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INT: Kevin Smith

What can I say about Kevin Smith that he hasn't already said and that you don't already know? Probably not much. But if you ever wondered if he's really like that (funny, friendly, down-to-Earth, etc) in person (and I mean really) here's what transpired when Kevin came in the room. He was, of course, wearing a baggy baseball jersey and immediately flipped the chair around backwards to sit down. He leaned forward and rested his arms against the back of the chair. Out came the cup. Since this particular hotel had all non-smoking rooms, Kevin was carrying around a cup to ash in. It wasn't the prettiest sight. But he plopped this cup, filled with black water and numerous butts, down on the table and proceeded to spark up another cigarette. "I hope you don't mind but I'm gonna have a smoke," he said. "And if you do mind, well, f*ck you." And so our interview began. Oh, I don't think I need to say this but profanities ensue...

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KEVIN SMITH

Kevin, I almost forgot I was watching a Kevin Smith movie.

Me too. Meanwhile, I forgot I was making a Kevin Smith movie. I was like, “where’s Jay and Silent Bob? Why’s this movie look so good?”

Was there ever a moment when writing the script when you thought that it needed a shit joke, but you couldn’t put it in?

There was a moment in the script where I really wanted to figure out how to work Jay and Silent Bob into it. It happened to me on CHASING AMY as well and in CHASING AMY, during the writing process, I was like, “this shit’s way too touchy feely. The CLERKS guys are not gonna like this whatsoever.” And I didn’t know how to rectify that. Didn’t know how to justify that to myself so I went, “I’m gonna write Jay and Silent Bob into it.” So, that scene didn’t always exist. It wasn’t like the first thing I ever thought of and I didn’t think I’d ever have that scene in that movie and then kind of did it. And I think it works, I think it’s funny and it was good in the scene, but it always felt to me like kind of a copout. Like I kind of chicken-shitted out at the last minute. That would have been the first stand-alone movie. That would have been the one that wasn’t connected.

So when I was setting out to write this one, I was like, I’m not gonna do that. I’m not gonna puss out. I’m gonna point to left field and actually try to hit it there, without doing the fake bunt kind of thing somewhere along the line. And it was tough not to write them. And it made it tremendously easier because [Jason] Mewes was so knee deep in heroine at that point that I don’t even know if he could have even pulled it off. But it was tough. It was tough not to rely on the familiar, to kind of jump back into the “View Askewniverse” for the easy laugh. And at the end of the day, I did get a nice little kind of… I got to save that joke with the opening logo. I got Jay and Bob there. But once the movie begins, the movie begins and it’s not their movie whatsoever.

Have many of your fans seen the movie yet, and what do they think of it?

They have. A lot of them have, which is kind of frustrating because you’re like, “man, I wish they were paying to see it.” [Laughs] But largely they’re with it. Every once in a while I get people that aren’t. I was at a Q&A in Philly the other day and there was a 16-year-old kid who was just like, “is this the final music?” And I was like, “yeah.” And he was like, “it’s corny.” And I was like, “Corny? Can you site anything specific?” And he was like, “that’s song when he goes to the grave.” I’m like, “Landslide?? That’s Fleetwood Mac.” He’s like, “yeah, it’s a corny song.” I’m like, “how old are you?” He said, “16.” I’m like, “In 20 years you’re gonna love that song. I assure you.” I saw him afterwards, he’s like, “I kinda like the movie, dude. I just don’t like that song.” I said, “Why? How can you not like Landslide?” He’s like, “I kind of like The Smashing Pumpkins’ cover of it.” And then I remember I’m arguing with a 16-year-old.

But some of them aren’t gonna come along for the ride. I knew the moment I started writing it, the first time I tapped the key on the computer that 13, 14-year-old boys who love Jay and Silent Bob aren’t gonna find anything in this movie to identify with. That’s the material. It’s about having a job and having a spouse and having a child and 15, 14-year-old boys don’t care about that. They just want to know about dudes who are anti-establishment, running around saying somewhat crude things. So I knew they were going to go. Not all of them. Some of them are foreword thinkers. But largely I was gonna lose the Jay and Bob crowd. Thankfully the fan base isn’t all Jay and Bob heads.

Or the ones who actually do like Jay and Bob aren’t necessarily like Jay and Bob, doing those kinds of things. When I said on the board, “I’m gonna make the next movie kind of a 180 from the last one,” there were a lot of people who were like, “thank God.” Because it’s time to let those guys go and it’s kinda nice to see you try to do something without them and stuff like that. And you know, this movie is not that much different from “Chasing Amy,” as much as it’s a mixture of comedic and dramatic. So people who were fans of that could probably easily slide into this. Only this time they don’t have the luxury of the Jay and Silent Bob quota.

Are you still amazed at how much parentage has changed your thinking?

A little bit. It is kind of weird how priorities come into play. I used to think that the most amazing thing that ever happened to me was the fact that I had a career. You know, I got to make movies. And now I like it and I’m glad I get to do it, and I’m in love with the process and it’s very creatively fulfilling while I can still make a living doing it, but the real miracle is the kid. And that’s kind of the ongoing process. Each movie has its own little life and hopefully it lives on far long after I’m gone. But the kid is the true testimony, the true legacy. You get to raise your own little human. One more chance to get it right. So yeah, that’s the stuff that really impacts on you on a daily basis. Except when, you know, she’s acting like a little bitch. And then you’re just like…. She’s four and she’ll be five in June.

Have you ever had a moment with your daughter like Ben has in the movie with his?

Not that intense, not yet. Not that badly. I mean, there are moments when you sort of lose it with the kid because she’s just sort of throwing a fit over something. She’s not bad, she’s never done anything really bad like break something on purpose, but there are moments when you just kinda yell, but not to that point where I was like “I fucking wish you were never born!” But I mean, I haven’t really had to give up much to have a child, so I don’t have that kind of resentment, of like, “you took shit away from me.” She really only really kind of enhanced my life at this point. When she’s a teenager, you know, fucking every guy in sight and taking drugs and shit, that’s when I’m gonna lose it and make another movie about how it sucks to be a parent.

How much of a conflict is it between family and career?

It’s not really. I mean, there were moments on the movie where I felt like a total sh—because I’m locked in an editing room for 16-18 hours trying to shape the movie together, trying to piece it together. I love the editing process; it’s kind of like writing another draft of the script. But then you realize you missed family dinner or you missed putting the kids to bed. And I’m like, here I am making a movie about a guy who’s trying to be the best father in the world and I’m acting like the shit-iest. And the wife, thankfully, will always remind you of how shitty you’re acting, call you up and be like, “your kid just went to bed. Nice of you to say goodnight to her.” And I was like, “right on. Thanks. I’m not under enough pressure.”

But largely, my job is requires that you’re real busy for an intense period of time, and then you get tons of time off. All summer, all I did was hang out with the kid in the pool. Literally, every day; two, three hours a day in the pool. And we’d go to where you play skee-ball and shit like that because she’s really into that. And the games give you tickets to trade in for really shitty prizes. So we spend a lot of time together. Me, the wife and the kid get to spend a lot of time together during those down months when I’m not necessarily racing to get something done, or in that creative zone where you’re trying to shave material.

Is it weird having so much focus on the personal lives of the stars of this movie?

You know, personally, it didn’t bother me as much. I was really happy for him because he was really happy and really into her and whatnot. And I don’t know her as well as I know her, but she was really into him. They were actually a really cute couple, great to be around. It actually made you want to be a better husband at times. Because they were at that “new love” period where it’s just like you can do no wrong and they were way romantic and whatnot and being a guy who was maybe five years into his marriage at this point, you know, it did make you step it up a little bit. Their relationship didn’t bother me. The GIGLI thing, of course, kind of bugged me, but it winged us in a way where I was like, “alright, I have to accept the fact that we will never be a #1 film when we open. It just can’t happen.”

Because people are presupposed to thinking that it’s a “Jen and Ben” film, of virtue that we tried to keep her death quiet for so long. They’re just not gonna turn out, because everyone hated GIGLI so much, even though nobody really saw it. So I don’t know what audience it is that we’re alienating, but whatever. So once I came to grips with the fact that we weren’t gonna be #1 and I started shooting the movie, I started thinking, “we have Ben Affleck, we have Jennifer Lopez, Liv Tyler; we’re gonna be #1!” Who knew? Once I accepted that, I was fine. I figured, you know what? People are going to find the movie, it’s gonna have really wonderful word of mouth. People who identify with the material are gonna feel it and they’ll show up. The audience will show up. They’re not all gonna show up opening night, but hopefully enough will until the next group and they’ll provide for the week after that.

When Ben and Jen split up, were you worried about what would happen to the movie?

No. When they split, I was like, “what about you guys?” And particularly Ben. He was really hung up on it. But not the movie. At that point, I had the benefit of knowing she’s not in the movie. The movie’s not about them, so their breakup was never going to really affect it. That’s why when we cast them and then they started dating while we were just starting to make the movie. People were like, “aren’t you afraid?” But I had the benefit of knowing the movie is not about those two. It’s really about him and the kid. If him and the kid break up, I got problems. But then again, if him and the kid date, I got bigger problems. [Laughs]

Did you write Will Smith’s dialogue, or did he improvise?

I wrote Will’s dialogue, but he did improvise his best line where he’s talking about how “I love you all the way up to the moon and back down to the dirt.” I had a line in the script that was not that line, and we were doing rehearsals and he was just like, “you know, I say this thing to my kid all the time. I was thinking maybe I could say it here.” And I was like, “what is it?” And he told me that. And you’re like, [Swooning noise]. It was really touching and whatnot. And also, what was I gonna do? Be like, “Will, you would never say that. Stay within the script.” [Laughs] So that’s definitely his. I give that up for him.

How did you get Will Smith involved?

Originally I had written the scene for Bruce Willis and the movie was set from 1986 to 1994. And the pivotal moment where Ollie loses his shit is during a “Bruno” press conference. You remember Bruce Willis became Bruno for a little bit? So that was the moment. And we sent it into his agent and manager or whatever and didn’t hear back. And then I asked Ben and was like, “well, you know the guy.” And he was like, “yeah, we ran from that space rock a few years ago. So I’ll see what I can do.” And Bruce didn’t call Ben back either. So after a month of not hearing from Bruce, I was just like I guess we should kind of move on, I’ll have to change that sequence. And it was kind of liberating because it allowed us to move the movie into the present, because it was kind of locked to ’86 with the whole Bruno thing.

And then I just kind of went back a few years and looked at the pop culture landscape and the musical landscape to see what was going on and realized that Will Smith wasn’t nearly who he is today back then. I knew he’d done “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Bad Boys,” but he had not yet done INDEPENDENCE DAY, which kind of launched him into the stratosphere. But I had always known him from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, because being a white guy in the suburbs, I was all about old school rap. So I wrote that scene and sent it to his manager and he read it and he was like, “at first I just didn’t understand why you would think Will would want to do this movie, because the first half, you kind of make fun of him. And then you get to the scene where he saves the day and Will’s a pimp and I understand.” So Will liked it and said he wanted to do it, but he’s a very modest dude, and he was just like, “I don’t know if I can play myself. People might think I’m being arrogant or something like that.”

That’s when I had Jen and Ben go after him. Because famous people talk like famous people talk, right? Which I can’t do apparently. And Jen knew him I guess because they were going to do a remake of “Stars Born” at one point. So she was kind of familiar with him and Ben knew him I guess through [Jerry] Bruckheimer. Ben kind of told him, “look, this dude made me play myself in the last movie, and I’m sure you’d come off way better than I ever did in that picture.” So he signed up and was really great about it. He showed up and he didn’t charge us really. He charged us scale. He’s just so damn gracious and such a sweetheart of a guy. Refers to the director, which I always like. So it was a real great cast and crew. Thank God Bruce Willis didn’t do the movie.

Does it help the writing process when you know who is going to be cast in each part?

Very much so. I think that’s why Ben comes off kind of good in the movies we make, or better than I’ve seen him in some stuff, because I’m writing to his voice. And I’m writing to Ben’s character and I always think Ben is best when he’s playing close to himself because that to me is the most interesting Affleck- the guy in real life. I don’t know if he’s been here yet, but I’m sure some of you have spoken to him. He’s a fantastic guy. Charming, smart, funny. So I like writing that guy, because that’s the dude that I fell in love with. And Carlin, I’d worked with him twice before. I was real familiar with him from off camera. Of course, I’m a huge fan of his day job stuff. But when he’s not on stage, he’s a great guy to talk to. He’s not always on, not always trying to make you laugh. You just have conversations with him.

Over the years, I was just struck by the lasting power of this man. What a life he’s lived, how much he’s done, how much he’s seen, how much he’s experience, how much wisdom he’s accumulated. So I started seeing him in a father figure role. I told him on the last day of “Jay and Bob,” I was like, “George, I’m gonna write a really big role for you in my next movie.” And he was just like, “Well write me my dream role if you’re gonna do it.” And I said, “What is it?” And he said, “I want to play a clergyman who strangles six children.” [Laughs] And I said, “Well I got you playing the grandfather.” And he said, “Do I get to strangle the kid?” I said, “no.” And he said, “well, I’ll do it.” And it turned out really great. George, I think, always really wanted to act. He said he got into radio and standup all because he was hoping to get into the movies. And he’s been in movies, but most people, myself included, tend to use him comedically. He’s a comic, that’s what you think. You think George Carlin, you think funny. But he always wanted to sort of stretch and show that he could do more than just comedy and he was delighted to have this chance I think.

New Jersey plays such a pivotal role in the movie. Do you ever get annoyed that it has such a bad rap?

Totally, real bad rap. But you know, we grew up in the shadows of [New York City]. So everybody’s like, “well, you ain’t New York.” It’s like having a very successful older sibling who’s really insanely good-looking and athletically inclined, has great grades across the board and fucks a cheerleader all the time. You’ll never measure up. So you live in the shadows and you’re always second best. It just kind of makes you work harder I think.

What do you miss most about Jersey?

Ironically, most of [my friends] moved out to the west coast, which I thought was kind of cool. So we kind of relocated Jersey out west. What do I miss about it the most? Certainly not the seasons and the weather. You know, after 31 years of fucking winters, I’m done. I’m happy to be in a place where it’s 70 degrees all the time. You know, when it’s 60, I might say, “it’s chilly today.” [Laughs] As opposed to zero degrees and shoveling snow and shit. I miss the bagels and the pizza, because they can’t do that for shit out west. The water’s different or something like that, so you don’t get a good bagel, you can’t get a good pizza, because the crust is for shit. But generally speaking, I’m surrounded by the same people now that I was surrounded by then, so it still feels like home or I don’t feel like I’m very far from it.

Is the store still operating?

The store is still up and running, yeah, over in Red Bank. And the office is in Jersey as well. I was just there the other day. Popped by, talked to Walt for a little while. And then we’re opening one out west as well. So yeah, it’s totally up and running. And it’s always a thrill to walk into, because it’s a shrine to me, right? So I kind of dig it.

Do you have any thoughts on the controversy surrounding THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST after you had similar circumstances with your DOGMA movie?

Yeah, my thoughts were I wish we’d put a bloody Christ in our picture instead of the buddy Christ. We would have cleaned up, you know? Who knew? A year ago, if somebody said that Mel Gibson’s PASSION movie, in which everyone speaks in Arabic and Latin, was gonna make more than 10 bucks, I would have been like, “you’re crazy.” Looking historically at the figures of religious movies, it just doesn’t happen. But man, that dude really took a little blip of a controversy and spun it into an insane opening weekend, didn’t he?

Because with us, we had death threats. We had 300,000 pieces of hate mail and we had Phil Donahue on the news every night heading up the Catholic league, rallying against our movie and calling for Disney to drop it and, you know, essentially pitting Mickey Mouse against Jesus Christ. His, there were a few Jewish leaders who were like, “this could be viewed as anti-Semitic.” And suddenly he was able to spin this into “every good Christian must see this movie. To defeat the Jews.” [Laughs] That’s the understatement of it all. It was weird. I wish I had those kinds of problems. He made almost as much in his first day of release as we did in our entire theatrical run. I guess the secret is, don’t put a rubber poop monster in your movie, stick close to the text.

Did you have any thought of having George Clooney play Green Hornet in the upcoming movie since he’s been connected before?

Yeah, I mean I like George a lot, so I would work with him, but I think he’s beyond it. I also think it’s kind of hard to double up dudes who have already put on the mask. Like for example, the dream casting for me would have been Ben, but he’s already done DAREDEVIL. I think it’s weird to double up on dudes in masks. I think you’ve gotta let a guy be one comic book hero and that’s it.

Have you thought about who you do what for the part?

I met with a dude who I really like for it [Note: That would be Jake Gyllenhaal], but I don’t want to say anything yet because I don’t want to pooch it, but he’s not like an action movie guy. He’s a really great actor. And he’s younger, but he would be great. Kind of fit for what I’m thinking of doing. Because to me, it’s more important to make the secret identity the most interesting guy in the movie. You know, Britt Reid is the secret identity and he puts on the mask and becomes the Green Hornet. But I think you have to care about that guy, right? Not necessarily the villain, which is kind of how it goes in those movies- the villain winds up being the most interesting character. No, it should be the guy who’s willing to do that, the guy who puts on the mask and goes and beats up chain snatchers and muggers.

Did you choose to do GREEN HORNET because you like doing the lesser known, underdog characters?

It helps, it really helps. Because there’s no built in expectation. I kind of enjoyed doing that in the comic book stuff, where I didn’t go for the big guns, I went for Daredevil, who wasn’t even in the top 100 at the time, and Green Arrow, who no one gave a shit about anymore. So, there’s no expectation and you don’t have people going, “you fucked it up dude.” So Green Hornet’s the same kind of thing where most people are familiar with it. They kind of know he wears a green mask over his eyes and he’s got Kato, this kung fu guy who’s his chauffer and kicks ass, they’ve got a car called the Black Beauty and that’s it. Right from that point, you have wiggle room where you don’t have to worry about stepping on other people’s toes. So that’s a comfortable place to do it from. Not a lot of expectation there, where people are like, “okay, you better not fuck it up.” Particularly from the comic book fanbase. Those are the people who are the most vocal. Critics you don’t really think about as much, because I’m sure they’re just gonna be like, “fuck, another comic book movie? Why bother?”

Is Mewes doing okay?

Mewes is doing great. Coming up on April 6, it will be one year of total sobriety, which is fucking shocking. I expect the moon to eclipse and the four horsemen to arrive because it is kind of the sign of the Apocalypse if that dude cleans up. But he’s doing fantastic. He did six months of court mandated rehab and that really made all the difference. And then he’s been living with me for the last five months. It just seems to be over at this point, where he’s just like, “I just knew what I was doing was not working and I just don’t want to be that guy anymore. I don’t want to wake up every morning and have to worry about where I’m gonna cop.” So he’s in a good place, plus he’s been getting laid insanely since he’s been clean. He’s like, “had I known, I’d have cleaned up years ago.” [Laughs]

Is Mewes going to get a part in GREEN HORNET?

Totally. I told him two weeks ago before I went on the press tour, I was like, “I’m gonna put you in GREEN HORNET dude.” And he was like, “I knew it! You’re gonna make me play the Hornet.” And I’m like, “no. [Laughs] You’re not gonna play the Hornet, but you’re gonna be in there.”

Source: JoBlo.com

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