for both of which she received waves of critical attention; in “Up in the Air,” her strong-willed Alex, who has a relationship with George Clooney character, doesn’t need much wooing. She’s a modern woman who goes after what she wants — in this case, Clooney.

However, Farmiga was also aware that portraying a female character so sexually sure of herself could be tricky — auds may feel she’s coming off as abrasive or even slutty. But director Jason Reitman’s thoughtful direction helped her balance the part’s softness and more aggressive impulses, Farmiga explains.

“George teased me about that,” Farmiga laughs. “He said the role would be a career-ender for me, but it was great fun to be the one to get him bothered, especially since Clooney has been doing this to women in movies for years.”

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