"Dude, I'm the laziest motherfucker in the world," Kevin Smith tells us. "This is how it works: I do a bunch of things that are un-book-related. Then [my publisher] calls and says, 'Can we make it into a book?' I say, 'Do I have to do anything?' He says, 'No.' And I go, 'Okay.'" And so two days ago we found ourselves in a Manhattan hotel room with a bathrobed Smith discussing his new book, Shooting the Sh*t: The Best of SModcast, a collection of transcribed highlights from the director's weekly podcast series, which follows 2007's best-selling My Boring-Ass Life, a bound compilation of his blog posts. Smith, who'll appear tonight at 8 p.m. at the Union Square Barnes & Noble to sign copies of Sh*t, spoke with Vulture about the book, the "undirectable" Bruce Willis, and the fallout from that recent Times story on the Weinsteins.
When did you decide that a transcript of your podcasts could be a book?
I didn't and I still haven't really. It was presented to me by somebody who works at Titan Books — his name's Adam. He had contacted me years back and said, "Hey man, can we publish your blog?" I was like, I don't know dude — that's gonna make me look like I'm so fucking money-hungry, because it's a free blog and suddenly I'm charging for it." But I said, "Fuck it, I would love to hold a book version of it, so let's do it." And it wound up as a New York Times best seller. So then immediately Adam was like, "Dude, we have to do the next book, because now we can put on the cover 'New York Times Bestselling Author ' It doesn't matter what it is!"
Do you ever see yourself sitting down to write something with the express intention of it being a book?
I don't think I can. I don't feel like an author most days. John Grisham is an author. John Grisham sits down and is like, "All right, I'm gonna write a story about this shit and it's gonna happen in Memphis and involve a couple lawyers, as per usual." That's an author. I'm like, at best, a backdoor author. That sounds very homoerotic, but it's not gay porn — it's backdoor, man. I didn't intend for it to happen, I didn't go through the front door.
Also, my wife is not really a fan of my films. She's not like a non-fan. She's not like one of those fuckers at Ain't It Cool News — although there are times when I almost expect to walk into the room and see her [on the computer] with that familiar brown-white border, trashing Zack and Miri. If she was going to marry somebody whose movies she liked, she should've married Wes Anderson. I don't ever want to be at a party with Wes Anderson, because if I lose sight of my wife, she'll be blowing Wes Anderson in a closet somewhere. But for some reason my book is a turn-on. That legitimized me. That alone was reason to do it.
We've listened to quite a few SModcasts, and we've never thought, "Wow, these are all about semen." But when we were reading the book ...
I would imagine that whoever picked [the excerpts] was like, "Cum's funny! If it's funny once, it's got to be funny a thousand times." And I can't even say, like, "Where'd they get an idea like that?" If they'd hung out with me for the past fifteen years, they'd probably say, "Let's err on the side of bodily fluids — he seems to like that!"
What's the status on A Couple of Dicks? Is that still the title?
It's weird. Back in the Miramax-Weinstein days, my finger was on the pulse of every decision. In Warner Bros.' world, things are happening that I have no idea about. These cats have been fighting to keep that title for months, and I didn't even know it until recently. Based on the shit I went through with Zack and Miri, Warner Bros. reached out to the big three networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, and they were just like, "Hey man, we got a movie called A Couple of Dicks. You guys aren't gonna give us a hard time about putting a spot on, are you?" They're still terrified of the Janet Jackson nipple incident. TBS, Fox, CW, those guys were like, "Here's a tape of my kid's Bar Mitzvah — tape over it and we'll air that!" The most popular effort at the moment seems to be the correct spelling, which is truly an acronym when you're referring to detectives. It's "D.I.C.S.," which is "detective in charge" and then you pluralize it with an s. So that might be a way.
How else has working at a major studio been different from working with the Weinsteins?
It's like at San Diego Comic-Con — every year I go there and do like a two-hour panel. I brought clips for Zack and Miri, Clerks 2, every fucking flick. So we're working on A Couple of Dicks and I'm talking to Warner Bros. marketing and I was like, "So I'm going out to Comic-Con and I figure I'll bring a clip from the movie " And she's looking at me, white-faced almost. And I was like, "I just thought I'd pick the funniest scene we shot so far." She's like, "Are you fucking high? I'm not Harvey Weinstein, dude! We pay attention here!" It was like, "Kevin, we have an entire department that will figure out how to sell this movie to the audience and you don't have to do it." They thought it was adorable.
Harvey and Bob were genius marketers, but they never figured out geek world. Miramax, every once in a while, would say, "We're going down to Comic-Con!" And they'd put a bumper sticker on a bag. And I'd be like, "That ain't it, dude." There's a better way to hit these cats, you just have to speak their language and I've been doing that for years. But at Warner Bros., they're just like, "You just make the movie, dude. That's it." If I had started my career at Warner Bros., we probably wouldn't be talking. If you like me, you owe Harvey Weinstein a huge debt of gratitude. And if you hate me, it's yet another reason to hate Harvey Weinstein, that fucking prick.
Speaking of Harvey — given all the talking you do, how did you manage to save the story about him mistaking Traci Lords for Sarah Chalke at the Zack and Miri premiere for that New York Times piece this summer?
Listen, there are fucking names that I forget. He just got fucking caught. Or, more to the point, he got caught and I fucking ratted like a jerk. So I feel a little bad. But it was kinda funny. After Zack and Miri collapsed, we did those two podcasts where, the first one was us all, "You're gonna hear it! Heads are gonna roll, bridges are gonna burn — the truth will be told!" It was a big two-parter. And we finished the first part and we were reconvening to do part two and Scott and I were like, "Who cares. This story is not interesting. These people gave us everything we have in life. So they dropped the ball with this movie, and maybe the last three — big deal." The idea of wanting to scorch the earth felt stupid and petty.
So you forgot about it?
So I forgot that story until I was talking to the New York Times. I like the author of that piece, I think he did a really great job with that article. I think that piece is very honest. And I think throughout that piece, I was, as usual, the Miramax defender, the Harvey defender that I've been for fifteen years. But the author does end the piece with a quote from me that is pretty fucking hard-core. Now, I didn't say at the end of my interview, "And then, as a finale, sir, please close with this!" That was one thing I said in the midst of many things. But like any good writer, he was like, "Jesus Christ, man — that's a closer!" I don't blame him.
Did you ever hear back from Harvey?
The morning the piece came out, my phone rang and I didn't make it in time, but I picked it up and I saw the name — Harvey Weinstein. And I was like, "Why would Harvey be ca— Oh, fuck. That New York Times piece must've come out and it must not be good." He wouldn't call to say, "Hey, thanks for saying nice things." He's calling to be like, "What the fuck?"
So I went online and read the piece and I was like, "Okay, okay. I'm all right, I'm safe. This is fine. No, I'm not in trouble." Then I got to the end — "Oh, fuck." I was like, "God, I almost got away clean." But I love those guys. We spent a lot of time together and at the end of it we just had to separate. I know I'll work with the Weinsteins again if they ever want to. And I wrote that to him. I was like, "I said a lot of nice things. I can't help what they use." I didn't create the situation they're in now. I didn't leave Miramax. I wanted to fucking stay, but I didn't run the company, I was just one fucking filmmaker. But I love those dudes because they gave me my shot. I have a beautiful wife and it's because of Harvey Weinstein. He gave me a career.
Your next movie is Hit Somebody, which you're making with Mitch Albom.
The Warren Zevon flick. Mitch wrote the lyrics for the hockey song, "Hit Somebody," that Warren Zevon recorded, which is just so beautiful. Everybody knows Mitch Albom as the guy who wrote The Five People You Meet in Heaven — when you think of Mitch, you generally don't think of the films of Kevin Smith. But if you scrape away the dick and ass jokes and all the shitty material and pee-pee jokes, there is a heart and spiritual outlet in the shit we do. Kind of like Mitch, but I'm not talented like Mitch. So I reached out to him. I said, "I really want to buy this song and turn it into a movie." And I got to know Mitch over that conversation. He didn't know who the fuck I was. He went to my Twitter page at one point and was like, "I was trying to figure out this Twitter thing and you were talking about how you were going to have sex with your wife. And that's when I figured, I'm out of Twitter."
But anyway, I told him I would need his help, since I'm not a sports person. I love hockey, but he's covered this world inside and out. He said, "Kevin, the secret to being a sportswriter is that I'm not a sports guy. I'm not a sportswriter, I'm a writer. I just write about sports. So you're always writing about the human story, that's the only way." So Mitch Albom gave me a pass to not know anything about what I'm gonna write about. So if you see my hockey movie and it doesn't resemble hockey as much as it does a soccer-basketball cross, it's because Mitch gave me free rein.
Has the economy affected any of your projects? Everybody's having trouble getting things off the ground.
Thankfully, I'm dirt cheap. I've never told stories that required much money. Red State, which is a horror movie I wrote right before Zack and Miri, which is out there and is kind of political in a way and different than anything I've ever done before — it's been impossible to finance. It's not commercial material. So right now we're finally within sniffing distance of like $5 million for it. But that's about the only pinch that I've felt, and that was before the economy collapsed. That's when I knew things were bad at the Weinstein Company — when they passed on a fucking $5 million Kevin Smith movie.
You recently hinted at problems on the set of Dicks with Bruce Willis ...
Well, the Enquirer hinted at a difficulty on set with Bruce Willis. They said that at the wrap party I got up and gave a speech and called him a "fucking dick." I read this, and I was like, "This is so weird — they had a wrap party and nobody invited me?" It just didn't happen, there was no wrap party. Bruce wrapped two days before the rest of us, and the moment we wrapped at four in the morning, I got on a prom bus and drove up to Toronto. There was no fucking wrap party!
So any idea where that story could've come from?
I think where that comes from is at Carnegie Hall. I was talking about Bruce and I referred to him as "undirectable" and I think somebody took that as negative. It's not like, "Ahh, I can't deal with him!" It's just how do you direct Bruce Willis to play Bruce Willis? I can direct Jason Mewes to play Jay. I can direct Affleck to play a fucking angel — or to kill his career as a grieving father. But I can't fucking tell Bruce Willis how to be Bruce Willis — cause he's fucking Bruce Willis! After a take, I'd be like, "Can you be more like " And he'd get that slow head turn. And I had Bruce looking at me with that little Moonlighting smirk. Bruce is his own fucking boss. It was ridiculous for me to think that I could even try.
It's tough to know where you stand with a guy when you're not directing him. You're not collaborating with him on that performance; that's his performance. Couldn't he then view me like, "You're superfluous to this whole process — what are you doing here? And since I've been doing this for 25 years, I could probably take care of these people as well." But I was acting like a high-school girl because I was working with my crush. All I would hear from anybody — from his agents, his manager, people in this business who've worked with him before — was like, "What are you doing? Bruce is having the best time he's ever had. This is the happiest I've seen Bruce in ten years." And I'm like, "Well, maybe it's because he's getting to direct!"
Can you tell us anything else about Couple of Dicks?
The movies are gonna start looking better. I thought Zack and Miri looked really, really good. Actually, that's probably too much. You know what it looked like? Average. I'm finally to the point where my movies look like other people's movies. A Couple of Dicks, man, nobody's gonna believe I directed this movie. It looks too good. It's me and Dave Klein. Me and the motherfucker who shot Clerks! And when you look at the movie, you're like, there's no way that those two idiots made this movie. It just looks grown-up and polished and like a Warner Bros. movie. And that's just by virtue of the fact that I've been doing it for a while now. Even if you don't intend to, you get better at it.