Director Kevin Smith picked up the Renegade Award at the Vail Film Festival this past weekend. After an acceptance speech consisting of an epic monologue about breaking a toilet he was sitting on, he held a Q&A on stage, taking questions from Matt Singer of IFC and audience members. Heeb was there to capture a conversation, which ranged from his secret gay confession, why he’d remake Chasing Amy and how he’d remake The Last Temptation of Christ.
Congratulations on winning the award.
This came at a really opportune moment in my life, to be honest with you. I was super-fucking depressed after Zack & Miri came out. I was just laying around the house in a weed-induced coma, feeling kind of sorry for myself.
So you’re a renegade now?
Hardly. It’s weird when people are like, ‘Oh you’re bucking against the system.’ That never occurred to me. I’m not very talented, so that’s all I can do.
One way of looking at being a renegade is the idea of guys who think they’re stuck inside this box of their life, and they want to break away from that. That comes up in your movies over and over again.
Absolutely. It comes from wanting to be gay, very, very badly. I’m trying to slowly ween the kids into the fact that I’m a cocksucker. One by one, we take the movies as far as I can and make a lot of gay jokes. And one day I’m going to drop the hammer and just flat-out walk right on camera and be like, "Zoop!" Every movie was about that, kind of.
Talking about working out the almost homosexual relationships, it gets to something else in your movies. I don’t know how you feel about the word ‘bromances.’
I love it.
You do? You haven’t gotten enough credit in this field. You were doing it in your films for so long, and now it’s expanded into the mainstream. What do you think about that?
I agree. It seems like that kind of comedy kind of took off. People like to talk about their friendships, all these guy filmmakers. It feels nice. When I saw 40 Year Old Virgin, I was like, ‘Holy shit, someone made a movie like I like to make them,’ and that was cool. And then that dude got really successful at it.
It‘s the 10th anniversary of Dogma. If the Vail Film Festival is giving you a renegade award, I think that’s an appropriate film to talk about.
When I released it there was a big part of me that was like, ‘I’m still the kid who went to Catholic school for 8 years.’ Chasing Amy was all about me working out my male sexual insecurities. I figure Dogma was about me working out my religious insecurities. I wish we’d had a little more money, because I was ambitious as a writer. Some of the action scenes are really horrible, like on the train. But I like it. I think it holds the test of time.
Any thoughts on the current state of independent film?
It’s alive and well out there. It’s different then when I got in. When I got into independent film, anybody could get in. Now, after me, they’re like, ‘Shit, we let retarded kids in?’ Now it’s much harder for everybody else to get in. So I’m sorry. I really ruined it for everybody else.
I‘m curious to hear about the upcoming movie, A Couple of Dicks. What attracted you to the project?
It’s the first film I didn’t write. When I was an angry, young man, it was all about, ‘Damn, I’m going to make these movies, my movies, and say what I want to say, because what I have to say is real fucking important.’ And then the older you get, you’re like, ‘Oh, I just don’t want to die one day.’ This is me sitting there going, you know, one day I’m going to die, and when I die, I don’t want to sit there going, ‘Fuck, why didn’t I make that Bruce Willis movie when I had the chance?’ Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan are in it.
The odd thing is, it’s for a studio, for Warner Brothers, and I’m gonna get paid like a sonofabitch this time. It means I have a lot more money to do it than every other movie I’ve made, but not that much more. And everybody is kind of pulling together to do it, cinching the belt. Everybody’s giving up a lot of their salary. It’s kind of inspiring.
The fact that you are making a movie with Warner Brothers—
Yes, Warner Brothers. A new outfit, up-and-coming. I believe they’re Jewish.
I heard you talking about how you’ve seen these bigger studios now that are willing to take some cinematic risks, and that you’re finding that exciting.
Very much so. Back in the day, Miramax were the only ones doing what they do, and then everyone else, after watching for a few years, figured out, ‘Well, we’ll just make good movies.’ So all the studios started doing that as well. And that was huge. They seemed to get more and more interested in being more experimental. And Warner Brothers is one of those places. Like you hired the director of Following to direct The Dark Knight? It’s crazy.
I feel like I’m getting more like an adult now. I do. One thing about this business is that it affords you an extended adolescence. My curve, my flow is about 10 years behind everybody else. I’m just learning now what to do when a girl breaks up with you in high school.
At this point in your career, is there another subject matter you want to tackle?
Yes. The inability to do that which you think you’re cut out for. [Pause.] Is that boring? Sorry, hold on. And sucking cocks.
Are you a cinematic risk?
Yeah, I wouldn’t give me a budget of $75 million. You’d get a movie that looks real not like $75 million. They’d be like, ‘Where’d the rest go?’ ‘I gave it to some kids in Colorado. To get me more weed.’
I can’t tell a mainstream story to save my fucking life. Zack & Miri is the most mainstream I can get. That’s why I was so frustrated when it stopped where it did. I was like, ‘That’s the best I can do in terms of reaching a wide audience.’ Well, I guess I could have left out the shitting on the face part.
There’s a moment in Signs where Joaquin Phoenix is talking about how he would go up to the plate and try to swing at every pitch. When he connected he was a fucking God, but when he didn’t connect, which was more often than not, people were like, ‘Why’d you swing?’ ‘Because it felt wrong to not swing.’
That’s what it felt like every time I made a flick. It felt wrong not to put a donkey show in Zack & Miri. Even though you’re kind of limiting your audience. Stuff like that, just every once in a while, if I were a smarter man, I’d fucking reign it in, Judd Apatow-style. But I’m stupid, so I’m like, ‘Yo, let’s do that. Everyone will love it!’
Is there any movie that you wish you’d got your hands on and directed?
Just Chasing Amy. I really wish that I could redo it, just because I’m a more visually-oriented filmmaker now. I wish I’d known how to move the camera around. I’d like to shoot a 20-year-later version of this that’s exactly the same fucking script, so you have a bunch of 40-year-olds running around. I just think I’d be a better director for the actors at this point, and I know the film would look a lot better.
After Clerks II, have you ever thought about doing another sequel to a movie?
I did think about doing a sequel to The Last Temptation of Christ once. But then someone reminded me that, a) It wasn’t my movie, and b) We all know how it ends. I said, ‘Let’s fuck it up. Let’s make it different.’ It’s so boring, the Biblical story of Jesus. And it peaks. It’s like a great story and then all of a sudden you’re like, what the fuck? I guess nobody knew the ending to the book.
But I think it’s time to go a little off-center with it. Like when he’s up there on the cross and dying and shit, two ninjas swing in and pull the fucking nails out of his hands, put him over their backs, climb down the ladder and shit, fighting off Centurions, killing people and escaping with Jesus. And Jesus is like, ‘I’m supposed to die!’ They’re like, ‘Not on my watch!’