Smoke (1995): Wayne Wang’s Adaptation of Paul Auster

Wayne Wang scored a big artistic and commercial success with Smoke, based on novelist Paul Auster’s short-story that originally appeared as a Christmas Day Op-Ed piece in the N.Y. Times.

Smoke (movie poster).jpg

Theatrical release poster

Using film as an extension of literature, Smoke, a deceptively quiet film, celebrates the art of storytelling–and the art of kindness.

The five major characters act benevolently in their need to establish meaningful links with each other. An unexpected act of kindness is always the beginning of a story, which comments on the teller’s life. Set in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, where Auster lives, Smoke is about the joy of neighborhood life, about people taking care of one another.

Gentle and kind but not soft or sentimental, Smoke was greeted enthusiastically by critics, partly because it was released in the summer amidst a cycle of violent, Tarantino-like movies.

During and after the closing credits, Auggie’s story is enacted in a poignant black-and-white sequence to the soundtrack of Tom Waits’s “Innocent When You Dream.”

Giancarlo Esposito as Tommy Finelli, OTB Man #1
José Zúñiga as Jerry, OTB Man #2
Harvey Keitel as Augustus “Auggie” Wren
Jared Harris as Jimmy Rose
William Hurt as Paul Benjamin
Daniel Auster as Book Thief
Harold Perrineau as Thomas “Rashid” Cole
Deirdre O’Connell as Sue, The Waitress
Victor Argo as Vinnie
Michelle Hurst as Aunt Em
Forest Whitaker as Cyrus Cole
Erica Gimpel as Doreen Cole
Stockard Channing as Ruby McNutt
Ashley Judd as Felicity
Malik Yoba as The Creeper
Mary B. Ward as April Lee
Clarice Taylor as Grandma Ethel


Directed by Wayne Wang
Written by Paul Auster
Produced by Greg Johnson, Peter Newman, Kenzo Horikoshi
Hisami Kuroiwa
Cinematography Adam Holender
Edited by Maysie Hoy
Music by Rachel Portman

Production companies: NDF International, Euro Space, Smoke Productions

Distributed by Miramax Films

Release date: June 9, 1995

Running time: 112 minutes
Budget $7 million
Box office $38 million