August 10, 2002


Hollywood's Responsibility for Smoking Deaths (JOE ESZTERHAS, 8/09/02, NY Times)
Smoking, I once believed, was every person's right. Efforts to stop it were politically correct, a Big Brother assault on personal freedoms. Secondhand smoke was a nonexistent problem invented by professional do-gooders. I put all these views into my scripts.

In one of my movies, "Basic Instinct," smoking is part of a sexual subtext. Sharon Stone's character smokes; Michael Douglas's is trying to quit. She seduces him with literal and figurative smoke that she blows into his face. In the movie's most famous and controversial scene, she even has a cigarette in her hand.

I'm sure the tobacco companies loved "Basic Instinct." One of them even launched a brand of "Basic" cigarettes not long after the movie became a worldwide hit, perhaps inspired by my cigarette-friendly work. My movie made a lot of money; so did their new cigarette.

Remembering all this, I find it hard to forgive myself. I have been an accomplice to the murders of untold numbers of human beings. I am admitting this only because I have made a deal with God. Spare me, I said, and I will try to stop others from committing the same crimes I did.

Should we expect a similar apology soon from Mr. Esterzhaus for the sex and violence in his pictures? Mustn't the films glamorize those things too, or is it only the politically incorrect smoking that kids copy? Posted by Orrin Judd at August 10, 2002 5:32 AM
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