Good day. Since so much of our site’s content is lost in other designs, hampered by ad code messing with the pages, or surrounded by gas and low on evil, I’m going to start reprinting them for new eyes. You’ll see classic Smilin’ Jack Ruby, stuff from me when I was relevant, early Devin, and if there’s a God… some Brian Koukol. So, look for the CHUD Rerun branding and enjoy. It’s nice revisiting some of this stuff. – Nick
***END OF WARNING***
Republished from March 22, 2004
Smith is a lot of things to a lot of people, especially
folks on the Internet. He’s always been a guy whose films
inspire debate whether over their dialogue, running jokes,
lack of visual flair, or fanboy ramifications. Jersey
Girl is his latest film, a warm and sentimental
change-up, something that’s a considerably different animal
from Clerks or Dogma. I spoke
with Smith during his press tour in support of the film
and after chatting a little bit about the last time we met
(we were on the first San Diego Comic Con Movie Webmasters
Panel several years ago) and his distaste for Film Threat‘s
Ron Wells, we began the interview…
Nunziata: You have an interesting relationship with the
Smith: I haven’t had any Internet questions. You know that
the question is this time with the Ben and Jenn thing.
Nunziata: You won’t get any of that bullshit from me. For
a while it seemed like your relationship with the Internet
was very combustible but then you got a few jabs off in
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. How do you feel now
about the whole thing now?
Smith: It will always kind of be the boon and bane of my
existence. I spend an inordinate amount of time on the web.
I’ve gotten into many fights with the wife because of the
time I spend on the web. Particularly my website. So, I
love it to death and I love being able to communicate. I
still hate and will always hate being the easy target. You
know, being known for being there at the View Askew
website and the people that don’t like your shit or even
the people who are on the fence about an issue or even the
ones who do like your shit but just want to stir up a shit
storm will find you and try to start shit with you. This
year I kind of got to a place where I realized I could probably
do things and put countermeasures into place to kind of
shield me from so much of the fucking spamming, snipers,
and whatnot. So, on View Askew we instituted a joining
fee. It charges people like two bucks to join the site,
a onetime fee. The money goes to RAIN, the Tori Amos charity
about rape and incest abuse. It really cut down on the amount
of assholes who’d sign on just to call you names. In the
beginning, there was no registration or anything. You’d
just come and post on the board. Then, we put in a registration
process so people needed a name and you had to have a web
address, so that’d cut it down. Each subsequent year we’ve
cut it down further and further to get it to a place where,
if you want to hurl expletives and tell me I suck… I don’t
care if someone tells me I suck, I’m not above criticism…
but the people that get on and try to take you apart and
rabble rouse everyone else on the site and fill the boards
with clutter, those are the people you try to weed out.
So, I love the net and hate the net at the same time.
Nunziata: We get the same thing. I feel your pain on that.
It’s incredible how counterproductive some folks can be.
The talkback thing has evolved into something else.
Smith: The ultimate hellish talkback is still and will probably
always be Aint it Cool News. That’s still just a
place I can’t go near anymore. You tap on one of those talkbacks
and it’s people liking you and people hating you and they’re
both really passionate. I remember one time three or four
years ago there was some dude who was putting up pretty
vitriolic shit about me in some thread that had nothing
to do with anything that I was doing. I just came up in
the thread, and he tore me a new one. I dropped him an email,
I said “what’s up, why the hate?” This due was like “honestly
I’m indifferent to your stuff, I just like to stir shit”.
What the fuck? How lame do you have to be to spend your
time like that on the Internet? Can’t you do something more
constructive, like surf the porn? Or go into the real world
and interact with people rather than cyber-sniping. That
I’ve never understood.
Nunziata: One of the things a lot of people have used as
a target and something you yourself have criticized about
your films was the look of them. You’ve erased that factor
Smith: With this picture. It looks good, doesn’t it?
Smith: I can’t take all the credit for that. Ninety percent
of the credit has to go to Vilmos [Zsigmond]. He shot a
really good-looking movie. He’s also a very creative D.P.
that I was able to lean on. I’d suggest doing something
for a shot and he’d go “We’ll do that, but we should also
try this”. Of course, his idea was always better. So, a
lot of credit goes to that guy.
Nunziata: Was it a strange transition for you?
Smith: No, not really. The big difference going in is that
he’s going to let you be that lazy. Even when I was like
“No dude, no suggestions. It’s going to be as boring as
I want”, it was still going to be lit phenomenally. I went
in fully expecting to grow as a filmmaker, to learn as much
as I could from him and kind of stretch myself and not rely
on the standard fucking medium two-shot. So, it worked out
pretty well. We got along pretty good. He’s also from the
70’s school of thought where the director is an auteur
and it’s all about the director and the cinematographer
and everyone else is outside the box. I’m much more of a
collaborative director. Everyone is really involved in my
process. I rely heavily on the script supervisor, the continuity
person. I rely heavily on the gaffers, my producers. I take
input and advice from everybody and I think that might have
frustrated Vilmos from time to time because I wasn’t “tunnel
vision” in my relationship with them. I was always listening
to him and took his advice but I had all these other people
around me who’ve been with me for four or five movies so
of course I was like “What do you think?” and “What do YOU
think?” around the board. That’s how I do it.
Nunziata: How did it affect your editing process?
Smith: The good-looking movie? It just made it a pleasure
to sit there and edit. Never once was I sitting there going
“this could have looked better”. Otherwise, it didn’t really
affect the editing that much.
Nunziata: It’s probably completely pointless to most folks,
but there’s a shot in the film where it starts off looking
Smith: What a great shot.
Nunziata: It catches Ben…
Smith: It picks him up. It does this wonderful thing. The
shot was always meant to pick him up and take him into the
building and Vilmos is like, “Watch what we’re going to
do”. He points it straight at the sky and it’s twisted around
in the other direction so it comes down and rotates as it’s
coming down between the buildings and finds Ben in motion
and we’re in motion when we find Ben. Wonderful shot, and
does it move the movie forward at all or tell a story? No,
but it’s a really gorgeous shot and there is some emotion
to it. My idea for the shot was he had to be very small
in the frame in comparison to the landscape of Manhattan
and Vilmos just threw that extra spin on it that made him
seem even smaller.
Nunziata: Well, it was that shot that it kind of dawned
on me that I was watching a Kevin Smith movie and seeing
this really cool shot. I was like “Well, there goes my biggest
bitch about the guy”. Then of course, a week later there’s
the announcement about your next project. It all made sense.
Two or three years ago, if that announcement had been made,
there’d be a whole new wave of criticism.
Nunziata: And it’s justified. You have to have some sort
of pizzazz in a film about The Green Hornet.
Nunziata: So, was Jersey Girl a good midway point
before jumping into a film like that?
Smith: It really was, and it was because of this movie.
In fact, Harvey [Weinstein] flat-out said that it was because
of this movie that he felt safe enough to give me Green
Hornet. “You’ve grown as a filmmaker, you’ll grow even
more”. So yeah, without Jersey Girl there’s
no way I’d have gotten Green Hornet. Thankfully,
the look of Jersey Girl really lent towards
that. Yeah, it has kind of subdued some of the online criticism.
I too expected that once that announcement was made that
people would say “There’s no way, this dude can’t shoot
his way out of a paper bag”. The only criticisms I’ve read
were things like “Oh, I guess this means Green Hornet and
Kato are going to have some homoerotic relationship and
talk about Star Wars a lot”. Whatever, I’ll
accept that. They haven’t seen Jersey Girl
and they don’t know what I’m going to do with The Green
Hornet. It’s the easy shots like that, nobody going
like “This dude is inept, don’t give him a movie like this”.
It also helps that it’s not a movie the whole world is expecting.
Imagine if I’d been given Superman or something.
People would have gone apeshit. With Green Hornet,
the expectations aren’t nearly as high as with most comic
Nunziata: It doesn’t hurt that you’ve worked with and have
a rapport with some pretty big names either. Another thing,
maybe if Jersey Girl had come out last year when
originally scheduled you’d have met some obstacles. But
now, making fun of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez is so
Smith: Originally we were supposed to open up in November
against The Matrix Revolutions, so that’s
what I was terrified of. This was long before the Gigli
stuff. So, as we came into May of 2003, Scott Mosier and
I were begging Harvey to move us two weeks later or three
weeks later or a week earlier. We were going to get mowed
down by The Matrix, everyone was going to want to see it.
He was like “No, we’ll counter-program, it’ll be good”.
Then The Matrix Reloaded came out and totally
trounced Down With Love, the counter-programming
picture. We got the call from Harvey going “I think we’re
going to move your movie from that November 7th
weekend”, and we’re like “Good call boss”. So, we were hoping
to move into December, which would have made sense because
the movie starts around Christmas time. But Paramount had
already slated Paycheck in there, Ben’s other
movie. Harvey didn’t want to go head to head with a Ben
Affleck movie against a Ben Affleck movie because he’d done
it the year before with Leonardo DiCaprio and Gangs
of New York going up against Catch Me if You
Can. So, he tells us we’re going to have to move
into 2004 and I was like “Oh Christ, we’re sitting on a
finished movie, I don’t want to wait an additional four
or five months”. That was really frustrating, but then I
started planting the bug that I wanted to open on February
14th. Harvey was like “You’re out of your mind,
that’s the weekend that 50 First Dates opens”.
I didn’t even know what that movie was, but when I did I
understood. So, we picked March, but it pissed me off. Then
Gigli opened in August and Harvey looked like
the most brilliant guy in the world. It wasn’t his intention
to get away from Gigli, because nobody knew
but by virtue of the fact we did move it gave us time as
the bomb hit, the shrapnel flew, and the dust settled. So,
we can come out in a pretty neutral climate. It’s not like
a year ago, but it’s kind of gone away. It is passé to write
jokes about them and the only ones who still seem to want
to is The New York Post but other than that no one
really cares anymore. So, at least it got us back to a place
where the movie will be judged according to its content
and not to the backstory. I don’t care, if people see the
movie and say it’s dogshit, whatever. They’ll say it about
the movie. Nobody is calling us dogshit or not giving us
a shot because of Ben and Jenn. It was always frustrating
to think that our movie would be judged over something that
has nothing to do with our movie. So, now I think we’re
getting a fair shake. It’s still an uphill battle, though.
People who play close attention will know it’s not a Ben
and Jenn film, she’s out of the film in the first fifteen
minutes but the populace at large doesn’t have that disconnect.
“Ben’s in it, Jenn’s in it? It must be another Gigli”.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Miramax can market
an audience into the movie.
Nunziata: Well, there’s a flip side to that. It’s also not
another Jay and Silent Bob film either. That puts it in
a weird place for Kevin Smith fans and people who haven’t
given you a chance yet.
Smith: True. For the better part of two years I’ve been
telling people that we’re taking a jump away. This movie
is a 180-degree turn from the last one. It’s not that dissimilar
from Chasing Amy in as much of its mix of
comedy and drama. Spiritually and tonally, I think it’s
kind of close. As per our last movie, you can’t get further
from our last movie. When I first started writing it, I
would tell people online that it’s different. Even when
I was doing press for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
I warned everyone that the next film was going to be different.
Nunziata: I remember you mentioning it at the San Diego
Comic Con for the past two years.
Smith: We did it for Chasing Amy too. I came
down here to Atlanta for Dragon*con in 1996 and also at
San Diego before the movie was done. We had some scenes
cut together and we brought them. Of course, we loaded
the clips. We brought the comics related stuff, the scenes
from the convention at the beginning of the film. Still,
it was a nice way to let people check Chasing Amy
out and see that it wasn’t like Mallrats or
Clerks. I did the same thing with Jersey
Girl in the Wizard Con in Philadelphia, but I wasn’t
allowed to load them because there’s no comics related content
in the film. I brought a scene of Ben and Jenn and a scene
of Ben and the kid and it went over pretty well but I didn’t
bring it to San Diego because I hate running clips, I like
to get in front of an audience and fucking talk.
Nunziata: They couldn’t give you enough time to satisfy
everybody. I always catch them and it never ceases to amaze
me how many guys will step up and let you hit them right
out of the park.
Smith: On one hand I’ll stand up there and think I’m a pretty
good storyteller but it has everything to do with the audience.
Invariably, I get people telling me that I should do stand-up.
Stand-ups generate their own material, but I’m up there
answering questions and they lob me softballs. I don’t mean
softballs in the fact that nobody is getting up there and
criticizing me as a filmmaker, but that they set you up
to tell home run stories. Stories I’ve told time and time
again and they’re honed down to a science by this point.
Nunziata: I think it was two years ago, you got to share
your daughter’s first bit of public profanity.
Smith: I think that was at San Diego.
Nunziata: It was good stuff, and I’ll admit that I’ve been
one of those critics from time to time but I do feel that
a lot of us are getting to live vicariously through you
and if nothing else, I will always be extremely thrilled
that you’ve turned George Carlin into an actor. Someone
who can hold the screen.
Smith: I feel that’s one of my better accomplishments of
the past ten years. Like everyone else, I’m a huge fan of
Carlin in his day job. Carlin always had this thing which
I learned from Dogma forward, he’s always
wanted to be an actor. He got into radio and radio into
comedy because he wanted to be an actor. He wanted to be
in movies. He’s acted here and there but nobody really gives
him the chance to be anything other than the funny guy,
myself included. When we wrapped on Dogma, I took him aside
and told him that I was going to be writing him a pretty
big role and he said, “I hope it’s the dream role”. I said,
“What’s the dream role?” and he told me that he’s always
wanted to play a clergyman who strangles six children. I
said, “Well, you’re playing a grandfather. Is that good
enough?” and he was like “Whatever, that’s fine”. When I
finished the script and gave it to him, he really dug it.
It was really acting. There’s some heavy lifting there.
He gets to be funny and all, but he also has to emote. There’s
that scene at the end of the film with him and Ben at the
bar and he gets glassy-eyed, that’s performance. It’s really
moving stuff, and he knocked it out of the park.
Nunziata: He could have easily been the comic relief crutch,
Smith: All the credit goes to him. He did all the heavy
Nunziata: So, you and he can do the clergyman film next.
Smith: Hell no. I’ve done my religious picture. The only
religious picture I’d consider doing is a sequel to The
Passion of the Christ.
Nunziata: A sequel?
Smith: Yeah, the one where he comes back and he’s mad as
Girl opens all over this fine nation this Friday.