'Thank You for Smoking' Director Jason Reitman

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 14, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Well, he's just doing his job as spokesman for the tobacco industry. Sometimes it pays to put an interesting spin on things. Jane Skinner joins us now with a sneak peek at a new film, "Thank You for Smoking."

JANE SKINNER, CORRESPONDENT: John, what is it like to be the guy responsible for defending Big Tobacco. Who does that job? How does he explain it to his kids? Well, this movie takes a satirical look at lobbyists, and is, as The Washington Post calls it, a wicked little comedy, and it comes to us courtesy of director Jason Reitman, who must have a wicked little sense of humor.

I saw the movie last week. It's very funny. There was probably a danger that it may seem kind of dated. We're talking about tobacco, settlements and all of that several years ago. But it's not. It's very relevant because of the lobbying scandals on Capitol Hill. I was wondering if you wrote Jack Abramoff a thank you note.

JASON REITMAN, DIRECTOR, "THANK YOU FOR SMOKING": Well, the hard part was pushing those indictments that happened right around the release of the film. FOX is very powerful.

SKINNER: Tell me, this just doesn't rip on lobbyists, It rips on journalists, Hollywood types, and you got incredible performances out of these people like Rob Lowe, William H. Macy. And the star as the lobbyist that we're talking about, he's great. But also, the side performances from really well known people make it all work.

REITMAN: We were very fortunate. It was an embarrassment of riches. Everyone kept on saying yes. And we wound up with a wonderful cast.

SKINNER: Robert Duvall as well?

REITMAN: No kidding.

SKINNER: This is your first feature film. How did you go about getting these people on board?

REITMAN: They really responded to the words. It's based on a book called "Thank You for Smoking" by Christopher Buckley. I often ask them because I have no idea why they said yes to doing the film. They wanted to say smart and funny things and the book and screenplay provided that.

SKINNER: We should point out that your last name may be familiar. Your father, Ivan Reitman, is a really well known director, "Animal House," "Ghostbusters" and a whole string of big hits. How much pressure is there, being the son of a famous director, when you talk about your first feature film — you are 28 years old?

REITMAN: Well, the pressure didn't come from that. There's enough pressure just making the movie. My father is my hero, my role model. He told me to be myself and follow my heart.

SKINNER: John was just asking you in the break if you went to film school. Sounds like with your life, you didn't need to go to film school. Your life was film sets.

REITMAN: Right, I grew up on film sets and movie theaters. By the time I got to college, I thought an English degree would suit me better to become a good storyteller.

SKINNER: What has been the reaction so far. You skewer a lot of people in the movie. What's the reaction so far?

REITMAN: We go after everybody and everybody seems to enjoy it. One of the book's great compliments was that Democrats thought it was their book and Republicans thought it was theirs. Hopefully we're getting that. Lobbyists like it so far in particular.

We were in D.C. at a screening and a couple liquor lobbyists pulled me over and said, "All my friends in guns and cigarettes can't wait to see this."

SKINNER: It's not just cigarette lobbyists who are featured. It's also gun lobbyists, liquor licenses. Tell me about that little group, that cadre there.

REITMAN: This is a group called The MOD Squad, Merchants of Death, comprised of the head lobbyist for Big Tobacco, big guns, big liquor played by Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello and David Koechner. They meet everyday and discuss the going ons of their life and often compete for the highest death toll.

SKINNER: That's one of the funniest parts when they are exposed in The Washington Post by this reporter, played by a sassy Katie Holmes, and in case anybody doesn't know, soon to be Mrs. Tom Cruise. And this cause added little bit of controversy when it was screened at the Sundance Film Festival.

You got a lot of P.R. out of it. There was a sex scene missing from the screening and people wondered if Tom Cruise came down and said I don't want my future wife to be shown in a compromising position. What happened?

REITMAN: Well, first of all, there are no compromising positions in the film. It's a very tame scene. I don't want anybody to be disappointed when they see it. It's nothing but humorous humping really. And the last time I talked to Tom Cruise, I was 14 years old and he made no mention of the scene then.

SKINNER: I did see it and I wasn't actually sure if it was a scene or not a scene.

REITMAN: That's the funny thing. People talked about it seeing it the way they wanted, talking about her being nude and the scene being sultry. So, people are looking for a scene that's not there.

SKINNER: A little hype doesn't hurt. Jason Reitman, good luck to you. "Thank You for Smoking" is the film.

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