Jason Reitman and Christopher Buckley
Writer-Director and Writer
Monday, February 27, 2006 12:00 PM
Writer/director Jason Reitman and novelist Christopher Buckley were online Monday, Feb. 27, at Noon ET to discuss "Thank You For Smoking," a satirical film which takes a look at today's "culture of spin."
Nick Taylor (Aaron Eckhart) defends the rights of smokers and cigarette manufacturers. Health zealots and an opportunistic senator (William H. Macy) want to ban tobacco and put poison labels on cigarette packs. Nick launches a PR offensive, hires a Hollywood super-agent (Rob Lowe) and attempts to spin away the dangers of cigarettes in the media. Nick's notoriety attracts the attention of a top tobacco honcho (Robert Duvall) and an investigative reporter (Katie Holmes) for a Washington, D.C., newspaper. Although he manages to pay the mortgage Nick begins to think about how his work makes him look in the eyes of his son.
"Thank You For Smoking" opens March 17 in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and expands nationwide in the following weeks.
Jason Reitman: Hi everybody. It's Chris Buckley and Jason Reitman. Looking forward to answering your questions.
Rochester, N.Y.: Was Chris Buckley, author of the book, involved in the movie?
Jason Reitman: Chris Buckley speaking - My job was to stand on the sidelines and get coffee.
Jason Reitman - Hardly. We sent the screenplay back and forth during the writing period and Mr. Buckley makes an impressive performance in the film. You have to go to see it.
Washington, D.C.: What was your experience like filming in D.C? How long were you here and what did you enjoy about the city?
Jason Reitman: The city was a trip. Definitely wanted to make a movie that Washingtonians could call their own and take ownership of. That said, had an interesting experience outside the dept of energy on our location scout. Got out of our van, started to take photos, and found ourselves surrounded by men in flak jackets. Fun town.
Bethesda, Md.: What perfect timing for your movie to debut -- right after the Jack Abramoff scandal thrusts lobbying to the forefront of Washington discussion! Did you speed-up production to make the release more timely or is this just pure coincidence?
Jason Reitman: No, we sped up the investigation into Abramoff.
Washington, D.C.: Were the writers aware that "Thank You For Smoking" was a phrase famously uttered by Jesse Helms hundreds of times?
Jason Reitman: Chris Buckley speaking - I had heard that. Also, that Senator Helmes would offer a cigarette to any visitor to his office. And if they accepted, he would say "Thank you for smoking".
Silver Spring, Md.: I heard you screened the film in D.C. this past weekend. How nervous were you to screen in front of a D.C. crowd, based on the subject matter?
Jason Reitman: Very nervous. As I mentioned to someone else, I wanted this to be a "DC film". The crowd seemed to love it. In fact, a liquor lobbyist stopped me on the way out to tell me how much she enjoyed the film and how spot on it was.
Arlington, Va.: I have heard great buzz about this film and can't wait to see it! What is your next project?
Jason Reitman: Chris Buckley - Working on book #12. Also raising two teenagers... wish me luck.
Jason - Adapting another book. Looking forward to any opportunity to work with Buckley again.
Lyme, Conn.: I presume you are aware that cigarettes were once advertised as a health benefit? Doctors were quoted as recommending smoking as a means to calm the nerves and improve one's health. How much is your movie mimicking the old reality of cigarette manufacturers who pretend their destructive product is good for you?
Jason Reitman: Not at all. The movie, as well as the book, are very clear about the dangers of smoking. They both poke fun at how abundantly aware we are of those dangers. In fact, the original cover of the book featured one of those doctors. The new edition of the book is available on bookshelves now (Buckley made me write that)
Severna Park, Md.: I went to the D.C. premiere on Saturday, this movie is hilarious. Aaron Eckhart fits the role of Nick Naylor to a "T". Will this be a big hit or one of those movies that is a sleeper for a few years until the buzz gets around (i.e., "The Usual Suspects")? And the opening credits were the most original I have ever seen.
Jason Reitman: We both think the film will break all existing box office records, making many say "Star Wars what?"
Arlington, Va. : I can't wait for this movie to come out. I'm a huge fan of the book and, seeing the trailer, looks like you caught its spirit and humor nicely. How much involvement did Chris Buckley, who wrote the novel, have in making this?
Jason Reitman: The adaptation was very faithful so book fans should be very pleased. Buckley says that he likes the book, but loves the movie.
Alexandria, Va.: Is the "MOD Squad" from the book faithfully depicted in the film?
Jason Reitman: You bet. Cut and paste.
Silver Spring, Md.: I remember reading the book when it first came out in 1994, and have reread it several times since. Why so long for the movie version?
Jason Reitman: It would take twelve more reasons to explain. Please direct that question to Mel Gibson.
Franconia, Va.: I just finished the new comic novel "Potomac Beach," which is the best satirical jab at trade associations and lobbying since "Thank You For Smoking." Have either of you read it?
Jason Reitman: No, but we're both looking forward to reading it. We hear it would make a great movie
Fairfax, Va.: So what happens in the movie? Please describe the plot. Does it take place in Washington?
Jason Reitman: TYFS follow Nick Naylor, head lobbyist for big tobacco, as he spins his way across America on behalf of big tobacco as he tries to be role model to his twelve year old son.
Tampa, Fla.: Your film sounds great. The blurring of the line between truth and fiction because of the rapid spin cycle today has no better example than what happens to scientific "truth" e.g., well-tested and verifiable hypotheses such as association between cancer and smoking. The result: no body believes anything and people give up trying to take responsibility for changing their lives for the better, or if they do it is upon the advice of untested anecdotal evidence. You have some good actors in the film, I hope they can deliver a timely message, one Hollywood seems to eschew lately for some sex-violence drivel.
Jason Reitman: TYFS will be playing at the Florida Film Festival. Hope to see you there. Funny enough, we had some sex in the movie, but a projectionist took it out.
McLean, Va.: What do you think of the idea that smoking is part of the circle of life? That it brings balance to the human race and helps keep things in check such as the availability of food and resources to the people who remain alive. In other words if all smokers quit smoking overnight and no one else started ever again then there would be too many people alive and not enough food.
Some people who eat healthy and run marathons still get random cancer and die. Isn't it better that someone chooses to take himself out through lung cancer rather then some innocent mother who does everything right yet still gets breast cancer and dies?
Jason Reitman: By any chance, did you ever work with Nick Naylor at the Academy of Tobacco Studies. Chris and I agree there is no good answer to your question.
A Smoker: You're welcome.
Jason Reitman: okay.
New York, N.Y.: Does your famous father like your moviemaking?
Jason Reitman: Which one of our famous fathers? Both dads loved it and urge every patriotic American to see the film.
Washington, D.C.: Did Tom Cruise visit the set? I hear Katie Holmes is in the movie.
Jason Reitman: Tom and Katie had not met yet while we were shooting.
Alexandria, Va.: Is this movie pro-tobacco?
Jason Reitman: No, the movie is not pro-tobacco or anti-tobacco. The film seeks to use cigarettes as a location to observe the mania people get in when they want to tell others how to live.
Washington, D.C.: Is this an indie-type movie? If so, how did you get such a name cast? Katie Holmes, William Macy, Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Adam Brody. Wow.
Jason Reitman: Aaron and Duvall signed on because they loved the words. It snowballed form there. I still don't quite know how we assembled such an incredible cast. It certainly was intimidating to direct them.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Mr. Buckley: I recall your entering a hallway to give a speech when a woman (one of your fellow Republican politicians, in fact) came up to you and was quite upset. She stated she opened one of the books of yours they were selling the hallway and the first thing she saw was a swear word. She expressed serious disappointment in the use of swear words. I recall you then turned to me, as I was behind you, and you told me "in a few minutes, that woman is going to be very disappointed." I have read and appreciate your books, and I don't care if there is profanity or not. Do you have a particular philosophy on the use of profanity?
Jason Reitman: I try to use profanity less and less in my writing and certainly on my TV appearences, but there are times when only the F word will do.
P.S. Give my regards to the lady in the hallway and tell her to f*** off.
Vienna, Va.: What do you mean, which one? Is Chris Buckley the son of William F?
Jason Reitman: Yes, and he's thrilled you didn't know that.
Washington, D.C.: Obviously, you love movies. What do you have to say about the upcoming Oscars? Any predictions? C'mon, give us a few. Also, will you be attending?
Jason Reitman: I will only attend when I am invited. This year, I guarantee the following:
Picture - Brokeback
Director - Brokeback
Actor - Hoffman
Supporting Actor - Clooney
Score - Brokeback
Cinematography - Brokeback
Original Screenplay - Crash
Adapted Screenplay - Brokeback
Animated - Wallace and Gromit
Language - Paradise Now
All VFX and Sound - King Kong
College Park, Md.: Will people start saying Thank you for smoking now instead of what they used to say with the "not" in it? Will this creep into today's conversation lexicon?
Jason Reitman: I certainly hope so. These days, people still call the movie "Thank You For Not Smoking"
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