Flew in to La Guardia Sunday morning. My wife landed in the same terminal ten minutes later. Big hug… then we rushed into the city for our NY premiere. Got to the hotel and jumped into our fancy clothes. She was wearing her birthday gift – A dress from Prada. She looked incredible.
Moments later, we were stepping out of a town car at MOMA. Yeah, did I mention it was happening at the Museum of Modern Art? Are you kidding me? We stepped out and all the photographers lowered their cameras… We’re nobodies. Then, the publicist from the film mentioned I was the director and flash bulbs started firing off. Thank God I don’t have epilepsy. It was kind of fun, but a bit shocking. Like a firing squad… only, they’re asking you to look down the barrel.
Michele (my wife) and I were just standing there, smiling for the cameras, when a car pulled up and a violent rush of energy ran through the crowd. People started yelling. Cameras fired away like machine guns – It was Halle Berry. I yanked Michele out of the way and took cover as the Halle Berry tidal wave came rushing through. It must be witnessed to understand. She is beautiful… she’s a star… she’s a force of nature. All you can do is stand clear.
We got inside the museum and started the red carpet. I was doing my first interview, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw Robert Duvall. I had not seen him since the shoot and feared he wouldn’t recognize me. However, he immediately smiled and gave me a big hug. I can’t tell you how nervous I was to hear what he thought of the film.
We went back to the red carpet to begin separate interviews. The first thing I heard, was a reporter asking him, “So, Mr. Duvall, will the Katie Holmes scene be in tonight?” and him responding, “What the hell are you talking about?”
The red carpet was a wonderful reunion. I saw Aaron and gave him a big hug during one of his interviews. Then my parents showed up… I hadn’t seen them in over a month since I started the tour. Chris Buckley was there too.
After the press was done, we took the escalator down to the large movie theater. It was already packed. Larry from MOMA introduced me by comparing TYFS to the work of Capra and Wilder… Yikes. Talk about setting the audience up for disappointment.
I got up there and thanked the people who meant most to this film. Buckley, Sacks, Eckhart, my producing partner Daniel Dubiecki (who’s been along for most if this ride), my wife, and my parents. I mentioned how my mom was the first person to ever bring me to MOMA and taught me to recognize the importance of art.
Then, I got the distinct honor of presenting a pristine print of Thank You For Smoking on behalf of Fox Searchlight to the museum. You see, MOMA has decided to archive TYFS in their permanent collection. I know… I can’t believe it either. We’re in the same temple as Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns, and Chuck Close. My great, great, grandchildren will be able to come to New York and see a 35mm print of my film…You know, as long as they’re not too busy checking out central park or having a pretzel or something.
The movie started and apparently played well. I was a few blocks away having a P.J. Clarks hamburger during the film– The Best Hamburger In The World. (Yes, I’ll go toe-to–toe on this any day.) By the time we got back, the film was just letting out. We mingled in the giant lobby of the museum underneath a suspended helicopter from the Art of Safety Exhibition.
I saw Duvall in line at the dessert buffet and quickly shot over to him. A big gulp, then I tapped him on the shoulder. He smiled and shook my hand. “Great job”. He went on congratulating me and mentioning how he wished he had more scenes. His beautiful wife turned to me and added, “You know he means it. At another premiere, he walked up to the producer after the film, gave him a thumbs down, and walked out.” Duvall nodded to confirm the story.
I started back over to my table at the premiere, but found myself getting stopped every few feet with congratulations. People really seemed to like it. Even Halle liked it. I told her to remember that when I sent her a screenplay one day. We took a picture together and it wound up in Variety the following day. Not bad?
The best story from the premiere didn’t even happen to me. It involved Chris Buckley, who was sitting in front of Aaron Eckhart. Throughout the film, any time Eckhart did something great on screen, Chris would reach back and grab his ankle.
During the party afterwards, Eckhart and Buckley got to talking. Buckley said, “There was quite an energy in there.” To which Eckhart responded, “Oh, was there?”
Buckley frowned, “Weren’t you in the screening?”
Eckhart, “No, I left once the movie started.”
Buckley blanched, “Then, whose leg was I squeezing throughout the film?”