AICN Legends: Capone gets a great contact high from Kevin Smith, Part 1!!!
Published at: Nov. 20, 2009, 2:07 p.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Okay, I'm trying something a little different with this column, but give me a minute to make my case, not that I need to; my column, my rules. Up until now, the AICN Legends column has focused on actors all over the age of 60. That wasn't intentional, and I made it clear when I began this column that it was more about the time I got to spend interviewing someone and the fact that these interviews would be more career-oriented than simply about whatever their latest movie was. So I think that when I get to interview a filmmaker (another first for this column; all the others have been actors) for about an hour and 15 minutes about every detail of his career, I think that qualifies for AICN Legends. I don't think anyone can argue with Kevin Smith's own take on the way films were written and made before and after CLERKS burst on the scene 15 years ago.
You don't need me to tell you the titles, but I will anyway because people have found great meaning and comfort and, above all else, laughs in MALLRATS, CHASING AMY, DOGMA, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, CLERKS II (Kevin's favorite of his own films), ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, and, yes, even JERSEY GIRL. Smith is not just a writer-director and occasional actor (he's played versions of himself or Silent Bob in everything from the SCREAM 3, FANBOYS, DAREDEVIL, and SOUTHLAND TALES to CATCH AND RELEASE, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, "Reaper," and "Degrassi: The Next Generation." His marathon speaking engagements either on tour or at various comic conventions are the stuff of legend and the subject of three volumes of DVDs. And his SModcasts with producing partner Scott Mosier keep him in touch with fans between movies. He's called in as a cultural expert on subjects ranging from censorship to Superman, and he basically has no filter.
About two weeks before this interview, which was meant to be an opportunity for Smith to promote his latest books "Shootin' the Sh*t with Kevin Smith: The Best of the SModcast" and the new edition of "My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith," which has been updated to include details of the ZACK AND MIRI experience, too place about two weeks after I'd actually paid to see Smith do his one-man thing at the Chicago Theatre. He went exactly three hours and must have name-dropped either Ain't It Cool or Harry's name a half-dozen times during the set. I don't think he new I was there, so I'm pretty sure it wasn't done for my benefit. More importantly, right at the end of the session, a young fan asked a question about Kevin's father dying not too many years ago, and Kevin broke down, just for second, but it was one of the most honest and heartfelt things I've ever seen. There were more than a few damp eyes in the audience as well during that moment.
I'd met him for the first time at the 2008 Comic-Con in San Diego immediately after the ZACK AND MIRI panel, and it was a great experience for me. About three months later, I was fortunate enough to be asked to introduce Kevin for a post ZACK AND MIRI Q&A screening during the Chicago International Film Festival.
But this particular phone call was something I hadn't been expecting. I was told I'd have 30 minutes with him, which I'd assumed would be sufficient time to talk about his books, SModcasts and maybe a little about his latest film as a director (working, for the first time, from a script he did not write), A COUPLE OF DICKS (apparently it has been re-titled A COUPLE OF COPS), starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. But after we were approaching the one-hour mark, I realized he was in this for the long haul, and I didn't stop until he said he had to leave. I'm really grateful and pleased that Kevin felt comfortable enough to go into this much detail with, so much in fact, that I feel the need to divide the interview in half and make this a two-parter, with the second part coming next week.
At least as of today, Smith is the last interview I have in the can for AICN Legends, but I may have one or two more candidates waiting in the wings before I'm due for a new column. In the mean time, please enjoy one of the most enjoyable speakers I've ever had the pleasure of listen to, Kevin Smith…
Capone: Hello, Kevin. Good to talk to you again, as always. I actually--for the first time ever--paid money to see you when you were here in Chicago a couple weeks ago.
Kevin Smith: How was the show?
Capone: It was great. But I gotta ask right off the bat, because I’ve never actually paid money to see you do your thing before…I’ve seen you do the stuff at Comic-Con, but does it is always so emotionally charged?
KS: You mean, like, at the end?
Capone: Well, yeah. I don’t know if you save that sort of thing for the end, but yeah. Or, just in general. You told that whole story about your father passing away. And, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house, including yours. I was just wondering, is it always like that at these shows?
KS: Nah, that was the first time that ever happened.
KS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Generally, you know, you just talk about goofy stuff and whatnot. I never really talked about my father dying on stage, and it just kind of hit me in a moment where I definitely teared up and whatnot, and I was kind of, like, Ughhh, God, I’m ruined on the Internet! Word’s gonna get out. "This fuckin' crybaby bitch. He cries. You fuckin’ buy a ticket, and he fuckin' cries! He cries! He should cry about how bad his movies are. Fuckin’ JERSEY GIRL should make him cry!"
A year and a half ago, that would have bothered me. And, now, I’m just, like, [deep inhale sound] "You know what, dude, your entitled to your opinion." [long exhale sound] It’s that simple.
Capone: But, I don’t remember that kind of reaction. I didn’t see that kind of reaction.
KS: No, but, you know, you always think the worst. I mean, look, I’ve been around 15 years now, man. I’ve seen the reaction, and you now kind of predict what they’re going to be or kind of prepare for how bad or nasty they could be. So, I tend to go negative all the time in terms of expectations. I just always assume somebody’s going to be, like, "He’s a fuckin’ idiot" because I’ve seen it so often.
That’s why I’m kind of fascinated by Twitter right now. There’s a world of celebrities jumping on to it. And, they’re, like, "I hear you get in touch with the fan base, and you can talk to people, and it’s fuckin’ fun." Once they start dealing with people who are, like, "You suck cock, you fuckin’ whore!" And, they spell ‘cock’ wrong, and it’s filled with bile and shit like that. These fuckers, their heads will explode. But, I’ve had 15 years to get used to it. I’ve been out there for so long that it’s, like, the good and the bad come together. And, I fully expect it, so much so that I’m kind of inured to it. I just expect more bad than good all the time. That’s what kind of pops me the loudest, but, you know, I’ve talked about it elsewhere…and I hesitate to talk about it here, because then I get shredded in the talkbacks, but I don’t read the talkbacks any more, so it don't fuckin' matter.
I started smoking weed like fuckin’ crazy after ZACK AND MIRI collapsed, and that really, kind of like, became a great filter. It didn’t filter out life; it just filtered out bullshit. It kind of opened up the third eye. I didn’t have that period in high school. I skipped it, I didn’t get stoned in high school, or I didn’t really have a college experience and shit like that. I was off making movies and whatnot.
So, I skipped that all, and it feels like I guess I’m kind of living it now. My wife’s kind of amused by the whole thing. I’m in that stage where I’m, like, "Did you know that legalization would prevent 95.6 percent of…" And, she’s, like, "Yeah, Kevin, when I was 18 once, too. Of course I know that." But, for me, it’s a real new thing. And, it’s been fantastic for dealing with shit like that. There was a moment--a moment--as I was leaving the stage in Chicago, going, "Arghhh, God, I’m fuckin’ ruined. They’re gonna beat me up on the Internet for crying on stage." And, then, now that I live in a kind of "weed era" of my life, this weed period, this deep haze of wonder and creativity, stuff like that doesn’t matter. I’m, like, "What the fuck? Why am I afraid of somebody who would make fun of me for crying about my dead father?" Doesn’t that really reflect more poorly on them than [on] you? Isn’t it nice that you liked your father enough to, as you talk about his death, get emotional about it. Get over yourself, Kevin. And, even if somebody fuckin says something, who gives a shit? Look at you. That’s the thing I’ve figured out.
That’s what weed taught me, too. I’d sit there going, Wait a second. All these things that people write on the Internet. And, again, they’re not all bad, but I used to gravitate towards it, because it’s, like, "Oh, what can I do to change this?" That’s the sad thing about that. You don’t pay attention to the people that actually like your stuff. You pay more attention to the ones who are trying to bring you down. You’re trying to win them over and shit. That’s just backwards and stupid.
But now, it’s just, like, they can say what they want and, honestly, they don’t take a fuckin’ dime out of my pocket, or piece of food off my table. Just because somebody fuckin’ rips me a new one cleverly online about one of my flicks, I don’t get laid one iota less. I still get laid. You sit there going, Wow, in the last 15 years, out of that 15 years, if you concentrated the time that I spent online trying to correct misconceptions about me, or when people write wrong shit. I never went after people for not liking the movies. That’s subjective, can’t do nothin’ about that, but going around correcting shit. I must have--concentrated time: two years, dude, two years of doing that online. Two years of my life—gone! I’ll never get back. As I’m fuckin’ cruisin’ toward the grave, believe me, I’m gonna be, like, "You piece of shit? I wasted so much time on you. I want those seconds back!" And, that’s a lot of seconds, dude, ’cause I used to do it a lot.
But, I tell ya’, man, that’s the thing I never figured out was always missing. The missing link was always weed, man. It just allows you to sit there and go, like, "Oh, my God, you’re so fuckin’ blessed. Why would ever be upset about anything? You’re way ahead of the curve, dude. You’re farther than you ever could have imagined. Kick back and smoke this shit away. Smoke your empire away. And, see if you can rebuild it; challenge yourself, for heaven’s sake" Stuff like that.
Capone: There are worse ways to go into ruin.
KS: I feel you, man, I feel you. And, you know what, at least I go into ruin happily. I’m in a much better mood and shit like that. So much so that I saw something online today. People think they like you, and they send you negative things that they’ve seen about you, and you’re, like, "I know you think this is done in friendship, but, dude, I don’t need to know." So, anyway, somebody sent me something, and it was negative. And, I looked at it, and I was just, like, "Huh, I guess that is one way to look at it." And, I fuckin’ moved on, because it was, like, Eh, it’s not true, but it’s one way to look at it.
Capone: I will say that the show--not knowing that that’s not how it was every time…
KS: Well, I mean, it is, except for the end. Generally, there are moments of the show, you know… Look, I’m chiefly there just to fuckin’ make people laugh, but, it’s not all superficial. We talk about some real stuff. But, that was kind of like the most “real” I guess one of those shows ever got, when somebody brought up my dad, and then I’m, like, "Hmmm, do I really want to head into this territory?" And, I was, like, you know what, he asked, and it would be shitty to kind of blow it off, because I’m worried about how I’m gonna sound, so I’m, like, "Fuck it, I can do it." I mean, come on, you’re on a stage. There’s no way you’re gonna…
And, then, your feelings just start welling up, and you can feel the choke in the back of your throat. And, then, you’re…"Omigod, this is gonna happen. I can’t help it, I can’t help it, I’m gonna actually gonna happen. And, it’s either leave the stage--rush off the stage, like an actress, some old actress, because I got the vapors, or just fuckin’ ride it out. And, be like, yeah, "I’m sorry. It was embarrassing, but, yeah, I’m a little sad. I’m a little upset that my father died." But, generally, it’s always like that. Like, the show the night before in Minneapolis and the show the next night in Ann Arbor--same show, except I didn’t cry at either show, because nobody asked about my father.
Capone: Between that and the stuff about Wayne Gretzky’s dad, it was Father’s Day that night, it really was. And, I gotta say, I was really moved by the whole thing. I’m thinking, I would never miss one of these shows when it comes back, because he might cry the next time too.
KS: [laughs] Well, thanks. Exactly. There’s always a distinct possibility. It's like, "Let’s get tickets to the fat CLERKS guy’s show. I hear he balls on stage! Bring up his father or Gretzky and watch him fuckin’ tear up, man." Yeah, look, what I like about those shows is it’s not…I mean, it’s so wrong to even call them shows. It’s not even a show, it’s conversation. I get up there, and we just start talking and, you know, it’s not…It’s like a filthy fuckin’ version of what Garrison Keillor does, or kind of like a less-monologued version of what Spaulding Gray used to do. It’s just me sitting up there talking, and [the audience] helps inasmuch as they tell me what they want to talk about. And, you know, makes my job even easier, because it means I don’t have to come with a bunch of material prepared.
Like, I know a lot of comics, and it’s so funny to me when I hear comics go, like, I got 20 minutes, man, I got 20 strong minutes, you know. And, I’m working on my 60 minutes, I got me an hour, I got an hour set, so I’m going to do, like, a Comedy Central special. I’m just, like, "Wow, an hour. What’s that like? How do you just a fuckin’ hour?" But, that’s because they have to stand up there and self generate. And, they have to make it work, they do stream of consciousness.
Me, I can rely on everybody else. I can be just, like, "Next," and then they start to ask a question, and I can either answer their question--straightforward answer their question--or answer it as entertainingly as I can. And, sometimes, that means I start telling a story that has nothing to do with the fuckin’ question asked, just to kind of keep it interesting and shit like that. But, always honest. That’s always been the key. I mean, I think that’s why they always come back. I’ve always been honest with them, and the audience has always been honest with me.
Capone: Yeah, I wonder, going back to the weed thing, which apparently all roads do at this point…
KS: Yeah, really.
Capone: Would Jay and Silent Bob be different people, if you'd been smoking during that period?
KS: I guess, I mean, yeah, truly. Like those characters, all of those movies were conceived and written through the perspective--the prism, if you will--of a guy who didn’t smoke weed. Before the Fourth of July 2008, dude, I think I smoked maybe 10 to 15 times on separate occasions in my life. I mean, it was, like, an annual thing, if that. There was a summer where I got stone a lot, but even that didn’t total up a lot, because then a friend of mine was, like, “You’re not funny anymore when you’re stoned.” And, that turned me off to weed for a long time. I was 18 years old, and, dude, all I had going for me was funny, you know what I’m saying? I was a fuckin’ fat piece of shit, and I was not an athlete, or anything like that. All I had going for me was the funny, so when someone says, “You’re just not funny when you’re stoned anymore,” I was, like, “I don’t need weed anymore!”
And, that kick-started a very progressive period of my life, where for the next almost 20 years, I just created work, kept doing stuff. Hey, my foot’s in the door, I’m going to throw my whole fat ass in the door. Let me in, I wanna keep doing it, and shit. And only, like, almost 20 years after that comment, really, I guess it would be…[pause]. Now, I'm 38, I was 18. Wow, it is, almost 20. I hadn’t even thought of this, 20 years after he said, “You’re not funny when you smoke,” and me going hardcore to build something and slowly building this dopey little empire, I’m now prepared to smoke it all away. I’m now prepared to just be, like, “You were right, and I did something about it, but now, I’m just going to enjoy it."
But, honestly, I found I’ve been more…I mean, this is not news to anybody, I’m not telling you anything new…I’m far more creative now, you know. I’ve been writing this “Batman: The Widening Gyre” miniseries, and I’m stoned all the time when I’m writing it. And, I swear, I’ll write it, and then, it’s not so much blackout, but forget, so much so that the next morning, I go to read what I wrote, and it’s, like, I’m that fuckin’ little cobbler and elves came and fuckin' wrote it in the night, because I’m, like, "This is better than anything I’ve ever written before." I mean, like, I’ve done comics, but this is way better.
It just focuses you, man. It filters out the bullshit. For me, with "Widening Gyre," it gets me over myself in terms of, like, I don’t think about the fact that I’m writing a comic book, you know. That’s always kind of the biggest danger--self-awareness--"I am aware that I am writing a comic book, so I am going to write as comic books are written, or try to write in the way that I think comics books are written, how people want to read it." But, then, when you’re kind of blazing, man, you’re just like, "You know what, I’m just going to tell the story the way it makes sense to me. And, maybe, I don’t need all these details, or I don’t feel the need to be impressive with the language. I’m just going to honor the characters and honor the setup." I wouldn’t even have tried the story that I’m writing--“Widening Gyre”--if it weren’t for the fact that I was kind of blazing left and right. I mean, it’s not like it’s a stoner story, but, I mean, it allows you to get more in touch with yourself. Again, I know I’m not telling anybody anything new.
But, look, I’m 38, now I’m 39, I cannot discount the fact that perhaps what happened after ZACK AND MIRI was a sort of nervous breakdown, or as close to a mid-life crisis as I could get. I mean, a mid-life crisis is when you sit there and go, "I’m this age, and I haven’t accomplished anything I wanted to. What have I done with my life?" I don’t have that. My problem is more, like, "I’m this age and I’ve done too fuckin’ much. Pick one thing." I’m not unfulfilled. But, my mid-life crisis was realizing that ‘me’, the guy that built his reputation on those filthy, talky little movies where they talk about sex and STAR WARS and geek culture, and all that stuff…I just couldn’t write like that anymore. I couldn’t do it, ’cause I was completely disconnected from the source. I haven’t wanted or yearned for in a fuckin’ long time, dude. It’s been, like, 15 years of ‘yes’ for me. Not in a bad way where I’m just, like, fuckin’ bathing in baby blood to stay young and buying 16 cars a week, but it’s been a world where I get to do whatever I want.
When I made CLERKS, you know, I was all fuckin’ prototypical emo, dude. I was, like, tearing up my shirt, "If I can’t make this film, I’ll just die!" And now, I live in a world where if I can’t make this film, nah, I’ll just make another film. The opportunity is there, so what opportunity does, it takes away passion. It’s like having a dog. Dogs all used to wild, right, feral dogs, animals out in the wild. And then, they learned essentially over time that by kind of appearing cute to human beings, they wouldn’t have to go out and hunt, ’cause human beings would just fuckin’ throw them food to them to eat and shit.
So, the learned behavior with that for me was I could write about people who were, like, uncertain or didn’t have it together, or broke, or didn’t know how to express themselves, or had weird fuckin’ male sexual insecurity, because (a) I was in my 20s, and we were all rife with that at that time, and (b) because I was still connected to the source. I was still closer to that era than I was to now, my adult years. As years go on, it’s, like, I can’t write about fuckin’ what it’s like to be unhappy. I haven’t been unhappy in 15 fuckin’ years. I mean, even my unhappiness is still considered happy by most of the people’s standards, because I don’t really have to work. Like, I work, but it’s not work, because it doesn’t feel like work, because I enjoy my job so much. So, essentially, they pay me to do shit I would do for free.
You know, dude, I spent a whole day just talking on Twitter. Like, I could do that, because I don’t have to fuckin’ work. I mean, it happened to be a vacation day, and everyone was off on Labor Day, but still, I mean a job job-type job. And, I’m appreciative of that all the time. I get how fuckin’ blessed I am about the whole thing, but because of that, you just get further and further removed from that which kick-started you.
And, that was sad. I mean, that was beyond sad. It was devastating. It was devastating the day I realized that, like, I can’t do this anymore, ’cause it’s too easy at this point. Like, I could do this in my sleep, but it’s disingenuous. Like, I love ZACK AND MIRI. I mean, I think it turned out well, but I look at ZACK AND MIRI, and I look at CHASING AMY, and I go, Okay, two movies cut from similar cloth. What’s the difference? One is made with the passion and brio of somebody who is desperate to get their message across, desperate to communicate desperate to say, "If I don’t make this film, I’m gonna die." And, the other one was made by a guy who was, like, "Well, that’s the movie I chose to do that year." And, it’s just not the same thing. I mean, ZACK AND MIRI happened very easily, very quickly. Seth [Rogen] read it. He loved it. The Weinsteins are, like, “Great. We got Seth Rogen. Let’s make it.” It came together. The shooting went well, no fighting, everything was copacetic. But, there’s just not same, like…you know, for CHASING AMY, people were sleeping on couches, dude. We were stacked five men to an apartment and shit like that. That world is gone. That world produces something that I can’t bring back to this world. I can’t replicate the type of films I did.
All these people were, like, "He’s not a fuckin’ filmmaker." They’ve always been right. Those aren’t films, dude. That is me, tearing my fuckin’ chest open, diggin’ in and pullin’ out big fatty chunks of my oversized, enlarged cow-like heart, slappin’ it between two platters, puttin’ it on a fuckin’ projector, flickin’ the switch, and going, LOOK. "That’s me, that ain’t fuckin’ film." I wasn’t out there makin’ films. I ain’t Scorsese, I ain’t Kubrick. I was out there fuckin’ makin’ essays that just happened to kind of resemble movies in a weird way. I was out there bloggin’ before there was a blog, by way of a movie.
I mean, CLERKS viewed through my historical prism--I don’t know how everyone else sees it, and I love it, and I won’t take anything away from it…I realize it’s cultural and pop cultural significance, or whatever--but I look at it now, CLERKS wasn’t the first film as much as it was the world’s most expensive icebreaker. It was just me going, “Hi, my name’s Kevin Smith.” That’s it, you know. It was just an intro to the audience. And, for the next 15 years, all I did was keep talking to the audience.
And, I used to do it with the films, but then, it was like I didn’t need to do it with the films anymore, you know. The films attracted people to me, because they identified with the material. I get why people don’t like Kevin Smith movies, because it’s not for everybody, man. And, I’m not saying, "Hey, it’s only for people who are smart or understand." Not everyone wants to feel that way. Not everyone wants to watch somebody kind of pour their heart out and shit like that. Some people just want to be entertained. Or, they look at the medium as, like, "Hey, dude, if you’re going to write fuckin’ love letters and blog, do it on paper or online. Don’t do it in film. I don’t want to be bothered with it." But, I’m, like, "Hey, dude, don’t go see it."
Some people feel like film should be reserved for just this one specific thing, as opposed to being something that everybody can do. You know, if you’re not doing it the way [David] Fincher does it, then you’re not a filmmaker. If you don’t do it the way Scorsese does it, then you’re not a filmmaker. You know what? They’re right. And, you know what? They’re absolutely fuckin’ wrong. They don’t know what they’re talkin’ about. So, yeah, once again, that all comes from smokin’ weed. [Both laugh] Years ago, I couldn’t have made that distinction. Now I can.
Capone: You kind of have that classic songwriter’s dilemma. I think Bruce Springsteen has a lyric in one of his songs about how he gets paid a king's ransom for doing something that comes naturally, which he feels kind of guilty about, but also, yeah, once you’re not really struggling, how can you write songs about working class people? That’s the age-old dilemma.
KS: You can't, dude, you can't. I mean, Bruce still kind of can, if you listen to “My City in Ruins,” it doesn’t sound like it’s made by a guy who has billions of dollars at his disposal. It’s still searing and heartfelt. As for me, I can’t. Like, for me, I feel disingenuous. Like, again, I don’t disown ZACK AND MIRI. I love ZACK AND MIRI, but I look at it, and go, You know what, this is not why I got into the game. I didn’t get into this just to make a movie. I got into it to kind of give something out there, pull something out of my chest, and put it out there and see who responded to it in that way.
And, ZACK AND MIRI, it’s just like--again, I’m not dismissing it or dissing it, I love it--but, it’s masturbatory, dude. It’s literally me making a film about the story of my life, like, I’ve now run out of fuckin’ shit to talk about. I’m so desperate to reach back to the source that, because I’m so disconnected from it, that--instead--I wind up making a film about the beginning, you know what I’m saying. Like, ZACK AND MIRI is just really the story of CLERKS with dicks and pussies on display. Yeah, it’s just that we swap out ‘PORNO’ for the word ‘CLERKS’, and it’s the same fuckin’ thing, except me and Mos [producer Scott Mosier] never got down. Not yet, anyway.
So, I look at it, and I’m happy with it, but, I’m just like, You know, that’s fine for other people, man, like, I get it on a certain level, too, Film is now, it used to be my passion. And, I’m still passionate about it, but it’s more my vocation than my passion, because I’ve been doing it for so long, people are just, like, Yeah, you’re a filmmaker, dude. We know. We understand, that’s how you’re identified. So, I don’t have to be, like, “I’m a filmmaker.” I don’t have to tell people anymore. And, if you’re not telling people, if they’re just assuming it, then, I don’t know, you’re not expressing it, you’re not kind of digging into passion. It takes passion and kind of being a novice or ‘wanting’ more than ‘being’ to be the person who steps out there and says, ‘I’m this’ when you’re not yet.
My sister had given me a piece of advice when I was a kid, you know, she was, like…It was at about the time that I was thinking about getting into film, around my 21st birthday, I was talking about, “Yeah, I saw this movie SLACKER. It really kicked my interest off, and I’m now just really immersed in indie film. I really want to be a filmmaker in a big, bad way.” And, my sister was, like, “Well, just be a filmmaker.” And, I was, like, “Yeah, that’s the idea--I want to be a filmmaker.” And, she was, like, “No, don’t just be a filmmaker. You are a filmmaker. You don’t have to wait until you make a film to become a filmmaker. If you just kind of look at life through the eyes of a filmmaker, just believing you are a filmmaker and that’s what you are, you’re just a filmmaker who hasn’t had the chance to make his film yet, I think you’ll have a lot easier time achieving your goals.” And, godammit, if she wasn’t right. It was some psychobabble bullshit, but at age 21-22, it totally connected.
And, I did at that moment. I was just like, you know what, I don’t wanna be, I am that. I’m a filmmaker, and I’m doing everything I can to get to the point where I can actually show you the film that’s in my head. But, those days are gone. I’m not that type of filmmaker anymore. But, it is my vocation, and, I’m given opportunity to do it. And, I’m sure some people would be, like, Hey, fuckin’ move out of the way, and let somebody who wants to do it, do it. But, I’m sorry, by virtue of the fact that I’ve done it a few times, there are people out there who want me to continue doing it, people with money. People hire me to do it. And, I’m not against it, I like doing it. So, I’m gonna keep doing it, and by virtue of the fact that I keep doing it, I keep getting kind of better at it.
A COUPLE OF DICKS--nobody’s gonna believe I directed this movie, because it looks so average. And, when I say ‘average’, I mean that in a good way, like, it looks like everybody else’s movie now. Back in the days, you’d look at my flick and you’d be, like, "Oh, that’s by the motherfucker who made CLERKS. You can tell, because it looks so terrible. His camera won’t move." A COUPLE OF DICKS, man, it looks like 48 HOURS. It looks like BEVERLY HILLS COP, LETHAL WEAPON. And, I know some people are, like, "Great, your movie looks like an '80s movie." But, hey, I’m on a slow curve. What the fuck do you want from me?
You know, my film school has been in front of everybody. I’m not ashamed of that. I mean, I’ve been given this rarefied position, dude, where it’s, like, somebody handing me the golden ticket. Yeah, I made a fuckin’ indie flick like everybody else, and I was in the right place, right time, and Harvey Weinstein gave me a fuckin’ golden ticket, and forced me to become a personality by being, like, Get out there and talk about your fuckin’ movie, it ain’t got anybody else in it, so you become the front man. So, that forces you to become the front man. You’re out front and center, and here I am talking to you, talking to everybody about the flicks. And, you become something of a personality, and suddenly, you’ve got this amazing golden-ticket life, where you’re just like, "Wow, it keeps happening, over and over again. And, people like what we’ve done. And, some people fuckin’ can’t stand it, but some people absolutely dig it." And, because of those people, you’re inspired to go on, and keep doing it, and shit like that.
But, I think I’d do those people a disservice if I go about it rotely, you know what I’m saying. I’ve got to make movies from that place, like, If I don’t make this, I’m gonna fuckin’ die. And, I wasn’t going to be able to do that anymore with the dick-and-fart-joke movies, because when I started them…you know, like, I made CLERKS because CLERKS didn’t exist. I wanted to see a movie that I identified with. I had been watching movies since I was a kid, and it’s always the hero who’s in charge and svelte, and he always knows what to do, and maybe, he faces a setback, but the dude’s a winner from the beginning. And, then, by the end of the movie, he’s just an even bigger winner.
I don’t identify with that at all. I’m a big fuckin’ loser from Jersey, workin’ in a convenience store, so I wanted to make something that I identify with. I wanted to put me and my friends up on the screen, so I can look up there and be, like, "Wow, man, I get it, I get it." Now, in ’93-'94, there wasn’t any of that. And, so I got to do it. And, since I am the world’s biggest Kevin Smith fan, I was delighted, because, Holy Shit, this guy Kevin Smith made a Kevin Smith movie. And, I like the sense of humor, and I like what they’re talking about. And, they talk about shit that I’m interested in, like fuckin’ geek shit and STAR WARS and pussy. And, he’s trying to tell his other friend he’s gay and shit, like it’s a bad thing. I recognize these characters.
So, when that kind of happens, other people see what you do, and they go, Hey, you can do that now? And, I’m not even fuckin’ speculating, because some people are like, "How dare you be so arrogant to think you’ve had an influence." It’s like, "Look, folks, I know some of y’all hate me, but you can’t say I haven’t fuckin’ had an influence." It’s impossible to deny it. I’m told by people on a regular basis, still. Edgar Wright was just, like, "Dude, 'Spaced' only exists because we fuckin’ went to your CHASING AMY Q&A in London, and Simon [Pegg] got up and asked you a question, because we were so blown away that you were allowed to talk about comic books or all the stupid minutia that nobody talked about in movies. I mean, you showed a fuckin’ hotel ballroom Comic-Con. And, suddenly, what I did, I had the benefit of putting on screen, I had the benefit of being first--the first guy to put on screen the shit that matters to people like us. Then other people are, like, "Oh, you can do that? Shit."
And, look, the only reason I did it is because I saw RESERVOIR DOGS, and they started talking about Madonna at the top of the movie. And, I’m, like, "Oh, shit, now dialogue counts if you’re not talking about dialogue, like that? You can just go off on tangents and deconstruct things? Shit, I do that with my friends all the time. I’m going to write that into my movie."
So, it inspires, it goes on. It feeds on, and then other people jump up, and they do it because of you. But then, there are more people, who are not doing it because they’re, like, "Oooooh, I love this shit so much." But then, you got some people looking at your shit, going, "Well, I liked it, but I can do better than that." I mean, that’s how I got into it. I saw Richard Linklater’s SLACKER. I said, “I love this movie, but if this counts as a movie, Jesus Christ, I think I could make a movie, too.” You know, that mixture of honoring it.
So, when it comes to, say, 2007 and shit…that was like when Judd [Apatow] kind of shows up on the scene with THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN. I guess that would be 2006?
Capone: 2005 actually.
KS: But, by the time you get to KNOCKED UP, 2007--that corridor, somewhere in that corridor, 2005 to 2007, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP--Judd essentially showed up and said, “I can do this movie way better, way more audience friendly. And, it’ll make way more money.” And, he was absolutely right. So, I’m not saying, "Hey, man, Judd makes the exact same movie I did," but Judd definitely makes a similar movie to the type of movies that I make and traditionally have made.
But then, when I see Judd doing it, and doing well with it…and now, you throw a rock, and every week a bromantic comedy comes out, and the hero of every movie is now a fuckin’ loser schlub and shit like that, guess what, man? I identify with the people on the screen now. So, there’s no more need for me to do those movies, because people who are far more talented than me have now picked up the ball and ran with it.
And now, I get to kick back as a movie viewer and be, like, "Okay, now there’s a fuckin’ glut of movies about losers, and that’s great, because back in the day, there were none. Now, I see myself in a lot of comedies out there, a lot of flicks." So, you know, at that point, you sit there and go, Okay, well, if everyone’s got this shit covered, why are you doing it anymore, ’cause your fuckin’ bite ain’t sharp anymore, old man. Like, these cats are young, they’re all going to be better at it.
All you’re left with, really, is the benefit of having done it first, because now people will redefine it, and redefine it, and turn it into what it ultimately becomes. But, it was cool, it was cool to be out there first, kind of talking about shit that people didn’t really talk about in movies. And, now, it’s cool to see people do it. Anytime somebody references STAR WARS in a movie, you don’t think I feel proud? You know what I’m saying? And, anybody who would be, like, "Oh, you arrogant, cocksuckin’ prick, how can you think…?" Dude, it has everything to do with CLERKS. Nobody was talking about STAR WARS pre-CLERKS anymore. They hadn’t talked about fuckin’ STAR WARS since RETURN OF THE JEDI back in ’83. It had been quiet, dude, real quiet. And then, we started talking about STAR WARS in the movie, and people were, like, "You can do that? That counts? You can just talk about fuckin’ somebody else’s movie, and that counts?"
I mean, granted, I realize I lowered the bar, but that was the kind of movie I wanted to see. That was the kind of movie I made. And now, I don’t want to make that kind of movie anymore. I’m not against it, but I’m just, like, Shit, everyone’s doing it, so I’ll get fulfilled watching everyone else’s movie. And, that’s when you sit there asking, "Well, okay, what kind of filmmaker, if any, do you want to be now? And, what is it that’s going to fuel you?" And, by God, this HIT SOMEBODY picture is it? It’s all I live and breathe now. That’s the hockey film, based on the Warren Zevon song that Mitch Albom wrote the lyrics for. I mean, that’s the movie, dude, that’s the movie where, like, you know, "If I don’t make this, I will fuckin’ DIE!" It has nothing to do with other movies anymore. It has nothing to do with, like, if I don’t make this, eh, I’ll make another movie. This is the flick where I’m, like, Clear the decks, ’cause I’m not doing shit until this is done. This is where I dig the fuck in. I’m not interested in moving on.
Like, you know, I did interviews in the beginning of my career, where I talked about, I think I have 10 movies in me. And, guess what, that’s going to be Number Ten. So, I got to honor the superstition. Look, I’m not finding any fuckin’ money on RED STATE, because it’s so fuckin’ blatantly uncommercial and very, very marginal in terms of its subject matter. That money’s not forthcoming any time soon. And, so I concentrate on something where my heart actually is, so that there’s a fuckin’ chance, dude, a hope in hell that I can make something that has that fuckin’ fire and that passion in it that CLERKS had, that CHASING AMY had. I mean, it’s not…That didn’t come from desperation or not having the means. That just came from because I was so fuckin’ in love with the material, I was, like, I just gotta share this. If only people could see the world the way I see it, through this particular picture, man, they would get it. So, that’s where I am now, but I wouldn’t have gotten there back in the day, ’cause I was always the dude who was, like, "I write and direct my own stuff. I would never direct something that somebody else wrote or conceived or something like that."
And, then, I did the “Reaper” pilot a couple years back, and I was, like, "You know what? I feel like I brought something to it. I read that script, and I saw that pilot. And, I think the pilot was better than the script. Not to dis the writers, by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel like I brought something to it. So, I felt like I had that in my back pocket, like, "Good to know." All those years that I said, "Ughh, why would you hire me to direct something I didn’t write, I’m such an idiot." I got to see what it looked like, and maybe I wasn’t such an idiot.
But, yet, this movie, you know, is lighter than air. I mean, it’s fun, and there’s great stuff in it. But, it’s, like, nobody looks at DIE HARD and goes, "What is the searing, human message at the center of DIE HARD? I found it inscrutable. Do you think it had something to do with the Israeli conflict?" It’s a movie, dude. You go, eat popcorn, you have fun, you leave. And A COUPLE OF DICKS, very much that same thing. It’s just weird that I wound up making it.
But, it paved the way for HIT SOMEBODY, because suddenly, when I was in this world of, like, Okay, I will direct somebody’s script that I didn’t write, which I always said I would never do. Suddenly, it opens the door to something else, where I’m just, like, "Okay, I didn’t write this, and I’m making this. Well, maybe, I don’t always need to fuckin’ think of the stories, or the things that I’m going to write necessarily myself. I mean, you’re a writer. It doesn’t mean you necessarily always have to come up with it."
I didn’t even think in terms like that. It just kind of happened all at the same time, ’cause I was thinking about the Warren Zevon song so much. And, I was just, like, "Man, I love story songs, number one. I said, Number two, this just feels like a movie to me. This sounds like a movie. This is a movie waiting to fuckin’ happen. So, I got very interested in it and started plotting a movie out in my head, and then I started looking for who owned it, because Warren was dead. And everything pointed back to Mitch as the guy controlling it, because Mitch Albom had written the lyrics for it. So, I met Mitch on the phone, or first online and shit--and, he didn’t know who I was from Adam, but I know who he is--and, I was just, like, "Hey, man, this hockey song, 'Hit Somebody,' I’m really interested in turning it into a film. I guessed he sniffed around, and people were, like, "I wouldn’t say he’s legit, but he’s made movies before."
So, then we started talking about it one night. And, he could see how passionate I was about the subject matter. Taking a song and turning it into a whole feature may seem like a dubious effort, but you gotta listen to that song. It laid out the three-act structure beautifully, and all you have to do is put meat on its bones. And, you know, I’ve just kind of been shaping it for the last year. And, I’ve found the meat, and now it’s time to hang it on the bones, ’cause I think I’m ready to do it.
And, I think I’m the right guy for the job because, ultimately, it’s a movie about hockey, but it’s not a hockey movie. It’s about a hockey player who’s no damn good at it. It’s about a guy who wants so badly to play in the NHL, but he’s just not good. He can’t handle the puck, not a great skater, he’s got no talent. All drive, all passion, no talent. So, in the ’70s when the WHA[World Hockey Association] kicked open its doors--the alternate hockey league or the competing hockey league to the NHL--the talent pool got drained. So, suddenly, they needed players on both sides, and there were people getting into the game that weren’t particularly good at hockey, but they were really good at defense, in as much as they would just go out and beat the shit out of people. "Goons" they called them. So, goon hockey was huge in the ’70s for that reason. You got people with their names on the Stanley Cup, you know, who maybe I’d probably play hockey better than, based on pure skill level, puck handling and whatnot.
That to me is just such a beautiful, compelling story, because you’re talking about people who are, like, "Look, I know I’m not good at it, but I want it so badly. I want to be involved and around it so badly that I will take the lowest fuckin’ role there is in this game, if you will just let me in." Tell me that doesn’t sound familiar, dude, you know what I’m saying? So, of course, I fuckin’ love the subject matter. Of course, that movie’s going to kick all sorts of fuckin’ ass. It may not be good, but you’re gonna feel HIT SOMEBODY in a big, bad fuckin’ way. I’m primed, I’m primed, I’m ready for it.
I'm going to cut the interview off here. Hope you're finding this interesting or at least damn funny. Lots more hopes and dreams and weed smoking from Mr. Smith. See you back here next week with Part Dos.
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