This is the conclusion of an interview with filmmaker Kevin Smith conducted on Saturday Dec. 27. The subject for which the interview was conducted was Kevin Smith’s two-minute recaps of each episode of EPIX Presents: The Road to the NHL Winter Classic (which airs on Tuesdays and can be found on EPIX.com and NHL.com), called: Kevin Smith’s Penalty Box.
The concise, hockey-centric cut of this interview can be found here. Part one of the transcript, which goes into more delves deeper into his thoughts on the show, being a New Jersey Devils fan and why he writes hockey into his movies; can be found here.
This is the conclusion of the interview. For this part, hockey takes a back seat. What is found below is a look into how his family life and personal life intertwine, his thought on current international politics and what keeps him motivated after 20 years in the movie business.
Andrew Demo: Speaking of Yoga Hosers, your currently finishing up work on that. What’s it like working with your daughter, and how do you separate being a dad and being her boss?
Kevin Smith: Working with her is amazing. Working with her is hands-down the most fun that I have ever had on set because every once-in-a-while you give some direction, and the kid walks away and you’re like “that came from my balls, man! And now it’s saying lines that I wrote in the script. This is weird!”
She didn’t exist when I started this job. When I made Clerks there was no Harley. There was an inkling of “hey, I would like to have a kid one day because that would mean I got laid.” But there was no “one day I am gonna have a child, and we’re going to work together in movies.”
We’ve popped her into the flicks we’ve made over the course of her life, when she was a baby and when she was growing up. But she was never like “this is what I want to do!” She was a bass guitarist. For the two years prior to Tusk, that’s all she did. So we thought that was where she was headed.
Then we did Tusk and popped her in a scene. There is a scene that was written for a dude. He was behind the counter of a convenience store. And I was like “I know you never walk into a convenience store and see teenagers anymore; but we’re in Canada, and the movie’s already f*cking weird (I turn a guy into a walrus). You’re already outside of the box. Throw a f*cking teenager behind the counter like it was when you were a kid and sh*t.”
So I decided I was gonna throw my kid in there. I asked her if she wanted to do a few lines and she was like “okay.” So right before we shot it, her friend was coming to visit her on set (Lily-Rose) and I was like “why don’t you ask Lily to be in too? Because there’s another part for another convenience store clerk and you guys could stand in there together and sh*t?”
The girls have known each other for years. Lily’s dad (Johnny Depp) was already going to be in the scene. He played Guy Lapointe in that movie. So all of the sudden that day went from “oh my God, my kid’s going to be in the movie!” To like “oh, his kid’s going to be in the movie. Our kids are going to be in the movie together and these kids have been hanging out since they were five. And now let’s make the scene!”
Suddenly, it’s way more fun than the scene originally was. If you go back to the first draft, it’s way more fun than that. But it’s even way more fun than the idea “I’m gonna stick the kid in the flick.”
So from that moment; the kids were real natural and it was a blast. When I was editing the scene, I thought to myself “I would watch a whole movie about these two girls.” Just being sh*tty and bitter about America. Staring into their phones, and having nothing but sarcastic things to say. I was like “I could build a whole f*cking movie around that!”
So I asked her: “If I wanted to make a whole movie about just you and Lily-Rose behind the counter and then going on an adventure and sh*t, would you care? Is that the sort of thing you’re interested in?” And she was like “yeah, that would be fun.”
So I asked Lily-Rose, same thing. So I started writing. It was one of those things where I am a total stoner, so I wake-and-bake and get up in the morning and I’m like “I’m gonna write some pages and if it turns into a script fantastic and if it doesn’t whatever-the-f*ck.”
So, I wrote some pages and it did shape up into something I would watch. And not just because my kid’s in it. Because my kids in it, I built it differently. I knew a lot of people would be like: “F*ck, you’re a neopotist. So I decided to make it as user-friendly as possible.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t even matter if my kid’s in the movie or not. The movie is just kind of cool and fun.
So when I was done with that, we found financing through this company StarStream; and boom, we were off to the races. Less than four months, like three months and 29 days from the moment I finished the first draft, we were sitting on a set and I was going “action” and I was talking to my kid and her friend.
So the whole process has been a blast. You work 20 years and you’ve had good times on many different sets and whatnot. And each one always feels like “this is the best it’s ever been.” Well…not always. Not like Cop Out. But most films you’re like “oh, this is the best time I have ever had.” This one, hands down, had the added element of “I can’t believe I am making a movie with my teenage daughter!” I never saw that coming.
I am not a five-year plan guy. I can never predict the future. Some sh*t you’re like “If I put this in motion now and I keep growing it maybe by X, Y or Z, I can turn it into something.” This was not one of those things, I was never like “one day I’m gonna make a movie with the kid, and maybe she’ll be interested in acting.” It just all happened by accident. And because of that it was so f*cking fun.
I think if I was trying to engineer it, like a stage mom and sh*t, it wouldn’t have been fun. It would have been kind of gross. But this just organically kind of happened. The approach was “if this works great. If we can do this, oh my God would that be fun. But if not, well why the f*ck would it work? Because it’s not like you were grooming your kid for a performing career. You were never really thinking about making movies for 15-year-old kids anyway.” Then boom…you wind up with that.
The girls really informed it, because they are teenagers. But just having the kid there, everyday on set, was so wonderful because it was like Take Your Daughter to Work Day every f*cking day. So she got to see me in a different light than she ever does.
I’m not like the “strict” parent. I am a really easy-going parent…the “fun” parent, and sh*t. My wife can’t stand it. She’s like “why don’t you be the disciplinarian?” and I am like “f*ck that!” I don’t want that. So our relationship is very super-friendly and casual and sweet and wonderful; and she just likes me because it’s like “hey! It’s dad!”
But she never really saw me at work and never really understood the process. This time around she was involved from the script stage to every moment of the production. If I am seeing early designs, I am like “check this out” and she is like “wow.”
She got this complete film school experience and at the end of it was like “maybe I want to do this with my life.” The good news is she’s f*cking good. It would be terrifying if I’m like “the kid sucks, what do I do?” But she’s so f*cking natural and good; and I am like “man…this could be what you want to do.”
But she’s 15, and I am sure it will change. Right now she’s like “I love acting, but I don’t know if I want to go to college.” Then like a week later, she’s like: “Maybe I should go to college.” Again…teenager.
In terms of making a flick. I mean, it’s what I do not just as a passion, but it’s my vocation as well. Hands down, making a flick with my kid was the most fun over the span of two decades. It was incredibly satisfying on the level that I am working with fresh new talent and giving them their start and their reinvigorating me at the same time. So it’s mutually beneficial.
The next level down, you scrape away, it’s like “this is my kid. Oh my God, this is so fun.” It was a real family affair.
AD: As someone that often writes himself into his movies on occasion (often as Silent Bob), how do her acting chops stack up against yours?
KS: There was a moment dude. She has a moment in the movie where I was incredibly proud. Somebody pulled a knife on her in the movie; and she has one of the most Silent bob-ieist reactions that I have ever seen outside of Silent Bob. I was behind the monitor when we shot it; and if there was ever any doubt that this kid was not mine, that just clinched it man.
She kind of looks like me a lot anyway, but her reaction was so out of Silent Bob’s playbook (number 12), it blew my mind. I’ve talked about it with Johnny Depp as well, because his daughter is in the movie. And he was watching it on the monitor and I asked “do you see things?” Because I saw a Silent Bob moment. “Do you see you in her? Because I know you didn’t teach her to act, this is just her naturally coming to it. Do you see moments of yourself in her performance?” And he goes “yes…it’s unsettling.”
He saw her pull a move out of his trick bag. And, you know, it’s just genetic. It’s crazy. There were moments like that on set, which were really lovely. It’s like “where did they get that?” Genetically, it’s just there.
Acting is about choices. You just make a choice how to say something, and hopefully it sounds realistic. You trick the audience into buying the illusion. So these girls were making choices by the end of the first day. I thought I would have to work them like marionettes or something, because they were kids. But they were so innately in tune with the material. I mean, it was written for them. It was tailor-made for them. It really brought it to life.
At one point, on the second day, I pulled them aside. I asked the girls “you guys just showed me something in a scene that I didn’t tell you to do and I don’t know where you would have gotten it from. So, I’ve gotta ask you, is there some adult who is directing you behind my back?” And they were like “no.”
So I had to ask them “why did you do what you did?” And they were like “I don’t know, it just seemed right.” It was like “If I didn’t tell you and nobody else told you, where did you learn to do something like that?”
And they were like “I don’t know, just watching TV.” And you realize that this is the streaming generation. Where you can watch an entire 10-year run of a television series in the span of a week, if you’ve got the time. And these kids do that, they consume so much media. And unlike when I was growing up, where we didn’t even have a f*cking VCR when I was a kid. So if you didn’t catch the live viewing you were f*cked unless you waited until the summer for the one rerun.
So these kids could watch a performance over, and over, and over again and dissect it and favorite it. Not just on their Facebook page, but delving into it. “Why do I like this so much?”
We learn our art generally by consuming other people’s art. So you watch other people act, and then you get an idea of how you would do it if you had the opportunity. And boom…that’s what the kids were doing.
It was pretty interesting to watch. For a guy that loves performance; it was interesting. It was like watching penguins in the wild. It’s like “look at them, they are just like humans! These little girls are acting, like real acting people!” It was fun.
AD: At one point you were planning on making a movie based on the Warren Zevon song “Hit Somebody” (whick revolves around a hockey player). Then it was said it was going to be split in two, then it was back to one, then it was a miniseries. What is the status of that project?
KS: Still a miniseries. I talked about it in an interview over at Slash Film, then, a bunch of people ran a story saying “Oh, it’s a movie again.” I don’t know where they got that, because if you read the story clearly I didn’t say that. But I guess I can totally make it clear here. It’s a miniseries.
It started life as one movie. Then, I turned it into two. Then I was like “I can’t get one hockey movie made, how the f*ck am I going to get two hockey movies made?” It was a cool concept; one was home, one was away. Then, Jason Mewes of all people, was like “why don’t you do it as a miniseries?” And I was like “holy sh*t! What a f*cking good call.”
So, for the last two years I have been trying to put it together and a miniseries. [I] got very, very close with CBC. But then I got involved with Tusk. Then that led to Yoga Hosers. And right before that, I was trying to put together Clerks 3. So it suddenly went on the back burner.
But thanks to Tusk; StarStream, the producers of my movie Yoga Hosers, they liked Tusk. So they were like “what do you want to do next?” And it was this movie: Comes the Krampus, but then it wound up being Yoga Hosers instead. And we’re doing Moose Jaws with them and Clerks 3 as well.
So, Kim Leadford, who is the head of that company (StarStream) and I were talking about hockey one day; and I was like “Oh, I had written this hockey miniseries,” because we were talking about the WHA in particular.
She worked for Howard Baldwin at one point. Howard Baldwin, of course, owned the New England Whalers and later on, the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won their Cup. So he’s a hockey guy. She worked for him, and I didn’t know that. And I was like “holy crap! I should let you read Hit Somebody.”
She read it, and Kim was like “we’re making this!” She put me in touch, all of us got together with these folks up in Canada; and we started having these f*cking fast-track meetings. So it looks like in the fall of 2015, we’re going to start shooting up in Northern Ontario. We also shoot in Michigan, as well.
AD: That’s awesome, that is a great song.
KS: Oh I love that song! Mitch Albom, who wrote the lyrics for the Warren Zevon song, he’s read every draft. Every episode. Because it’s a six-episode miniseries. He was like “you got all of this from that song?” But that song is pretty strong source material.
AD: As someone that has made some movies that could have offended people in the past, what are your thoughts about the controversy surrounding The Interview?
KS: If you would have told me that story of the hack, and the focus on The Interview, and the pulling of the release, and the reinstating of the release; I would have been like “is that the plot to The Interview?” It just sounds so mad cap, and untrue, and unrealistic. That could never happen. Then you realize oh yeah…it happened.
It’s so strange to watch a comedy become a ticking time bomb; and then have the movie come out, and everybody be like “oh…it wasn’t going to hurt anybody.” It’s a f*cking comedy. There’s no movie on the planet that could be that incendiary.
It was strange to watch; mostly because f*ck everything else. The Interview was kind of the scenery that they put in front of you. When the hackers first came in and made their demands they didn’t even really mention The Interview.
Really, what it was, when you remove everything on the surface; we watched a cyber-war happen. The first one. And it really wasn’t a country versus a country; it was a country versus a corporation. It was the future. We literally watched the future happen.
For a moment, we watched Sony buckle and almost change the game entirely; because if that became the standard, that you can simply threaten a studio…threaten a potential audience for a movie, and the studio would simply pull that movie from release; that would change the game completely.
It was weird to watch. It was weird to know that the dude at the center of it [Seth Rogan] is a real nice Canadian kid, who just likes to make people laugh. It was wild.
AD: There was some talk of you retiring from the movie industry, but it seems like you currently have a lot on your plate. Are you delaying hanging up the skates, if you will?
KS: Appropriate metaphor. Yeah…and it came from Tusk. Tusk was the stupidest movie I ever made; but it also, in many ways, was the most triumphant movie I ever made because it was like “let’s do it, who cares how stupid it is?” I want to see this movie. I want to see a movie about a guy that turns another guy into a f*cking walrus and nobody is ever going to make it. If you want to see it, make it yourself. That was the ethos that got Clerks made, and that started my whole career.
So when I was finished with Tusk, I was like “f*ck all of this ‘don’t be a filmmaker anymore,’ just live by a different mantra.” That is simply this: Never make any movie that you wouldn’t make. Only make Kevin Smith movies. That’s easy. That keeps you pure.
That means that I am never going to be like “What’s popular? Let me do that. Hey, here’s a hot script; let me direct that.” It just means that the only movies that I will ever make are movies that only I would be interested in making; so if I don’t make them, nobody will f*cking make them. So then it’s not a job, it’s a passion. Then it’s like Tusk, I really wanted to see a f*cking movie about a guy that turns a guy into a walrus.
That’s the other thing…20 years into your career, at this stage of your career; you’re supposed to be a lot more f*cking successful or ambitious. I am supposed to want to make a Marvel movie, but they have got so many people to do that; and they do it very well. They don’t need me to do it poorly.
What they need me to do is make my movies; because nobody else is going to do that. So that, for me, became “that doesn’t mean you have to do it for the rest of your life if you don’t want to. It means that you’re going to do it when you want to.” Isn’t that the point of this?
Don’t ever let it be a job…let it be your passion. If you’ve got to pay bills, be constructive, find other ways. That’s what I did for the last three years. When I walked away from movies, I was like “alright, what do I do now?”
I started doing more live podcasting and stage shows; then the TV show as well. Then you kind of figure out different things to do. Now that I have figured out that I can support myself without movies; there’s not this “I’ve got to f*cking make a movie, because that’s who we live.” Now I can do it because I want to do it. Because I love doing it. Which is why I started doing it in the first place.
Right now I get to exercise the weirdest muscle in my body: This teenage muscle. I always wanted to be in special effects make up when I was younger. Even before I was into storytelling and sh*t. Even before I wanted to write for Saturday Night Live. I wanted to do rubber effects for movies. Like Rick Baker and Tom Savini. That was my passion.
I had so much f*cking Karo syrup and red food dye…blood in my home kit, nose putty, half knives to stick in chests and sh*t like that. I always figured if I could get my hands on this book: Grande Illusions by Tom Savini, I was on my way. I read in Fangoria that it was the perfect book for anybody that wanted to do movie makeup. And it didn’t pan out. So in that sense, I am very much a failure in my life.
So here I am 20 years in and I’ve never had an experimental film period in my career. Clerks was my experimental film (it’s not very experimental; it’s just black and white). But that kicked off my career; and I didn’t really have a chance to do the weird, fun, film school stuff. Or experimental films, or anything.
So here I am, late in my career, without anything personal left to say. Because, you know, I live in movie world; and that’s not very interesting to make movies about. I used to make movies that came from my real life: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma…that was me pulling from the life that I had lived prior to becoming a filmmaker. Once I became a filmmaker…it’s wonderful, but you’re useless as a human being. You don’t live a real life anymore.
Think about it…I am about to make Clerks 3. I really can’t make it about retail because what do I f*cking know about retail? I am a consumer now. I haven’t been on the other side of the counter in awhile. So the personal aspect of things, that was the way I used to make movies. The only way I knew how was to pull from my real life and fictionalize it.
When I ran out of real life to pull from (at least interesting real life), I was like “What do I do now?” Oh, I make movies, and I am happily married, and I’ve got a kid and she’s cool; and life worked out. That doesn’t make anything interesting.
Happy people don’t make great art. It’s that simple. Art comes from a weird, tortured place a lot of the time; even the funny stuff. So, I figured, if happy people can’t make great art, they can at least make weird art. Because David Lynch always looks pretty f*cking happy, and he makes some weird-*ss movies that I have always loved. Those are the movies I grew up loving.
I didn’t grow up loving Clerks. Clerks didn’t exist. That was the movie I could make; but the movies I wanted to make, that I loved were like From Beyond, Re-Animator, all of the rubber movies that I grew up watching. Anything with a prosthetic f*cking monster in it or something. Not so much slasher stuff, I just loved rubber movies.
Here I am, 20 years in on a career, were I can be like “well f*ck…as long as I keep it cheap; I want to make me a rubber monster movie!” Because I don’t have anything personal to say. If I write a movie and try to be personal, I am writing about a f*cking fat, lucky piece of sh*t who f*cking struck it with the dream job and the dram wife. That’s not interesting. Nobody wants to watch that f*cking movie.
So I can go in another direction and juts make stuff up. That’s when I figured like…George Lucas, he didn’t work like me. It’s not like George Lucas was like “I went to school with a bunch of wookies, and that’s why there are wookies in Star Wars.” He had to invent wookies. And David Lynch…I f*cking shudder to think that any of his films come from personal experience. I’m sure he’s not the guy that’s like “oh this happened to me once.” David Cronenberg didn’t make The Fly going “this happened to me when I was in my 20’s.”
Some people just make sh*t up, so maybe I could just make sh*t up for awhile, and combine it with the passion for rubber of my youth. I know that sounds very erotic, but I certainly didn’t mean to. Just do prosthetics and stuff.
So it began with Tusk, and after working with Robert Kurtzman (he made the Tusk walrus) I was like “oh my God!” This is what I fell in love with when I was a kid. The idea of making monsters and sh*t like that. This would be fun to do for awhile. If I can do this, I’ll make movies.
If I can keep the budget low enough, that’s all they care about. I can pull together a cast still; and, in terms of the budget, as long as I am not going in there going “I need $20 million to make this bat sh*t movie where a guy turns another guy into a walrus.” It’s a $2.7 million movie, so they are like “oh $2.7 million, we will make that back in foreign sales.” Even Tusk…Tusk was under $5 million. So if you keep the budget low, they will let you make some f*cked up, weird things.
I brought Kurtzman back for Yoga Hosers, and he’s done more rubber. In this movie, I am encased in rubber. I play one of the f*cking villains. So it was a dream. It was supposed to be Mewes doing it, but Mewes freaked out when they put the latex on him. He is not good with confined spaces. So he couldn’t do it. So I was like “alright, I’ll do it because I know everything I need. Just throw the makeup on me.”
It was a more involved process than that, of course; but it was a f*cking sh*t-ton of fun! Holy f*ck! I am running around in prosthetics and rubber and acting like a f*cking d*ck, having a blast on a movie set. You’re like “oh f*ck!”
Making movies about pain and getting to the heart of the human condition, maybe if you can do that in the midst of telling a story about a f*cking guy who turns another guy into a walrus, then great. But just make it fun, make it be crazy, make it the movies that you loved when you were a kid.
I loved Blue Velvet, but who could explain that? Particularly when I was a teenager. But I knew I loved it. It was f*cking weird, but I knew I loved it. So I was like “just make some weird sh*t.” If it makes you go “oh, that’s f*cked up,” or reminds you of all those movies you grew up watching when you were a kid. That was Tusk, and that led to the rubber monsters in Yoga Hosers as well.
We’ve got one in the third act that’s so f*cking sweet. I just saw a video of it. We shoot it right after the holidays. It’s a giant f*cking monster, that’s puppeteered. It’s so bad*ss. So it’s fun.
I found some fun in the job. Not like the job is never not fun, but I don’t know…I am youthful about it. Suddenly, as long as people aren’t like “you can’t make this sh*t,” as long as people are willing to indulge these weird f*cking movies; I’m like “f*ck, I’ll keep doing this.”
Tusk begat Yoga Hosers and Yoga Hosers begat the movie that we shoot next year with Kurtzman again…another rubber monster movie, this one is called Moose Jaws. It’s very simply Jaws but with a moose. That’s fun to me. That’s worth going through the effort and asking people “hey, can you do it for no money? Because I’m not getting paid either. I just want to see this movie exist.”
So you get a lot of people doing it for the love. Doing it for the fun. Not doing it because it’s a great career move. Or because they are going to make money off of it. It becomes a very Little Rascals affair. Let’s put on a show and make some fun.
So I have got these rubber movies to do; which I am having a blast with. Then in the middle of that there’s the non-rubber Clerks 3. So right now I am not going to put it down. As long as I am doing it, I promise I’ll be enthused about it. Not everyone is going to be enthused by the results, but holy sh*t…I’m fired up.