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THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

Director's Statement
By Writer/Director Jason Reitman

I tried coming up with an opening statement that reflects my feelings for the production of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. Perhaps I was overwhelmed, but I couldn't come up with anything profound - certainly not after reading Buckley's piece on creating Nick Naylor. I mean, f***, how am I supposed to follow that? Instead, I have decided to present you with five moments of making this film that I will never forget.

1. The moment I discovered the book.

I was standing in a friend's living room. The book was a gift from a six foot woman with a degree from Yale. I opened the book and read the first sentence -

"Nick Naylor had been called many things since becoming the chief spokesman for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, but until now no one had actually compared him to Satan.”

It's said that when a woman meets her future husband for the first time, she can see their entire life together - Love, marriage, kids, the whole thing. That's the only way I can describe the first time I read that line. I saw Nick spraying out words like a machine gun. I saw him hitting a home run in the middle of the night. I saw him offering a light to the world while draped in the American flag. It was love at first sight.

2. A call from way upon high.

After begging for the job and writing the first act on spec, Mel Gibson's Icon Productions hired me to take a crack at THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. They paid me scale. They could have paid me nothing. I turned in my draft and received no notes. Not a thing. This may seem like a good thing, but what it really means is they don't know what to do with it.

One day, my cell phone rings. It's Mel. Calling from his plane. He tells me how much he enjoyed my draft. He then goes on for about twenty minutes on the virtues of digital filmmaking. He tells me how excited he is to make my film. I never speak to him again.

3. I meet my white knight.

I knew two things about David Sacks before I met him. He orchestrated the $1.5 billion sale of his company PayPal to eBay… and he loves my screenplay. I went to meet him at his new place in the hills. He had bought the house featured in the film Pulp Fiction, but had yet to buy furniture. Just so we're clear, after arriving in Los Angeles, he had gone shopping for a screenplay before shopping for a bed.

We sat on folding chairs in front of an infinity pool that carried views from Downtown to the Pacific. About halfway through the meeting, he started peeling off the loose rubber from the soles of his shoes. I made some remark about him using his newfound fortune to go down to Rodeo and buy a new pair. He looked back at me and said, "Hey, what you see is what you get.”

4. Lunch with Sam

Halfway through the casting process, I receive word that Sam Elliott is willing to sit down and discuss the character of Lorne Lutch. I had written him a letter, expressing my admiration for him and passion for him to play the part. I basically wrote that I could never be happy with the film, knowing that another actor was in his role.

I went to meet him in Malibu amidst the heavy rains of late 2004. His neighbor's roof had caved in the middle of the night and he had spent every hour since then fixing it. He is the closest thing to the noble cowboy that I've ever met. He is Shane.

For close to three hours we debated whether or not his character should take the money. I almost found myself in the role of Nick Naylor, trying to convince him to do it. After a while, we settled on his character taking the payoff as written. With one stipulation. Instead of Lorne carrying a shotgun, as described in the book, he preferred the character to have a rifle. Fine.

We get to the day of shooting and I have completely forgotten about the choice of firearms. I'm eating breakfast, when I'm told that props would like to se

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