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Vera Farmiga Interview: 'Up in the Air,' Butt Doubles and Clooney's 'Sling Blade' ObsessionIf you don't yet know the name Vera Farmiga, or if you only vaguely recognize her as the head-shrinking beauty who romanced both Matt Damon and Leo DiCaprio in 'The Departed,' that's all about to change thanks to writer-director Jason Reitman's 'Juno' follow-up 'Up in the Air' (in select theaters Dec. 4).

The Jersey Girl with a self-professed Ukrainian-New Jersey accent is earning career-best reviews and Best Supporting Actress Oscar buzz for her role in the flick. An adaptation of Walter Kirn's 2002 novel, 'Air' casts Farmiga as Alex, a jet-setting professional woman who's every bit as witty, smart, charming and emotionally unavailable as her male romantic foil Ryan Bingham, a slick, frequent-flier-mileage-obsessed "career transition technician" played by the equally Oscar-worthy George Clooney.

In an exclusive interview, Farmiga dishes on her ideal man, Clooney's weird fascination with Billy Bob Thornton's character from 'Sling Blade' ... and the dangers of doing nude scenes after childbirth. Vera Farmiga Interview: 'Up in the Air,' Butt Doubles and Clooney's 'Sling Blade' ObsessionIf you don't yet know the name Vera Farmiga, or if you only vaguely recognize her as the head-shrinking beauty who romanced both Matt Damon and Leo DiCaprio in 'The Departed,' that's all about to change thanks to writer-director Jason Reitman's 'Juno' follow-up 'Up in the Air' (in select theaters Dec. 4).

The Jersey Girl with a self-professed Ukrainian-New Jersey accent is earning career-best reviews and Best Supporting Actress Oscar buzz for her role in the flick. An adaptation of Walter Kirn's 2002 novel, 'Air' casts Farmiga as Alex, a jet-setting professional woman who's every bit as witty, smart, charming and emotionally unavailable as her male romantic foil Ryan Bingham, a slick, frequent-flier-mileage-obsessed "career transition technician" played by the equally Oscar-worthy George Clooney.

In an exclusive interview, Farmiga dishes on her ideal man, Clooney's weird fascination with Billy Bob Thornton's character from 'Sling Blade' ... and the dangers of doing nude scenes after childbirth.

Had you read Walter Kirn's novel before reading the Jason Reitman's script?
No, I didn't read the book at all. I still haven't read it. I'm a mother now, Tom [laughs]! I knew that it would not inform my performance. Alex is there to a degree, but she's not the Alex that exists in the script. But I have to say honestly that because of the last couple of days that I've spent [doing press] with Walter, that I will [read the novel] because he's so amusing. I cherish his words. I hang on his every word. He's such a funny man.

You and George Clooney had a really great chemistry -- probably the strongest in movies this year. Did you work at that, or did it just come naturally?
You know, I think that's the gist of chemistry. The components are either there or they're not. It's like the simple principles of chemistry, which is that you take baking soda and moisture [laughs] and acidic ingredients, you throw it in some heat, and it makes some mad carbon dioxide bubbles and rises. It's very simple and naughty [laughs]. And the components are either there or they're not. I guess they were there.

George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in 'Up in the Air'Did you have a favorite scene with George?
I didn't. Every scene, I think, was a separate dance of its own; he's an incredible dancing partner. And Jason's writing ... was hilarious and truly a tete a tete, an equal footing, which was refreshing -- to have a female character as sharp as, as witty as, as amusing as the male character. But with all due respect to the script, it's like a tango is a tango is a tango unless you have the most amazing dancing partner throwing you into the deepest cortes imaginable. And that's George [laughs]. I think it comes from him being a director. He was more concerned with my performance than he was with his. That's how generous of an actor he is. He focuses on pulling the most magnetic, delicious performance from his scene partner, and that's how he works.

He's a notorious prankster. Did he haze you or anything like that?
I hardly actually talked to George Clooney. Most of my conversations were with a guy claiming to be George Clooney, who was acting like Billy Bob Thorton's character in 'Sling Blade' [laughs]. So that's who I know as George. He's the best. He does 'Sling Blade' better than Mr. Sling Blade himself. He's a silly butt. He's a goofball.

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You gave birth not too long before filming began, and there's a scene where your character walks across the bedroom and you're not exactly wearing any clothes -- were you nervous about filming that?
In all honesty, we ended up using a butt double. It could have been the breast milk running down my thighs [laughs]. From 'Running Scared' to 'Never Forever' to 'Departed,' I've mooned audiences my whole life. And I just think it wasn't appropriate given the situation. But I think it was a directorial misstep on Jason's part. I think what people really wanted to see was George's hairy butt [laughs].

Vera Farmiga in 'Up in the Air'There's a ton of Oscar buzz surrounding the movie and your performance -- has that been stressful at all, or are you not sweating it?
There's no pressure. I'm excited to be a part of a film that might be successful, that people might actually go see. Oftentimes, the roles and projects that I commit to somehow get dealt a strange hand of cards, and oftentimes don't get a life except on DVD. So that's most exciting for me -- just having people appreciate work that I certainly am proud of.

Your character Alex is a pretty straight shooter who says what's on her mind and does whatever she wants -- which can sometimes be graphic and a little surprising. Was that liberating?
It was. It was cool to see female desire portrayed in such a masculine way. And that was an interesting take on female desire -- you know, something that was kind of demanding and wanton and unapologetic ... and yet treading that line of femininity and softness; and being appealing; and not frightening people [laughs]; and having dignity -- not having the character being bereft of dignity, but giving her self-esteem. So that was cool.

George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in 'Up in the Air'One of the best scenes in the movie is when Alex, Natalie [Anna Kendrick] and Ryan have that conversation about what they look for in a partner. Is your own ideal closer to Alex's or Natalie's?
My ideal is the man I'm with, who is more idyllic than any of their descriptions, than either of those two characters is capable of describing [laughs]. I lucked out.

You've appeared opposite some of the biggest leading men in Hollywood -- Clooney, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio. Who was your favorite to work with? And who's next on your list?
They're all like crayons. Give me the next color [laughs].

Since you're a Jersey Girl, can you reveal your favorite thing about the Garden State?
Hmmm ... my favorite thing about the Gaaaaden State?

That sounded almost Bostonian. Did you have a Jersey accent growing up?
[Laughs] I have a Ukrainian-New Jersey accent. You can probably hear it. You have heard it because I hear it. Sometimes I hear myself slip in a scene. It is a very Ukrainian-New Jersey accent. So what do I love about the Garden State? I love the Garden State Arts Center. I've performed there, too. The first time I was ever in the Garden State Arts Center I performed there as a professional Ukrainian folk dancer. Oh, and Action Park! [Laughs] I could go on.