Adapted screenplay contender

DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Fox Searchlight/March 17

ADAPTED FROM: Novel “Thank You for Smoking” by Christopher Buckley

STORYLINE: Nick Naylor, lead spokesman for Big Tobacco, fends off a Senate investigation, lawsuits and every manner of bad publicity, all in the name of the public’s right to choose — while trying to set a good example for his young son.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: This plea for individual responsibility was Reitman’s dream project. Story languished in development until he wrote part on spec. That got him attached as writer and director.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The main character is the head lobbyist for Big Tobacco. Traditionally he’d either be a villain or you’d expect the guy to have some sort of cosmic change of heart and go work for the Lung Assn. This isn’t that film. You had to understand why Nick Naylor does what he does and actually love him for it.”

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: “The creation of Nick’s son Joey. The son was in the book, but you never really met him. Joey became the tool by which we understand what Nick does and why. Early on, I realized that if parenting was the answer to spin, then we needed to see Nick being a good father himself.”

CHOICE LINES: When a fifth-grader says her mom claims, “Cigarettes kill,” Nick asks, “Is your mother a doctor or some sort of scientific researcher?” When she demurs, Nick adds: “Well she doesn’t exactly sound like a credible expert, now does she?”

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