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Jason Reitman—Thank You for Smoking—02/14/06

As the son of director Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman did, in a sense, grow up on film sets. In recent years, he's been accumulating short films in anticipation of making a feature-film debut. The film gods smiled when Reitman landed Thank You for Smoking, based on the Christopher Buckley novel, then lined up a cast including Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, William H. Macy, Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Maria Bello, Rob Lowe, and David Koechner. I spoke to Reitman when he met the press on Valentine's Day 2006, at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Groucho: What did reading Thank You for Smoking add to your own views about the tobacco industry and the anti-tobacco movement?

JR: It really had no effect on my views on the tobacco industry. What it opened me up to was libertarian politics. I read the book for the first time when I was in my teens, and it was the first time I really read the libertarian argument as a kind of common-sense argument rather than the fire department should be privatized and people should own the streets, you know? And it was hilarious. I never read a comedy from that point of view. And I just fell in love with it, and more than that, I saw it as a movie immediately.

G: The book was first optioned by Mel Gibson's Icon Productions.

JR: Right.

G: Can you explain how you became involved and how, ultimately, the project became yours to guide?

JR: Yeah. What happened was: Mel bought it when the book was still in galleys—it was in '92 or '93. Just fell in love with the project—bought it—his deal was at Warner Bros. at the time. They spent some real money on that. And they immediately hired a series of writers to develop it into a big 50, 60-million-dollar Mel Gibson comedy. Which was something that was never going to work because you can't make a movie that expensive that makes light of lung cancer. No one—no studio's going to back that. And Mel wasn't happy because they kept on softening it up, which is what you automatically do to make a movie that accessible. And so he was never happy with the project and it basically died. In the meantime, in the late '90s, I get a copy of the book, read it—fall in love with it—and I'm just starting to make short films. And my new goal becomes I need to make a short film that will put me into the room to get this gig. And I made a series of shorts—one was called "In God We Trust"—it did really well, played a lot of film festivals, won awards, got me an agent, got me directing commercials. And my agent said, you know, "What do you wanna do?" I said, "I want to make Thank You For Smoking." He said, "It's gonna be tough." You know, "I looked into it. There's a lot of money against it—the project's dead." I said, "Well, just get me into the room." And I went in and I pitched my heart out. I was more aggressive than I normally am. I just said, "You're doing everything wrong here. I said, "What kind of movie are you trying to make? You should be making Citizen Ruth. You should be making Election. Election had just come out. And I said, "Let me be your cheap Alexander Payne." And over the coming weekend, I actually wrote the first act. I just wrote twenty-five pages and I gave it to 'em for free. I said, "This is what I'm thinking." And they said, "We like this. This is the tone we've been trying to achieve. We'll hire you." They hired me for scale and I wrote a script. I wrote a script, turned it in, let's say, three, four months later. And they really liked it. It goes through the whole company—no notes. Zero notes. Mel Gibson calls me—calls me from a plane, on my cell phone—and talks to me for awhile and is like "Yeah, kid, you nailed it. This is what we tried to achieve. We really liked it." Then I'm "Great. I'm gonna make my movie now. This is it" And they even send me—I went on a meeting with a casting director, and we talked about casting ideas. Couldn't believe it, couldn't believe it. And then no one made it! You know! Every studio turned it down—for a variety of reasons, but mostly because there was over a million dollars against a film that I was pitching as a five-million-dollar movie, and people had a hard time—you've seen the movie, right?

G: Yes.

JR: People had a hard time with the fact that the main character and the movie in general don't apologize for themselves. It's a movie with a backbone, and it's not about a guy who goes to work for the Red Cross at the end of the day. And we got a general note, across town, if you are willing to change that, we can talk about making this movie. And I said, "No, I don't want to make that movie." And, for a while there, the screenplay became the writer's worst nightmare. It was just kind of a great writing sample. And it got me work, and I actually wrote another screenplay for Fox. Work would come in—projects to direct and I'd just turn them down. They were mostly teen romantic-comedy romps—high-school crap. And I didn't want to be that kind of filmmaker. And I was continuing to direct commercials. And one day, I get a call from my agent—this guy named David Saks—he's one of the creators of PayPal. He and his partners had sold his company to eBay for a billion-and-a-half dollars. And they want to make my movie. They really loved the screenplay. And I went to meet with them. He had just got to town. He got to L.A. He had bought the house in the Hollywood hills that they had filmed Pulp Fiction in. And there was no furniture there yet. He had just arrived. And we talked about our views. We'd both loved the book. We both want to make my screenplay. And the craziest thing at that point was: here I was living the independent filmmaker's dream. I had a guy with a checkbook ready to just go "Let's make your movie." And we still couldn't get it out of Warner Bros. and Icon. It took over a year just to get them to sell him the rights so we could make the movie. And once we did that, it was very smooth sailing. We got the cast and we just rocked and rolled.

G: I think it's a testament to your instincts that you held out to make this film because it's a great—it's a very impressive debut is what I'm trying to say.

JR: Thank you.

G: Your film not only concedes—it sort of revels in the idea that Hollywood types are spin-masters. What are your feelings about the Hollywood machine, and do you feel like an insider or an outsider?

JR: Well, look. I think I grew up with an inside point-of-view of Hollywood. That said, I didn't grow up around crazy parties, and I didn't grow up inside board meetings. I was still just the son of a filmmaker. Umm, do I think there's self-important people in Hollywood? Yeah! (Laughs.) And I think that, as with most satires, there's a fair amount of realism to it. But again, my take on Hollywood and the way I present it in this movie have to do with more the stories about Hollywood rather than anything that I really saw first-hand.

G: I want to talk a little bit about the style of the film. Were there any particular style influences? You mentioned Alexander Payne. When I watched the film, it conjured up Wes Anderson during the montage sequence—

JR: Right.

G: And Arrested Development, a little bit—

JR: Mmm-hmm.

G: Was there anything in particular that you had in mind?

JR: I wanted the film to be whimsical, and I think that's what Wes Anderson really was able to capture—even more so in his first one. I mean, his recent movies have become more—very Wes Anderson films. While the first one, like Bottle Rocket had a tremendous amount of whimsy concerning it's a film about cat burglaring. And Chris Buckley's book has a lot of whimsy considering it's a book about the tobacco industry. And I wanted to capture that on screen. And using that portrait-style photography in presenting the characters, I think, creates that.

G: Regarding the subject matter, what were the challenges in writing this adapted screenplay? You talked about how the main character is anti-heroic and the screenplay doesn't shy from that at all. I guess what I'm asking is: how did you go about making that anti-hero accessible to the audience?

JR: First, I think I would say I don't think he's an anti-hero. I think he is heroic. I think it's ballsy and cool and fantastic that he sticks to his guns. And then, he believes in what he's doing. You know, Nick never has a moment where he says what I am doing is wrong. And I think, in fact, at one moment he's talking to his son, and he says, you know, multi-national corporations need a public defender too. And I think that's what he is. Companies are really just groups of people, and they've come under attack, you know. If you look at an anti-smoking ad these days, it's not about the dangers of cigarettes. It's just thirty seconds spent vilifying the heads of a tobacco corporation. And he's their white knight. And I think he believes in that idea. It's harder to defend that than to go speak for the Red Cross. And I guess I believe that, and that's what made it easy to write. I believe that people should be taking more personal responsibility for their actions. I think that people should stop blaming corporations when the majority of smokers alive today went into the habit of smoking fully well knowing the dangers of cigarettes.

G: I think it does come across very well that he's got the courage of his convictions. So part of my interaction with that character has a lot to do with, I think, his son, and how, at first, I felt, "Oh, this vilifies him, to be drawing his son into...'tobacco's okay,' and then that sort of gets turned around because he is so, as you say, convinced that what he is doing is right.

JR: Well, on top of that, I think what he's teaching his son is that you're gonna be spun to your whole life, and you have to see through that bullshit. You have to know that we live in a spin culture. You know, he's spun to by not only corporations and your government and advertising in general and the media—you're being spun to by your college professors in trying to make you liberal just because they're liberal, and you're gonna be spun by politicians who want to make you conservatives because they're conservative. You have to think for yourself. And that's what his message is. And when you see him in his most private moments, and when he talks to the audience through voice-over, he's incredibly honest and very candid. And I think that's why people like him. You asked me why—how does an audience like a guy like this? It's the same reason I like the book. Like the character in the book...he's charmingly candid and he's extremely frank about the dangers of cigarettes—how many people they're killing, and how he's going to try and spin that in the media. And there's a fun to watching a guy like that operate because we know that we're spun to. And as long as you know you're being spun to then you can still make a good decision.

G: And he's incredibly good at his job.

JR: It's always fun to watch a character who's brilliant at doing what they do.

G: One of the interesting choices in the film is that we never see a lit cigarette, and I wonder how you came to that choice. Why was that important to you?

JR: You know, I was writing the screenplay and—or maybe I was even storyboarding—but it just suddenly occurred to me "Oh, you know, I think this person needs to be smoking in this scene," and I didn't want to do it. And I was kind of reacting to my own desire not to see him smoking. When I thought about it, I just didn't want there ever to be a mistake about where this film sat on smoking, where I sat on smoking. It's not that I'm anti-smoking, but I'm certainly not pro-smoking. I don't smoke. I wouldn't want my kids to smoke. And you have to imagine if—I mean, did you see Good Night, and Good Luck.?

G: Yeah.

JR: You look at Good Night, and Good Luck., and that's a brilliant film. I love that film. But halfway through, you're going "Holy shit, these guys are smoking a lot of cigarettes." You can't help but react to that much cigarette smoking. And that's the kind of smoking we'd have had to have in this film. You can't have a little bit of smoking. If you're going to have these smoking, they're going to be smoking from start to finish.

G: Were you concerned that it could be misconstrued as glamorizing smoking?

JR: Yeah. Well, a) I definitely did not want to come off as glamorizing smoking because for me, again, this is a movie where cigarettes are the location. This is a movie about spin—just as Citizen Ruth is not a movie about abortion. It's about the hysteria around abortion. And I also didn't want it to be distracting. For the same reason—look, in the book, Bobby Jay, the gun lobbyist—he's got a hook for a left hand. Really funny in a book. But if it was on screen, it's like, the whole time, you'd be looking at this hook. It would be sight gags with the hook, and I just didn't want people thinking about hooks. Didn't want them to be thinking about cigarettes. I just wanted the audience to be listening to what they have to say.

G: One of the controversies after production was there was a bidding war over your film. That a pretty good controversy to have, I suppose.

JR: That's about as good a controversy as you can have. (Laughs.) I think Paramount spoke a little too soon. They didn't have the project yet. It was amazing. The night that it happened, I was getting text messages from friends congratulating me about the sale to Paramount, the sale to Fox and at the time I was terrified. All I wanted was for the film to find a home. As a director, all you want to know is that people are going to see your movie. And going into Toronto I didn't know that—I thought, "Okay. A thousand people are going to see it at Toronto, but maybe that's it." And I couldn't have been happier to land at Fox. I mean, they're just—they're the best.

G: Of course the other controversy that I'm sure you're well-tired of talking about by now was the missing twelve seconds of footage for the film—

JR: Which you've seen, of course.

G: Yes, I did. Yes, yes. I saw the full film.

JR: Not that impressive—the twelve seconds. I mean as far as—when you hear the words "missing twelve seconds of Katie Holmes having sex," the mind does a lot better than what I basically provided.

G: Right, right, right. My first thought—everybody had their own conspiracy theory—I've seen on your blogs—was there may be an overzealous projectionist that had taken something for his collection

JR: Right. (Laughs loudly.)

G: For his Katie Holmes collection. But as it turns out, it was a reel-change mishap.

JR: Well, not a reel-change mishap, but a mishap in assembling the reels—because nowadays you know they don't do two projectors; they have one—they have a platter. They assembled the reel, and they've got two-hundred films at Sundance that they're just trying to get ready, prepping for the screenings. And in our case it's even more hurried because basically, a Fox guard shows up with the print, you know, right before. And they watch the whole process. So it's like—Fox is very concerned about piracy. So, yeah, it was a mishap, but again, I don't like to see any—Katie and Tom go through any more than they have to. They've obviously been hammered enough. But I can't help but be excited that there's a whole audience for this film that would normally never be aware of this movie. This is a political comedy. It has it's audience, but. And it's a funny movie. I think there's a chance for this movie to break out when people realize, "Oh, it's entertaining, it's funny, it's a good time." But I think we finally nailed the fifteen-year-old boys for the first time. We secured that.

G: And it does have a contemporary edge to it, but it also has a great kind of old-fashioned Hawksian or Sturges or Capra kind of—you know, great characters and—

JR: Wow. You're being incredibly generous. Thank you.

G: Let's talk about the cast. This is an amazing cast.

JR: Do you think?

G: Yeah.

JR: (Laughs.) So do I, by the way. I can't get over it.

G: I was kind of, you know, gasping my way along with these credits since the movie started. I think I want to start by talking about Sam Elliot. He's such the perfect guy for that part. Was it difficult to convince him to do it?

JR: Yeah, it was. Not 'cause he didn't like the script. He really liked the script. He is the character that he normally plays in films. He's a really noble guy. And he didn't want [his character] to take the money. And oddly enough, I found myself in the role of Nick Naylor convincing Sam Elliot to take the money. And I spoke to him about how this would take the roles that everyone knows him for and make them real human beings, make them troubled souls who have real issues and need the money for certain things, and we talked for about three hours. Did you read the press notes at all on this film?

G: Yes.

JR: Did you read the story about the gun?

G: Yes.

[Ed. Here, from the press notes, is that story, in Reitman's words:

After a while, we settled on his character taking the payoff as written. With one stipulation. Instead of the 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 see me per choosing the gun. I get to the prop truck and the property master is standing above two shotguns and a rifle. Thank God. Sam happens to be there as well. He picks up the rifle.

I asked, "Will this work for you?"

He responds, "Sure."

I continued, "Do you need them to show you how it works?"

He gives me a look, then says "Of course not. It's my gun."]

JR: Okay. And that came out of that. I mean, that was a—basically, that was the final deal point. There was no real—look, everyone did this film for next to nothing. There was never a conversation about money. People did this because they liked the politics, thought it was funny, they wanted to work with Robert Duvall, and J.K. Simmons—(laughs) J.K. Simmons did the movie partly because he wanted to work with Robert Duvall because there was a scene with him and Robert Duvall. And then he got to shooting the scene that day—it was the hospital scene—and he realized that it was supposed to be Robert Duvall's face on a television, and we were just green-screening it. (Laughs.) But I think with Sam, Sam's just a noble guy—he's the real deal, and tough—.

G: Well, I think that working through that issue really benefits the scene in the film—

JR: It's my favorite scene in the film. It's the one scene where you really don't know what Nick's doing and how he's doing it until it's over. And Sam is so—Sam is the real deal. Sam's a cowboy, you know? The day I met Sam was during—I'm not sure if you remember—there was that horrible southern California rains a year and a half ago that went for, like, two months straight. It was the most amount of rain in California history. And Sam's neighbor's roof had fallen in—and he had spent the entire night fixing that roof. This guy's like sixty years old. He's over sixty years old. And like—I'm sitting here talking to him over brunch—and the guy had had two hours sleep because he had just fixed his neighbor's roof all night, you know?

G: That's a no-spin zone.

JR: List how many fucking actors you know who'd do that, you know? He's the noble cowboy. He's awesome.

G: Talk about what qualities Aaron Eckhart brought that were right for Nick Naylor.

JR: Well, Aaron has this unbelievable knack for saying very subversive things and coming off incredibly charming—and that's who he is as a human being. And it made him kind of necessary to cast as Nick Naylor. And if you look at his breakout film, what's so incredible about it, and what made him an instant star, is that he was able to be an absolute monster and yet, at the same time, he doesn't stop being sexy that entire fucking movie, in In the Company of Men. So I saw that—saw Erin Brockovich, where he was doing the exact opposite—where he was being the most charming biker of all time and where you basically want him to babysit your kids. And I thought, "That's the combination. That's who this guy is."

G: I'm curious: at USC, you were in the Comedus Interruptus group, right?

JR: (Laughs loudly.) Yeah, how'd you know that?

G: Well, it's in your bio, I think.

JR: Oh, is that in my bio?

G: I think it is, or one of your bios.

JR: Well, I'm surprised at that.

G: In that group, did you do both improv and sketch writing?

JR: It was mostly improv; we did some sketch.

G: What do you think you brought from that into—

JR: (Laughs loudly.) You know, improv is great in that you're constantly writing. You're writing in real time. And you're having to come up with dialogue in real time. And I think because of that, when I write, I write as the characters speak—I write pretty fast. It just gets you used to setting up what a scene is, who the characters are, where they're coming from, where they're going, all this information immediately. And that is the goal in improv, is getting that information out there so you can then make comedy out of it. And also, look, it's my only experience really acting, and it gave me a chance to feel somewhat vulnerable, which is important.

G: And see things from your actors' perspective.

JR: Yeah. And I got to work with great people. I mean, look, in the troupe the same time as me was a guy named Joe Nussbaum, who had a short film called "[George] Lucas in Love," which was hugely popular, went on to direct a feature called Sleepover a couple years ago. A guy named Timothy Dowling, who has like one of the hottest screenplays in Hollywood right now called Outsourced. Liz Hackett, who's writing the remake of Adventures in Babysitting right now. So a lot of actually great talents came out of that troupe. And so I also got the chance to work with cool people at, you know, an impressionable time.

G: I noticed in your blog as well that a number of the film's best lines were improvised.

JR: Yeah.

G: What do you think you did—that doesn't happen all the time. What do you think it is about the environment on the set you foster that allowed for that to happen?

JR: Well—I think people know that I'm open to whatever is going to make the scene best. I don't think I'm precious about my work. I'm not precious while I'm writing, while I'm directing, or while I'm editing. If it doesn't work, I have no problem cutting it. And, for instance, the line with Macy—"The great state of Vermont will not apologize for its cheese"— which is a fucking great line. We had been talking, and he said, "You know, I don't understand why"—'cause the original line was just him going "Oh, you little—" and then someone covers his microphone. You know, it was like a stupid movie moment. He said, "I just don't buy that," and I said, "You know what? You're right. That makes no sense. So we need something better." And we kind of went away for a few minutes, and he came back and said, "I got it." "Oh, what is it?" "The great state of Vermont will not apologize for its cheese." Brilliant. But he wasn't like—it wasn't improv-ing in the scene. It wasn't as though we were just spitballing while we're rolling film. I mean, those are kind of—everything that you see is kind of thoughtful stuff, stuff that—it was an answer to problems with the screenplay. By the way, a similar thing happened with—you know the scene at the end where Macy, in his epilogue, is talking about replacing cigarettes? Macy, the first time he spoke, he said, "You know what I just don't like? I don't like my last scene." Because, his last scene originally was him talking about how much he loved West Side Story because it was an old-time-fashioned movie, and it didn't have all the usual vices of a modern movie. And the reporter says, "Well, didn't that actually have sex, violence, cigarettes" and this and—you know, it was a cheap joke. And he said, "You know, I'd love something a little more biting," and I went back and challenged myself, and I came up with that thing. So, I don't know. I guess you have to allow yourself to be challenged by your actors.

G: The film, you know, was sort of—I'm thinking about William H. Macy is kind of the king of Sundance—

JR: And you feel that, by the way. You go there, and you watch the credits, and his name comes up, and it's just like the whole audience coos.

G: Yeah. I was just going to ask you about the Sundance experience, if you would describe "Air Hollywood." You know, you talk about, in your blog what it's like flying to Sundance—

JR: Oh yeeahehheahyeahh.

G: Which I think is very funny.

JR: It's this crazy thing. I travel a lot—when I'm directing commercials and stuff—so I'm used to flying a lot. And planes are usually this interesting experience where no matter where you're from, you're getting this cross-section of America. And when you're flying to Sundance, there's none of that. It's a Hollywood bus. And everyone's wearing black. Everyone is too important for the next person. Everyone's on their Blackberry. They're all reading screenplays. It's really funny. Because it kind of makes you realize the oddity of the moment, that you all live and work together in one place. You're all about to go watch movies, which could be seen anywhere. You're all traveling to the middle of the country to a city you would never all go to unless you wanted to go skiing so you can all watch movies together—somewhere else. Well, you could just go watch movies at the AMC, you know, in L.A. Like if someone—we'd all get together, go to the AMC, watch these movies, but if you played those movies at the AMC, nobody would go see them. You have to play them in a fucking town that's in the middle of the cold, an hour away from an airport, where you're going to be staying in some crappy cabin—then they'll go see it. Then they come en masse. (Laughs.) It's just kind of funny. It's just kind of ridiculous. But it's a funny moment and, even though I'm being disparaging, it's exciting to get on that plane and feel like you're part of something and to look around and go "Oh yeah. I'm going to Sundance."

G: Another trip you made related to the film was before you started shooting it, you did a research trip to D.C., right?

JR: Yeah.

G: What did you really bring out of that and talking to people like Jeffrey Weigand and others?

JR: Jeff Weigand was earlier, and that was very different from D.C. D.C. was talking to a lot of lobbyists. And congressmen. And so that version of politics was kind of fun. There's an old line that D.C. is Hollywood for ugly people. And there's a similar feeling...when you're in the Capitol cafeteria, you feel like you're in a Hollywood commissary. Everyone's kind of looking to see who you're with—who are you and what's this person doing? And the lobbyists love the book. They are very quick to point out "Oh yeah, when that guy does that scumbag thing in it, that's my buddy. That's supposed to be my buddy. I'm telling you, it's him. It's based on him." You know, they're loving that. And I think we'll have a very strong following there of this film. Weigand was totally different things. Weigand is a true believer. And it's a tough person—it's like meeting someone who's devoutly religious. I gave him the screenplay to make notes on it. I think you may have read—I wrote a story about this [in FLM Magazine]. I'm not sure if you read that in your research.

G: Uh-huh.

JR: I went to see him talk at a symposium where there was going to be a Nick Naylor guy there. And Altria. You know, Altria is what Phillip Morris has renamed themselves as. And they had sent a guy too. And it was going to be the two of them talking about smoking in front of an audience at USC. There was, like, two or three hundred people there. And they all hated the Altria—they basically came to burn the Altria guy. And they loved Jeffery Weigand. But in person, Weigand, who's obviously brilliant and really brave, is awful on stage. He's sweating. He's nervous. He's dropping words. He's so impassioned that he's forgot the meaning of the words he's saying. And the other guy, from Altria, on the other hand, is fantastic. Charming, slick, well-dressed, handsome—just doesn't give you a thing. He was just like Nick Naylor, I mean, just—. Because at one point, someone in the audience asked him—they said to the Altria guy—and he was, the person in the audience, was furious—said, "Right now in California we're trying to pass legislation to designate apartment buildings as either smoking or non-smoking, top to bottom. And the tobacco industry is preventing that from happening. Why won't you let us have this?" He said, the Altria guy thinks for a second and says, "You know, this is just another example of the rich trying to keep down the poor. Sure, if you can afford a house—if you have enough money, you can buy a house and make that decision, use that choice—that freedom of whether you want to smoke or not, but if you can't afford a house, and are forced to rent, you can't make that decision and that right is taken away. Well, if we believe in anything at Altria, it's freedom."

G: Right.

JR: It was brilliant. What do you say to that? (Laughs.) You know, he didn't even talk about it. And it was just what Nick Naylor does, and it was fun to watch the two of them. Anyway, Weigand read the screenplay and—you know, I had various—like I had a woman at C.D.C. who read the screenplay to look for various kind of statistics and keep me on track, and we had lobbyists read the screenplay and give us advice, and Weigand read it. 'Cause Weigand really knows all the stats...I meet Weigand, I meet up with him, he's given me the screenplay, and it's got notes scribbled all over the page. And I said, "So? You like it? Is it funny? What do you think?" He looks at me and said: "Well, it's inaccurate in places." That was his response. That was his response to my screenplay. You know, it's a comedy! "It's inaccurate in places." And you go through it and that's it. So you can tell, he never laughed once. He was just like "You know, this is actually $230 million, and this is—". So, different experiences. But D.C. was fun. I mean, D.C.'s a cool town, and shooting there is really interesting because you need to get permission to do everything.

G: Including hanging off of the D.C. Hilton, right? [Ed. Which Reitman did with the camera to get a shot]

JR: Yeah, that was cool. Well, that was—surprisingly...there's moments where, you know, they're like "You cannot go on the roof right now. We haven't contacted the Secret Service yet," 'cause there's stories of people trying to film on the roof, and all of a sudden they got red dots on them and shit, you know. And, we know, this great scene in the book where Nick, after being kidnapped, ends up running down the mall in only his underwear and nicotine patches and falls into the reflection pool. Great scene. Wouldn't let us do it. I was like "What do you mean?" And they said, "No, we never let anyone shoot in the reflection pool." I said, "What about Forest Gump?" They said, "Well, that was based on historical events."

G: (Laughs.)

JR: I said, "No, that was based on a fictional novel." "No, you can't shoot in the reflection pool." And that's why we did the Abe Lincoln thing—it was just kind of an effect. But then, we shoot this Hilton thing, and we're right next to the fucking Capitol, and they—I don't know why they let me do that. I don't know why the crew let me do that, and my wife was furious. And the shot's not even in the movie. What are you gonna do?

G: Well, better not to ask why. Everything seems to have worked out for you. I hope the film has continued success.

JR: I hope so too.

G: Thanks for talking to me.

JR: Thank you very much. Absolute pleasure.

[For Groucho's review of Thank You for Smoking, click here.]

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