Film-maker Jason Reitman is fiercely defending actress Katie Holmes from criticism surrounding her romance with TOM CRUISE - because he found her to be delightful while making indie film THANK YOU FOR SMOKING.

Reitman was terrified about working with Holmes at first because he knew he'd have to persuade her to take part in a gritty love-making scene, but she was a cool professional.

And the director feels she has been unfairly treated by the media and critics alike.

He says, "I feel awful because I really like Katie. I think she's just lovely and she was so cool to do this movie. She was cool for doing four days of shooting, where two of those days she's in bed with Aaron Eckhart's character.

"On the third day, she's in a mock hurricane where we got rain towers on her and three guys throwing c**p at her head. That's a tough gig and, like the other actors, she did it for no money.

"I'm completely grateful and it kills me to see her get hammered the way she is."