Kevin Smith Talks “Zack and Miri”, “Red State” and “Star Wars”

ksWhile in Seattle promoting his upcoming movie “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” I got the chance to speak with writer/director Kevin Smith about his film and upcoming projects. I want to thank Kevin for a very enjoyable interview and for answering all of my questions.

GVK: It is nice to speak with you again, I last spoke with you when you were in town promoting “Jersey Girl”

KS: That was the last time I was in Seattle, I had to send the boys (Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson), up for “Clerks 2”

KS: How did the screener go and how was the audience?

GVK: It went well, a lot of them were reserved at first as I am not sure if they knew what to expect, a Seth Rogan film or a Kevin Smith film. Once it got rolling they were laughing throughout.

KS: Great, I always hate the press screeners in terms of not knowing what the reaction would be.

GVK: What was your inspiration for the film?

KS: I love porn! I’ve loved porn ever since I was a kid. So, that and I wanted to examine the differences between making love and fucking. I now so many couples who don’t even know they’re couples, people who hang out forever then one day are couples, and you wonder when that happened. Porn just makes the story funnier.

I used “Clerks” as a model because I tend to crib from real life. Much of my work comes from human experience. Like Zack and Miri when they make their film, I had to pull my way up with no experience. So “Clerks” has really become the gift that keeps on giving.

GVK: The cast for the film was really strong and worked so well with one another. How did Seth become involved in the film?

KS: I watched “The 40 Year Old Virgin” on DVD while I was making “Clerks 2” and I was impressed by him. He was very funny, and had perfect delivery like Bill Murray and I decided to write a lead role for him. Of course Judd (Apatow) showed that he smarter than me and cast him as a lead in “Knocked Up”. I was sure he wouldn’t be interested in doing my film, but he was a fan and did the film. Then Liz Banks knocked it out of the park as one of the best actress I have ever worked with. She was really brave to do this because there can be a double standard with porn. Men are accepted for being in it but not women, and she was really great.

GVK: The film has more mature characters and themes than a lot of your past work. I noticed how the characters, like the cast in “Clerks 2”, were at that stage where they were not where they wanted to be in life. I am always amazed at how your characters speak with one another in a very frank and honest manner that doesn’t seem scripted but like watching people have a real conversation.

KS: I translate how I hear people speak and this is how my friends and I speak so it’s how I write. Seth is a master at ad-libbing while making it sound like something his character would say and it just works.

GVK: Justin Long is amazing in all of his scenes, especially at the end of the film.

KS: He is a really gifted performer. The film really gets rolling during the reunion and he really sets things up. He’s always playing the straight role in movies and he is really perfect for comedy.

GVK: What were some of your favorite moments from filming?

KS: Working with Liz and Seth as well as the fight scene between them in the back of the shop as well as the shit scene. It was really good working with such deftly trained artists.

GVK: How did you get Traci Lords into the film?

KS: About two to three weeks before shooting, I was looking at this book of porn stars who were posing in non-porn settings. I noticed that she wasn’t in the book and knew that she had distanced herself from the porn image. I called her agent and he also said that she was unlikely to do anything associated with porn, but she read the script and liked Seth, so she agreed to do it. She thought that after 20 years it would be fun to embrace it and make fun of everything. If you would have told me as a kid that one day I would hang out in my parents’ house with Traci Lords while they were away I would have had a different idea in mind.

GVK: I was glad to see Star Wars humor in “Zack”. Is there any truth to the rumor that you might write/direct for the new live action “Star Wars” series? And what was your favorite Prequel film?

KS: No truth to it at all. I did get an inquiry about doing the animated series, but I did not like the idea of my hands being tied creatively because it would be like working in a sandbox. All of your ideas would get kicked back by Lucas if they weren’t in line with what he wanted so I figured it was better to be a fan from a distance. I loved “Revenge of the Sith” best of all the prequels because I thought it really hit its stride and connected the series well.

GVK: There was a lot of mention about “Zack” getting an NC-17 rating at first submission. I was surprised by this because I found it to be tamer than the bachelor party scene in “Clerks 2”.

KS: Exactly! With “Clerks 2” we got an R rating right off the bat. The donkey scenes were much more out there than what we had in “Zack,” and I was able to argue it down to an “R” rating without any cuts. They were tough on the poster and trailer as well for the marketing and it took some work to get this approved.

GVK: Was there anything cut that you wanted to keep?

KS: Everything I wanted to keep is in the film. The DVD will have some extra footage and stuff but it is all stuff that was already edited.

GVK: Is there any chance we will see Jay and Silent Bob in the future or sequels to any of your earlier films?

KS: I don’t think so for Jay and Bob. I am 38 now and it’s not cute having a baseball hat on backwards. Plus I would have to get in shape to play him and that would be pathetic. Jason no longer looks like the impish weed dealer as well, becausehe’s grown up. When I get into my 40’s I might want to visit Dante and Randle and see what they are up to though.

GVK: Do you have something in the works or are you focusing on getting “Zack and Miri” out?

KS: I hope to do a horror film in the spring called “Red State.” It is a political horror movie that has no laughs in it. It is a 180 degree turn from what I have done in the past. I have always thought of myself as a writer/director who does true stuff rather than just a filmmaker. If people say that I am just the guy who does dick jokes, then so be it.