Kevin Smith Interview ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO

     October 28, 2008




Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub



The great thing about posting an interview with Kevin Smith is…he needs no introduction. As the writer/director behind such classics as Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and now Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Kevin is known the world over as a geek that’s made it.



The other thing Kevin’s known for is…his ability to talk about anything and everything. Seriously. Unlike some movie stars or directors that shy away from saying what they think or revealing what really went on behind the scenes, what I love about Kevin is the way he tells you everything. If someone was an asshole on set…he says it. If some studio executive gave horrible notes that made no sense, Kevin will tell you who did it and why it was bad.



Again, not many people are so honest, and no matter what you think of Kevin Smith as a filmmaker, you’ve got to respect him.



But lets’ get to the reason you’re here. Opening this weekend is Kevin’s new movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The film stars Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as two best friends that live together and after they run out of money and options…well…I figure you know what happens based on the title. While I haven’t been that impressed with Kevin’s recent films, I have to say I really enjoyed Zack and Miri and laughed a lot. It’s definitely worth checking out.



Anyway, I was recently able to participate in a roundtable interview with Kevin and the transcript is below. As you might imagine, we talked about everything…



If you’re a fan of Kevin’s, you’ll really enjoy the interview. As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. Finally, you can watch some movie clips from Zack and Miri by clicking here. And here’s a link to the interview I did with Elizabeth Banks.





Kevin Smith: Is anyone a non-smoker? Well, you’re about to be converted. How’s everyone doing? Thanks for coming out. I know it’s a tough trip to make, but it’s nice seeing you. I know I’d much rather be at home watching TV. Let’s try to make this as painless as possible for you.



Question: This is your best film.



KS: Well, good, this is already getting better.



When you were making it, did you feel like there was something extra—



KS: Not really, not really. It was all when people started seeing it and saying, this is the best film you’ve ever made. I’m like, what? The weird one is when people go, This is the best one you’ve made since Chasing Amy. I know. So that was kind of weird. It’s a weird compliment to receive, but, on the other hand, I’m like, fuck, maybe I ruined the other three. Or the rest of them besides this one. But it’s cool, as long as they’re saying nice things. Really, I don’t even care if they say nice things. As long as they’re laughing and copping to it. Cause I feel like, you sit in the audience and laugh and have a good time. Then, when you actually have to write a review, you get a lot of people who are more circumspect. Like, it’s funny if you’re into this kind of thing. It’s like, motherfucker, I know you were laughing. I was there in the back, watching.



But it’s funny. Even as a woman, the raunchy stuff is funny.



KS: Right on, thank you very much. Well, that’s all due to the cast, man. It’s one thing to just have a bunch of dirty words on the page, but they made it all spring to life.



Because it has the romance element to it, was it made intentionally maybe to draw more female audiences to your film?



KS: Only as much as one of the titular characters is a woman, but it’s not like I’m, I’ve got to bring more chicks in. I don’t really think like that. If could honestly plan on how to bring more people to a movie, I would’ve been way more successful than I’ve ever been. For me, it’s the luck of the draw because ultimately I just make the flicks I know how to make. Nine out of ten, it’s not mass screening. In fact, ten out of ten. Wait, what is this? Eight movies? Seven times out of ten, it’s not been a vastly commercial film. So I didn’t go into it thinking, I’m going to get chicks in it this time around. But I figured with a chick in the title, some chicks might be curious. Although most people don’t seem to know it’s a woman’s name.



Like Chasing Amy, it’s sort of got that romantic comedy structure underneath.



KS: Mm-hm.



With all the Kevin Smith dialogue, was that something you were thinking of?



KS: When I was making it, I thought it was as close to Chasing Amy as anything I’ve ever done before in terms of structure and whatnot. I mean, we’re definitely a lot less serious than we were in Chasing Amy. Chasing Amy is a very earnest movie. Funny, but very earnest at the same time. This movie is more funny than I think Chasing Amy is, but it does this weird shift in the third act where it becomes kind of emotional. It catches people off guard, but, I don’t know, it works for me. It’s the kind of movie I enjoy watching. I love romantic comedies. I love rom-coms. I just can’t stand it when they’re sanitized and cleaned up, and it ends with a kiss. I like mine to have the fucking happen, and then everything falls apart. And I like people to speak candidly and frankly and use harsh language. Not to be a show-off, but because everyone I know speaks like that. When I see something like Made of Honor, I’m sitting there thinking, why am I watching this? And my wife is going, yeah, why are you watching this?



Q: Why are you watching it?



KS: I like romantic comedies and I like Patrick Dempsey. I’ve loved him since Loverboy. He was awesome in Loverboy. And he was awesome in Can’t Buy Me Love when he was doing the dance and shit.



Q: Do you like porn as much as romantic comedies?

KS: No, I like romantic comedies more, but I do like porn very much. Not so much for titillation anymore. I mean now… I’ve been married for ten years, so sex is built in and free. So porn isn’t something I use as a tool anymore. I haven’t jerked off to a porn in I can’t tell you how many fucking years. But I look at porn every morning. Every morning I wake up, I do Google news, Guardian UK, and then I go to the free porn sites – any of the numerous ones I’ve bookmarked. Just by virtue of the fact that it shocks me that every time I click on it, I never see the same face twice. Always different people, always. It just makes you feel like the whole world is taking naked pictures of themselves. And I’m always looking for that one person I know because, by sheer process of elimination, I’m going to see someone I know. Only recently I realized I’m looking at the wrong pages. Everyone I know is, like, 30, so I have to start looking at cougar-like sites. I’m telling you, porn now is – it’s not even well-lit settings with a built background. Now it’s just like every porn picture or video I see takes place in a college dorm. It’s all real now. Now it’s people sending in pictures or stuff. Or this revenge porn shit, which creeps me out because it’s this weirdly intimate look into someone’s life like, Oh, man, this was not meant to be seen by me. That’s the only porn right now I can’t really dig on. That and violent porn. I don’t like people punching each other or spitting at each other. It’s just weird to me.



How cool was it to merge Star Wars and porn?



KS: That was awesome. For me, when I wrote the script, and there’s the moment in the script where it says, like, the flap opens on R2D2 and you see a ball sack – that made me laugh so hard while I was writing it, I couldn’t wait to get to the set. But I was like, You know what? It’ll never be as good as when I wrote it so let’s just face the fact it will never live up here. It went beyond my expectations. When the flap opened, I was the one leading the laughter. I was like, How fucking hysterical! His name’s R2-TBag and he’s got a big set of nuts. It was kind of cool. It was really cool. There was some part of me, after shooting the sequence, thought, Maybe the porn should’ve been Star Wars and maybe we should’ve followed it all the way though. But that wouldn’t have made much sense.



Can you talk about Justin Long’s character and how you knew he could play that?

KS: Justin Long’s character was funny on the page, but all credit goes to Justin Long for turning it into a performance for the ages. I think people will forget about this movie and still remember Justin Long in the movie. It was a brilliantly insightful portrayal that almost happened accidentally. He came to us with the worst chest cold I’d ever heard of. When he landed in Pittsburgh, we had to get him to a doctor immediately. We had one day to shoot with him, otherwise we were going to fuck up the whole schedule. So he was like, Look man, I’m so sorry, but I can’t help it. Would you mind if this was my voice? Let me tell you why I feel it would work. I borrowed some gay porn from a friend of mine. I was like, Yeah, you borrowed it. We’ve all borrowed it, my friend. He’s like…they all talk from down here like this. Dude, I think it’s genius. I don’t know if anyone else will get it, but I get it. Do it. And it was totally memorable, it totally worked.



I’m interested in why you continue to push the visuals in your movies. You haven’t wanted to just be the dialogue guy, even though that’s what people like about them.



KS: Only recently, I think right before Clerks II, I started thinking maybe we should kind of beef up the visual aspect. It is a visual medium. So maybe I should try a little harder visually. So Clerks II and the Reaper pilot were really [garbled] for me and Dave. We were working on Reaper and I was like, Wow, man, this looks better than any movie we ever shot. Cinematically speaking, it’s more visually interesting. By the time we go to Zack and Miri, we were ready for bear. I was like, alright, now it’s time to compete at that normal level everyone competes at in terms of making a visually interesting movie. I don’t know. It took me 15, 14, 13 years to figure out, but I’m like, Maybe a movie can look as good as it sounds.



For your next movie, you’re doing a drama, right?



KS: Yeah, it’s not a comedy. I don’t know what to call it yet. It’s called Red State. I call it a horror movie, but most people are like; this is not a horror movie. It’s not a traditional horror movie in terms of a slasher running around in a hockey mask or some such shit. However people define a horror movie. But for me, it’s horrifying subject matter, so that, by de factor, makes it a horror movie. But very straight forward, very bleak, very dramatic. So it’s a big departure. Also, the script is 89 pages and it’s the first script I’ve ever written where there’s more descriptive narrative text than there is dialogue. A lot of it has to be carried with visuals and mood.



You’re known as a screenwriter. Do you have a lot of scripts at your place for down the road?



KS: This one would’ve definitely sat in the drawer had Seth not wanted to do it. Seth was the lynchpin for me. Seth was the reason I wrote the movie. Saw him in 40 Year Old Virgin and said, I’ve got to write this dude a movie. If Seth had said, No, I would’ve just stuck this in a drawer and not done it cause he was the whole reason it worked for me. Weinstein Company was like, do you have a backup if Seth says no and I’m like, No, it’s Seth or no. Luckily he said yes. That’s pretty much happened across the board with my stuff. I don’t have any scripts just sitting there or waiting to go with the exception of Red State. I wrote Zack and Miri and was in such a writing mood that I decided to switch gears and go right into Red State. So I wrote these two scripts back to back in a span of like two weeks, two and a half weeks, something like that. So that’s the only one just sitting there waiting to happen. But I generally don’t write to store stuff. I’m a manufacture for use kind of guy.



Will Red State play if Obama wins?



KS: Oh yeah, it still works. I mean, look, Obama is going to win. I don’t think it’s if at this point. But it still works. It’s not about George Bush or George Bush’s presidency or the last eight years under Republicans. It’s more about the climate of the country itself, regardless of who’s in the White House.



There’s an article in Variety recently about how you’re going to do a sci-fi film.



KS: That was a weird article because I sat down to do a Q&A with the dude and we were talking about things on the horizon and that was one of them. But I talked about that far down the line a number of times. Then it ended up on the cover of Hollywood Reporter like it was an announcement. I’m like, I’m not announcing shit. I don’t even have a title yet. It’s just something I’m working on for down the road. But yeah, I am eventually going to get to that after Red State.



Is that script together or ready to go?



KS: Right now, I’m at the halfway point, at 60 pages, but I haven’t touched it since because I got involved in promoting the movie and stuff like that. When Zack and Miri is done, I can concentrate on writing again, probably in mid-November. But it’s not going to happen for a while. Look, I want to do it with Seth and Seth’s schedule is so fucking cluttered. I’ll be waiting for that dude for a year if I have to make it with him – if he even wants to make it.



You’ve written comic books, you have a comics store, you know the world. Now is the best time to be making a comic-book movie.



KS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.



Is that something that’s in your head?



KS: Not really. For me, it’s the best time in the world to be a comic-book fan because the movies have just taken a jump. It was always cool when anybody made any comic-book movie, but now they’re making them really good. Dark Knight, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk I felt were really good comic-book movies this summer, Dark Knight being the clear leader by transcending comic-book movie into just a great film. So I’m happy to watch those movies. I just don’t think I got it in me to pull one of those off. And I think if I do make one, I give up the right to make fun of other people who do make them and make them poorly. Right now, nobody’s making them poorly.




continued on page 2 ——->


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Right now, you have, I believe, seen the two biggest films of 2009.



KS: Watchmen and Star Trek – they’re awesome. Both are fantastic.



Some have been saying the ending is slightly different.



KS: It’s a little different. While it is a slight departure, it actually makes sense in the context of the story because it brings the characters back into it. It kind of makes the movie more about them by the end of it because of the switch they made. I would never say that Alan Moore fucked it up or something. I love the ending of the Watchmen comic book, but I think this ending works just as well.



Dark Knight, it’s been argued, could be up for a Best Picture and a lot of other awards. Do you think Watchmen is on par with that? That it could be an awards kind of film?



KS: I feel like Watchmen, when I saw it – and I’ve seen it twice now—



I hate you.



KS: Yeah, sorry. I saw it once when they had out of something like 500 visual FX shots, they only had 10% done. Next time I saw it, I think they had 15% done. That’s the one think I haven’t really said. I watched that movie without all the FX shots done. Through most of the movie, Billy Crudup – even as Dr. Manhattan – looks like Billy Crudup. And still that movie works like gangbusters, even though it’s not completely fleshed out and finished visually speaking with the digital FX. That being said, when I watched the movie, the biggest impression I walked away with was, This could totally be Pulp Fiction to some degree. For the mainstream audience, when Pulp Fiction came along, they said, Okay, I know crime thrillers. I know the genre, kind of. But this is a movie that spins it with this left of center view. With Watchmen, you’ve got people very familiar with the comic-book format of the movie, but it takes this left of center view of it. People who love the comic book are definitely going to go in droves, but I think they’re going to get a lot of people who would never see this movie – based on the buzz factor. It’s the goods, man. It’s a really smart, intelligent film. It’s just like reading the book, but a movie.



When Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen came out in the 80s, they were so cool and so post-modern that it was hard to do comics after them. Are these movies setting up that same situation?



KS: I think what it does is forces studios to be more honest and hone closer to the source material because the three movies that came out this summer: Iron Man looks and feels like Iron Man; Dark Knight looks like Batman, feels like Batman. Incredible Hulk, the same thing. Bryan Singer did it very well with the X-Men movies, too. They’ve proven now you don’t have to take this vast departure, you don’t have to change their outfits, you don’t have to change the villains to make them more believable or realistic. So I think it raises the bar, but I don’t think it means no comic-book movie is watchable after Dark Knight. If I stood by that logic, I’d never watch another movie after Godfather. They might not all be Dark Knight, but they’re going to try harder and make stuff more in keeping with the source material – which I would appreciate.



Why does Star Trek work?



KS: Star Trek works in a way where you’re sitting there going, I can’t believe this works. I remember when they announced it, I felt like look, it’s one thing to introduce a whole new cast of characters. It’s another thing if you’re going to take the original characters, have other people play them, and do a Muppet Babies version of Star Trek. But it fucking works like gangbusters. The credit goes to JJ and his writers, but definitely to the cast. They pull it off. Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk in the movie, does not do a William Shatner impression, but, at the same time, he’s unmistakably Captain Kirk. He just brings all the brio, the gusto, everything about Kirk except Shatner’s deliver to bear on the character. It doesn’t disavow anything that’s gone before. It lives side by side with everything that’s gone before in Star Trek lore, in the movies, and the TV show. He did a great, great job. It’s totally a fun movie.



How was Simon Pegg as Scotty?



KS: Simon Pegg was good. I don’t want to spoil too much because they made me sign an NDA as well. But he’s not right front and center right away. He comes into the movie later. I’m not going to compare it to Blues Brothers, but it’s definitely a bringing the band back together even though they’ve never been together movie. So the characters come in slowly. Slowly they bring in character by character. And Scotty’s the last one they bring in. But he’s pitch perfect.



How’s his accent?



KS: He’s pitch perfect. He sounds just like him.



What environment did you watch it in? Was it a screening room?



KS: It was Paramount, on the lot, and JJ had pulled together a family and friends screening just to throw it up there and see how it played. That’s another movie where he’s like, We don’t even have a tenth of our FX shots done. Some places your mind has to fill it in. But it still works even though all the FX shots aren’t done.



Do you, as a fan, debate not seeing it in that condition?



KS: No, no, shit no. I’ve got to see it. I remember, we were at San Diego Comic-Con and that’s where I met Zack Snyder for the first time. He invited me. He was like, you gotta come over and watch the movie. And I was like, Oh, I gotta! You can’t keep me out of that screening room. He was like, it ain’t finished. I was like, Dude, I don’t care. The fanboy in me needs me to see it. I’ve been around the block long enough to fill in the blocks in terms of what’s missing. Or this is a wire-frame FX shot that’s going to be a very smoothed out, flesh FX shot when it’s done.



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