Ad 25

Publication(s): 
Variety
Date of first publication: 
2005-03-14T00:00:00
Headline: 
In which we reassure a "scared" young director that his film will not be "censored" for smoking.
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Text: 
In which we reassure a "scared" young director that his film will not be "censored" for smoking. Two press quotes from director Francis Lawrence before the release of his first film, Constantine: "The studio would like it to be PG-13...I don't know where it's going to land, based on intensity...It's definitely not an NC-17 movie. There's no graphic sex, there's no graphic violence unless it's sort of against fantastic creatures and things. I don't have blood spurting everywhere. It's not a splatter movie in any way." And... "There's that movement to rate a movie R if there's smoking in it. I think that's ridiculous; I mean, it's just people's choices to hurt or not hurt themselves. Then you'll do it with drinking, then you'll do it with sex; it's just this weird sort of censorship that's kind of scary." Scary? Anyone who has made a film since 1968 knows it's routine to calibrate violence, sex and language to get an R or PG-13. The studios' desire to make money by releasing movies to the widest possible audience may irritate directors. But nobody seriously calls it "censorship." It's voluntary; the government isn't involved. U.S. filmmakers and their backers are free to make any movie they want. With more or less "splatter." More or less explicit sexual content. They can even use the word "fuck." Do studios care about selling tickets? Of course. Do they care about ratings? Certainly. Ratings, like the stars and the story, infiuence ticket sales. Smoking on screen doesn't sell tickets. But it's proven to sell cigarettes. In fact, out of corruption or stupidity, films with smoking will recruit more than half of all new young smokers this year. While the MPAA rating system is mainly designed to protect the studios from political attack, it can also protect young audiences from the #1 killer in America. Ironically, Mr. Lawrence's film, rated R for "violence and demonic images" under current guidelines, would not receive an R for smoking. Why? Because the film also shows the dire health consequences. Films depicting an actual historical figure who smoked (like Winston Churchill or Frida Kahlo) won't get an R, either. Nor will any movie completed before the new rating guideline goes into effect, like Casablanca or Chicago. Result? Future films rated R for other reasons might include as much smoking as they do now. But films that would otherwise be rated G, PG (like Son of the Mask at left) or PG-13 would no longer promote smoking to the very ages most likely to start smoking. In contrast to R-rating "demonic images," R-rating tobacco is a reasonable, science-based proposal to avert 60,000 U.S. deaths a year. Support for it is growing. Disingenuous arm-fiailing in Hollywood only means that nobody has come up with a real objection. Let's have an honest discussion. Read the R rating proposal at SmokeFreeMovies.ucsf.edu
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