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Satire turns mystery: Where's the sex scene?

January 24, 2006|John Horn | Times Staff Writer

PARK CITY, Utah — The Sundance Film Festival is all about discovery, but what filmmaker Jason Reitman found out during a screening of "Thank You for Smoking" was unusual even by Sundance standards: The Katie Holmes sex scene in his movie had vanished.

During a packed screening of his satirical political comedy on Saturday night, Reitman and his team were stunned to see that the 12-second hookup between a journalist played by Holmes and a tobacco lobbyist played by Aaron Eckhart had been snipped from the print.

"We were sitting there in shock," Reitman said Monday. "And I turned to other people who had worked on the film, and we were completely confused. But the audience didn't seem to notice or care." When the film was shown the next morning, the encounter was still missing.

Reitman was quick to tell the audiences what they had missed. The news solicited loud moans, but Reitman stopped short of acting out the racy, but hardly explicit, scene.

A couple of theories seemed possible. Had an enterprising operative from US Weekly sneaked into the Eccles Center projection booth and stolen the footage for an exclusive? Did Tom Cruise exert all of his Hollywood muscle to preserve the honor of his pregnant girlfriend? Or maybe conservative Utah activists felt Sundance's decadence had sunk so low, they took matters into their own hands.

The correct answer was not quite as provocative.

Reitman says that when the "Thank You for Smoking" print was assembled in Los Angeles, the scene -- which comes at the end of the second reel but is preceded by a brief blackout -- had been accidentally sliced off when the reels were spliced together.

The film, which is adapted from Christopher Buckley's novel, premiered at last year's Toronto International Film Festival and was sold to Fox Searchlight in a bidding war and is showing as a Sundance premiere; the movie opens in theaters March 17.

Still, Reitman found some humor -- and potential box-office business -- in the deletion.

"There were a couple of thousand people who saw the film at Sundance without the Katie Holmes sex scene," Reitman said. "I implore all of them to now go back and see the movie with the Katie Holmes sex scene."

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