Sorry for the acronym overload in the title there–was just trying to get into a Beltway-absurdity mood. It’s only appropriate for the opening weekend of Thank You for Smoking, the satirical story of a tobacco flack named Nick Naylor.
Twelve years ago, we laughed and cried while reading Thank You for Smoking, the novel. This weekend we can do the same watching Thank You for Smoking, the movie. The author of the comic novel, Christopher Buckley, is one of the family here at National Review and talked to me earlier this week about the movie, the Katie Holmes, and, yes, the fam.–KJL
Kathryn Jean Lopez: How many times have you been introduced as the author of Thank You for NOT Smoking?
Christopher Buckley: 12,547 times since 1994. I no longer have the energy to correct people.
Lopez: Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch. The whole TomKat drama. It was all your brainchild wasn’t it–all about movie publicity?
Buckley: Yes, it was all my doing. I arranged for Tom and Katie to meet, steered them to quiet, romantic Italian restaurants, sent anonymous bottles of Chianti to their table. And, you see, it worked.
Lopez: When you were writing Thank You for Smoking, did you ever think, “This would make an excellent movie”?
Buckley: Not really. It doesn’t work that way. You’re way too busy just trying to write a book. But I’m glad it turned into a movie, 12 years later.
Lopez: Are you happy with how Thank You for Smoking looks on the big screen?
Buckley: I am the happiest author on earth. Jason Reitman did an amazing job of adapting it and directing it. Aaron Eckhart makes a brilliant Nick Naylor, and if David Sacks hadn’t come along and produced the film, it never would have happened.
Lopez: If you were writing the novel today would Nick Taylor still be a tobacco lobbyist?
Buckley: Today Nick would probably be a hard-case PR guy–someone who takes on really difficult clients. Like, say, Jack Abramoff. Or Paul Wolfowitz.
Lopez: What is your relationship with Jack Abramoff?
Buckley: Jack and I went into this scheme together to defraud Indian tribes. It almost worked. Fortunately, the Feds haven’t gotten wind of my involvement in it all yet. So don’t tell them.
Lopez: Who plays Senator Finisterre in real life today?
Buckley: There are a number of what I would call Big Nannies in the Senate today. The original inspiration for Senator Finisterre back in 1193 when I was writing the book was Senator Ted Kennedy.
Lopez: Was there ever any question that you would appear in the film?
Buckley: I never thought I would be in the movie, but Jason very kindly gave me a cameo. People say, “I saw your Hitchcock moment.” I fear they’re commenting on my increasingly Hitchcockian girth.
Lopez: Does your sense of humor come from mom or dad?
Buckley: My mother is one of the funniest human beings on earth, so yes, I think I got quite a bit of my sense of humor from her.
Lopez: What’s your favorite WFB book?
Buckley: Probably Airborne, about our sail together across the Atlantic in 1975.
Lopez: Who should play your father in a movie about him and the rise of the Right?
Buckley: Very good question. The actor would have to be very handsome and very smart. A younger Sam Waterston, for instance. (Also a Yalie.)
Lopez: Would you ever consider writing a satirical novel about Yale admitting a “retired” Taliban–or is that just nuts?
Buckley: I not only would consider it but I think I’ll steal the idea and do it. Thank you!
Lopez: Do we have any new works of comic genius from you to look forward to? Any works in progress?
Buckley: Very kind of you to put it that way. I’m working on a novel called Boomsday, about retiring Baby Boomers. It’s my 12th book and really, they don’t get any easier.