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Director Jason Reitman, left, and actor Cameron Bright sample the candy cigarettes at the 'Thank You For Smoking' premiere afterparty on March 16, 2006 I was a two-pack-a-day Camels smoker, so you can imagine how much I loved “Thank You For Smoking.” And I’m sure all ex-smokers, like me, love the film and are spreading the word about it to smokers and non, alike.

This weekend Searchlight increases the number of theaters to 120 and next week to 600.

Talking with writer-director Jason Reitman is an encouraging note in this era of national and international negativism and pessimism.

He and partner Daniel Dubiecki, both 28 years young, are plotting a happier movie-going experience for us via their company, Hard C. (A “hard c” is vaudevillians’ term for the funniest sound in the English language, Reitman reminded me — try one for yourself).

With their new two year deal at Searchlight, they’ll open an office on the Sunset Strip — “between a tattoo parlor and a gun store.” Among their many plans is a comedy film festival in L.A.

Jason says he talks daily with Christopher Buckley on whose book the film is based. They are planning another political satire — “more important than smoking.” And Jason’s writing “another white collar satire taking on all corporate entities.” People take themselves too seriously but Jason claims, “I’m not as political as people make me out to be.”

It was only natural I asked Jason the reaction to his film by his father, Ivan Reitman, whom Jason calls “The greatest comedy film director of all time.” (He’s now directing “Super Ex-Girlfriend” with Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson).

“He was over the moon!” Jason enthused.  No, Ivan was not involved in its making. And Jason had only worked once on one of Ivan’s films, “Kindergarten Cop” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Would the two ever work together?

“Sure.”

Who would direct?

“I’d write –he’d direct.”

Jason will also continue to direct commercials — he loves ’em and clients have included Wal-Mart, GM, Buick with Tiger Woods. He also hopes to hire young(-er?) writers to create “subversive comedies.”

How did the young filmmakers corral the sensaysh cast for “Smoking”?

“They loved the material,” he said modestly. But he gave credit to Mindy Marin for getting ’em the material. And they (almost) all worked for scale — as did Jason and Daniel. And no, they do not have a piece of the pic.
“That’s OK,” says Jason. “I got a career from it — and that’s  more valuable.”

The pic financed by David Sacks — on a 35-day sked came in for six million-$. And Fox Searchlight paid seven million-$ for the rights at the Toronto film festival.

Jason does not plan to expand to big budget pix. “I don’t want to worry primarily about having to reach large audiences in order to be successful,” he said.

He has nothing but the highest praise for the cast members starting, of course, with the film’s star, Aaron Eckhart, and seasoned thesps like  Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Rob Lowe and the young Cameron Bright — and Katie Holmes who has some steamy bedroom scenes. She did ’em in days before Tom Cruise was on the scene. Now very pregnant, she was not at the preem here but Reitman says, “She has my heart for being harassed by the press.”

Music has an important role in the film but Reitman says he was unable to buy the rights (“too expensive”) to use this Johnny Mercer/Harold Arlen song on the opening and closing credits: “Accentuate the Positive.”

It won’t surprise me if this Jason Reitman line from “Thank you For Smoking” is on the front door of their Hard C office: “If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”