Kevin Smith seems to be in his Dalai Lama period. After years getting in much publicized rows with critics and the internet, his attitude toward movies and life at once seems more hardened and more accepting. “I don’t need people to validate me anymore,” Smith says. “I did at one point, but I don’t now.” Smith’s secret? “I started smoking weed at thirty eight. I highly recommend it.”
Collider was recently invited to a special screening of Kevin Smith’s new comedy special for EPIX, Too Fat for 40. After an extended clip of the special, Smith treated the group to a Q&A in which the cult director discussed his life, his approach to comedy and his views on the world in general.
The special is somewhere between a real stand up show and the popular Evening with Kevin Smith series. “[About the Evening with Kevin Smith series] one guy on the internet said, ‘he’s so conceited, he has three DVDs of him talking’. So I was like ‘fuck that guy, I’m not going to do them any more’. But that is so stupid. To spite some guy who’s not even into it. So when Epix called, it was great. I had three years’ worth of stories built up.” Continued after the jump:
Though more secure, not everything for Smith has been roses lately. “After the South West moment, which was so fucking disheartening… it’s like, you realize – ultimately, you’re alone.” Smith is referring to the incident that occurred in February when the director tweeted about being ejected from a South West Airlines flight, supposedly for his weight. Dozens of media outlets picked up the story and it was national news for the better part of a week.
“It was dark,” he admits. “It was a really dark time. I just wandered around the house for days. It was like – ‘life will never be the same anymore, I don’t know what I’m going to do now’. Then Tiger Woods talked about cheating his wife and I went back to being fat privately.”
The special clocks in at two hours – though shot, it was closer to four – throughout which Smith tells long stories that he ties together surprisingly well. The conceit of the special is pure Smith: all of these stories spiral out of just one fan question in what is purported to be a Q&A.
Smith admits the special, along with his network of podcasts, is part of the new way he thinks about his life. “At this point, I make more money talking than I do directing,” Smith says. “There are always people, all my life, who are like ‘he ain’t no film maker’ and you know what? They’re fucking right. Film maker is just how I get introduced. I just want to entertain.”
And entertain he does. The screening was held in Smith’s own personal black box theater “SModcastle”, which is now host to enough shows to fill an I-Pod every week, most of which are recorded live with an audience. This new podcasting mini-empire grew out of the original “SModcast” between Smith and producing partner Scott Mosier.
“It kind of feels like the early days of T.V. where you can just try shit,” Smith admits. “It’s a fun time. The moment you realize how little you need them [middle men]. I don’t want to go hat in hand to anybody again. At this point, I’ve kind of cut ties with the world.”
Smith isn’t simply talking about podcasting either. His new film Red State was financed entirely outside the studio system, costing fewer than five million dollars. And Smith couldn’t be happier about it. “You know Clerks 2 cost five million dollars. I was like, please, Harvey [Harvey Weinstein, Weinstein Co.], do not spend more than five million dollars to advertise this movie… we made it for five, you’re gonna spend ten to sell it? That made me heart sick.”
“Good or bad, rise or fall, whether it’s high art or dog shit, about eight to twelve million dollars’ worth of people are going to see it. Why try to reach an audience that doesn’t care?”
Now one week from wrapping shooting on the film, Smith is happy with it. “It’s phenomenal,” he said. “But then someone on twitter pointed out, I said that about Cop Out as well.” Asked if anything besides budget changed in how he made a movie without a studio, he admitted not much. “I got to cast who I want. The studio never would have let me do that. But that’s about it.”
Still, one thing is obvious: the smaller the budget, the more Smith feels in his element. Five years ago, he dropped out of a film version of Green Hornet (now being made by Seth Rogen) for just that reason. “I love watching those [big] movies. I’m glad that somebody has the constitution to make them. And I’ll watch it, but I would rather shoot myself or suck eight dicks in front of everybody [than do that].”
“That freedom I don’t need. That comes with too deep a price tag.”
“I think I’m in the second act of my career,” Smith said. “You realize there’s a lot to enjoy in this business if you’re not worried about the almighty dollar.” Any idea what the third act holds?
“I have no idea,” he admitted. “Maybe it’ll end like Empire Strikes Back: unsure.”
For more with Kevin Smith, here’s what he said about Red State, Hit Somebody and what’s the status of more episodes of Clerks: The Animated Series.