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Fired Lilly rep's story hits the big screen

Five years after his firing, Jamie Reidy's life is being played out by Jake Gyllenhall in "Love and Other Drugs."
Jamie Reidy

Anne Marie Tiernon/Eyewitness News

Manhattan Beach, Calif. - A new movie based on the real life of a Notre Dame grad fired by Eli Lilly opens nationwide Wednesday.

It's hard for Jamie Reidy not to gloat. Living along Manhattan Beach in California, his first attempt at writing led to a book and now, a movie.

"I haven't had a real job in 5 1/2 years, so the movie deal was very, very good to me," Reidy said.

In the movie, called "Love and Other Drugs," Jamie is played by Jake Gyllenhall and the girlfriend by Anne Hathaway. It was hard to miss the promotional blitz this past week. From Jimmy Fallon to Jay Leno, the Today Show, the cover of Entertainment Weekly and Vogue, where Reidy is mentioned on page 200.

"Yeah, Jamie Reidy in Vogue, that sentence. No one thought that sentence would be uttered," he said.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Reidy sold Viagra for Pfizer in South Bend and moved on to Eli Lilly, selling the cancer drug Gemzar. He says he worked 20 hours a week at Lilly, made six figures and, on company time, he wrote about being a super-slacker salesman while training his peers at Eli Lilly.

"I stumble into pharmaceutical sales and then I don't work very hard and I accidentally get promoted to sell the most talked about drug ever, so I thought that was just a fun, compelling story," Reidy said.

The book was called "Hard Sell" and after it hit the market in 2005, Lilly fired him.

"His termination resulted from a violation of Lilly policy," company spokesman Phil Belt said at the time.

"I think it was embarrassing for them to have a guy who is a sales trainer write a book that basically explains how easy the job can be," Reidy said. "After I hung up the phone with them and it was over...whew! Okay, now I will call the New York Times and the Associated Press and CNBC and things blew up from there."

Reidy embraced blowing the whistle on the pharmaceutical industry to anyone who would listen, including Eyewitness News in 2005.

"Drug reps are well-dressed caterers and UPS guys. I mean, basically just dropping off samples," he said.

The exposure led to changes industry-wide and fueled his book sales.

"I always thought that this book would become a movie and people told me I was stupid," Reidy said. "In hindsight, I am really, really happy that Lilly decided to fire me. It worked out phenomenally well for me."

Lilly isn't mentioned in the movie and the book is just a jumping off point for the romantic comedy, where Gyllenhall is a pharmaceutical sales rep.

"He's not a slacker in the movie at all, so what the screenwriter told me was that it's really tough to root for a guy who is so lazy," Reidy said.

Another difference in the movie is the rep's non-committal lifestyle is stopped short when he meets his match, Maggie, played by Anne Hathaway.

"All of a sudden, he meets this person and, much to his or her dismay, they do fall in love pretty quickly," Gyllenhall said.

"As you can see in the movie, they have a pretty good sex life," Hathaway said.

"I think there are several women out there that think they were the inspiration for that character. I will let them continue to believe that," Reidy said.

Though he's not the star, he did get to walk the red carpet in Hollywood during the film's premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater.

"We walked down and stopped and turned at four different places and the paparazzi are yelling, 'Jamie, over here, left! Jamie, look!' and I'm, like, 'What planet am I on?'," Reidy said.

Yet still, his highlight was visiting the movie's set in Pittsburgh.

"Jake was between takes and he was talking to somebody and he looked over and goes, 'There's my guy!'," Reidy said. "That was like getting the blessing from the quarterback in high school."

His book is now paperback with 70,000 copies and a new epilogue, which credits Lilly.

"Hopefully that blows up, you know, every woman in America runs crying from the movie theater, goes on Amazon and buys the book," Reidy said. "That will keep the joyride going."

Reidy says while in the movie his character matures and evolves from lust to love, he's still the same guy, but his Hollywood fantasy is reality.

"Part of me wants to say, 'I told you so,' but that would be completely tacky, so I will not say I told you so," he said.