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Proust on the Can

Please see the attached photo of the coffee tray. Apparently, this spread is available at every hotel in America, because it’s waiting every time I go into an interview room. My agent Jeff came out to spend the day with me in DC. He hung out while I did the usual interviews. We’re working on a couple really cool things right now, so keep your eyes on the blog for some announcements in the next couple weeks.

Normally, I'm doing all these interviews alone, but because I was in DC, Chris Buckley was available to join me for the day. You can't imagine how well people respond to this guy. He has such fans. It's cool to watch. That said, it's a pain in the ass to answer questions when the guy sitting next to you is a certifiable genius.

At one point, we were on XM radio. The interviewer asked Chris what authors he likes reading. He just goes off for about five minutes, thirty names or so, starting with Tom Wolfe and ending on Melville. So, instead of answering something stupid like “I enjoy the Far Side Gallery. That Gary Larson really challenges my intellect”, I put on my best Buckley imitation and went off…

“You know, I like Proust for a little bathroom reading. Chekhov when I’m waiting for a red light to change. The other day I read Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in all available languages. The German one really gave me a kick.”

Screening in Georgetown went great. Met some really great people. One girl with a partially shaved head, that resembled the kind of person that would have kicked my ass in high school, came up and told me how much she liked my short films. Rock on.

Check out the short films at www.atomfilms.com

Come be my friend on My Space at http://www.myspace.com/58601444
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I'm on My Space

No, this wasn't forced upon me by the Fox parent company. My little sister actually got me realizing that this might be a nice way to communicate with people since I can't seem to find a way to respond to the questions in the comments section of my blog. Check it out:

http://www.myspace.com/58601444

Please use the My Space page if you have a quesiton and if I’m getting a common request, I will post the answer in my blog.

I saw a couple bitchen TV spots that will start airing soon. Keep an eye out when watching the Daily Show.

My short films are up on www.atomfilms.com. Just search my name.

I've had a lot of questions on when the film opens and how to see one of these promo screenings I've been attending. Here's the deal:

“Thank You For Smoking” will be released March 17th in LA, NY, and DC. The following Friday (24th), the film will open in a dozen other major markets. The Friday after that, it will go wide. In the mean time, we are doing these promotional screenings where I’m doing Q&A’s. I haven’t been involved in putting them together so I can’t really speak to how to attend or where to go. So far, most of the screenings have happened in local movie theaters. The AMC/Loews at Boston Commons. The AMC in Georgetown. However, we also did a screening on campus at the University of Washington. It’s a mixed bag.

The Locals Like It!

Ended the New York trip with a couple screenings. One was for Janet Maslin’s film society just North of the city. What a terrific screening and an honor to sit with her on stage and discuss the film in front of the guests. After which, I hopped back into the city for a screening for some advertising industry folks to let them know I’d still like to direct commercials. All this talk of how Nick Naylor pays the mortgage and now it was time for me to do the same.

Yesterday, I arrived in DC. Capitol File magazine put Aaron on the cover and was throwing a screening/party to celebrate. The screening made me pretty nervous. Here we were, making a film about Washington politics and now we were finally giving the locals a glimpse. I actually got a little lost for words while introducing the film.

While the film played, we went to Café Milano for dinner. Apparently the hottest spot in the city and one of Clinton’s favorites. It was a great chance to catch up with Aaron who’s been in NY preparing for this new movie with Catherine Zeta Jones that’s directed by Scott Hicks. Sounds great. He plays a chef and has been learning to cook in a real Manhattan restaurant. So, if you’re eating out in the city, who knows, you could be eating ala Eckhart.

After dinner, we headed back for the party. They went all out. Loud and lots of people. After a few interviews, we were ushered into a private space were my wife and I read the Capitol File article. It was great and the photos of Aaron were very much in keeping with the style of the movie. I poured what I thought was an apple juice and wound up with a mouth full of red bull.

The DC folks seemed to really dig the film. People were stopping me left and right. However, nothing was quite as special as the woman who pulled me aside and said, “Your movie was hilarious. You nailed it. I should know. I’m a liquor lobbyist.” My eyes popped out of my head. I demanded her card. She was the real thing. Big company too. I won’t name names. She said all of her people couldn’t wait to see the film and her friends at Altria (Phillip Morris) we’re equally excited.

Sunday morning, I woke up and watched Sweden beat Finland in ice hockey. Then, Chris Buckley and I had lunch to discuss our new idea. We’re cooking with gas. Tomorrow will be DC press. Lots of stuff lined up.

Le Grand Pomme

Got to Manhattan and went into a couple straight hours of round tables with nine reporters at each table. Phew. The weird thing was at each table, there was always one reporter who simply sat and listened… judging. No, I just guess all their questions were being covered by the others. It’s weird though. Every once in a while, they’d nod and scroll something down, but otherwise they’d simply stare with a questioning eye.

From there, I went down to Grand Central Station, where Chris Buckley interviewed me for a Time Out magazine piece. It’s weird being interviewed by your friend. For a while, we just sat there going… Okay, what are we supposed to talk about? Then, we just started taking shots in the dark. It was fun. I asked Chris where he was the first time he came up with Nick Naylor. It was pretty cool. Look out for that article.

The film screened that night as part of the 92 St Y series. Anette Insdorf from Columbia University moderated. Interesting crowd. Except for one guy in a bright blue button up shirt… buttoned to the top. He stood up during the Q&A (shaking and swaying a touch) then went on about how the Christian Scientists knew about the dangers of alcohol and cigarettes long before the rest of us. He also mentioned how Nick Naylor was evil and unrepentant… Oh yeah, and his character’s son Joey was the “demon seed”.

That night, Ed Pressman, the executive producer of the film (and producer of one of my favorite social satires of all time, “American Psycho”) threw a party for us at Elaine’s on the upper East side. Elaine’s is famous for many things, among them, the owner (yes, her name is Elaine) put on her own protest against the smoking ban by making her restaurant one big smoking section.

Great guest list. Chris Buckley and Aaron Eckhart were there to join in on the fun. However, I found myself talking to reporters for most of the evening. One asked me if could have any job in the current white house, what would it be? I said I’d like to be the guy who gets to meet the aliens.

Thursday was basically open. Went to see “Brokeback Mountain” again. That movie really works. Just heartbreaking. Then, I went to another dinner thrown in honor of our film… However, this was like nothing I’ve ever experienced… and I’ve been to some pretty nice shindigs.

The dinner was hosted by Tina Brown and Sir Harry Evans, the King and Queen of New York editorial, at their beautiful home on the upper East side. I thought I went all out, wearing a suit, but I was the only guy there without a tie… except for Aaron. Us LA boys have no class. Their home is incredible. NewYorker cartoons adorn all the walls from Brown’s time there as chief…Oh, and more books than the NY public library. What’s that? Overused expression? Okay… More books than a Nazi bonfire. How’s that?

Over the course of two hours, I was congratulated by Steve Forbes, William F Buckley, and Tom Wolfe in a white summer suit with red handkerchief. There seemed to be an unwritten rule at that event – You must be a published author to attend. Amongst the guests were a Pulitzer Prize winner, a US Federal Judge, and a knight.

Tonight, Janet Maslin is showing the film to her film society. The most important name in film criticism is going to interview me tonight… and she’s seeing the film for the first time this evening. May not be able to type tomorrow if my fingers are burned form being singed.

Woke up this morning and thought of a movie idea. Called Chris Buckley. He likes it too. Who knows.

Impromptu Poster Signing

Got to Boston Monday evening. The following morning, I went immediately into interviews. Fun group of journalists. I mentioned in an earlier post how often I receive the same questions (Katie Holmes sex scene? What does my Dad think? Do I smoke?) but I’ve now started to notice the wild gunmen. In each city, I get one question that leaves me speechless. Such as:

Seattle – Can you write a haiku about your Sundance experience?

Phoenix – Who are you?

Boston – Can Katie Holmes really be described as having “glorious tits” as so mentioned in the film?

The Boston screening was a blast. We had college students from all the local universities. They seemed to really enjoy the film. It has occurred to me in my travels so far that these students are the first generation that have been spun to from the cradle. They seem to really appreciate the frankness with which Nick Naylor speaks.

At the end of the Q&A, one guy asked if I would sign his poster. (They handed out TYFS posters to everyone who attended). He met me at the bottom of the theater while everyone was leaving. I got down on my knees and signed it on the floor. By the time I looked back up to hand back the poster, I saw fifty students all waiting for an autograph. Surreal wouldn’t even get close to describing it. The first kid was kind enough to donate his sharpie - Thank you stranger.

I smiled and led everyone into the theater lobby where I signed all of the posters on the counter of the concession stand. I had a lot of fun with it. Each person got a different autograph. E.g.

Jim, Stay out of jail. Really this time.

Susan, I left my sweatshirt at your place. I need it back pronto.

C.J. , Stop dicking around and do something with your life.

Melissa, No Means No!

Gary, Watch out. There’s people who will kill you for your shoes.

Elisa, I checked my calendar and I couldn’t possibly be the father.

Everyone seemed to have a really good time with it. Hope to have more posters to sign in the future although I presume this will be one of those one-time things. Will always remember it.

Off to New York. Screenings all week. Tough crowds. Wish me luck.

New Book Cover

I'm walking through whatever airport is in Philly for my connection. I'm passing through one of those "airmalls" (we can discuss that whole idea another time) when I stop at a bookstore that is prominently featuring the new soft cover of "Thank You For Smoking". This is the first time I've seen it and I'm totally floored. A decade ago, I was simply an enormous fan of the book. Now, it's baring the very poster I helped create... My name is even on the back. Unbelievable. If you haven't read the book you really owe it to yourself to go pick up a copy. Particularly this new bad-ass one. Tyfs_book_in_store

I Love Olympic Drama

Got to Phoenix late and missed the screening. Heard it went really well. Really pissed that I missed out. I can’t explain how much fun it is to watch the film play in front of a real audience. Particularly these college crowds that seem to identify with the film and its message.

Stayed at this hotel called “James”. Real modern place. Had a plasma television and a platform bed. Got the feeling that it used to be a pretty drab place and some investor came in and bought a few pieces of modern furniture to make it into a poor man’s Ian Schrager hotel. I apologize if I’ve totally misinterpreted the charm of James.

Woke up and did a live interview on Spike radio out of Vegas. Then I went over to KEDJ and did a live in-studio interview on this show called “The Morning Ritual”. Real cool guys. Had a lot of laughs.

When I was in college, I co-hosted a morning radio show. It’s frightening how bad I was. At the time, I had a reputation in cinema class for cracking jokes throughout the films. You know, out loud for everyone to hear. All three hundred students. Well, the only calls we seemed to get on air were people bitching about me talking through the movies. Anyhow, the Phoenix hosts seemed to get a kick out of that.

Went over to the local Fox affiliate and did an interview with this young anchorwoman named Jennifer Doan. She’s my age and already an anchor. Isn’t that great? Who knows, maybe she’s a complete Tracy Flick, but I was impressed.

Did all the print interviews, including the college round table. These are particularly fun. It’s the one place where the interviewers are as inexperienced as I am. However, they often do an impressive amount of research. More often, they’re aspiring filmmakers. Most recently, one kid asked me to sign a pack of Marlboros.

Flew stand-by and got back to LA by 3pm. Spent the weekend with the wife, watching the Winter Games. I can’t help myself. I love Olympic drama. I have a catch phrase. Every time one of the figure skaters goes down or God forbid is dropped by her partner, I say “Goodnight, see you in four years”.

I really think Scott Hamilton should adopt some catch phrases like this. E.g. “Hope it was worth sacrificing your childhood” or “Don’t worry, you’re 19. You might have another Olympics in you” or “And to think… All those times you nailed it in practice.”

Have you ever gone on eBay and searched “Olympic Medal”. Now that is the true definition of sadness. People who worked their entire childhood for one goal - To medal in the Olympics. Now, it’s a decade later. Money’s tight. And they’re auctioning their medal for a thousand dollars to pay the rent. Maybe it’s their kids selling it. I don’t know what’s worse. Here’s another fun one… Search “Championship Ring”.

Flying to Boston now. I’ll be in NY by mid-week, then DC for the weekend. Chris Buckley put together the guest list for our nation’s capitol. Heard Donald Rumsfeld was on the guest list… I’m not kidding.
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Toronto Film Festival Blog Archive

Just dug up my Toronto Film Festival blogs from the sale of the film back in September. I reposted them here in the archives under - "September 2005". Check 'em out if you want to read my terrified rantings while the fate of "Thank You For Smoking" held in the balance. Sitting in SeaTac, waiting for my Alaska Airlines flight right now. The flight is two hours late, meaning I won't be able to make the Phoenix screening. Fuck Alaska Airlines. Who can trust an airline that includes biblical psalms with their dinner settings?

Short Films

I’m off to Seattle right now. My short films have always had a good reception there at both the Seattle International Film Festival and Bumbershoot. Hope the locals like the feature as well.

I’m a big believer in the medium of short films. I’ve always thought they should be as relevant to filmmaking as short stories are to the literary world. Now, with the birth of video iPods, cell phone broadcasts, and video-on-demand, I think they are finally going to find a place in the marketplace.

Think about it. How many emails do you get a month with an attached humorous film clip that you need to forward to all your friends…? The Shining Trailer, Bear Falling out of a Tree, the Car Commercial with the Zombie. They’re all short films.

Anyhow, you can view my most recent short films on Atomfilms. They’ve all had successful runs and might give you an idea of what kind of stuff gets programmed at film festivals. Enjoy.

In God We Trust (Sundance 2000)

Gulp (Sundance 2001)

Consent (Aspen Shortsfest 2004)

The Beef in Berkley

Fox Searchlight has sent me on a tour of major metropolitan American cities to spread the good word on TYFS. First stop – the Landmark Theater in Berkley. Really fun place. They have Indian carvings along the inside of each theater. Got there a little early and decided to sit through thirty minutes of Firewall… yikes.

The audience was really receptive to TYFS. Almost everybody stayed for the Q&A afterwards. The first guy to raise his hand interrogated me about a scene in which the main characters are sharing a piece of apple pie with cheese on it. There’s a continuity error in which the cheese moves a little from cut to cut. The guy just hammered away at me about this until the audience started to hiss him.

Then they started asking me the usual. How I found the book. How we got the cast. Would Jack Abramoff be doing any press for us. It was fun, because I could tell the people really dug the film and were happy to be there. It was kind of a surprise to me since I expected more of a militant liberal crowd that would not be happy with the film’s unapologetic nature.

Finally, using the last question, a local leftist decided to speak up. First hitting me with the nepotism question, then following it with a diatribe on how evil corporations are ruining this country. She went on and on about all the topics I should have covered in the film. Oil reliance, toxins in the soil, the whole deal. It was around this time, that the audience started to boo her. One college kid in front yelled back “get over yourself”. I was really touched by how they came to my rescue.

It made the whole thing easy. I responded by saying that there are quite a few films out there that aim to keep corporations honest. I’m a big fan of “The Inside”, “Erin Brokovich”, and that Travolta film with the kids drinking the cancer water. However, there’s very few films like mine and perhaps I’m adding something new to the conversation.

The following day, I did about ten interviews. Local newspapers, radio shows, and television. I’m surprised by how tiring it was. I’ve always heard stars bitch about the exhaustion of doing press and thought they sounded like pansies. But they’re not kidding. By the end of the day, I was done. I didn’t want to say another word the whole night… but it was Valentine’s Day.

Fox took my wife and I out to Aqua (very fancy). As Bernie Mac said in Bad Santa, “Prix Fix”. It was an incredibly thoughtful and generous gift on Fox’s part and on behalf of my marriage, I’d like to say THANK YOU!
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