‘Thank You For Smoking’ director speaks about the movie, his life

Andrew Gaug

Jason Reitman credits strong material, cast for film’s success

Director Jason Reitman looks on while filming Thank You For Smoking. Reitman is the son of Ivan, director of Ghost Busters, Stripes and Twins, among other films. COURTESY OF FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

ALL correspondent Andrew Gaug had the opportunity to interview Jason Reitman, the director of the film, Thank You For Smoking, over e-mail earlier this month.

Andrew Gaug: How have you been feeling as Thank You For Smoking‘s release widens?

Jason Reitman: Fantastic. We’re holding and building as the weeks go by. Our per-screen average has been through the roof. It’s a thrill to have made a movie independently, that never could have seen the light of day, and now I get e-mails from across the country telling me how much people are enjoying it.

AG: I’ve read from interviews with the author that Mel Gibson first owned the rights to making this movie. Could you tell what happened and how you got involved?

JR: It’s a long story, but basically Mel bought the rights when the book was still in galleys. His company spent about seven years developing it into a broad comedy before I came on and started to make it into an indie film – a film that didn’t have to apologize for itself. Finally, the film was financed by David Sacks, one of the founders of PayPal, who bought the rights from Mel.

AG: Did you have any fears going into the movie about how relevant it would be due to it being based on a book that was published almost 12 years ago?

JR: Not really. Smoking bans are at an all-time high, and frivolous smoking law suits still happen every day. More importantly, I see this as a film about spin and talking, a film that takes a stab at political correctness. Now more than ever, we are in danger of being victims to a P.C. state.

AG: After reading the book I figured that some plot elements and characters would be taken out due to time constraints. Was there anything from the book you had a tough time taking out or giving a smaller part to?

JR: There’s always going to be comedy that works great in the book but doesn’t quite fit into the tone of the film you want to make. That said, I feel the movie is a faithful adaptation. So does (author Christopher) Buckley.

AG: Besides the trailer, one of the things that first caught my eye about this movie was the impressive cast. Besides who the casting director hired, how did some of the cast come about?

JR: The cast responded to the words. Or at least that’s what they told me. They said that actors want to say smart, funny things. The book provided that. Also, it was a snowball effect. When Aaron (Eckhart) came on board, it created real interest. When, (Robert) Duvall signed on, people really took notice.

AG: It seems that this movie has sparked debates, most noticeably on message boards like the Internet Movie Database, over smoking. Is that what your intent was?

JR: My intent was to make people laugh. That said, if people use this film as a platform to discuss libertarian politics, then that’s fantastic.

AG: You’ve taken full advantage of letting people know what is going on with the movie through your blog. Do you see this as an effective way of keeping in touch with your audience?

JR: Absolutely. This is the first blog I’ve ever written. It was a big step for me to find my voice as a diary writer. That said, I have found the experience very fulfilling. Particularly when people ask me questions and I can get back to them. MySpace has been a wonderful tool to communicate with fans of the film.

AG: Getting on the more personal side of things, when did you decide you wanted to get into directing?

JR: Very young. I knew in my early teens that I wanted to be a storyteller and that movies would be my medium.

AG: Some celebrities such as Nicolas Cage shy away from their relationship to already established names in Hollywood to make it on their own. Is this the same in your case with your father?

JR: Nah. I love my father. He’s my role model. I always thought no good could come of me trying to change my name. People would know who I was. I think you have to be proud of who you are and take the good/bad with every situation. Kind of like “The Facts of Life.”

AG: On a related note, do you get tired of being asked questions about your dad?

JR: I love my dad, so no.

AG: Besides promoting Thank You For Smoking, is there anything else that you planned for the future?

JR: My producing partner Daniel Dubiecki and I have started a company called Hard C that hopes to be an indie comedy hub for the future. We hope to not only make features, but also have a short film fest as well as short film contests. Keep your ear to the ground for future events.

Contact ALL correspondent Andrew Gaug at [email protected].