Kevin Smith is a raconteur, writer, director and sometime actor, but it appears that the filmmaker is turning more to acting these days, in other people’s films. Is this a new direction? It was a consistently self-effacing Mr. Smith who took potshots at himself, that spoke about his scene-stealing role in the new Catch & Release, opposite Jennifer Garner.
Question: Kevin, is this a new direction for you?
Kevin Smith: Every role that Jack Black says ‘no’ to – pretty much. It just feels like the industry is saying, ‘Look, stop directing; go be in movies if you got to be involved. Just be in ’em; f*ck directing.’
Question: Susannah Grant says that ‘you tend to denigrate your own talent.’
Kevin Smith: Yes.
Question: Why do you think you denigrate?
Kevin Smith: I’ve grown up a fat so it’s always the ‘steal the thunder’ attitude for me, the idea of ‘making fun of yourself before someone else can.’ So that’s why, of my entire repertoire of stuff I’ve done, Jersey Girl takes a beating like a red-headed step child because it’s always easier to be like, ‘Jersey Girl sucked’ ‘I made Jersey Girl and it sucked,’ than to have somebody say it to you first. That way, they’re sitting there waiting to tell you, and they’re like, ‘Oh, he knows; alright.’
Question: But for every Jersey Girl, there’s a Chasing Amy and Clerks.
Kevin Smith: And for some of us, even Jersey Girl; I like Jersey Girl. It’s just kind of easier to make fun, and it’s hard to take the whole thing serious, which is good and bad. It’s good because it kind of armors you, but it’s bad because people tend not to take you serious, but that’s fine; I haven’t made any serious movies and what not. But I don’t know, it’s always the way I’ve been; it would be tough to change at this point to not be like, to be like, ‘Hey, I’m pimp, I’m good, aren’t I?’ Believe me, I say that behind closed doors when it’s just my wife and kid – not to strangers, though. And oddly enough, my wife and kid are the only ones who don’t believe it.
Question: Can you talk about your role in Die Hard?
Kevin Smith: I play a character that has a lot of expository dialogue; I’m the only person in Die Hard who talks, and doesn’t shoot somebody.
Question: You don’t shoot anybody or blow things up?
Kevin Smith: Pretty much. When I got there, I was like, ‘Len, can I get a gun?’ He’s like, ‘No.’ But it’s fun; it’s that role in the action movie where you provide a bunch of information for them to head into act 3. And my character gets talked about throughout – and it could all change. But the time they get in the editing room, they might be like, ‘You suck, yank him out.’ But as it stands now, in the script, and as I shot it, they talk about me a lot and then they meet me; and I provide a lot of information about the villain.
Question: Do you riff as much in that movie as in Catch & Release?
Kevin Smith: What’s nice about working on those big, awfully expensive Hollywood movies, is they have so many writers, they don’t even notice if you’re one of them. So, I got there, and I wrote myself a one page monologue, and I got to deliver it; it was hysterical, they let me do it. Bruce Willis was like, ‘Do it up, that was a good speech.’ So, you do it, and they totally went for it; so that was kind of cool, and I got to give that speech in that movie. They were kind of riff friendly. There was one motto on that movie, and they kept saying it, which was, ‘Keep it Die Hard.’ So you couldn’t get in there and do a Jay and Silent Bob type monologue, but you had to make it germane to the movie. So I don’t give a funny speech, I wind up giving a very paranoid, Joe Pesci in JFK type speech, which was fun.
Question: Susannah also said you didn’t deliver the lines the way she wanted them.
Kevin Smith: But not because I don’t respect Susannah’s writing or anything; I just learned so quickly that I’m not a good actor. A good actor can take what’s written on the page, and not change a f*ckin’ word, and make it sound like they’re coming up with it off the top of their head. I would try to do that, but how bad was I? Susannah would be like – cause there’s that director move where you’re supposed to lead the horse to water, where you’re supposed to make the actor think he’s discovering it for themselves. ‘Well, you want to say it with a bit more emotion here, like you feel like you’re an Emu in the scene, and all these people are lions,’ or something like that. And finally, I’d be like, ‘Susannah, just tell me, just say it, and I’ll say it like you say it.’ And so she loved it, cause that’s shorthand. The other actors – I can’t speak for Sam. I just believe in the quickest way there, man; and if she could just tell me how to say it, I could just do it. And it’s one step away from having her hand up your ass, and her working your mouth.
Question: So is this going to make you think about acting more full time?
Kevin Smith: I wound up acting more at the end of this year than I thought I was doing; I did the Die Hard thing, and then I did this thing for Showtime called Man-child. It’s fun, and it’s kind of interesting; but at the same time, I’m limited. It’s not – in acting, you can hand someone the Iambic pentameter and they can go off; I can do one thing fairly decently, and that is play myself – and I wouldn’t call that acting. Some people will come to me and be like, ‘Hey, we want you to do something that you, here to have, haven’t done,’ I’d be like, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ I’m very, very limited. So it’s fun when someone offers you something cause you’re like, ‘Well, I can do this, this is fun, and it f*ckin’ pays well!’ So that’s cool, but pursuing it like this is my new job – no.
Question: Susannah told us about the DVD commentary track; why were you trying so hard to get sexual information out of her?
Kevin Smith: Because no one listens to those commentary tracks for the technical aspects; if you’ve ever listened to those commentary tracks, some of them are so dry and boring. It’s like, ‘Tell me if you f*cked a lot on this movie.’ That’s the interesting thing.
Question: She wouldn’t answer?
Kevin Smith: She wouldn’t answer anything; I was like, ‘How much did you get laid making this movie?’ She was like, ‘We’re not going to talk about that.’ It’s like, ‘Common, man.’
Question: So is it a fruitless, two-hour track?
Kevin Smith: I got other things out of her.
Question: Like what?
Kevin Smith: If you want to know the biography of Susannah Grant, it’s all there; and I do get a lot of other information out of her, but she would not provide that. I asked her, cause there were so many chicks involved in this movie – there was her, Garner, there was Casey, one of the executive producers, there was Jenno, Amy Pascal, the head of the studio. I was like, ‘Did all of your cycles get in sync?’ She didn’t want to talk about periods; that was weird. That to me is interesting; that’s the kind of sh*t, if I was listening to a commentary track, I’d be like, ‘That’s a great question!’
Question: You’re voicing a tubby bastard in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Were you completely geeked out when you went to Imagi? Did you lobby for the quick part?
Kevin Smith: No, Harvey Weinstein called me up and wanted to know if I wanted to do a voice in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; cause Weinstein has a piece of it. And I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ The dude that lobbied, and didn’t get the part, was Jason Mewes. Cause Jason Mewes was like, ‘What are you doing today?’ I’m like, ‘I’m going to do a voiceover for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they’re doing the CG cartoon.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ I showed him the trailer, and he was like, ‘Oh, I want to f*ckin’ be in that.’ I was like, ‘Well, dude, you’ve been in Weinstein movies; call them up, they’ll put you in the picture.’ And he called them mercilessly, especially after he found out I got paid to do it. He kept calling and they were like, ‘We don’t have anything left, dude;’ they were like, ‘I’m sorry.’ He was like, ‘Add a character;’ he was like, ‘Can’t I be the girl turtle?’ But, he just said there was something they wanted to re-voice, and they brought me in; it took maybe an hour, or something like that. But no, I want to see that movie; I lobbied to see the footage, which they finally showed me when I did a voice over.
Question: What about the Showtime show?
Kevin Smith: The Showtime thing is called Man-child; it’s a pilot. I don’t know if they’re going to pick it up; God willing, I hope they do. It’s me, James Purefoy from Rome, Paul Hipp, and John Corbett.
Question: Based on the British show?
Kevin Smith: I didn’t see it; but I know it’s based on a British show. But in the UK, they were all in their 50’s, and in this one they’re all in their 40’s – but I’m not even 40, I’m 36, so that was a real performance.
Question: How was it being a guest critic with Roeper?
Kevin Smith: It was pimp when they asked me to be on Ebert and Roeper, and then I saw the other people they asked and I was like, ‘Sh*t, they’re asking everybody.’ But, it was still cool; I grew up watching that show, back when it was – before it was Ebert and Roeper, before it was Siskel and Ebert, when it was just ‘At the Movies’ on PBS, and before that when it was Sneak Previews. So when I was a kid, I watched that show, and they were always referred to as ‘the fat guy and the skinny guy’ in our house, and I grew up to be the ‘fat guy,’ so it was kind of cool. But it was nice, and it’s a lot more work to it than you think; cause you actually have to write a review, which I never really thought about. Cause they do kind of sit there and deliver to the camera before they get into cross talk, and they never mess up – and that’s because they’re reading from a teleprompter. And it’s your opinion, so no one can write the review for you, you have to write it; and that was the challenging thing. You have to write a 200 word review, and as you can tell, I’m not good at keeping it short. So, that was tough, writing a 200 word review.
Question: What did you think about ripping on your fellow actors and directors?
Kevin Smith: Did you ever see the shows I did? I never ripped into anybody. But really, it’s because there was nothing I saw – I go into it with a different perspective; that’s something I learned, too, when I was sitting there with Richard. I saw The Guardian, and I was like, ‘I liked this, it’s the kind of movie my old man would have loved.’ So I had a different sentimental attachment to it; and also I looked at it going, ‘I could never make this movie,’ so f*ckin’ props! And Richard’s like, ‘I’ve seen 10 of these this year; you’ve seen one, so f*ck you.’ So it’s different for them, cause they’re forced to watch every f*ckin’ movie, and they’ll see multiples of the same tired plot like that. Where as, I don’t go out to see movies like The Guardian; when I got to see it for free, I was like, ‘I liked it.’
Question: Having reviewed, does that change your perspective on making movies?
Kevin Smith: No, not really; I’ve been watching movies for years and I’ve gotten no better as a filmmaker. Why, in terms of reviewing movies, would it really make me think about it twice?
Question: Did you have a different opinion now on film criticism?
Kevin Smith: I really did walk away with more of an appreciation for critics, cause it’s very easy to demonize them in my position, to villainize a critic and be like, ‘f*ckin’ asshole’s responsible for f*ckin’ my 63% on Rotten Tomatoes when I could have been 70; why am I not certified fresh?’ But, it is a f*ckin – it’s not like curing cancer or laying brick, but it’s a tough job; you’re forced to go see movies you have no interest in seeing, and you have to come at it fairly, so to speak and then write something about it clever in a way that nobody else before and sh*t like that.
Question: How many did you see?
Kevin Smith: For Ebert and Roeper, I did 2 shows, so I saw 8 flicks – but 2 separate shows.
Question: Was there a movie you saw that you wouldn’t have seen?
Kevin Smith: I wouldn’t have gone to see – I’ve got a kid, so I probably would have wound up seeing Open Season, especially because it’s a Sony Picture. I feel like such a whore. But some of them I would have went to see; but I would have never gone to see The Guardian, but I wound up liking it. But there was stuff I wanted to see and got to see early like The Queen and The Last King of Scotland – that was kind of a cool day; yeah, great, easy sits, though.
Question: What about Mark Steven Johnson talking to you about directing an episode of Preacher?
Kevin Smith: Yeah, he asked me if I wanted to direct an episode of Preacher, which I thought was pretty kind of him; but, I don’t know if I’m up to that. I love that book so much, and being able to translate one of those books to the screen, I don’t think that’s me. Cause you don’t want to be the guy who f*cks it up, and so I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know, we’ll see.’ But I’m certainly not committed to do it, only as much of I don’t want to drop the ball cause I like it so much. But if it was some show I didn’t like; I mean, I’ve never really directed TV anyway, so it’s kind of difficult getting my head around it, but since it’s an hour-long drama, presumably, I’d be more keen to directing a movie rather than TV – I don’t know, maybe, maybe. The thing that would keep me from doing that would be I’d be afraid of ruining what I like so much about Preacher – so we’ll see if that happens.
Question: What about the horror film you’re supposed to be directing?
Kevin Smith: Horror flick is all up here (points to brain); I just have to put it down here (pretends to type). I’ve just been using acting as an excuse to not sit down and not write.
Question: How were you involved in Fanboys?
Kevin Smith: Yeah, me and Mewes did a little cameo when they were doing re-shoots, and what not.
Question: What’s your opinion of the film?
Kevin Smith: I’ve watched half of it; it’s a rather sweet movie. I haven’t watched the other half of it; I watched my half up until my part, cause we were doing that little scene, and I wanted to throw some stuff together for it. And I was like, ‘So what’s the movie about?’ My part wasn’t in it yet, but I turned it off where my part would be. Cause (Scott) Mosier’s like, ‘We’re still in the midst of cutting it; watch the finished version,’ and what not. But I like it, I think it’s a really sweet movie, and right up my f*ckin’ alley; so I’m kind of programmed to kind of dig it. That dude, Dan Fogler in the movie’s really funny, the chick from Veronica Mars, who I absolutely love, whose name escapes me –
Question: Kristen Bell
Kevin Smith: Thank you, who I must not love that much; she’s in it, and she’s really good. That dude who plays Windows in the movie is the guy from Million Dollar Baby -.
Question: What’s next for you?
Kevin Smith: For me, I don’t know; it’s kind of coming down to me wanting to do this comedy and me wanting to do this horror flick. And I feel like I should do the horror flick because I’ve done seven comedies in 12 years, and I don’t feel like a filmmaker most days; I just feel like a guy who makes those movies set in that universe. So if I really want to test myself or push myself, I’d try and make something completely out of my safety zone, completely out of my genre – that said, I’ve never tested myself, so why would I start now.
Question: How are the hate emails with Ben Affleck going?
Kevin Smith: Honestly not that much; he’s been buried in Gone, Baby, Gone, so we really haven’t traded that many emails. I saw him the other night cause he’s got some awards heat on him, and what not, and they had one of those award cocktail party get togethers kind of thing where I showed up; I was like, ‘Dude, you don’t have to lobby for my vote, I’m voting for you.’ But he’s been buried in his movie; and I keep asking him, ‘Dude, show me your flick.’ And he keeps saying, ‘Nah, not yet, I’m not quite ready yet.’ I just don’t think he wants my loser stink anywhere near it. I think he’s gearing up; he’s like, ‘You wouldn’t understand it, but there are no ass-f*cking jokes.’
Question: Anymore Q&A’s?
Kevin Smith: Q&A’s, I’ve got one at Kent State, and then I’ve got one in Denver; but no, I’ve been kind of saying ‘no’ to a lot of stuff this year. Just because last year was so busy, I’m looking forward to just laying low; also, if Man-child gets picked up, I think we start shooting in March again, and that’s 12 episodes, 4 months, so I had to leave that open, so not too much. Everyone’s kind of seen my dog and pony show at this point.
Question: What was it like working with Jennifer Garner especially being so close with her husband
Kevin Smith: I was saying to someone earlier today, cause they were like, ‘You’re friends with Ben, and it must have been great, and his old lady’s in the movie.’ And back then, it wasn’t quite his old lady just yet; it became his old lady while we were making the movie. One day, she showed up with a ring, and I was like, ‘Why wasn’t I invited?’ A ring and a belly and the belly first, ironically – which I kind of respected, Affleck hedging his bets. So I had met her a handful of times prior to that; we were on an episode of ‘Dinner For Five’ a while ago when they were promoting Daredevil. Somebody dropped out, so at the last minute, they were like, ‘Can you fill in?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ So, during the show, you sit around, you bullsh*t, and what not; I did the same thing I do with Ben all the time, and just made fun of him and picked on him, and sh*t like that. And she would get really tight about it; at one point, she was like, ‘I’m going to kick your ass,’ in that way where you’re like, ‘Is she joking or not?’ You just couldn’t quite understand it; it was like, ‘Alias is taking me seriously.’ And I should have realized then she was being a little bit protective of that dude. So, then I ran into her at The Tonight Show, and somewhere else; but I had no relationship with her. The most time I spent with her was on this movie; and totally lovely girl, and what not. But it’s funny, cause you know a person from working with them, and their body of work, and you also know about them from what a friend tells you about them, and sh*t like that. So the whole time I’m looking at her thinking, ‘Oh, I know things about you!’
Question: Like what?
Kevin Smith: Ask him, ask him.
Question: That kind of parallels your character in this movie?
Kevin Smith: A little bit, and Affleck was around as much as the Grady character was around; he didn’t spend a lot of time on the set. He would bum by and say hi to her and sh*t; but generally, because it was up in Vancouver, he didn’t – it sucks being on a set you’re not, you have nothing to do with. It’s kind of boring, so it’s not like he hung out all the time; but when he did hang out, he was f*ckin’ hanging out with her, naturally, in her trailer. I was like, ‘Come to my trailer;’ he was like, ‘Dude, you don’t f*ck me.’ I was like, ‘Right on; I’ll go to Olyphant’s trailer.’
Question: Did you have any input into your wardrobe of your character?
Kevin Smith: I wish I f*ckin’, I wish I had input into my wardrobe; I lobbied to get that f*ckin’ jersey on. I was like, ‘Give me one thing to cover up with; you keep putting me in these skin-tight, fuckin’, tie-dye shirts leaving nothing to the imagination. I do have a character in the movie where people look at me and feel better about themselves; they’re just like, ‘As bad as I got it, I don’t look like that.’ It’s weird cause I just wear this (long trench coat) in generally every movie I’ve been in; and suddenly, I had to wear what they told me to wear. And I remember Susannah was always going for less; at least with the tie-dye shirt, I got to wear a shirt under it, so it gives you the illusion of ‘well, there’s one more layer, so they can’t tell I’m fat yet.’ Susannah, when we were doing the massage scene, she was like, ‘Well, of course you’ll have your shirt off in this scene.’ I was like, ‘F*ck you, I will not.’ She was like, ‘So you’re going to have a massage with your shirt on?’ I was like, ‘I get a massage in a closed room, not with 40 people on set staring at me, and the world’s going to see it afterwards.’ So I was like, ‘I don’t take my shirt off for my wife, why am I going to do it here.’ So, yeah, that was a weird thing to work with them, just kind of having to wear what they told me; I haven’t worn what I was told to wear since I lived at home with my mom. So it was kind of like that.
Question: Would you categorize yourself as a difficult actor?
Kevin Smith: Only as much as wardrobe; it’s the same thing on Man-child in the opening scene in the show, we’re on surfboards in the middle of the Pacific, and I’m wearing a wetsuit, and I look like the f*ckin’ Penguin, just round, with a little head on top. So I said, ‘I really feel like my character, Paul, would probably wear a shirt over this; and they were like, ‘You don’t wear a shirt in the ocean.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, Paul would; and Paul’s gonna.’ And they were like, ‘Alright.’ So they let me where a (Los Angeles) Kings jersey.