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On Tape: Film director Jason Reitman, "Thank You for Smoking"

 by Shaun Capehart  published on Wednesday, March 29, 2006


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"You guys don't mind if I eat while we do this, do you?" Jason Reitman asks as he takes a seat. The director of "Thank You for Smoking" appears healthy and ready to take on the world, a disposition many wouldn't share while touring the country promoting their debut feature film.

"This is going to be the most unprofessional interview," he jokes, popping a CD into his iBook to burn a CD in between sandwich bites.

Reitman's relaxed approach doesn't reflect his high-octane by-the-seat-of-your-pants movie though. In ninety-two brief minutes, "Thank You for Smoking," Reitman is able to address something as serious as Big Tobacco's place in our government and society, yet retain a light-hearted humor to it.

"The tone I was going for was whimsical," he says, noting the opening credit roll. "As soon as it starts, you know that this isn't going to be a drama. This is going to be something else."

Making the movie was no easy task though.

"Mel Gibson actually had the rights," Reitman notes, revealing that the movie was actually supposed to be helmed by the same man who gave us "The Passion of the Christ."

"When you look at it [this way], it took eight years to make this movie," Reitman reasons.

Of course, that doesn't include the time Reitman took to develop his resume.

"Being the son [of Ivan Reitman, director of films such as "Ghostbusters" and the upcoming Luke Wilson and Uma Thurman film, "My Super Ex-Girlfriend"] I didn't want people to think that I was just being handed work on a silver platter."

To build a reputation, Reitman spent years doing work on commercials for various companies, working his way uphill like any other guy in Hollywood until earning his feature film debut.

When it comes to his feature's hero, Nick Naylor, one can see how closely Reitman keeps the character and the character's ideals to his heart.

"Nick is kind of a caricature of a human being, but he's also really grounded," Reitman says. "With him, it's not about smoking, it's about personal responsibility."

Of course, this also proposed another problem: no studio wanted to touch the movie. With a character like Nick Naylor sticking to his guns and refusing to learn a "life lesson" at the end of the movie and not renouncing his tobacco lobbyist ways, no one in Hollywood would touch the script.

"They wanted me to make it like "Liar, Liar"," Reitman recalls, "where the main character learns his lesson and says, 'I was wrong' at the end of the third act, but I felt like that wouldn't be true to the book or to the character."

Once the ball finally got rolling, everything seemed to fall into place rather quickly.

"People just started reading the script and wanted to get involved," Reitman says in reference to his amazing cast, including Robert Duvall, J. K. Simmons, Katie Holmes, and of course, Aaron Eckhart.

With that, Jason Reitman finishes his sandwich and our time is up. However, if you want to find more on the director of Thank You for Smoking, simply read his blog here.

Reach the reporter at shaun.capehart@asu.edu.



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