Kevin Smith is overweight, outspoken and increasingly unpopular with critics. Despite this, he’s decided to write a book of life advice. Why should you listen to him? Well, he’s become enviously rich doing the things he loves. And as for the critics thing? It’s irrelevant — his films are popular with his (not insignificant) fanbase and they’ve all made money. ShortList met the 41-year-old director and tried to pick up the secrets of this success…
What made you want to write a book of advice?
I’d done books before where they just collected a bunch of sh*t I’d written and they were like, “Oh, you wound up on The New York Times bestseller list.” I didn’t do anything, it just happened. For this, I’d been writing on Twitter — someone asks a question and I use a bunch of tweets to answer. I went to my agent and said, “Can we compile these? I can write a bunch more.” And boom. That’s a book.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My sister gave me, hands down, the best piece of advice I ever got in my life because it led to my film career. I said to her, “Oh man, I saw this movie Slacker and it makes me want to be a filmmaker,” and she goes, “OK, be a filmmaker. Don’t think ‘I want to be’, just think that you are a filmmaker who just hasn’t made a film yet.” It sounds kind of existential, but it’s practical — you have to believe before anyone else can.
Before Cop Out, you talked about turning down a lot of director-for-hire jobs. Are there any you regret?
Nothing. The stuff I was offered was all of the calibre of Cop Out and with that I was like, “Bruce Willis is in it? All right, I’ll do it.” The one that I was offered that I’ll never regret saying no to is Good Will Hunting. When we brought it to Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were like, “Why don’t you direct it?” But I was like, “That’s awesome, but we need someone good.” Mel Gibson almost did it and Michael Mann shot 15 minutes of test footage. But Gus Van Sant came in and made it sing.
You were writing a Superman film, which didn’t work out. How do you feel about the new one they’re making?
The director Zack Snyder’s so f*cking talented. I liked Watchmen and, of course, 300. Some people didn’t go for the last thing he did, Sucker Punch, but if you just turn the volume down, it really f*cking works. He knows how to shoot action. He’s working with one of the most iconic characters ever created. I’ve got to imagine sh*t’s going to work out.
Do you wish you were working on films like that?
No. I’d rather waste time sitting around talking to people than waste time on a movie set. Well, it’s not a waste because you’re eventually getting a product, but you shoot for two weeks for a 30-second action sequence. Life’s too short. Shooting action is just painstakingly f*cking boring.
You fell out with Bruce Willis on the set of Cop Out. Have you made peace with him?
I made peace early on. When I tell the story about working with him on Die Hard 4.0 it’s very complimentary. If I’d only ever worked with him as an actor, to this day I’d be like, “Bruce Willis is my hero.” But then I worked with him in a different capacity. He’s been [working] long enough that he knows how he wants to do something, so I’m like, “Why don’t you just direct? I’d be nonplussed. Take the job. But, since my name is up there, I’m going to be the one that has sh*t thrown at me, so help me out.” That’s the thing.
When you hang out with Ben Affleck now, do you ever bring up the Bennifer years?
I so rarely see him. This was an instance of the media not liking their relationship any more. They seemed to be punishing him because he was having a good time, which was strange. It was sad because they were such a sweet couple. When the Southwest Airlines thing happened [Smith was thrown off a plane for being ‘too big for seat’ in 2010] I had it for three days and it was about one specific thing: my body. His was spread over two years and it was for going out with her, making movies people didn’t like — everything.
And now he’s really private…
That’s the thing. If you watch him on [chat shows] he’s really smart, but I miss the guy that was like, “I’ll say anything and I don’t care.” I learned how to be candid from Ben. That came from him, honestly. Now he’s got his guard up. I’m like: “Go unguarded.” All you’re giving up is your privacy. I haven’t got anything to be private about.
Are you really retiring after your next film?
Just from directing theatrical films. After 20 years of doing it, it feels like, “Let me try something else for 20 years.” I don’t have anything new to say in movies now. I’m just spinning wheels.
So do you regret any of the films you’ve made? Such as Cop Out?
No. Honestly. Even Cop Out and Jersey Girl. I kick them, but they led to the next one. Jersey Girl got me to Clerks II, which is kind of essential. And Zack And Miri Make A Porno — the great gift of that movie was meeting Seth Rogen. Just being on set with that dude was inspiring. He’s funny, he’s young and he’s not content to do just one thing. That makes him a renaissance man.
Tough Sh*t: Life Advice From A Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good is out now