Buyers for Paramount Classics apparently believed they had snatched up "Thank You for Smoking," a film that was warmly received by Toronto audiences, for a cool $6.5 million. However they soon learned Fox Searchlight was claiming they had closed a deal and would be distributing the dark comedy.
In a statement released by Fox Searchlight, "Thank You for Smoking" producer David O. Sacks said, "First of all, I want to say how proud I am of this film and the job its writer-director, Jason Reitman, did making it. Jason's passion and vision for this material are what have made this movie a hit at the Toronto film festival. Audiences have reacted with laughter, applause, and delight beyond even our wildest expectations. When we formed our partnership almost three years ago, we could only dream of this reaction. Realizing dreams like this are what film festivals are all about.
The fact that multiple studios bid intensely for this movie is a testament to what Jason has achieved. However, I want to be clear that only one studio, Fox Searchlight, bought the movie. Although we had negotiations with Paramount Classics, no deal was ever concluded.
Although this is my first movie, I was represented by highly experienced industry professionals. I am also a lawyer and have run a large public company. We know when we have closed a deal, and when we haven't.
I am now enthusiastically looking forward to the release of this film with Fox Searchlight, the best possible distributor to handle this movie. Over the past year Searchlight has distributed a number of high-profile independent pictures which have achieved critical and commercial success, and I'm confident that they can replicate that with our movie.
I want to thank my representatives and everyone who worked on this film. I couldn't have asked to work with a better group of people."
"Thank You for Smoking," the film at the heart of the controversy, stars Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, chief spokesman for Big Tobacco, a man who earns a living defending the rights of smokers and cigarette makers. William H Macy co-stars as an opportunistic senator (William H Macy) who wants to put poison labels on cigarette packs. Rob Lowe, Robert Duvall, Cameron Bright, and Holmes are also featured in the comedy from first time feature film director Jason Reitman.