Directing was one of the last things Kevin Smith thought about doing when it came to working on “Cop Out.”
When Warner Bros. boss Jeff Robinov first asked if the famed producer/director/writer/actor wanted to be involved with the script – then called “A Couple of Dicks” – “I was like, what do you want me to do? I don’t think you need to re-write this sh*t at all. Do you want me to be in it? I could totally play that Dave guy. And [Robinov] goes ‘This ain’t about being in it, I want you to direct it.’ It’s so weird because I’m a director for a living and that’s the third thing that occurred to me and it didn’t occur to me until he said it. I was just like, do you want me to do craft services on this?”
Smith spoke to HitFix on his career arc, why “Cop Out” was the next move for him and who he’d suck a d**k for to work with.
On what Warner Bros. and Kevin Smith wanted from Kevin Smith:
“I didn’t want to come in and be like, let me change everything and turn it into a Kevin Smith movie. Part of the whole idea of the exercise was, ‘Can I come in and not make a Kevin Smith movie?’ After 15 years, I know I can make a Kevin Smith movie. I can make one in my sleep and that’s kind of the problem at the end. I started doing that. So I just wanted to see if after 15 years, you know, if I was a director or if I was a just a guy who made Kevin Smith movies. So I was going to skate on their ice, so to speak, and I had to kind of play according to their rules… really tried to play the ball where it laid."
On the difference between Warner Bros., Miramax and Weinstein Co. when it comes to editing:
“[Warner Bros.] were really nice about actually letting me edit the film, which I think most studios are kind of leery about letting a director edit the movie. In my world, with Miramax and Weinstein Company, those guys are very kind of ‘Yeah, do what you want.’ They were very like free parents -- the parents that send you to the Montessori School. That’s what Harvey and Bob are. Over at Warner Brothers, they’re much more like, ‘You can go to parochial school for eight years, you can wear a skirt and sh** like that, or a jumper,' but you know they’ve got very strict rules.
The only way I could consider directing something that I didn’t write -- because it’s amazing they approached me, I didn’t approach them — I said the only way I could do it is I could bring my D.P. Dave Klein… and, number two, just let me edit. I don’t need to edit the whole movie, just need to edit while we’re in production. If you want to take it away, I don’t have to be the last hands but movie’s going to be better if I’m sitting here cutting it while we’re shooting. So they were very, very cool about it.”
On Jeff Robinov and Judd Apatow:
“Me and Jeff Robinov were bitter enemies for a while and sh*t like that. I’d make fun of him and call him a bald clock puncher. And I was persona non grata at Warner Brothers because we had a horrible meeting once — really really bad and sh**.
"So years later he saw me, I was at San Diego Comic-Con, the year that I was there before ‘Zack & Miri [Make a Porno]’ came out. So this year there was a panel with a bunch of directors on it and there was me and Zack Snyder and Frank Miller and Judd Apatow. And I was nervous as hell because this was following the summer of Apatow… yeah Apatow took what I did and made it very, very profitable. You know? And very, very funny to other people beyond just my friends I guess… But I was like, this is my room…
“So I went up and I just killed. I was on fire and whatnot. Jeff Robinov was in the audience because Zack Snyder was on the base for ‘Watchman.’ And I guess Jeff Robinov thought I was funny and asked them to send Kevin in. And I was, I’m not meeting with that dude. I had the worst meeting ever with f***ing dude. So Snyder’s like, 'Well, he wants to talk to you.' I went in and talked to him.
“The first thing he said, he goes, ‘You know what man? Somebody asked me the other day what do I want to do when I retire, and I said I’m going to produce your talk show.’ And I was just like, did you get visited by two ghosts in the night or three? Are you pitching me some f***ing quarters to buy a goose? He wouldn’t tell me why but he’s just like, ‘I don’t know. I thought you were funny and I think that sensibility would be welcome here at Warner Brothers because we’re building cool things over there…’
"Guy Ritchie on 'Sherlock Holmes' is not a no-brainer. Somebody had to think about that. ‘Matrix’ with the Wachowskis, he used to be their agent… so this dude likes to play, you know? ‘Let’s bring you in and see what happens.’"
On how “Cop Out” is like “Clerks”:
“It intimidated me at first. I was like oh, it’s action-comedy and stuff. But then when I read it I was just like, it’s just two dudes talking to each other. That’s what I do all the time. And there are, like, three tentpole moments and, on those days, I have to, like, come to work a little more serious and perhaps a little less chatty than I normally do and just concentrate on shooting action. And if I do that, then the rest is just ‘Clerks’ with cops. Two dudes in cars sitting talking to each other.
"And then I also thought, like, man, if I made this movie and my father was alive, my father would have been like, ‘Oh, you do make movies for a living,’ because all the other sh** I used to do, he would never quite understand. He was like, ‘Is that really a movie? Does it count as a movie if you just talk about other people’s movies, Kevin?’ And I’d be like, it does now, Dad In The ‘90s. So this, he’d see this, and he’d be like, ‘Bruce Willis, a plot, there are guns… that’s a movie, Kevin. You are a filmmaker.’ And it appealed to me on a sentimental level because he’d taken me to see all those flicks. “Lethal Weapon”, “48 Hours” all that sh**."
On casting and negotiations:
“So at that point I’m kind of interested and whatnot. And I say, ‘What’s the elements involved?’ And I told them I’d need my D.P. I’d be the editor. And they said, ‘Well it’s Will Ferrell and Marky Mark.’ Really, I’ve worked with Will Ferrell. He’s a funny dude. I’ve never worked with Marky Mark [Mark Wahlberg] but I’ve seen him in many underwear ads that he was in.
“And so they were working with those dudes trying to negotiate some sort of salary of whatever and I guess it fell apart because those dudes wanted to make a movie—an R-rated movie based on the script. And the studio was just like, ‘We’re leery about R-rated comedy. We’re not that good at it.’ This is before they made the highest grossing R-rated comedy of all time called ‘The Hangover.’ But before that, they were a little nervous of it. They’re like, ‘We want to make a PG-13. These dudes want to do it for R.’ Negotiations fell apart.
“They went away, so I assumed at that point I’d be gone. And they were like, 'You want to stick around?' And I was like, you’re kidding right? Like, the main people are gone, dude. Like, I’m not a magnet in this. ‘Just stick around and we’ll see who we can get.’
“I meet with [producer] Marc Platt and Marc Platt goes, 'What do you think about Bruce Willis?' And I was like, oh, I’d suck a d**k to work with Bruce Willis. He says, ‘You won’t have to go that far in this movie but good to know.’
"I said, who’d be the other guys? Who’s with Bruce? I’ve acted with Bruce in ‘Live Free or Die [Hard]’ but I’ve never directed him. It’s exciting who’d be next to him. He says, ‘What do you think about Tracy Morgan?’ And immediately the same smile crossed my face that crossed everybody’s face the next year I spoke to them when they’re like, ‘Who’s in your movie?’ and I said Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan… because that’s just funny. You could just see it in your head and sh*t.”
On Tracy Morgan and “big movie stars”:
"Not only does [Morgan] do your movie, he does 26 other movies at the same time. He brings bucket loads of funny. Like on this movie, he showed up overpacked. You know when you go away for two days sometimes and your boyfriend or girlfriend will overpack, bring four bags? Tracy was going away for a weekend, packed 36 bags, and they were all packed with funny. He was overprepared. Came with buckets. He’d always walk around like this…”
[Smith holds out his arms, hands gripping imaginary handles.]
“…you want some Kev?” And just ladle it out like on top of the script itself. So those elements came into play later on and then I was like shocked that I was still allowed to be involved in the film based on the fact that Bruce is a f**king huge movie star and sh*t and I’ve never worked with a big movie star before. Please don’t tell Ben Affleck I said that."
On directing Kevin Smith movies and “average looking films”:
"You’ve just got to think, 'Man, the dude who made “Clerks” made ["Cop Out"].' That shows growth—granted it took 15 years—but it shows some growth.
"I feel complex about the whole thing because I’m like, should I be so proud of myself for fighting so hard to be what essentially is an average looking film? Like, it finally looks like the average movie looks. For years my sh*t didn’t look like average movies. They didn’t even look like films. For years people would be like, ‘You’re not a director on the Internet.’ And it would hurt my feelings… but they were right. They were total d**kheads for saying it but they were right because I wasn’t a director.
"[But] I was a director on 'Cop Out.' I came in, I had a script and I was like, O.K., this is how we execute this and there’s visual components and whatnot. Mapped it out, had storyboards, sh*t like that. The other movies, they weren’t films, they weren’t movies. They were just me ripping open my chest, pulling out fatty chunks of my heart, slapping it between two platters, projecting it and being like, what do you think? And that’s not cinema. That’s blog-esque cinema…
"Now, the problem is you may go 15 years with those movies and you suddenly turn around and be like, ‘This was about two cops, dude.’ That’s it. People are just like, ‘What the f***? Where’s 'Chasing Amy?’ and it’s just, like, I can’t make ‘Chasing Amy’ every flick out. I wouldn’t want to. It’s like ‘Chasing Amy’ is written by a 26- to 27-year-old emo kid who had chick problems.
"I’m married, I have a daughter. I don’t want to write ‘Chasing Amy.’ If I write ‘Chasing Amy,’ it’s going to mean, like, my wife cheated on me. Don’t wish me that, you know what I’m saying? Let me do ‘Cop Out’ every once in a while. Have a little fun.
"Jeff was like, ‘Do you want to do this,’ and I was just, like, I always say no to cool things. Because I’m always like, I’ve got my own thing, I’ve got my own thing. Just once I wanted to say yes and it was fun. And I think I could rule as a filmmaker because of it -- ironically enough -- even though it’s just a popcorn movie.
On the Southwest Airlines/double-seating debacle:
“I will say I’ve kind of exhausted myself on it. There’s tons of info available… or we could just talk about “Cop Out.”
If “Cop Out” is helping his career grow:
“Dude, really? Growing? This is not the week to talk about Kevin growing. Kevin’s getting thinner, that’s all I’m saying...
"Where am I going? I figured out with the podcast, with SModcast, with the Twitter account where I get to like sit there and talk to people and express myself and be me, all the Q&A’s I do and sh*t like that. I don’t feel the need to put as much of me into the films anymore, you know what I’m saying? In the beginning, it was like, this is the only way I can express myself.
“Now, 15 years later, I can express myself in all different ways. So I don’t feel the need to like, in the flicks, be the same guy I was 10 years ago. I can be that guy in SModcast or at the Q&A or something like that. So in the movies now, I’m actually kind of interested in the next few years in making movies that look like traditional movies and sh*t like that. So that when I die in the next two to five years [laughs], people aren’t going to be, like, ‘You know he only made Kevin Smith movies.’ I’d like to make a few movies before I die, too.”
Click here to read HitFix's interview with "Cop Out" stars Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis.