Kevin Smith's WonderCon Q&A touches on Southwest, critics and 'Red State'
As always, things with the 'Clerks' director got a little lewd, so proceed with caution
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Having covered five or six patented Kevin Smith Q&As between WonderCon and ComicCon, there are things I know about the "Clerks" director that I don't know about my closest friends or intimates.
Spend enough time listening to Kevin Smith interact with his fans -- in these Q&As, on Twitter, through his Smodcasts -- and you're going to come away with possibly unwanted knowledge about his bathroom habits, his sex life and more. It's also hard not to come away from one of these Q&A's with a big smile, because even if you've heard the stories before -- and Smith isn't immune to recycling his material -- this is probably the man's natural habitat, his ideal milieu.
As he put it on Friday (April 2) evening, "You can't come to a Kevin Smith show and be like, 'Too much information.' It's like going to Disneyland and saying 'Too many pederasts.' It comes with the territory."
That was a tame quote. As Smith pointed out to the WonderCon faithful, the paper name placards waiting for talent on the dais typically include a warning on the back telling them that some members of the audience will be under 18 and to keep the commentary room-appropriate. Smith turned his name placard around and showed the crowd that the warning had been covered with a white sticker before he even arrived. Con organizers know that attempting to muzzle or mute or blunt Kevin Smith is as futile as attempting to make edible Kosher-for-Passover pasta.
[In that spirit, I've got some highlights from Kevin Smith's WonderCon Q&A after the break, but things get mighty blue and you probably don't want to click through if you're a sensitive sort...]
When you see Kevin Smith speak at a Con, you're seeing him amongst his people, as he soaks up 90 minutes of adoration, delivering whichever lengthy shaggy dog stories fit his fancy at any given time. Friday's highlight, instigated by a query from an earnest twentysomething straight-edge guy, was a 20-minute celebration of marijuana, including sex while high, defecating while high, ordering food from online convenience stores while high and living in Ben Affleck's former house while high.
The punchline of this particular story? "It's ROPEY!" I'll let you fill in your own blanks, but let's just say multiple things were ropey.
The story, not even the slightest bit cautionary, just concluded with a warning that pot is fine, but should never become a gateway drug.
That's one to grow on.
But what do you expect from a man who, when asked how he's doing, replied, "Last night I had the best sex I've had in 10 years. And it's not to say that the previous 12 years of sex with the same chick haven't been great..." and launched into an anecdote that ended with Smith pantomiming attempting to be sexy while using a FleshLight (something he said wouldn't even be possible for Affleck). And if you don't know what a FleshLight is, let's just say that the adult entertainment product received at least a half-dozen shout-outs in the talk.
There have obviously been a few recent controversies in Smith's life lately and he wasn't exactly eager to talk about them in detail. The first person to ask about the Southwest incident elected to rescind his question in exchange for a photo op ("Come on up. We won't talk about that fucking airline ever again.").
Southwest came up again a little later when Smith mentioned a phone conversation he had with Arnold Schwarzenegger shortly after the writer-director was canonized in a number of media reports. Ah-nold called to invite Smith to a conference on obesity, but by the time Smith got around to believing that he was really being called by the Governor of California, the conference had passed. But even that story was being told only as an excuse for a "Conan the Barbarian" reference -- "I just wanted to be like, 'Gov, what is best in life?'" -- and to take credit for California's potential marijuana measure.
Smith was more open about his recent Twitter-driven dismissal of film critics. Asked about which of his various gigs he likes best, Smith took a step back from viewing himself as a movie director, first and foremost.
"For me, the best part of the job is being able to talk and have people hear and comprehend," he said, later adding that when it comes to what he enjoys most, "For me it's always going to be the part where I get to talk to the audience."
On his critics, Smith noted, "For years, people online have been going, 'You're not a f***ing director, you're no filmmaker. And now I realize they were right. They were dicks for saying it. But they were right. I wasn't any sort of traditional filmmaker that a lot of cineastes could get their head around. They could back in the early days of my career, because I was so f***ing emo back then, right? 'Chasing Amy' was a total emo movie."
As he said on Twitter in response to savaging of "Cop Out," he's reached the point where the people he cares most about are the viewers who pay money to see his movies.
Smith explained, "The reviews that I cared about most were the mutherf***ers who were just like, 'I had to drive an hour-and-a-half in f***ing snow and pay $40 to a babysitter and f***ing $60 bucks for tickets to a movie and snacks and then I watched 'Cop Out.'' And if that guy's like 'You piece of s***. You fat f***ing jerk. I had your back with Southwest, but not f*** you.' If he says that, at that point I'll take it, man. Cuz that dude like climbed a mountain to go see that picture. That's what I'm interested in now. I just want to talk to the audience and find out what they thought. That's kinda that this is about. I don't need an intermediary anymore to tell me how I feel and how you guys feel."
He later said, "Film used to be a religion for me. I still love movies every bit as much now as I did then, but film is not a religion to me anymore. Now film is kinda what it is. It's an art form and it's going to be approached from a zillion different ways. Nobody has approached it the right way yet. Nobody's ever going to approach it the right way, because it's so subjective."
Smith confessed that critics or audiences looking for him to make another "Chasing Amy" are out of luck, noting that he just can't replicate that movie's authenticity given how far he is from that experience. Regarding the movies he's making instead, Smith didn't defend the quality of "Cop Out," but he explained his motivations.
"'Cop Out,' I just want to see if I can work in the studio system," Smith said. "If I can hold my tongue, if I have to hold my tongue. I wanted to see what the mystery was."
A few other highlights from Smith's WonderCon appearance:
*** Smith said that part of why he prefers these Q&As or Twitter over filmmaking is the instant response, noting that he wrote the script for his upcoming horror film "Red State" two-and-a-half years ago and he's only just getting around to making it. Of that long-gestating project, Smith would only compare it to "Race with the Devil" claiming "I just copied that movie verbatim.
*** One thing I remember from Smith's WonderCon talk four years ago was the appearance of a small child with a strong resemblance to Jason Mewes. At the time, Smith joked that he'd have to cast the kid as Little Jay. Well, the kid was back on Friday asking when he was going to be cast. Smith's response, "I'm a bear and that's my move with all the cubs. 'I'm gonna need a Little Jay.' I've f***ed so many Little Jays."
*** Think that answer is a bit salty? Try Smith's response to a question regarding what you have to do to become a writer for his View Askew shingle: "You have to come out of my mother's vagina and be me. A lot of dudes get it half-right. They come into my mother's vagina. They find out very quickly that I don't want to help them make movies. Unless my mother's like, 'Well, he f***ed me right' and then I'm like 'OK. Ben. Matt. Here's money. Go make a movie.' And that's the story of 'Good Will Hunting.'"
*** After those two answers, I should note that in the 95-minute Q&A, Smith received exactly one question from a female fan.
*** Smith also said that after seeing "The Dark Knight" and "Watchmen," he no longer had any desire to make a comic book movie. He also applauded Jon Favreau for his work on the "Iron Man" movies saying, "A really talented filmmaker can take sh** character and make it into something. I go the other way."
*** As funny as his stories are, Smith is at his best in totally spontaneous moments, like his Marilyn Monroe-esque rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung to an audience member.
*** Smith says he's looking forward to when Disney has sorted out the rights to various Miramax titles so that he can pitch an extended cut of "Jersey Girl." That pitch? "Remember 'Jersey Girl'? Well I have an hour more of that bulls***. Let's stir it back in."
*** If you're wondering about the mysterious entry "Hiatus" on his IMDB page, Smith explained that it was a pilot for Jason Lee that was never scripted and never had a network home, but would have told the story of a male porn star who leaves the adult industry behind and moves back to his hometown accompanied by his favorite fluffer. Mewes would have played another former porn star named Lester the Molester.
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