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People vs. O.J. Simpson's Courtney B. Vance will star in Thank You For Smoking Live Read

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Courtney B. Vance is taking a cigarette break.

After playing defense attorney Johnnie Cochran on American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, the actor has agreed to play another charismatic-yet-divisive figure in a Live Read of writer-director Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking.

Reitman is staging his first feature film as the final event of his annual staged reading season in Los Angeles on Thursday. The filmmaker says the ER and Law & Order: Criminal Intent actor was ideal for a character who both endears and angers.

“I just fell in love with his work on the O.J. mini-series. He brought this fascinating mix of humanity and slick salesmanship, which is what I always wanted for Nick Naylor,” Reitman tells EW. “The question of Nick was, ‘How do you make the head lobbyist for Big Tobacco your hero?’ And I watched Courtney and thought: He could do that.”

The reading, coordinated by Film Independent, is the first time Reitman has staged a performance of one of his own scripts. “We’ve done 40 readings over five years. L.A. to New York, Toronto, and Montreal,” he said. “It’s a question that has come up every year. Why don’t you do one of your own movies?  But always felt a little presumptuous.”

Then he hit a milestone that made him decide to rethink that. “Last month, when we did [a Live Read of] Stand By Me, it was actually on the day of the 10-year anniversary of Thank You For Smoking coming out,” Reitman said. “It actually felt, after a decade, like kind of a nice nod to this movie that allowed me to have the career I’ve had. But it’s sincerely a little bit scary.”

Other actors who have signed up for the performance include Live Read regular Patton Oswalt as the gun lobbyist, Bobby Jay Bliss, originated by David Koechner, and journalist Bill Simmons will play anti-smoking Senator Ortolan Finistirre. “He says the line, ‘The great state of Vermont will not apologize for its cheese!’ which I wish I could say I wrote, but William H. Macy wrote that on the day-of,” Reitman says.

Twilight’s Ashley Greene will play the role of reporter Heather Holloway, originated by Katie Holmes, while Parenthood’s Mae Whitman will take on the unctuous agent assistant originated by Adam Brody. Tommy Dewey of Casual will play the mystic-like Hollywood agent who helps place cigarettes in movies — a role originated by Rob Lowe. Office Space star Ron Livingston will play the part of Naylor’s boss, BR, originated by J.K. Simmons, and Better Call Saul‘s Rhea Seehorn will play alcohol lobbyist Polly Bailey, originated by Maria Bello.

Advance tickets are already sold out but some tickets will be released at the door for those who show up to wait in the stand-by line. Click here for more details: http://www.filmindependent.org/events/live-read-april-2016/

For more film news, follow @Breznican.