Kevin Smith Talks to Broadside about His Latest Film

By Broadside Staff Writer Ross Bonaime

Kevin Smith, the writer and director of Chasing Amy, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, could arguably be considered one of the most important influential directors in recent history. Smith came from the early ’90s with his now-classic Clerks to become an essential indie director and has gained popularity since. Smith’s current film, Zack and Miri Make A Porno, possibly his most ambitious and controversial, might also be one of his best.

“If you scrape away the pornography and the other trappings of the story, in terms of a bunch of people getting together to make a porno, it really is kind of how we made Clerks to some degree. Some knuckleheads who don’t know anything and get together and make a feature” Smith said of the similarities to his newest film to his first film. “The experience of making Clerks 15 years ago definitely informed the plot of this movie.”

Smith, a native of New Jersey, is known for his View Askew films, a series of films with interconnecting characters, stories and themes that takes place in the Garden State. “The area of New Jersey in which I grew up in certainly affected the kind of dialogue I write, fractured, candid dialogue with a lot of vulgarity cause that’s how my circle of friends; that’s how we speak,” said Smith. However, for Smith, it is more of the people that influenced him than his location: “I imagine if I had grown up any place else, it wouldn’t be that much different, although having my friends that I’ve had over the course of my life has certainly influenced me as a filmmaker. But I can’t say that the great state of New Jersey necessarily influenced that, as much as the people in New Jersey that I hung around with definitely influenced it,” said Smith.

Zack and Miri star Seth Rogen is known as an excellent improviser, yet Smith is notorious as a director who is not so much of a fan of ad-libbing. Yet according to Smith, the culmination of both their styles was not a problem.
“It really combined rather well. I mean at the end of the day, they’re all consummate professionals who love to act they all honor the scripts, it’s not like they all get there and are like ‘well we won’t be needing this anymore.’”
Rogen’s spontaneous way of comedy seems to have worked well for Smith. “When he makes a joke that’s not there, that wasn’t in the script or ad-libs a line, it sounds like it’s coming out of the character’s mouth, not Seth’s mouth, so it doesn’t seem like someone’s stopping the show to make a joke or stand out. He’s also good at ad-libbing stuff that propels the story forward. So you welcome a guy like that cause he’s not just executing, he’s elevating,” said Smith.

In many of Smith’s films, there has been an incredible connection between characters. With the characters of Zack and Miri as played by Rogen and Elizabeth Banks, this is no exception. “From the moment we sat down to do the first table reading of the script, it was apparent that their chemistry was sickening it was so good, it was so insane and so thick,” said Smith. Zack and Miri could quite possibly be put in the pantheon of great connections in Smith films. “Sometimes you work with actors that just have that wonderful, fantastic chemistry that you don’t even have to do anything as a director except stay out of the way.” When the two main characters finally consummate their relationship, Smith wanted to make it as believable as possible: “Every movie I’ve ever seen with love making or intimacy portrayed, it’s usually very cheesy.” However in his film, it is quite different. “This isn’t a scene about the act of physical intimacy as much as it is about the emotional connection between these two people,” said Smith.
“I knew the term ‘porno’ was going to turn off some people.” Zack and Miri has been shocking people with just its name and promotional materials alone and Smith does know that this is a film that may not be for everyone. “Initially the MPAA gave us a NC-17. Because porno’s in the title, I think maybe they were a bit heavy-handed in giving us a NC-17,” said Smith.

But Smith assures fans that this is the movie that he wanted. “I got to keep everything I wanted to keep in the movie.” Even through all the ratings drama, Smith’s next film could be just as controversial. “I’m going to do this flick called Red State, this little political horror movie that I scripted right after Zack and Miri. With Red State, I get to kind of switch genres all together. There [are] no laughs in the movie whatsoever. On the surface, as it’s written, there [are] no likable characters, everybody dies, it’s dark, there’s no comedy in it. It’s like 180 degrees from not just Zack and Miri Make A Porno, but also every other flick I’ve ever made.”

Smith has innovated the comedy genre, and it seems like in his promising new batch of films, he will change it once again.

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