Kevin Smith: Part 2
Interview Conducted By:
Jack GirouxNow that you've hopefully had a chance to read part one of this long talk with Kevin Smith, you're finally ready for part two. This is no difference from part one a.k.a. me asking a simple question and getting the longest-winded and best answer possible. Anyway, here is what he had to say more about film criticism, the state of comic book films, and Unrated Cuts.
DVD Talk: Obviously you had a cameo in Daredevil and I'm curious if you ever got a chance to see the Director's Cut of it?
Kevin Smith: Yeah, I liked it but I also liked the one that wasn't the Director's Cut: the Theatrical Cut. I wasn't one of those people who just went, "this blows!" I'm somebody who comes from the school of thought that, which I've had to change in recent years, that any comic book movie is a good comic book movie. The fact that they were literally making Daredevil was mind bending. Ten or fifteen years prior, not a chance in Hell. Never. There would be so many characters to come before Daredevil, but thanks to the success of X-Men all the sudden second and third ranked characters became viable. I just never viewed or judged it the way other people did. Yes, I was in it but that didn't even paint it. I was just so delighted to see a Daredevil movie and knowing the guy playing Daredevil (laughs). He gets a lot of shit, but I mean that outfit was not going to look good on anybody (laughs). It definitely smacked up Daredevil in terms of the composition of red with the eyes covered, the baby horns and the DD sign. It wasn't like what Christopher Nolan did. He knew you couldn't put him in just a leather mask with pointy ears. You gotta commit to the costume. I know Mark wanted to commit to the costume, but Fox told him to go the leather route. To be fair, it was viable. With the costumes they even got a good joke out of them with the first X-Men. In a post-Dark Knight world I think every comic book character could actually look like the character from the comics. It can more accurately reflect what's on the page. For years people would just label them as embarrassing costumes and now more people are interested in honoring the source material. If it looks gay, so be it (laughs)... Fucking Daredevil, what a poor flick. Not poor in terms of quality, but a poor flick in terms of getting fucked with at the starting gate. It was one of those films where people were going to attack for the sake of attacking. It was the beginning of the pounce-on-Affleck period. I think it's a totally watchable flick. The Director's Cut, the more the better but I didn't have a big enough problem with the original cut.
DVD Talk: The Director's Cut feels a lot more fleshed out. Even the action is edited better.
Kevin Smith: Totally, you'll have that when you got more time and less of the studio constantly giving you notes and dealing with test screenings. That's the beauty of dvd. For a filmmaker it's a dream come true because now nothing gets wasted. Nothing is retired to the dump and it can all be remanufactured for use. It also helps when you're cutting. While I was cutting Cop Out there was some jokes that I liked very much and would've liked to keep in, but being a responsible filmmaker I know that they're not going to play. They're going to play to a very select group. At that point, you just gotta be more responsible and realize you'll get to tell that joke on dvd. There it'll live forever. It's better there too because in the theaters it just comes and goes in a blink and with my stuff even faster. Video? That shit is forever and you can put all that stuff you were on the fence about on there. You can do deleted scenes or just re-incorporate them into the movie, but I'm not a big fan of doing that.
DVD Talk: Haven't a few of your films on video featured Unrated cuts?
Kevin Smith: Let me see, the whole gimmick of the Mallrats anniversary dvd was a whole other extended cut. Rarely do I ever re-incorporate, because I standby what we did for the theater. That's the movie. If you want to see the deleted stuff there's a section for that. Here's the movie and here's all the things we omitted, I'm not into the idea of Final Cuts or The Ultimate Cut. The chances are when you're cutting something out you're basically re-writing or re-inventing the flick. Some stuff just wont easily slip back in.
DVD Talk: Mostly on comedies it's a problem. Unrated cuts, especially for comedies, usually feature footage that was cut for a reason and it usually throws off the pacing. The 40 Year Old Virgin is a perfect example of that.
Kevin Smith: See I never saw that in theaters but that, to me, is The 40 Year Old Virgin. I couldn't believe they made a movie over two-hours, but that was mostly because of the additional stuff on the dvd. When I watch that movie at home I never feel like it's too long because when you're watching something at home you're able to pause or just walk around and do something. Some movies are great for that and I've heard my movies are great for that. The ones where you put them on and you're doing something else because you've seen them so many times. We do it all the time at my house. There's always a constant stream of news radio playing in my house. We got to bed with it. It's on when we're working. I guess my flicks work the same way. I guess I should be insulted by that, but I'm not at all. To me, I know having been through it that you only do that when you're so insanely familiar with a movie. Nothing wrong with a little white noise in the background.
DVD Talk: Jumping real quick back into Daredevil, what do you think about it being rebooted?
Kevin Smith: Again, as a comic book fan, I'm all for it. I used to be one of those people in my twenties against remakes and thinking that you should just make something once. Now, I'm almost 40 and at this point I'd like to see Clerks be remade by somebody. I think it'd be funny. I don't think of it as something sacrilegious. Who cares? It's a movie and it doesn't lessen the previous incarnation at all. There was a time in my youth where that would've mattered. When I was a kid I'd rather die before seeing them remake Willy Wonka. But who cares? To my kids, the new Willy Wonka is Willy Wonka. For me, the old Willy Wonka is still my Willy Wonka. The new one wasn't Gene Wilder and at one point he was sitting on therapist couch; that's not my Willy Wonka. That was totally my kids' Willy Wonka though. I was cured of the whole anti-remake thing the moment I saw Dawn of the Dead. I just thought that dude did a remake that was viable on its own, fresh, and I was glad he did it. They're not all going to be good, but you have to live in hope since that's the kind of the director's job.
DVD Talk: Did you see The Crazies remake? That was really solid.
Kevin Smith: No, this week I was supporting another movie (laughs). The trailer looked good and it wasn't a movie on my radar at all until I heard people at Warners telling me The Crazies was a competitor and that it was going after the same audience. I was like, what's The Crazies? But the trailer was cool with the eerie music. It's a zombie flick.
DVD Talk: I talked to the director of that and he didn't seem to like people calling them zombies. Roger Ebert actually spent a lot of time in his review calling them zombies.
Kevin Smith: (laughs) Roger Ebert is in rare form with how he keeps re-tweeting his Cop Out review. I was thinking if Roger was trying to send me a message. But he's liked enough of my stuff in the past. He liked Jersey Girl, but I know he didn't like Mallrats and Clerks II. He also said something great about Chasing Amy saying how he regretted not putting it in his top ten. Roger has always been so fucking fair. Even though people kept pointing out he keeps re-tweeting that Cop Out review and saying, "isn't that suspicious?" Obviously I'm not retarded, it's very suspicious. But he's a guy who's been nice to me throughout my career in particular when I really needed it. I wasn't going to start yelling, "he did what? I fucking guested on his show!" I mean I've been saying a lot lately and it's dawning on me, but I'm almost 40. Getting mad at Roger Ebert is just not in the cards for me. He's an icon and I like the dude. He didn't like it? That's fine, he liked something else I did. It's not like I don't get it. I used to be very contentious... Shit, used to be? A few weeks ago I took on a huge corporation (laughs). That was a real thing, but getting mad about an opinion isn't my thing. Maybe they'll like the next one. For Cop Out, it's a different world. A bad review for Cop Out isn't going to fucking kill the movie. Most people going in are thinking, "we know it's stupid, who cares?"
DVD Talk: It's pretty self-aware.
Kevin Smith: Yeah, that's the thing. I kind of thought we let the critics in on the joke early on with Tracy talking about homage, but they didn't see the humor in it. I guess people were expecting something big. I mean the movie was called A Couple of Dicks. No film is brain surgery, but this film is even less so. We knew that going in. We knew we weren't a dopey parody film, but we knew we'd be dumb fun like Mallrats. I guess other people didn't expect we'd be that and some might have thought we were trying for more. Going in we all wanted to see a movie we'd see with our fathers and a TNT Classic (laughs). That was the aim: a movie TNT deemed classic worthy. Lets try to make Road House. Maybe it's because I'm older and more secure now, but I know what I set out to do and I'm so happy and content with what I did. Other people must agree because I'm starting to get offered more work. It kind of worked out, but when you read the stuff in print you think maybe it didn't work out. They have a different reality than I have. They just want to talk about the movie and try to sound clever about it. Too much cynicism. After we all saw fucking Ratatouille it became tough to take any critic seriously with the thinking that they're all softies at heart (laughs). They all just want to be loved! It's an odd type of coming-of-age thing. If you told me five years ago my outlook on film criticism would be different I'd say you're out of your fucking mind. I thought that was what could make or break a film. It's not that professional film critics became less important, but now with the internet almost anyone can get into it. Back in the day, it was just newspapers or television. I remember when online journalism kicked in around '96 or '97 I would talk to those people and they'd say how tough it was to get treated like normal press. It's just so ridiculous. Most people get their news online. Maybe it's because I'm living in a young world with the college Q and A's and such, but that's how it seems. The world I travel in, nobody I know is reading print. People would scoff when they heard an online critic liked something. Now, a print critic is no more or less viable or legitimate than those guys. It's not difficult to get into. Between '89 and '99 it probably shifted most to online. In order to talk about movies you just gotta love them. In order to talk shit about movies, you just gotta be a wise ass. Almost everybody can do that. I was a little sad. It's tough to explain, but this year a lot of those ideas I believed in didn't exactly become untrue but I found them not to be the whole truth. I believed in so many things about the studios and stuff - it's not black and white. This reminds me of the scene in Brain Candy where they're at a party and someone says the real party is over there. You thought you were at the real party, but you'd realize you weren't. I'm not saying it's a conspiracy here, but it's like how I like to think when a president wins he's immediately seated down and told everything about aliens. When he asks if they're kidding and why can't they tell anyone, they just say they cant because people wouldn't believe it. It felt like that. It felt like someone coming to me to say, "now that you're making a studio movie, here's the fact book about movies and here's the book about what the Internet believes about movies. It's the: here's the truth and the truth you believed based on popular opinion. You start to see the Internet just as something that's as loud as wind. These cats don't care or pay attention to people in chat rooms bashing the movie because it's free advertisement. I used to think studios hated shitty reviews, but it's all about the box office and those cats don't care. It's not to say they're indifferent to the audience, but it's a thing where they have millions of dollars at stake and do you really think some jackass at a newspaper will derail all that? No. The world I came from a critic could destroy your movie. Here, they cant. I think a critic can absolutely save a film, but I don't think they can destroy one. Think about this: some dude writes a review at The Daily News on the Friday when the flick comes out, but that movie has already been reviewed 60 times online from test screenings. Their opinion is just as valuable as that critic's. At the end of the day, you don't need to be a professor to write about films you just need to love it. That's why there are so many film journalist. I love every time I see a new movie site open, because that's where you see a true believer. You don't open a movie website to make money anymore. If you open one now it's because you love movies. You're a true fucking believer. Even if you hate me and the stuff I do, I'll respect you because you are a true believer. It's for the love of the game. It's the people who don't love the game that disgust you. The Rex Reeds in the world don't love the game anymore. He's just looking to take stabs at people, so why should his opinion matter? Anybody can do this and that's the beauty of it. For years you're tricked into thinking you should just listen to a select group, because they're smart about movies. Bullshit. I've read plenty of reviews over my life and I've read them from people who are paid to write about me and I've read them people who didn't get paid a fucking dime to write pages on pages about some movie I made. There's no fucking difference. In fact, I tend to believe the person who didn't pay to see the movie a bit more.
DVD Talk: That's an interesting parallel to filmmaking in general. It's not like you have to go to film school either to become a director.
Kevin Smith: Not at all. Fuck, I'm living proof of that. Sure it shows in my work, but it wasn't necessary. There was just another way. Look, there's no one right way to make a movie. It's fucking art for Christ's sake. When people say I did something wrong it's usually the case of: I just didn't do it the way you would've. Wow, I sound like broken record talking about critics.
DVD Talk: Do you think Cop Out could end up being like Mallrats?
Kevin Smith: I hope so. First off, it's already escaped the fucking Mallrats bullet of fucking poor box office business. I don't know, it's occurred to me. I've been in the game long enough where there's been peaks and valleys. Review wise, that's very much what I went through on the second movie. On Jersey Girl, even that got off lighter than fucking Cop Out did. Having been through that and surviving it, I know I'll be able to survive this. Even better, perhaps what happened on Mallrats will happen with Cop Out. Maybe it'll be reconsidered five years from now. I don't need it to be, but there's a chance it could be.
DVD Talk: Mallrats is a film that seems to work a lot better with people on second viewing.
Kevin Smith: Ironically, of all my stuff, that's the one people seem to see first. That's the gateway film. Just about everyone who's come up to me always says the first movie of mine they saw was Mallrats.
DVD Talk: Why do you think it is though that films like Chasing Amy and Clerks get good reviews while your films Cop Out and Mallrats don't?
Kevin Smith: I mean with Chasing Amy I was trying to do something that nobody had done before. Yes, it was a romantic comedy but the way we went about it... It was the fact that it wasn't your mother or father's typical romantic comedy. That's what helped the movie pop. I was also an underdog at that time and it's a lot easier for people to support the underdog than say when you've been doing this for so long. People say with Cop Out I should know better, but cant I just make fun ones every now and then? Must they all say something? I didn't have anything to say. I used someone else's script and even what they wanted to say wasn't that earth shattering. Not every movie should have to say something. I grew up watching movies like that. The trade off is if you make movies like that, critically, they're not going to follow you. That's fine. I'd do it again even if I knew what the outcome would be on this one. I'd do it in heartbeat because I learned so much and it was such a learning experience. This was an experiment as well to see if I could work in a studio system, skate with the big boys, and work with a true movie star. Please don't tell Ben Affleck I said that (laughs). Apart of me wanted to tell Warners to give me less, because I've been trained to do that. When I came to them it was a 70 or 75 million dollar budget with Marky Mark. That's an expensive movie. I was hoping they wouldn't want to go with that much. For me, trying to do it as cheaply as possible was important. That's something a lot of people don't talk about in the reviews: what I'm like to work with. This business is filled with pricks. You've read about that behavior. That bad behavior stuff you read is the tip of the iceberg stuff. I can guarantee you, you don't hear about everything. It's a business filled with ego and people leaving the world of always hearing no and then hearing yes and then they take a vicious 180. They become unbearable pricks. When you're a nice guy and not a screamer you can work forever. You just gotta work responsibly. Harvey and Bob taught me that. As long as you can pull the film in on budget and someone is going to make a profit then it doesn't matter what anyone else says about you. Every once in a while you gotta challenge yourself. For years and years I got to do everything my way and it was a wonderful experience. I will miss that everyday of my life and maybe I'll go back to it one day. Unfortunately, that world doesn't promote much growth if you're allowed to do whatever you want every single time. Sometimes structure helps growth and this was an exercise in structure. I thought they were going to ride me every step of the way, but none of that was true. I wanted to pull this off and be impressive to these cats. I wanted to say I'm a loud mouth and my films may not be their cup of tea, but they'll admit I'm a professional filmmaker. I'm a director. Back in the day I'd just direct my stuff. I don't know if I can continue my career just doing Kevin Smith movies and having anything left at the end of the day. If it was just the same stuff over and over they might just disappear. With the SModcast and the fucking Q and A's those are just ways to express myself. Back in the day, I could only do that in film. Now I don't need too. If I had twitter back then there wouldn't be Clerks. To have all these venues to express myself it would just seem redundant to go over it again in feature form. A lot of the stuff I would write in the flicks would now just be stuff I'd say at a Q and A. You kind of saw that in Clerks II. I had been doing that Lord of the Rings bit a year before I even wrote that script. By the time we got to set, I knew exactly how I wanted Jeff to do it. When people who knew that story beforehand saw Clerks II they'd point it out to me. For me, it gets tougher not to double up because I love the feeling of making someone laugh. Making a film is a long process of expressing something, it's immediate on twitter. To me, the same things I'd want to hear about my films I'd hear on twitter. They're not all blowing smoking. Somebody the other was telling me I was one sided by just listening to people on twitter since they're my fans. The 26 year old me would say lets go see the shit people are saying about me. But now at 40, why would I want to willingly go listen to someone telling me they don't like what I do. I made it for people to like. I'm more interested in hearing from people who did like it. I found it so strange that someone would say that. I just brought up how the other fucks had their field day on Friday, will you let me enjoy this?
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