Kevin Smith (aka Silent Bob) jokes that his favourite part of making movies is the question-and-answer sessions after they screen. Or maybe he's not joking. This is a guy who does Q & As—minus the movies—where he'll field questions for anywhere from four to eight hours.
And judging from Smith's 45-minute phone interview with the Georgia Straight just after the world premiere of his latest film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, those sessions won't be getting any shorter.
Zack and Miri—which Smith wrote and directed (and which opens on Friday [October 31] )—stars Seth Rogen as Zack, a schlub who decides to solve his financial woes by hooking up on-screen, naked and nasty, with his roomie and best friend, Miri, played by Elizabeth Banks.
Smith said he came up with the idea for a film about the world of amateur porn after making Chasing Amy, and he was thinking of putting something together with the same team, working with his best bud of 20 years, Jason Mewes (aka Jay), Joey Lauren Adams, and Ben Affleck. Instead of making a porn film, Smith found the comedy in religion and shot Dogma instead. Then, Smith said, "Ben got very famous so it became tough to find spots in his schedule."
But Smith couldn't shake the idea. "The movie at its core has one of my favourite topics of discussion, which is the difference between fucking and making love, which I've always been kind of fascinated by because I'm not really a fucker. I haven't really had any one-night stands in my life. I'm not a one-night-stand kind of guy. I had one one-night stand and I wound up marrying the chick."
His pal Jason on the other hand”¦ "The dude has kind of fucked more people than I'll ever meet in my life," Smith said. "And I was always asking him, ”˜Dude, I don't understand. You find a woman goodly enough to fuck you, why won't you just keep fucking her; call her up the next day?' So I wanted to look at that and just kind of couched it in this world of do-it-yourself porn."
Mewes plays a stunned stud who's cast in the porn film because he's always ready for action, and Smith says it's the perfect part for his pal. "This is the role he was born to play, because Mewes sprung forth from the womb air-humping."
But although Mewes may have been born to play Lester, Zack was written for Rogen. And, yeah, it was written before Rogen was a hot comic actor.
Smith got his start at the Vancouver Film School—okay, he got his start by dropping out of VFS, flying home to New Jersey, and putting all his money into making Clerks—but he knows how much we love to claim celebrities. So he knows exactly how to refer to his star when talking to the Straight: "Vancouver's own Seth Rogen."
Smith saw Rogen in The 40 Year Old Virgin on DVD and it was love at first laugh. "I immediately started thinking of him for a flick." The two met briefly outside producer Harvey Weinstein's office in 2006; Smith raved about Virgin, Rogen said he liked Clerks, and they swapped contact info.
Smith was convinced Rogen had the mojo to carry a movie, and he started writing a script that would move him from supporting player to leading man. "I finished the script for Zack and Miri about two weeks before Knocked Up came out. And I started seeing this dude's face on billboards all across town, and I was, like, ”˜This dude is not gonna be famous; this dude is famous.' I missed my window. Apparently, Judd Apatow is much smarter than I am."
Smith e-mailed Rogen anyway to ask if he'd read the script. The inbox pinged less than five minutes later. "He said, ”˜No bullshit, when I first came to Los Angeles, an agent asked me what I wanted to do with my career and I said, "I wanted to be in a Kevin Smith movie." That has not changed. Yes, please send me the script.' So thank God he loved the script and jumped on."
Smith also told the Straight great stories about his shock at Zack and Miri being invited to premiere at TIFF, his battles with U.S. censors (the Canadian poster for the film is banned in the U.S.), his love affair with Degrassi Junior High, and why he'll always treasure the moment he farted into the microphone at his last live show in Vancouver. So if you show up at his next Q & A, just ask and prepare yourself for a long, funny, night.