Quint and Kevin Make A Porno (Gross!)! Plus an update on RED STATE!
Published at: Oct. 9, 2008, 3:06 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a nice little chat I had with Kevin Smith when he came through town to premiere ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO at this year’s Fantastic Fest.
I had briefly met Smith twice before, but oddly this was the first conversation I’ve had with the man. I’m a fan of his stuff. He always goes for the laugh and to the people of my generation, and the generation immediately before mine, he represents an important voice. He’s one of us that made it, which has given rise to as much jealousy as adoration.
I found Smith to be as honest, self-deprecating and funny as he appears on stage in his EVENING WITH KEVIN SMITH DVDs, his behind the scenes stuff on his flicks, his regular SMODcast and his regular blogs. We cover a lot of ground about ZACK AND MIRI and end with some really interesting words on RED STATE.
We cover some spoiler territory on ZACK AND MIRI, so be warned that you might find out some stuff about the flick you can’t find in the trailers.
Quint: I loved Brandon Routh in the movie. That stuff really jumped out and Kraken and I were talking about it afterwards. It’s one thing for Justin Long to play a gay porn star, because he completely changes his appearance and his voice, but Brandon really just kind of plays…
Kevin Smith: He’s Brandon Routh, he looks like Clark Kent! Yeah, we got lucky with that man that was a Seth suggestion. We were sitting around trying to figure out who would play Bobby Long and Brandon and originally it was going to be, what’s his name? The dude who was in PINEAPPLE…
Kevin Smith: Yes. Seth was like “Hey man Danny McBride’s a friend of mine, he’s really funny” and he showed me PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and I was like “Oh totally man.” So, it looked like Danny was going to do it for about two minutes and then he was like “I’m inundated with rehearsals on LAND OF THE LOST” and I think there was some kind of death in his girlfriend’s family or something like that, so he had to bow out, so we were back to square zero with trying to figure out who would play those two roles and Seth suggested Justin Long and I was like “Oh my God, why didn’t I think of Justin Long?” because I had been in LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD with him and I knew he was a very funny guy.
Often times in movies when he’s cast as the lead in a movie like ACCEPTED or even that HERBIE remake, he doesn’t get to be Justin Long. He’s a really, really funny, gifted guy, but I think LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD was the first time we got to see that in full display.
So for this movie he was fantastic, because the dude was just willing to just go into a character and commit to it wholeheartedly and drop the voice down and kind of work from that place.
Quint: Yeah, I don’t think it would have worked had he of just kind of played it…
Kevin Smith: Played it straight, yeah, if he was just Justin. He actually went into a character with that. My new belief in that dude is that he should play Fletch in the FLETCH remake.
Kevin Smith: I think he would be good, especially in a world where if you are doing anything remotely close to the Chevy Chase version where he plays multiple guys and puts on different personas. I think Justin would be phenomenal for that.
Kevin Smith: We still had no Bobby Long and we were kind of putting our heads together about it and I was just like “He needs to be like real salt of the Earth, like middle America, like Superman” and Seth goes “Brandon Routh.” I was like “Yeah!” and he’s like “Well, let’s ask Brandon Routh” and I was like “That’s so sweet,” like in Seth’s world you just ask people and either they say “no” or they don’t.
And [Elizabeth] Banks was around at the same time while we were having the conversation and Banks was like “My agent represents him, so I’ll put him on it and see if Brandon’s interested.” We got Brandon the script and he read it and dug it and it’s kind of a… It’s a thankless role to travel all the way from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh for it, because you work for two days, you have to play the straight man, everyone else gets to be really funny, but Brandon came in and actually found a way to make that role funny just by being like “Gee, oh gosh!” He played it really well.
Quint: Well, and I think it was funny off the bat, but the end credit stuff was what sent it over the top for me just sitting there watching him trying not to crack up.
Kevin Smith: When we shot their stuff in the reunion sequence, that time we were done with those two dudes, I was just like “We need to make a whole movie just about these guys and their relationship, their kind of broken relationship.”
Quint: With new spin offs, you can do the animated movies.
Kevin Smith: (laughs) Yeah, totally. “ASKEWNIVERSE, PART 2.”
Quint: But yeah, I really dug the flick man. I really enjoyed it and I have got to say that MVP has to go to Craig.
Kevin Smith: He’s phenomenal, isn’t he?
Quint: That dude… ever since I saw him in… I guess it was KNOCKED UP when I first really noticed him when he was the bouncer, but that dude just always… everything I see him in, he just hits it out of the park and here he’s…
Kevin Smith: Here he just had a lot of time to do so. I think he had more screen time in this than he’s had in anything prior to this, but I loved him on THE OFFICE. I was a big OFFICE fan, of course I loved him in that KNOCKED UP bit and I saw PINEAPPLE like a year ago, so I dug him in that, but Seth brought him in, too. I had written that role for Earthquake, the guy who was in CLERKS 2 with Wanda Sykes in that scene and Seth was like “That guy’s funny, but we just worked with Craig on PINEAPPLE and on KNOCKED UP,” and I said “Oh yeah, I love that dude on THE OFFICE.” He said “Just have him come in and read. If you don’t like him, forget it.” He came in and just knocked it out of the park.
Quint: He was great in the last season of THE OFFICE, too. Once again he’s getting more stuff to do.
Kevin Smith: They beef him up and he gets more screen time, but he just… He really knows how to underplay things so insanely well.
Quint: Well what do you think about the kind of amalgam, because it seems like once you got Seth on board, he brought some of his team and of course you brought Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson, so it’s like you bring a lot of your team…
Kevin Smith: …the two families together…
Quint: Right. Is that like a GODFATHER scenario?
Kevin Smith: It is kind of. It worked really well. I mean look, all of those dudes are insanely talented and they all bring the funny and they have all got their shit down to a science, so they didn’t just execute the material, they totally elevated it. If I make this movie with all of my regulars, it’s not nearly as funny as it is right now I think.
Quint: What I like about it is that you are kind of going outside of your comfort zone a little bit. I think that that kind of shows.
Kevin Smith: Shockingly when you go outside of your comfort zone, sometimes it’s actually more comfortable. It wound up working out pretty well, but I didn’t really have any real hesitations. People would ask me “Are you worried about Seth, because he’s a big improviser and ad-libber?” To me there’s a big difference, improvisation is when there is no scene what so ever and you have a bunch of actors and you are just like “Just come up with something.” He never did that, because we had the script to go by, but what Seth is great at innately is ad-libbing useable material. The dude with button a joke or he will come up with an alternate line within the scene and it sounds like it was something written for him, it sounds organic within the scene, it propels the movie forward plot wise and not everybody can do that, in fact most people can’t. Nine times out of ten if somebody ad-libs on the set, you can’t use it. It’s like they are making the crew laugh, but it’s not helping the movie one bit.
Quint: It just won’t fit in.
Kevin Smith: It just doesn’t fit, but Seth has the ability to make everything he says potentially fit and in a way where you are like “Wow, that’s better than what I wrote. Let’s use that instead.”
Quint: One thing that I also really loved about the movie was that it kind of hit me about halfway through that it was celebrating filmmaking. It really is kind of a love letter to making movies. I have to imagine that was intentional from the beginning.
Kevin Smith: Absolutely, I mean really if you take away the porn trappings and the romance, it’s kind of the story of how we made CLERKS to some degree, because it’s about a bunch of knuckleheads making their first film, but it is and it’s always dicey when you make a movie about making a movie, because they tend to be inside baseball and shit like that, but using it and setting it in the world of porn, even in this DIY world of porn, it just takes the light off of it being a movie and really it’s “Oh its just fun.”
Quint: Yeah, you’re not trying to make a PLAYER or something.
Kevin Smith: Right, but you can comment on what goes into making a movie and stuff like that.
Quint: And I think that the audience has an in. You have Banks who is incredibly gorgeous and you have Seth who is like the guy that everybody kind of wants to be, at least the geek guys.
Kevin Smith: We all look to him like “Wow, one of us made it in. One of us made it in big time, man!”
Quint: But I think that’s the in, because all of a sudden you don’t feel like you are on the outside of it just sitting there like “That’s how people make movies.”
Kevin Smith: I also feel like anybody now who really enjoys movies, not just people like “Hey it’s Friday night, lets go to the movies,” but with people who kind of live and breath cinema, everyone knows what goes in to making a movie, everybody knows the process and so when you put it up there it’s like yeah, suddenly you are not so inside, because they all understand the process and how it works, at least on a very fundamental elementary level.
Quint: They get the jokes with the boom mic is taped to the hockey stick.
Kevin Smith: Totally, nobody is sitting there like “I don’t get it, what’s that all about?”
Quint: I think that was my in to the movie and of course you have the great romance… and I’m a sucker for the best friend thing, you have the Duckie type relationships… I’m a sucker for that stuff and just kind of reading some of the advance reviews coming out of Toronto where some people were like “I really didn’t like who Banks turned into” and…
Kevin Smith: What was the review that actually ran…
Quint: That was the test screening wasn’t it?
Kevin Smith: Yeah, it’s the test screening review that ran on Ain’t It Cool. I remember reading it and just being like “Wow, what movie did that dude see?” and then I was like “I guess he saw the same movie,” but the guy who wrote that seems to live in a different world when it comes to chicks to some degree, like the way that he was addressing that plot point was as if he had never really dated a woman. You know what I’m saying? He even went out of his way “I was there with my girlfriend and she agreed,” which seemed very like defensive in advance.
Quint: “You can’t talk to her right now, she’s a super model.”
Kevin Smith: “My girlfriend, who lives in Canada was down just for that screening…” Yeah, but I thought that was strange, because I’m like I don’t know dude, every chick I’ve ever shown the movie to identifies with that, like “I would totally do that. I would totally put my boyfriend to the test, that’s so common.” I’ve been married for ten years and I still get fucking tested to this day and that to me is what it was, it was a test and it was odd that the dude kind of gravitated towards that point, but he said the movie’s funny and that’s all that matters.
Quint: It set me up for a different… and then hearing all of the comparisons to CHASING AMY, I was expecting not a sad ending.
Kevin Smith: But having seen it, weren’t you like “What the fuck was that dude talking about?”
Quint: Well see there’s one scene that gets me, because I’m kind of with him to some degree. My last girlfriend was fucking horrible with the games and that drove me nuts and that’s what led to our breaking up. The only girl I ever broke up with… me, I break up with a girl… that doesn’t happen, so I wouldn’t say I was turning against her, but I was more colder towards her until Rogen had his scene where he kind of laid himself on the line and he pretty much said “If you were any other bitch, then I would tell you to go fuck yourself for playing games, but because you mean so much to me, I’m going to say this.” All of a sudden, that turned it completely for me.
Kevin Smith: I think when you know somebody that long… The back-story of their relationship is they have been friends forever and they just never thought about taking it in that direction and it’s very easy to cohabitate with somebody when sex isn’t involved and the moment you kind of cross that like and suddenly it’s more that just sex to them obviously in the movie, they kind of retreat into those roles that sometimes we retreat into when we don’t understand how to process emotionally what’s going on, like rather than just having a simple conversation, which they try to do, but then it gets interrupted in the movie, they wind up doing this thing where its like “Alright, I’m going to see how into me he is, rather than just asking him ‘Were you as into me as I thought you were last night?’”
Quint: It’s interesting the way you kind of set that up, because all of a sudden they are tied together. That’s true to life. I’ve known people and my very first relationship was kind of like that. It started as a strong friendship… “I didn’t know if she would have been into me” and testing waters or if it was a friend thing.
Kraken: He’s talking about me by the way.
Kevin Smith: I was sensing it.
Kraken: There was a little tension…
Kevin Smith: You could slice it with a knife in this room that it’s so thick, the sexual tension, but I think its common when people don’t just kind of put it out there and ask the question. I’m so an ask the question kind of guy, but from high school until the time we made CHASING AMY, I was not the put it out there kind of guy. I was the guy that would play the games and be played as well or dance around it rather than just being like “Look, I’m so into you and even if my saying this makes me seem pathetic and you don’t want to be with me anymore, I just can’t not say it.” It’s that CHASING AMY moment in the car where Ben kind of spills his guts to her. I just find that’s a better way to be, a better way to go about a situation, because at least if you put it all out there and she’s like “Eww, you are creeping me out,” you got it off of your chest and you aren’t just sitting there wondering or kind of testing the waters.
Quint: It’s like ripping a band aid off.
Kevin Smith: Absolutely.
Quint: Good. I think people are going to dig it.
Kevin Smith: I hope so.
Quint: I really do. I think it’s… I love JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. I love the more cartoony, slapstick stuff, but what I was saying earlier about how it’s kind of you taking a step back a little bit and doing a different kind of film. I love seeing filmmakers keep it fresh a little bit, not just doing the same movies over and over again.
Kevin Smith: I’ve been accused of making the same movie over and over again.
Quint: I wouldn’t say that. I have all of them on DVD. I’m part of the flock I guess.
Kevin Smith: I mean I think until the day I die, people will be able to make that claim, because the movies are similar. They are all part of the same genre to some degree.
Quint: Blake Edwards did the same thing with Sellers...
Kevin Smith: Totally, but nobody was ever like “You just keep making the same movie over and over again,” unless he was making PINK PANTHER PINK PANTHER PINK PANTHER, which I guess to some degree I did with JAY and BOB, JAY and BOB, JAY and BOB, but I don’t know when I watch the movie, I don’t feel like… I don’t think anybody could look at the movie and by like “The CLERKS guy made this? No way.” It definitely seems part of a whole, but at the same time there is this weird distance in some ways, like just taking it out of Jersey opens the movie up for people in a weird way, because I’ve seen some of the reactions from the critics from the advance screenings that they did and it was shocking that so many people were like “It was so nice that it wasn’t in New Jersey.” I’m like “really?”
Quint: People hate Jersey, man.
Kevin Smith: I guess or maybe they just hate that I stayed in Jersey as long as I did cinematically speaking.
Quint: It’s the cold element. It works thematically, too, so you get the higher brow people journalists, they can look at the…
Kevin Smith: The juxtaposition of the cold climate versus the hot temperature in adult film so to speak.
Quint: S,o do you think that you will ever be forgiven for showing Mewes’ schlong in the movie?
Kevin Smith: I don’t know, man. I haven’t heard any complaints yet. I’ve definitely seen a few “I didn’t need to see that,” but I felt like in a world where you saw him do the tuck in the last movie, there’s no where to go but “Plomp.” At least we don’t do it in a way… I don’t know, it’s just so matter of fact that he just comes out of the room and it’s there, but it’s not like… We don’t make it a plot point so to speak.
Quint: No, the constipation scene is probably the biggest.
Kevin Smith: That one is out there. That’s the one where I was like “Man, this might not work,” but then we test screened it and it was fucking insane and in that same review that that dude reviewed out of Kansas City, he referred to as “there is this moment in the movie and the whole audience groans” and I was like “Dude, that was not a groan, that was three hundred people going like this and laughing for the next two minutes.”
Quint: That’s how it was in the press screening.
Kevin Smith: It was weird though when that dude singled it out. Sometimes it felt like he was watching a different movie, but it’s always interesting. Watching a flick such a subjective experience.
Quint: He still even dug the movie I remember.
Kevin Smith: Yeah, it was a very positive review actually and that’s why I didn’t get too up tight about it, because I’m like “Look, as long as the dude says its funny, he can quibble all he wants,” especially I knew in regards to that Miri stuff, I’m like “This dude stands alone man. I don’t think anybody’s going to echo that sentiment,” but I don’t know, it was a moment where the shit shot particularly was a moment where I was just like “This might go… I don’t know if this will make it.” As soon as we test screened, I was like “There’s no way I can lose this shot” and that was what the MPAA battle had the most to with. They wanted that shot out for the R rating.
Quint: I’m glad you got to keep it in.
Kevin Smith: Yeah, me too.
Quint: Going from shit to sweet… the love scene between Zack and Miri. I expected it to be a tender scene, but it really does come off very sweet.
Kevin Smith: All credit goes to them, because they can pull it off. The whole flick… we put that scene at the very end of the show so they could hang out together as much as they could.
Quint: Yeah, because the whole movie kind of hinges on buying that moment.
Kevin Smith: It really really does and we still didn’t know how we were going to shoot it. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for it, because how does one… It was easy to shoot the porn stuff, because it’s like “Just be over the top with it,” but shooting a truly intimate scene, you know, a lot of the intimate sex scenes I’ve seen in movies are just… doesn’t resemble any sort of sex that I’ve ever had in my life and I was like “How do I shoot this? Do you shoot it like a RED SHOES DIARY episode where its like close ups on nude body parts with hands running down them and tender score or something?”
Quint: Or go TERMINATOR?
Kevin Smith: Yeah, just kind of this really passionate snapshot and I was just like… I wanted it to be intense, like somebody kicked the door open for both of them and they were just lost, but not in that sensual kind of way, just in this kind of “Oh my God, this is the most important thing that has ever happened to either of us” kind of way.
To do that, I was like “I don’t need to show them in various states of disrobing.” I felt like if I showed his ass at that point we would get unintentional laughter and I figured if we showed her topless, people would just be like “Hey it’s Elizabeth Banks topless!” and suddenly they are out of the moment.
So I had been cutting the movie while we were shooting, like shooting all day and then I would cut all night, so I had a good chunk of it all put together, so I knew what the tone was and I knew where the laughs were and spaced out and when we came to that moment to shoot that, I pulled them both out of their trailers and I was like “I know you guys were worried about this, because you didn’t know how much skin we were going to have to show, but I don’t think we are going to show any skin. You guys are going to wear your clothes, I’m going to play it on your faces.”
Before the relief set in, there was a moment of outrage where she was like “What the fuck did I work out for a month for if you are not going to show me with my gear off?” and he was like “Why did I shave my fucking back?” Both of them were ultimately happy that we didn’t go that route with it and instead kind of went with this more tender route, but all credit is to them, because it was just two takes, one down at her and one up at him and both takes were like four or five minutes long and that was it and I cut the whole thing from just those two takes.
Quint: What about the lead up?
Kevin Smith: The lead up like the actual making of the porno? Like the porn scene?
Kevin Smith: We did about seven takes of that and so I cherry picked the best moments and kind of layered them on there.
Quint: Because I think that also played a huge part in…
Kevin Smith: It totally helps, because it disarms everybody. It’s fun and you see their chemistry together.
Quint: And how nervous they are.
Kevin Smith: Exactly and it just kind of plays like “this is a big deal for them” and then when you get to the actual scene… because basically it kind of kicks off with him shaving and they have that moment together where they are like “Do you still want to do this?” then they shoot the porno and the lead up to the sex is so awkward and terrible and then when they get to the actual bed as it were, it just takes off into this different place and they just leave everyone else behind.
Quint: So, what are you working on now? You’ve got like five hundred things…
Kevin Smith: At the moment it’s just about this. It’s about getting the movie into theaters and what not, because based on all of the problems we had with the MPAA, we didn’t get to do a lot of long lead stuff like any other movie would have had a trailer out before the summer started and would have been trailered on PINEAPPLE and TROPIC THUNDER… any R rated comedy we could get it on, but the MPAA kept kicking back our trailers and kicked back our posters, like we finally locked our poster last week.
Quint: Yeah, Kraken sent it to me actually. It was like “This is awesome. It reminds me of all the ‘70s sex comedies…”
Kevin Smith: It’s a sweet poster.
Kraken: They improved the poster. It’s really cool now.
Kevin Smith: They really did. I can’t be mad.
Kraken: This one’s like “I’ve got to have this one on my wall!”
Kevin Smith: I can’t be mad at the MPAA, because with all of their hemming and hawing we were so backed into a corner that it literally came from a conversation with Seth on the phone where I was like “They kicked back the poster, the one that they are using up in Canada” and he’s like “Get out of here.” I was like “They won’t let us do it” and he’s like “What’s it going to take?” and I said “Dude, I honestly feel like we should just put happy bunnies on a poster or stick figures and say like ‘This is all we can show you. This is all the MPAA will allow’” and Seth was like “That’s funnier than the movie!” So we started pursuing that and it wound up…
Kraken: Did you see the article about somebody comparing it with the GOOD LUCK CHUCK poster?
Kevin Smith: The other one, the Canadian one, yeah, which I didn’t know about. When I saw the company Ignition, that did the poster that’s up in Canada, the one that we wanted to use down here, I saw that image and was like “Wow this makes sense, that’s so great and it’s naughty without being dirty” and then when that poster image went up on line, somebody linked the GOOD LUCK CHUCK poster which I had never seen and suddenly I was like “Ugh, it’s the same thing but with a girl!” I just didn’t like it as much…
Kraken: Somehow that’s just okay…
Kevin Smith: Yeah yeah yeah, it was kind of strange, but I’m very happy with what the domestic poster turned out to be. It shows an eerie sense of confidence in the movie to not put their faces on the poster, but at the same time I think it’s nice, because you have to look at the posters and it’s like “This famous fucker and this famous fucker in a movie designed for money…” and this poster is like “We are not putting any… We will put their names on it and that’s it.”
Kraken: And a stick figure with curly hair.
Kevin Smith: Exactly and it works and you are like “That’s Seth Rogen, isn’t it?”
Quint: What about your next project? Is it RED STATE?
Kevin Smith: I'm still trying to find money for Red State, though, admittedly, I haven't been looking that hard yet, since it's not something I'm gonna get to 'til March the earliest. Early prospects, however, look dim. Problem is, the flick is bleak. Beyond bleak, even. Remember how bleak Dark Knight was? This flick makes the bleakness level in that flick seem Beverly Hills Chihuahua bleak. Sadly, while the flick's bleaker than Dark Knight, it's also not nearly as good as Dark Knight. Or as commercial. Or commercial at all, really. The commercial prospects for Red State are not good. The only chance it'll have at the box office would be if it caught a water cooler-kinda buzz out of a film festival. So when you go down the checklist (overtly bleak, unlikeable characters making horrible decisions, unhappy ending in which everyone dies, a director of questionable talent who's never worked in this genre before), you can see why folks aren't whipping out their check books.
The question, then, would be "Why bother?" For some reason, I feel like I've gotta make this flick. Part of the reason is that I never really feel like a filmmaker most days; more of a writer who gets to direct his own flicks. Trying my hand at another genre that's 180 degrees away from anything else I've ever done might finally answer the question (for me) of whether or not I truly am a filmmaker, or just the guy who makes the dick and fart jokes movies. I suspect it's the latter. I guess we'll see. Maybe.
The flick I wanna do after that is a comedy set in space. Unsurprisingly, it's been 100% easier to find the money for that one - even with only half the script done. It'll likely cost about double Zack and Miri's $24million budget, so it'll be the most expensive flick I've ever made. Hopefully, it's as well-received as Zack and Miri has been so far.
I don’t know about you guys, but after hearing what Smith had to say about RED STATE I’m dying to see him do that movie. That’s now the most interesting thing he’s been associated with in my book.
I hope you guys enjoyed the interview. It was very conversational and a little scattershot, but it was a good chat and I hope it translates to a fun read for you folks.
Keep your eye out for more interviews… I have a whole lot about to hit.