Interview: Jason Reitman: On "Thank You For Smoking"
by Beth Gottfried
Published: May 2, 2006
At 28, director/screenwriter Jason Reitman (yes, his father is Ivan Reitman, Hollywood's famed producer) is making a name for himself as a highly talented, hyper funny, nice guy.
In response to these lofty allegations and after viewing first-hand his first feature film, "Thank You For Smoking," I decided I just needed to ask him some questions. Not only did he follow up with a "I'd love to answer any questions you might have," but he answered each and every one of my questions in less than 24 hours.
How's that for professionalism?
Tom Cruise, eat your heart out.
How did you go about finding the perfect story for your first feature and later writing the screenplay?
A friend gave me a copy of the book in the late 90s. It spoke to everything I wanted to say as director. It was funny and yet a very interesting take on Libertarian politics, using cigarettes as a location.
What drew you to Christopher Buckley's novel?
A very smart woman gave me the book.
I find it interesting that both you and Buckley have rather daunting footsteps (re:fathers) to follow in and yet, I should point out both of you are distinctive and original with your talent and body of work. Did you meet with Buckley or collaborate at all?
Buckley and I are good friends. I originally called him and asked him for his blessing at the beginning of the project. I periodically sent him drafts that he would give me notes on. We got along great and continue to communicate about ideas often.
Casting was brilliant in this film. How did you decide on Aaron Eckhart for the part of Nick Naylor?
Aaron has that rare ability to be completely subversive and charming at the same time. He showcased this in his debut film. He also had the fatherly qualities as seen in "Erin Brokovich." All that combined with his all-American good lucks - He was perfect.
Was he your original choice?
Would you be honest if he weren't?
Adam Brody (aka the dude from 'The OC') was one of the best casts of the film, in my opinion. It was a breakout role for him and at the same time probably underrated.
Adam was incredibly generous to give up his time for the role he played. He was brilliant to work with and is amazingly authentic in that role. People all the time tell me he is one of the highlights of the movie.
Of course, there is a staggering social and political message in the film and satire in its relay of "the spin." Was it crucial to humanize and effectively empathize with the "I don't have to be right. I just have to prove you might be wrong" lawyer argument in order for the audience to buy that Nick Naylor was a fallen hero? Did you intend him to be a hero?
I do think Nick is a hero. I think he stands for freedom of choice. I think he stands for personal responsibility. I think he stands for parenting. All these ideas make him human and infinitely relatable. He also has a self-aware sense of humor about it all which makes him so likable.
What did the pre-production process entail?
A very quick two months of faking DC in LA.
How many mos/years did it take?
Wrote it in 2001. Shot it Jan-March 2005. Premiered Sep 2005 Toronto Film Festival.
What were some of the pitfalls?
It was hard to find financing for a libertarian movie in which the main character didn't have some big change of heart.
Are you looking for any peons/production assistants on any upcoming projects?
My producing partner, Daniel Dubiecki, and I just started a company called Hard C. We have a deal with Fox and were going to be making small subversive comedies. We will be looking for interns.
I'm just throwing my hat in...A little proactivity goes a long way. Just look at Jessica Simpson's face.
Thats very funny, but I doubt you want to work for free.
Generic Question Of The Day: Most challenging obstacle?
Something you'll learn not to do again? Aside from casting Katie Holmes in a sex scene...
I hate filming sex scenes. Nothings harder than telling two people how to hump on camera.
On behalf of James Lipton, who would you cast to play you in your biopic? (besides your dog.)
Lastly, are you super accessible and nice because you're a Canadian?
Lots. Keep your ear to the ground.