Okay, here’s the story.
Since Searchlight picked up Thank You For Smoking at Toronto last September, they’ve been previewing the film to the press. Each week, I get an email with reactions from the various critics and journalists. In last week’s report, writers from both Playboy and Penthouse (I didn’t know they critiqued films either) complained as to a missing sex scene. At the time, I thought they were simply under whelmed by the amount of sex and were asking for more. I had no idea the scene was actually missing from their screening.
Saturday night, the film premiered in front of 1300 people in the Eccles Theater at Sundance. Around thirty minutes in, at the end of the second reel, there was a sudden jump in scenes, thus eliminating a twelve second montage with Katie Holmes and Aaron Eckhart. The montage contains tame snapshots of the couple in various sexual positions around the house as Aaron’s character comments humorously on the situation.
I immediately started looking around the theater for the nearest Fox executive, presuming they had cut the scene without telling me. However, I quickly discerned that wasn’t the case. The cut was crude. As if someone literally took scissors to the print.
Since the scene contained no crucial plot information, the audience didn’t realize what they had missed until I informed them during the Q&A after the film. One audience member asked if they would have the chance to see any nudity. I referred him to the DVD of “The Gift”.
The following day, we had an 11am screening. This time, I introduced the film with a pre-emptive apology for the missing scene. When the screening reached the end of the second reel, the entire audience groaned in unison at the harsh cut, this time aware of what they were missing.
It was only Monday morning that I suddenly found myself inundated with reporters, curious about the missing footage. TV and print journalists were asking me whether or not Tom Cruise had contacted me to remove the scene or had he simply gone behind my back and had it removed himself. As I was writing this blog, my wife interrupted me to let me know Conan and Kimmel had both made reference to the story in their monologues.
While I can’t help finding the whole thing kind of hysterical, I feel awful for Tom and Katie who really don’t need any more publicity. I’m sure when they see the film, they’ll find the scene as hilarious as the previous audiences in Toronto and LA.
In the mean time, we are trying to get to the bottom of the missing scene. All evidence is pointing to a projection mistake in assembling the reels. The previous scene cuts to black and this could have been construed as the end of the reel. Either way, Fox has assured me that the scene will be intact for the release of the film.
In the wake of all this controversy, Sundance has added an additional screening of TYFS in the big theater this coming Saturday. While all efforts are being made to include the scene in this weekend’s screening, we still have to find the footage off the projection room floor.