Thank You for Smoking
I wasn't sure what to expect from Jason Reitman, the first-time director of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING and the son of a Hollywood comedy legend, but I knew the stills photographer on the movie, Dale Robinette, very well, and before my first visit to set Uncle Dale had told me that young Reitman really seemed to know what he was doing and - perhaps more important - that everyone really liked him.
As it turned out Reitman was indeed a rare bird: a director who was a really great guy who also knew exactly what he wanted and who also knew how to listen. I felt guilty that the first word that popped into my head when I'd heard Jason's last name was "nepotism," but I also recognized that if I held that prejudice, so might a lot of others in the independent film community. I knew that somewhere along the way the N-word would be a publicity hurdle both for Jason and his movie.
The shooting schedule called for an upcoming night shoot on the Santa Monica pier. Knowing that New York Times Hollywood correspondent Sharon Waxman lived nearby; knowing of her interest in young maverick filmmakers (her book Rebels on the Backlot had recently been published); and having a strong hunch that she and Jason would get along, I invited her to set. She watched Jason shoot a scene in which Aaron Eckhart and Cameron Bright have a father-son walk-and-talk around the Pier's famous carousel (where scenes from THE STING had also been shot years before). It was a scene that Jason had written for the movie, as opposed to something that was taken directly from Christopher Buckley's novel. Sharon did some interviews. A light rain started to fall and I bought us baseball caps from a souvenir kiosk. She left a little before midnight, and so then did I, leaving Jason, the cast and crew to continue their work undisturbed.
As it turns out, Reitman and Waxman did hit it off, but the story she immediately ran was more about the producer of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, David O. Sacks, and how he represented a new wave of Internet moguls getting into the movie business. Later, after the film had been accepted into the Toronto Film Festival, I invited Waxman to see it in the cutting room and then talk with Jason over dinner. The story ran the day after THANK YOU FOR SMOKING enjoyed its very successful world premiere at Toronto and just as Paramount Classics and Fox Searchlight engaged in a very public battle over the rights to the film, a story Waxman was in a particularly unique position to cover.