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Making a 'Smoking' Satire of the Lobbying Industry

William H. Macy as a staunchly anti-smoking congressman from Vermont.
William H. Macy as a staunchly anti-smoking congressman from Vermont.

<em>Thank You for Smoking</em> is director Jason Reitman's first feature film.
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<em>Thank You for Smoking</em> is director Jason Reitman's first feature film.

The new film Thank You for Smoking follows a fictional American tobacco lobbyist as he defends the rights of smokers with double-talk and snappy irony. The satire is based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Buckley.

Nick Naylor, played by Aaron Eckhart, works for the dubiously named Academy of Tobacco Studies. He's an expert at working the system, spouting optimistic rationalizations as he urges people to give smoking a chance.

Thank You For Smoking is the first feature film for 28-year-old director Jason Reitman. He is the son of veteran filmmaker Ivan Reitman, producer of hits such as Ghostbusters and Animal House.

When Reitman came across Buckley's satirical novel, he was smitten by the book and its lead character, and intrigued by the idea of making a comedy about someone who sells death.

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When the novel was published in 1994, it was hailed for its biting depiction of the Washington power structure. The investigations of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, are suggestive of a power structure that has changed little in the 12 years since the book's debut.

The film's cast reflects the fast-moving intersection of politics, media and business. Among the central figures: Katie Holmes as a reporter profiling Naylor; William H. Macy as a Vermont senator with a vendetta against the tobacco industry; and Maria Bello and David Koechner as Naylor's fellow "Masters of Destruction" -- lobbyists for alcohol, firearms and cigarettes.

Robert Duvall and Rob Lowe also make appearances -- Duvall as tobacco legend "The Captain" and Lowe as a high-powered Hollywood agent working with Naylor to get more film characters to smoke.

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