A couple weeks ago I was invited to participate in a roundtable interview with writer/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) to discuss the special edition Bluray release of his latest film Cop Out. While the focus of the roundtable was supposed to be the Cop Out Bluray’s Maximum Comedy Mode feature, Smith was very open to talk about many other topics. In fact, Smith extended our 15 minute interview in to a 45 minute interview. Put it this way: Smith is a publicist’s nightmare.
During our interview, Smith spoke not only about Cop Out and Maximum Comedy Mode (MCM) but also about Twitter, Comic Con, 3D, his upcoming projects and more. Look for several self-deprecating and brutally honest comments from Smith – he even talks about the “Southwest incident” and discusses the harsh critical reaction to Cop Out. It’s a great interview. Continue reading to read the full interview. Cop Out hits Bluray and DVD on Tuesday July 20.
So can I start out with something real basic that I need for the radio listeners, which is, what is MCM?
KEVIN SMITH: MCM is this process…process? Technique? I don’t even know what we would call it. Basically on the Bluray of Cop Out they take the movie and instead of every other DVD I’ve ever made you can watch the movie and then you pop over to another disc or on that same disc there’s a section that has a commentary track, there’s a section that has deleted scenes, there’s a section that has behind the scenes, everything is compartmentalized. And these cats came to me with the idea of basically, we integrate all that back into the movie and you know I’m an old man, I’m gonna be forty in a couple of weeks so I was terrified by the notion of something new. I got really crew cutted old man about it. I was like “your commentary track’s here! And your deleted scenes are over here! Never the twain shall meet!” I was a true segregationist man. Started getting like a southern preacher and shit back in the day. “Never the twain shall meet!” And these dudes were so kind about trying to break the process down and explain it to me, which I thought was really funny because I’m a director. I’m supposed to have vision. I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. Like “No! You can’t do that! It doesn’t make sense!” But I’ve worked with them for so long on, the Warner Bros. cats, they were so nice the whole step of the way man. I didn’t want to come work at a studio. My whole life I was like “fuck these people”.
They make trash. Blah this is a fucking assembly line of crap blah blah blah and you know I still feel that way but they’re also very nice. It’s populated by human beings and what not, cool people. They were so nice to us. They treated the movie so well every step of the way, even though the whole time we were making it we were like “you guys do realize we’re making a movie…” you know it wasn’t called Cop Out back then it was called A Couple of Dicks and they treated us like we were a serious comedy. Like better than we deserved, which is at least how I felt, I’m sure Bruce Willis felt we were getting treated exactly as we deserved, but I felt like, I don’t know, were getting treated… and I think it was probably the Willis influence. Having Willis there, everyone steps up there game because he’s a movie star and shit like that. If we didn’t have Willis I’m sure they would’ve been like…we would’ve been like “where’s our craft services?” And they would’ve been like “fucking in the back of McDonalds dumpster you fucks. Finish the movie! Bring it on time! Don’t talk to us til its done!” They were so wonderful the whole way, the studio was great every step of the way, helping us out making the movie, never a hindrance. True collaborators, felt like fucking Harvey Weinstein and Bob the whole time. Like I remember going into this, I thought I’d never have the experience I had with Harvey and Bob, they literally let me do whatever I want. These cats did the same thing. They were literally like “go ahead. We’re hiring you to make the movie.” And I was like “oh shit. That’s not a good idea. You might want to ride me a little harder.” But they were kinda cool about everything the whole step of the way, so when the dudes are like “please dude. Bear with us. This is gonna be a cool thing.” Like the guy was putting the MCM version of the movie together, the guy who was trying to explain it to me was going “This format is built for you.” He’s going “I know you can’t get your head around what I’m talking about but this is you to a T. You’re the perfect case subject.”
And they’re like “here man, look at this” and they showed me Zack Snyder had done it for 300 I think, or Watchmen, or maybe both and I was watching that one and I’m like “if fucking Zack Snyder can do this…” cause I know Zack and he’s not exactly a live wire in front of cameras and shit, Zack is a genius behind the camera, in front of the camera he’s like Cindy Brady, red light goes on, he gets real stiff, so I was like if Zack Snyder can pull this shit off, I can do this. You want me to do the 300 version, my commentary? Me on Watchmen? And they were like “no dickhead, with your movie.” I’m like “Oh Cop Out?! Lemme talk about Watchmen for two hours!” And they’re like “can you get your head around doing it?” and I was like “ahh I can try” and the asked me to shoot it at a certain point and it was gonna be after the junket, all scheduled. Had been scheduled for like a month or something like that. And then about 8 days, 8 or 9 days before I was supposed to shoot it, I got asked to leave an airplane and that was just like, oh my god, I was in hell. And I was in misery and Megan came over and she was like “we have to shoot this thing in a couple days” and I was like “what?” and she was like “the thing for Warner Bros. for Cop Out” and I was like “You want me to get on fucking camera?! They just told me to get off a plane man! And I feel fat” and she was like “we can move it” and I think we moved it about two days or something but it was so therapeutic. Like I came in and its all about standing there and being on camera, it wasn’t like back in the day I could’ve come in, sat behind a mic, done the commentary track, done it in my PJs or worse naked, nobody would know. But with this 8 days after the whole world goes “you’re fat, I heard you were fat on the news and shit like that” I had to get up in front of a camera and this movie, I wasn’t in it at all. Oh it was hard, it sucked, I didn’t want to do it, I was like “I don’t understand the concept and now I have less of a reason to fucking go. But god bless these cats, they stayed on me like “I’m telling you, you are gonna love this dude I can’t explain to you how much…I wish I could go back in time or ahead in time to show you and blah blah blah.”
So I trusted them because they had been so nice to me the whole day. Then when they sent me the check disk it was the first time I got to see it cause you know I’d seen the Zack Snyder version and shit. And I remember the dude telling me on the day like “I wanna shoot this little bit that incorporates you into the logo.” And I was like “the shield?” and he was like “yeah” and I was like “how are you gonna do that?” and he was like “we could shrink you, but you on. Can you talk about being on the shield?” and I was like “yeah man, if you’re gonna put me on a fucking shield” and suddenly it became cool like “I get to be on the shield, that’d be kinda neat.” So I’m watching it on the check disk for the first time and there I am on the shield and I…suddenly I was like “oh! I completely get it now”. It’s like doing a commentary track but I’m present as opposed to just talking and shit. It’s like integrating something I do fairly well which is stand up and talk to people with something I don’t do well at all, which is make movies. And because of that, the one thing that’s stronger helps the thing that’s weaker, its like basically they balance each other out. When I watched the disk I was so fucking delighted. I remember sitting there going for three hours, cause it’s almost like three hours, I said “three fucking hours man, nobody wanted to watch Cop Out at 90 minutes, why are they gonna watch it in three hours?”
But when I was done watching it I was like “I don’t care if you hate this movie, it’s fucking entertaining.” I mean we make fun of the movie in the movie. And we explain how things happen or what went wrong or what got changed. I don’t know, it’s like so warts and all honest and I like that about it but I got so mad. Cause I was just like “I wish we had released this version of the movie.” You know this would’ve been kinda groundbreaking. Pop that in the theaters and people are like “I was watching this Bruce Willis movie and this fat guy kept irritating me through out it and he wasn’t sitting next to me, he was on the fucking screen! All the sudden he would interrupt the flick.” But I fell in love with that, I thought it was a great fucking process. So the long and short of it is essentially they take a commentary track and they take deleted scenes and they take a Q&A and integrate it with the movie. And kinda make it this new viewing experience. Which is neat. I mean you can watch the movie by itself like the way you did in the theater or you could pop this version on and watch that. It’s kinda dope.
But it’s Bluray only?
SMITH: Only Blu-ray. Well that’s the future right there. They’ve been trying to tell us that for years. I mean I remember when I did, shit this is going back 2, 3 years ago, I was working with Disney/Miramax back when there was a Disney/Miramax about doing a Chasing Amy anniversary disk because it was coming up on the ten year anniversary. And they were like “we’re only interested in doing it Blu-ray, do you want to do it Blu-ray”. And that’s before I was a big Blu-ray enthusiast so I was like “No man, I’ve got fucking like 8000, 10000 DVDs, I want to put it on DVD,” and they’re like “DVD’s not gonna be around much longer,” I was like “come on, don’t say that man, not everyone’s gonna get a Bluray player”.
Two years later, three years later, everybody’s got a fucking Blu-ray player. DVD’s are getting harder and harder to find. So with this its just like I’ve got no say over it. I mean I guess I could’ve been a prick and been like “this has to be released on DVD as well” but I’m not gonna tell Warner Bros. Home Video their business, they seem to know what they’re doing rather well and what not. So when they said “oh it’s just gonna be available on Blu-ray” I was like “ehh I guess, it’s a shame but I guess that makes sense”. I mean think about all those cool people who had just VHS back in the day and every time you tell ‘em like “hey man, on the DVD, they got some extras” they’d be like…not even on the DVD, on the laser disc they had extras and a VHS person would just be like “I don’t know what that is.” So you know they got phased out, DVD’s getting phased out as we head toward Bluray, it just made sense I guess. You know but the old version of me probably would’ve kicked and said “it has to be DVD, it has to be democratic, egalitarian.” But I used up all my fight this year with Southwest so…(laughs)…I didn’t have anything for this.
How long did you actually spend working on the MCM?
SMITH: The beautiful thing about a corporation like this, which is something I’d never known before because this is the first time I’ve ever worked with like Warner Bros., I mean I worked with Universal kinda back in the day when we made Mallrats but that was more for gramercy really so it was kind of a coproduction between PolyGram and [Universal] for this company. So I don’t think I’ve had the full corporate experience ever before. When you make a movie with a conglomerate like this, corporation, massive movie studio that’s been doing it for a hundred years if not more, everybody has a fucking job and everything’s taken care of. Like back in the world where I’m from you spin a lot of plates, wear a lot of hats, that’s the way it’s done and shit. And honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way because I’m kind of a control freak in order to do the job that you do. Here though man people just, you’ll get a call the day before, you know they’ll schedule it, they’ll just…anything you need it’s taken care of, we got this covered. So all I literally had to do was at the junket, I shot the stuff with Sean that you see where we interact with one another. That was when we were in New York. And then three days later I went to a sound stage in Los Angeles and it’s pretty much the fucking room that you see on the Blu-ray. It’s like the two screens behind me and we were just on a sound stage, it’s not like that’s a blue screen with a fake sound stage, it’s a real sound stage.
And basically I was like so they had a bunch of scenes that they wanted to hit specifically because we had all the extra footage for it and the cut scenes and what not and we started that way and then I was like “you know what man? It would be way easier, I was like I know you’ve got these targeted moments you want to hit, lets kill these and then we’ll go back to the top and we’ll just do the movie from the whole way down” and they were like “you wanna stand her and just talk for two hours” and I was like “oh, come on, have we just met?! I’m Kevin Smith! I’ll sit here and talk nine hours if you let me!” So basically they were like alright and they fucking put in a new tape and shit and we started from the top and just went all the way down and it was very cute, they had a lawyer sitting in the back of the room the whole time because you know basically every fifth thing I said was never gonna make the DVD. And my friend was in the back with the lawyer, he’d come, and periodically they would change the tapes and shit and I’d towel off because I’d get sweaty. And I was like “what are they talking about back there?” And he’s like “how little of this content will make the DVD” and I was like “yeah but some of it will.” And then when I saw the fucking thing, the check disc man, they included so much. Like I was shocked at how much they let slide. I mean a lot of it is me making fun of myself. Apparently legally you can’t sue Warner Bros. if you call yourself fat a lot because I do it on the DVD, doesn’t happen. So they were kinda cool even though there was a lawyer present and they were like “you can’t say certain shit,” I mean I guess that’s always a problem with me and DVDs and what not. They wound up letting so much of it go, I was actually kind of surprised and delighted by the thing. But I’m sorry, what did you ask? I got way off base.
How long did you…you answered it.
SMITH: What did I do? So I showed up for one day and we did it from top to bottom. So essentially I’d say all told the time that I put in, which is pretty much just performance or you know you cant count the time…all the performance time comes from all the time we spent making the movie, all the stories and shit but the actually like, I’m gonna stand here and talk about it? About three hours tops I was there. And they were able to top that and turn it into this and man, they did the work. A lot of people will be like “it was very entertaining, well done.” I was just the actor, just like those cats are actors in the movie. Suddenly I went from being the director of the movie to being an actor in the movie, somebody else was directing me for the MCM version of the movie. I don’t know, the integration terrified me at first and then I was so in to it, so much so that I got irritated, I was like “why can’t I do this with every movie I make?” Like out in the real world release it that way and do a DVD but they own this kind of DVD process.
You know, so I can’t do MCM for something else. I wish I had invented because I could take it with me. But it’s theirs so now it behooves me to work at Warner Bros. because they’re the only studio that’s gonna be like “yeah we’ll let you be in the movie too on DVD.” It’s cool, its like a weird second bite of the apple for me and I realize I’m not like most directors, most directors are very talented, but I’m not like most directors, most directors are very…they let the work speak for itself. A lot of cats I’ve noticed over the years, they don’t go out there and defend themselves, they don’t go out there and talk about what they do, why they did it, blah blah blah. Work speaks for itself and with me that’s never been the case. I find, the more talented the director, the less the director actually has to say after the movie is made. That’s why you never hear fucking Clint Eastwood say anything. He makes nine movies a year, never says word one. Doesn’t have to. People like me…you know, if you don’t make movies as well as other people, you got a lot of explaining to do but I always feel kind of like, if I cant get them with the movie, I can get them with the second bite of the apple by talking about the movie. And I picked that up off one of the first Q&As we had for Clerks in Houston in ’94.
We had a screening and then we did a Q&A afterwards, me and Scott, my producer, did a Q&A. Afterwards, we were leaving, I was talking to someone in the back of the theater, I heard two motherfuckers going out, one dude was like “what did you think of the movie?” He’s like “I didn’t like it but I loved the Q&A, they’re funny.” And I remember thinking like, hey man if I can’t get them with the movie, maybe I can get them with the Q&A afterwards. Second bite of the apple. You get one last chance to kind of change their way of thinking. You don’t want people every leaving the theater going “sucked. Absolute waste of my time. Regret it. Fucking want that time back. Kevin Smith and his progeny must die.” You never want that. You want, you know, if you can soften them up before they leave, so that they’re going “Eh, I didn’t like the movie but the Q&A was good.” That’s been the late motif of my whole career, that’s why when they were telling me about the MCM, they were like “dude you’re gonna love this because this is everything you’re about. This is where you get to make the movie, show the movie, make excuses for the movie, make more jokes to put in the movie and just talk about yourself for two hours.” I’m like “Sign me up!” You know, I fell in love with it once I saw it. Like I said, couldn’t understand it, not visionary enough to understand it.
I know you have a Twitter presence and I’m curious how you feel social media platforms have influenced the way filmmaking is…films are made and films are distributed and released and how that’s influenced your ability to get closer to fans and get their input on your films?
SMITH: I haven’t analyzed it that much but I don’t think it’s changed how movies are made at all yet. It might have if like…
Or film watching?
SMITH: Well I think about like, the test case to see how powerful Twitter was was when Ashton Kutcher put out, um there was a movie he did just in LA recently, does anybody remember the name of it? Not that one but it was a DVD, I don’t think it went in theaters or very widely, where he played like a pimp in LA, or not a pimp, a gigolo or something. Had one word, begins with an S, whatever the title of that movie is. Ashton Kutcher had the most amount of fans on Twitter at that point and had a whole army at his disposal for this tiny indie film that was only playing in a few places but essentially it was like he could target them and say go. And based on that, based on how many followers you had you could think like “man this movie’s gonna fucking open because he can advertise to more people than they can without money, you know what I’m saying? Like basically he can hit, let’s say he had 2 million people, he could hit 2 million Twitter followers without spending a fucking dime. This movie’s gonna be huge. And then the movie came out and it pretty much acted like every other independent film. People that wanted to see it went to see it and the two million people following Ashton Kutcher did not go see that movie. And it’s not like it died a miserable death but it didn’t…Twitter didn’t help, you know what I’m saying? What Twitter is wonderful for is talking to the fan base and talking to the audience and talking to anybody that has half a fucking interest in you or what you do. I’ve been doing that since ’95.
With Twitter, I love Twitter, I hope it never goes away, but back in ’95 I kicked open the doors of our website and we had a message board and that’s what I’ve been doing since ’95. So by the time Twitter happened I was like well polished. I had 10,000 hours of practice or more on how to be pithy and respond and interact with people and make it seem like you’re having a real conversation with people that you’re not even seeing. Be very candid. Be very comfortable. Come in to my house by the computer kind of thing. So having done that for years and years by the time Twitter happened it was great, it was just able to do what I did normally on a much larger basis but it doesn’t help one iota with how movies get made or anything. What it does helps is it’s a big fucking stick. All I know is nobody fucks with me anymore. Some people get an idea where they’re like “lets take a run at him and shit” but after Southwest, fucking its crazy dude. I go into a restaurant and people like get me a seat like that. And now I’m talking about, that would happen here in town because I tip like crazy, I’m a 50% tipper because I came from a busboy mentality, but I’m talking about I go places now, I travel on a bus across the country right? So I’m not just on planes, I’m travelling everywhere across the country. It don’t matter where you go man, now they’re just like “get him a seat cause he’ll start crying on Twitter if we don’t get him a fucking seat”. So there’s that, it became a big stick which was kinda nice because people tend not to fuck with you as much but generally speaking for the business I don’t think it’s improved my business one iota or…
Do you get any feedback from fans?
SMITH: All the time! For me the feedback from fans has always been there. What Twitter allows you to get is the feedback from people who aren’t necessarily fans. What I love about Twitter is you can catch a lot of like…again, late motif of my life is all about if I can’t get you here, I’m gonna try to get you here. And with Twitter you get some people who are on the fence and are like “I saw Clerks, it was funny but some shit bugs me” or whatever. Suddenly you’re like “ok, maybe you don’t like the work, here’s a bunch of funny things I’m gonna say over the course of a day. Here’s some things I’m gonna send you to, here’s a website, here I’m gonna throw you to my podcast which is fucking free, here’s this this this and this.” Something is bound to hit. If it doesn’t, you were never gonna like anything I did regardless. But it always gives you the second bite of the apple of like “you didn’t like this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”. And I’m not George Lucas or fucking Jim Cameron, I’m not even, I’m not even fucking Larry Kasdan for Christ’s sake, you know what I’m saying? Like I’m not here, I’m not there, I’m nowhere, I’m in my own little subset on my own little island where people are like “that’s Kevin Smith. He makes Kevin Smith movies.” You know, and that’s it. I don’t get put in groups with other people so any edge that you can get to kind of make yourself stand out – and remember, I came from an indie film back world where it was all about “you gotta notice me because I got no money to pay for you to notice me.”
Anything that extends the conversation which is what I’ve always been more interested in, not filmmaking and shit like that, but the conversation that comes with it. Anything that extends the conversation is A-OK in my book. It’s just not gonna equate to dollars and cents and unfortunately some people get to the point where they’re like “well Twitter’s fun but how can we make money off it?” Its like, you guys are missing the point, it’s not about making money, it’s about communication. It’s about you finding out what’s on my mind. My finding out what’s on your mind. I mean I’m sitting on Twitter like fucking two months ago and we start musing about a place where we can do our podcast Smodcast, we did it on the road for a while, me and Scott Mosier for a whole week prior to that and then when we got home I was like “That would be awesome to have a theater.” Like a little black box theater here in Los Angeles and be able to do it live once a week and everyone on Twitter who lived in the Los Angeles area and people who didn’t even live in Los Angeles were just like “you should fucking do it dude!” Twitter is like a friend when you’re really drunk at a party. You know, you just tell them like “I’m thinking about this” and everyone’s like “you should do that dude.” It’s a world of encouragement and one month later we fucking have the place, it opens in two weeks, Smodcastle. And it’s all fueled by people going “you should do it. If you do it we’ll totally go see your shows there.” So I was like “alright, lets fucking open up a theater.”
So it’s cool, it’s a real…it puts you in touch with a lot of people and it fuels you and inspires you. It’s a great communication device which is what I’m all about, obviously talking. But in terms of like extending the business or helping my filmmaking in any way, I mean again, it gives you…you know what? You are right! It does help and here’s how it helps. This movie [Cop Out] I got raped by critics, ass raped in a big bad way. You would’ve thought we made fucking Mein Kampf and like at the end I was like “And PS he was right!” Credits. They treated this movie like such a fucking cinematic abortion. Once again they overreacted in a big bad fucking way and I would’ve gotten upset about it because all I have to go by when you’re a filmmaker generally back in the day is what critics what write about. That’s the world I came from. In order to know what people thought about your movie you would read what a critic wrote about it. Or you would see what the box office was but you wouldn’t really hear from the people unless you went to a screening at a Q&A and then you could hear from an audience member. So with the advents of the internet and specifically Twitter it allows me to bypass that conversation. The only means of finding out what people think about my movie is no longer fucking “what did the critics think?” That’s the least interesting thing at this point. And not to take away from them but it’s just like there are critics everywhere now.
Everybody’s a fucking critic. I can’t fucking treat people special because they got to see the movie for free. You know what I’m saying? Like I wanna hear criticism from motherfuckers who paid to see the movie. And not because I want his ten bucks but because that means more. Like somebody who’s like “I didn’t pay to see your movie but boy did I hate it.” It’s like “I don’t give a shit. You know, I don’t think you’re pretty and I’m not gonna fuck you. How do you feel about that?” You see what I’m saying? It’s a ridiculous notion. When the internet kind of democratized lots of things including film opinion or opinion about movies and shit, suddenly I could hear from people who are like…on Cop Out’s opening day on the back…back east there was a fucking blizzard. And I remember thinking nobody’s gonna go, were gonna get killed on the east coast. I went to Twitter man, I could trace it all day long, how it was doing. Because I would get people going “there’s fucking three feet of snow outside my door, it’s gonna cost me 40 bucks but I’m going to see your fucking movie because you’ve been bugging me for two months to do so.” And boom, that cat comes back and that cat’s like “you sir are worse than Hitler,” I’m gonna take it from that guy, cause I’m like “you know what, you did the work, you went out of your way, I’m fucking sorry I let you down, hopefully I’ll get you on the next one.”
I can’t take it from a bunch of people who are like “we breath such rarefied air. We have the dream job. We get paid to see movies for a living but we’ve forgotten how fun that is so instead we just want to rake everything…it’s not their fault. I get it. It’s way more entertaining to read the bashing of a fucking movie then the praising of a movie. But it’s like didn’t anybody learn anything from Ratatouille?! I thought we all learned something at the end of Ratatouille, man. Like didn’t those critics learn a fucking thing? But what Twitter was incredibly helpful with was if I was just going by the gage of what people, what this dude is paid to write about the movie said about it, I would feel like oh my god, everybody hated the movie. But I was hearing from people that bought tickets to see the movie, it was a completely different story. It was unbelievable. Like you would sit there and look at the fucking Rotten Tomato counter and be like 15% and be like wow, nobody likes this. Then you would just read Twitter from people who actually paid to see the movie and like weren’t sitting there trying to impress their friends or show off their cinematic erudition. Mother fuckers were just like “that’s some funny shit, dude. Sean William Scott fucking repeating, that’s some funny shit.” And you sit there going oh my god that’s what it’s about. Especially with a movie like Cop Out.
If you’re gonna make fucking Schindler’s List for heavens sakes you don’t want fucking – you want people to have a heavy opinion of it or have something to say about it. It’s fucking Cop Out man. These dudes came at it like it was a retarded kid in class. It was embarrassing what they did to it. And that was a real break moment for me where I was like “I don’t even feel that protective for the movie because I didn’t write.” I love Cop Out but I’ll always treat it like an adopted kid. Like “I didn’t have you!” Sorry, that’s the way I’d do it. I am, most people don’t, I’m inhuman like that. But I would essentially be like, you know, there would always be a degree of remove from it because it didn’t come from me, you know what I’m saying? Like I raised somebody else’s fucking kid. So if the kid becomes dumb I’d be like “wasn’t me man, I didn’t have this fucking kid. I just raised it.” And I’d be like “It’s nature not nurture.” That’s the excuse.
Can I ask you a specific question about the film?
SMITH: As soon as I can finish this thought because I was gonna sum up good. Fuck. Reminds me of sex with my wife – she’s like “are you done?” and I’m like “AH! Just let me finish!” Umm, fuck I forgot what I was saying. I don’t know but it was good.
I didn’t mean to cut you off. I’m actually one of the critics that really did love the movie, I thought it was fantastic, one of the things I loved….
SMITH: Did you pay to see it?
No, cause I…
SMITH: Then I don’t care.
But I really did enjoy it and one of the things I loved about it was the Fletch reference at the end with the soundtrack, and I don’t know if everyone noticed that. Can you talk a little about…
SMITH: That flick was a real chance for me to make the Fletch movie that I never really got to make and not my version of the Fletch movie because I was gonna make the Gregor and McDonald version of Fletch 1 and the version that I wanted to make of the movie was way more like Out of Sight then the other Fletch move that…what’s his face? Great director…Michael Richie. When I went into Cop Out I kind of approached Cop Out like Michael Richie approached Fletch and go in with that. Like there’s an air of danger, you know danger…it’s a comedy but when we go violent, we go violent. It’s not just like “hey man, this dude poked this dude in the eye and that’s the offense”. You know there’s people killing each other, stuff like that, like in the ‘80s movies. So I kind of looked at what he did with Fletch and how he approached the subject of violence in a comedy and stuff like that and really leaned heavily on that. So Michael Richie’s Fletch was a true barometer for this movie for me. I would always hold it up to that and it’s not nearly as good as Fletch, Fletch is an instant classic but because of what Michael Richie was able to balance the comedy and I hate to use the term drama because there’s no drama but the chaos, the violence, the guns, shit like that, cause I’ve never really had that kind of stuff in my movies, he was the model for me. I looked at how he did with Fletch and so I’d constantly kind of throw in – I mean the whole temp score was Harold Faltermeyer’s Fletch score and a little bit of Beverly Hills Cop so that when we sat Harold down to watch the movie to see like “do you wanna score the flick?” He was just like “I think I already did!” And we were like “yeah dude, you can see we’re big fans”.
Is Red State still on track to start this summer?
SMITH: Yeah, Red State …it’s weird, I’ve been trying to…the older I get man the more I kinda try to do shit not different but like I’ve done this, lemme try something else. And back in the day I used to love, one of the things I used to love about this business was like announcements, I can’t wait to tell you who’s gonna be in the movie! I can’t wait to BOOM present it and shit. Zach and Miri I think was the last time I was way into it, where I was like dropping hints on the message board and building info and finally putting up just pictures of the actors eyes and shit and letting people guess. I got really really into it and then announcing DA-DA-DA! I’m almost forty man and I gotta tell you that Southwest thing cured me of ever wanting to see my name in a newspaper again. Now I don’t give a fuck about it. I used to love it, I used to love it so much because it made me feel special. You know your mother would be like “hey man if they put you in the newspaper you’ve gotta be special. Or a killer.” And I was like, I knew I wasn’t a killer! I thought I was special. After that though I was just like “I never wanna…” I used to have Google News alerts and shit telling me when Clerks was on mention or Mallrats or blah blah blah. And then after the Southwest thing I was like “I never need to see my name in print ever ever again.” So that kind of thing kind of stopped being real interesting to me in terms of like…shit…what was your original question?
SMITH: Red State. So announcing, being like “hey man here’s who’s gonna be in Red State” which 5 years ago would’ve been like fucking “I can’t wait! This is gonna be a fun thing! It’s like doing the Q&As, it’s the fun part for making movies!” Now I don’t even wanna do it anymore because it’s just like, ugh, I don’t wanna give anybody…even this, you people are lovely and shit but it’s just like, I don’t wanna give people one more opportunity to be like fucking “hey the fat dude who got thrown off the plane”. You know what I’m saying? Like throw it out there or mention something, its just never about what you’re there to talk about, they want to talk about a bunch of other things, which is fine, it’s fair because the lord knows I spin a lot of plates because it would be ridiculous to come and be like “lets just talk about your Bluray disc” You know what I’m saying? It’d be like fucking, like interviewing a naked woman and just being like, you gotta look right [in the eyes]. Its impossible, sooner or later you gotta be like…you know it just happens. But for me, the notion of going out and announcing the cast, this time I’m trying to do it differently where I’m like “lets just kind of quietly make the movie and see what happens” You know, let everyone know when it’s done. I’ve never been that guy because my movies have always been so under the radar and you gotta fucking build attention for it.
I mean I literally had to fucking build my audience a brick at a fucking time and I did it over the course of ten, fifteen years and got it to a place where now it’s self-sustaining. They go out and you know, Jesus had apostles and shit and spent a lot of time with them and died and then the apostles took over and those people created fucking whole churches and congregations in his absence. In that equation I’m, I would be Pontius Pilate I think. I don’t want to be Jesus, but I’m just saying when you, once you’re out of the equation, basically you can start it going to the point where it keeps going without you having to manage it and prune it and everything you thought was important as you get older you realize that wasn’t, the announcements are cute but it’s not all predicated on that. Like in fact it should be more about, like, watch the movie afterwards and then we’ll talk about the cast. I don’t know. Also with Red State it’s a different beast because for the first time since Clerks I’m trying to go, not unknown but actors who aren’t like, you’re gonna see them on screen and not know their name…it’s a weird kind of in between neither place that
I’m reaching for. It’s not complete unknown and it’s not remotely fucking recognizable, name recognizable. It’s in this place where you gotta find actors who…its tough, its really tough to find an actor whose name you don’t know. You know, you can go to Law and Order and grab anybody from the cast and they’ve done five or six episodes and shit but you’d still recognize them and you’d be watching the movie and be like “that’s that dude, I’ve seen that dude on Law and Order! So you can’t even go that route. I’m trying to cast this movie in a way that like, when people watch it they can absorb and not think about “oh that’s that person!” or “oh he works with that dude all the time!” or “oh there’s Jason Mewes!” or something. So I don’t know, and it’s ironic, this is the first time this has ever happened to me man. I’ve gotten calls from every agency thus far in town pitching me huge fucking talent. Big talent man, like Academy Award winning talent, like serious actors, not like fucking “hey man, this dude is huge right now!” I’m talking legends and shit because there’s a part in the movie that calls for an older guy so, and there’s, we’re completely kind of uncast in the key roles, as far as the agencies know. These cats call you up and start pitching these names and I’d be ghost to share them but I would’ve shared them when I was 25-30 but now I’m 40 and it’s just like “give some old fuckers their dignity”. Huge fucking names though and each time I’m just like “Why?! Why are you calling me?! This is suspicious. I don’t get these calls.” And they’re like “Well because your name is such…people want to work with you!” I was like “Don’t bullshit, why are you calling.” And he was like “Nothing’s happening right now” and I was like “Really?” And they’re like “Nothing is happening in this town, nobody’s working right now.” I was like “really?” He was like “honestly dude you’re one of the only games in town.” He’s like “it’s ironic that you can have your pickings of grade A talent right now and you keep talking about wanting to cast people I’ve never heard of.” And I was like “yeah that’s the key with this one.” It’s kind of ironic.
Kevin do you have any interest in 3D?
SMITH: I went to the King Kong ride yesterday and it just confirmed my suspicion that…you know look, 3D for me is like Malibu Stacy has a new hat. You know at the end of the day it’s just like alright, so now it’s 3D. It doesn’t really do much for me. The ride was kind of cool because you know, basically you’re in a 3D movie and the car’s moving and shit. It’s quick though, it’s like 45 seconds.
Do you see these big 3D films that are coming out, like the one Johnny Depp was just in or Avatar and then you compare it to the small indie films, do you feel that that wave that it’s going in technologically, is that polarizing filmmaking at all?
SMITH: I don’t think so, I think most filmmakers…I think if you make a certain type of bombastic overt the top tentpole movie, blockbuster film, you’re definitely gonna start thinking about 3D because it’s one more way to kinda add a bell and whistle to an already massive…I mean look, I don’t know whether they planned it from the jump or not but I watched the trailer for Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet movie, Michel Gondry directing it, and at the end of it it said “In 3D” and I said “Good god, is that a joke? Cause I know it’s a comedy.” But no, they’re serious. Now everybody wants to take…you know Warner Bros. is very successful taking that 3D process to Clash of the Titans and you know Jim Cameron was like “They can’t do it! If they haven’t planned it from the start it’s gonna suck!” With all due respect, the man’s a genius, but most people going to see movies they’re not looking…they don’t have the eye for detail that Jim Cameron will have, most people are just like “Holy shit that horse came on my face!” You know, it doesn’t have to look all that great and they made it look great, they found a way to take something they shot 2D and made it 3D. Once these cats made it successful it opens up the floodgates.
Everybody’s thinking “we can make another 20 million off any fucking movie, maybe more if it’s a kids movie if you pop it up to 3D.” So to me it reads of like “hey man come see the movie and this chair will vibrate. It’s the Tingler!” And they’re doing that now! Like there’s a motion chair I see up at fucking Grauman’s for some movie that’s coming out, one of the Final Destinations coming out and they had a chair in the lobby and they were like “our whole theater will be like this chair so you can watch the movie and feel like this” and it just took me back to that John Goodman movie Matinee where I’m like, I’m living it again. Everything that happened before will happen again. Like we all went to those dopey 3D movie pictures of people in the fifties and were like “that’s so stupid, never worked” and now because the glasses are plastic we’re like “it’s amazing! It’s amazing what they can do now!” And on that ride, god bless them that ride looks cool and it’s fun and to me it’s way better than the big fake monkey they had and shit but at the end of the day it still has the limitation of like it’s a fucking movie. I don’t care how many…put the glasses on, yeah I kept mine too, you put those glasses on and shit and it’s still soft and…I went to see, what did I see in 3D? Up. Up is bright and colorful and a masterfully made film but still the whole time I’m just like “there’s something off here, it’s soft and these glasses never do correctly what they’re supposed to.” They don’t cover everything…its just, its still to me bells and whistles. Kids seem to like it and that’s great and they should do it with all the animated movies because once again it’s another way for them to maximize their monetary trail which is getting tougher and tougher to do as years go on in terms of how do you find…every economic stream starts getting smaller and smaller so they found a new one with like 3D and they’re embracing it and for some movies it’s cool, it absolutely makes sense. I saw Avatar not 3D and loved it. I didn’t need to see it 3D and everyone’s like “Oh you gotta see it 3D” and I was like “honestly I would’ve been irritated” and me personally, not the whole fucking world but I loved Avatar just the way I saw it. If blue cats had been flying at my face I would’ve been like “come on man, can’t I just watch the movie?”
So it’s for some but not for me but I don’t think it’s scaring anybody. I think it’s a cool thing for people that make like summer movies or big blockbuster movies because they’re like “its awesome, we can throw a little fucking 3D on it and we’ll shoot a few shots and we’ll put spears in peoples faces or something like that.” But I don’t know, I just remember like Jaws: The Revenge or no, Jaws: 3D when I was a kid and it was just so like, there was a shot of a fish head floating in the water and that was supposed to be a big moment where you’re like “I can almost touch the fish head”. Why? Can’t you just enjoy the story? I mean, to me it feels like you use 3D because it’s just like, alright, the MCM version of Cop Out is fucking 3D. It’s just like, lets distract from the fact that there’s not enough there that they like by putting in something else. Like bolster it with a crutch of some sort. That’s what 3D feels like to me, and again it could work in the hands of people that really really wanna use it but can’t people just watch a movie anymore? Why do they have to be surrounded by it? Why do they have to be interactive with it and shit? Everyone wants to exist in the fucking danger room of the X-Men, they just want to be surrounded by the action. It’s like just go and watch the movie and live action in your real life, you know? Why at the movie theater?
Real quick, why has Comic-Con become so important to Hollywood?
SMITH: Comic-Con…Comic-Con has been interesting to watch over the last 15 years, watch it get more and more important to this business. When I first started going down, very few studios went. Nobody seemed to care. I remember working on Mallrats and trying to convince Universal like “we should be at Comic Con. This movie is about fucking comic books” and they were just like “Ehh, it seems like, why? Who goes down there?” Well it’s people that understand…they eventually went with us, we talked them into it. And when they were there, and I’m certainly not taking credit, but I mean Universal got an idea of “holy shit, there is an audience here that we can reach out to.” I mean look, Universal’s been throwing Battlestar Galactica shit at people down at the Con for years and whatever stuff they’ve done but they started seeing it now like I wasn’t necessarily a sci-fi person, you know what I’m saying? They could see if you’ve got Star Wars or fucking Battlestar Galactica or something and then you go down to Comic Con but all the sudden like I was just the guy who made the black and white indie flick and in my movie I happened to have some comic book talk about inkers and fucking pencilers and shit like that or about industry stuff and for them they were just like “well wait a second man, I guess you don’t have to be ‘genre’ per say, or maybe this is a different type of genre.”
Like for me when I went down there, I loved going as a fan because I loved sci-fi and I love the world of Comic Con, fantasy, shit like that, but then I was like “I can also go down there and speak their language.” Cause I was on the other side of the table for years and years and years. So for me I know how to go down there and talk to people because I went on the other side and I dig going down there. For me it’s the State of the Union because I live and dwell on pop culture and that for me is my annual kind of like finger on the pulse, it’s a room full of six thousand people that aren’t there for me, that’s what I love best about Comic Con. There’s a lot of people in that room there for me but that room, Hall H, I do a Q&A in there every Saturday night at the Con, six thousand people man and I would say, shit, if you’re lucky, a thousand are for you. So you’re working five thousand people that aren’t necessarily there for you and maybe they know a little about you or maybe they’re like “we’ve seen one or two of his movies but he irritates me.” You know, it’s like once again, its that chance for me to be like “Hi, my name is Kevin Smith, I’ve been irritating you for fifteen years.” Umm, so for me, that’s why its important. These cats just understand that now, its just like you’ve got a focused audience, all of whom are going down there, basically when they go to Comic Con they’re not playing to the 200,000 people in attendance, they’re playing to the fucking 600 million people those 200,000 people are gonna touch when they go home and write about that shit on the internet.
The studios just figured out the cheapest way to fucking market anything is to show it to a hungry audience who all they want to do is talk about it. You know, it took them a while to figure it out but they figured it out. So all that money they spend to go down to Comic Con, fly this motherfucker down and put him up, and they bring big names. This one year I was down there, three fucking Academy Award winners preceded me on stage at Comic Con! And I was like god, things have changed! So the amount of money they spend to go to Comic Con, minimal compared to the huge fucking reams, boatloads of free press they’re getting for Iron Man, for Watchmen, for any of those flicks they go down there with. Now, the downside is it could backfire and blow up in your face. You go down there with something and fucking like, it doesn’t pop the way its supposed to, or people smell inauthenticity on it, then you get fucked, then you fucked yourself. But you know, if you got that in your project to begin with and don’t show anybody until opening day…
Is Hit Somebody still something that you’re working on?
SMITH: Yeah, yeah, I’m on page 81. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Writing it right now.
You should try to get Letterman to do a cameo.
SMITH: I do, I wanna get him doing the voice, yeah I wanna get him in heavy makeup at one point and just cut to him and go “hit somebody!”.