The fan-favorite director discusses the Blu-ray version of his latest comedy Cop Out featuring the all-new "Maximum Comedy Mode."
Director Kevin Smith is not someone who is known for mincing words. The fan-favorite director of such films as Clerks and Chasing Amy has always had a reputation for being honest and outspoken about the movie making process. He hosts a weekly podcast online and is known for participating in hilarious Q&A sessions that are often filmed for DVD release. So it only makes sense that the new "Maximum Comedy Mode" feature on the Blu-ray Combo Pack of his latest film Cop Out, available on July 20th, would be the perfect outlet for the popular director. The new feature allows fans to watch the buddy-cop film along with Smith, who periodically pops up with the movie's co-star Seann William Scott to give commentary, introduce deleted scenes, outtakes and generally just make fun of each other and the movie. In classic Smith style, he makes a lot of comic book references, uses fowl language, makes fun of his own weight and basically just kisses up to Watchmen director Zack Snyder while giving an informative and entertaining look at the making of the hilarious comedy starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan. We recently had a chance to sit down and chat with director Kevin Smith about the "MCM" mode on the new Cop Out Blu-ray Combo Pack, which also features a DVD and digital copy of the film, as well as discuss the movie; it's nod to Fletch and get his opinion on Twitter and 3D. Here is what the accomplished raconteur and filmmaker had to say:
To begin with, Kevin can you explain exactly just what "Maximum Comedy Mode" or "MCM" is for us?
Kevin Smith: "MCM" is this process, technique; I don't even know what you would call it? Basically, on the Blu-ray of Cop Out they take the movie and instead of like every other DVD I've ever made, you can watch the movie and then you pop over to another section that has a commentary track, or a section that has deleted scenes, or a section that has behind the scenes, everything is compartmentalized. These cats came to me with the idea of basically integrating all of that back into the movie. You know I'm an old man, I'm going to be forty in a couple of weeks and I was terrified by the notion of something new. I got really "crew cut old man" about it. I was like, "Your commentary track is here, and your deleted scenes are over here and never the twain shall meet." I was a true segregationist, man. I started acting like a Southern preacher back in the day, "Never the twain shall meet." And these dudes were so kind about trying to break the process down and explain it to me, which I thought was really funny since I'm a director and I'm supposed to have vision and I couldn't understand what they were talking about. "No, you can't do that, it doesn't make sense," I said. But I had worked with the Warner Bros. cats for so long on the flick and they were so nice the whole step of the way, man. I didn't want to come work at a studio. My whole life I was like, "Fuck these people. They make trash all the time. This is an assembly line of crap and blah, blah, blah." You know, I still feel that way but they are also very nice.
They were so nice to us and they treated the movie so well every step of the way. Although the whole time that we were making it, it wasn't called Cop Out, it was called "A Couple Of Dicks" and they still treated us like we were a serious comedy. They treated us better than we deserved, at least I thought that, I'm sure Bruce Willis thought we were getting treated exactly as we deserved but I felt like we were getting treated really well. It was probably the Willis influence. Having Willis there, everyone steps up there game cause he's a movie star and shit. I'm sure if we didn't have Willis there we would have been like, "Where is our craft service?" And they would have said, "It's in the back of McDonalds in the dumpster you fucks. Finish the movie, bring it in on time and don't talk to us until it is done!" But they were so wonderful the whole way. The studio was great every step of the way, helping us out to make the movie, never a hindrance. They were true collaborators, like fucking Harvey and Bob Weinstein the whole time. I remember going in to this thinking that I would never have the experience I had with Harvey and Bob again. They literally let me do what ever I wanted and these cats did the same thing. They were literally like, "We are hiring you to make the movie." I was like, "Shit, well that's not a good idea. You may want to ride me a little harder."
But they were kind of cool about everything the whole step of the way. So when the dudes were like, "Please bare with us. This is going to be a cool thing." The one dude that was trying to explain the "MCM" thing to me was saying that this format was built for me. He'd say, " I know that you can't get your head around it but this is made for you to a tee. You are the perfect case subject." They showed me what Zack Snyder had done for 300, I think, or maybe it was Watchmen. I was watching that one and I was like, if fucking Zack Snyder can do this ... cause I know Zack and he is not exactly a livewire in front of the cameras and shit. Zack is a genius behind the cameras, in front of the cameras he's like Cindy Brady, the red light goes on and he gets real stiff. So I was like if Zack Snyder can pull this shit off then I can do this. So I was like, "You want me to do my commentary on Watchmen?" They were like, "No, Dickhead with your movie." I was like, "Oh Cop Out? Come on let me talk about Watchmen for three hours." So they were like, "Can you get your head around doing this?" and I was like, "I can try."
They asked me to shoot it at a certain point and it was going to be after the junket. It had all been scheduled for like a month or something like that. Then about eight or nine days before I was supposed to shoot it, I got asked to leave an airplane. I was in Hell and misery and the last thing that I wanted do was this. I remember they said to me that I had to shoot this thing for Cop Out and I was like, "You want me to get on camera? They just told me to get off a plane, man. I feel fat!" They were like, "Well can we move it?" I think we moved it by two days or something but it was so therapeutic. I came in and it's all about standing there and being on camera. Back in the day, I could have just come in, sat behind a microphone and done the commentary track in my pajamas or worse naked and nobody would know. But with this, eight days after the whole world goes, "Hey man you're fat! I heard you were fat on the news" and shit like that I had to get up in front of a camera for this movie that I wasn't in at all and that was hard. It sucked and I didn't want to do it. I was like, "I don't even understand the concept and now I have less of a reason to fucking go."
But God bless these cats, they stayed on me and kept telling me, "You are going to love this. I wish I could go ahead in time and show you." So I trusted them because they had been so nice to me the whole way. Then when they sent me the check disc, it was the first time that I got to see it, you know I had only seen the Zack Snyder version and shit. I remember the dude telling me on the day that we shot it that he wanted to shoot this little bit that incorporated me into the logo. I was like, "The WB shield? How are you going to do that?" He was like, "Well, we can shrink you and put you on it. Could you talk about being on the shield?" I was like, "Yeah man, if you're going to put me on the fucking shield!" Suddenly it got cool and I was like, "Yeah I'd like to be on the shield that would be kind of neat." So I'm watching it on the check disc for the first time and there I am on the shield and suddenly I completely got it. It was like doing a commentary track but I am present as apposed to just talking and shit. It was like integrating something that I do fairly well, which is standing up and talking to people with something that I don't do well at all, which is make movies. Because of that, the one thing that is stronger helps the thing that is weaker, it's like basically they balance each other out.
When I watched the disc I was so fucking delighted. I remember sitting and thinking, three fucking hours, man? Nobody wanted to watch Cop Out at ninety minutes, why are they going to watch it when it's three hours long? But when I was done watching it I was just like, I don't care if you hate this movie because it's fucking entertaining. We make fun of the movie in the movie and we explain what went wrong or what got changed. I don't know? It's so warts and all honest and I like that about it. I got so mad because I kind of wish we had released this version of the movie. I mean this would have been kind of groundbreaking. Pop that in at the theaters and people would be like, "I was watching this Bruce Willis movie and this fat guy kept irritating me throughout it. He wasn't sitting next to me he was on the fucking screen and all the sudden he would interrupt the flick!" But I fell in love with it and felt that it was a great fucking process. So the long and short of it is that they take the commentary track, they take deleted scenes and they take a Q & A and integrate it within the movie and kind of make it this new movie experience, which is neat. I mean you can watch the movie the way you did in the theater or you can put this version on and watch that, its kind of dope.
But it's only on the Blu-ray Combo Pack, it is not on the DVD, correct?
Kevin Smith: It's only on the Blu-ray; well that is the future right there. They have been trying to tell us that for years. I remember when I ... shit this is going back two or three years ago to when I was talking to Disney/Miramax, when there still was a Disney/Miramax, about doing a Chasing Amy anniversary disc when it was coming up on the ten year anniversary. They were only interested in doing it for Blu-ray and that was before I was a big Blu-ray enthusiast. I was like, "No man, I have eight-thousand to ten-thousand DVD's and I want to put it on DVD." They were like, "DVD is not going to be around much longer." I was like, "Come on, don't say that man. Not everyone is going to get a Blu-ray player." Now it's two or three years later and everyone has a fucking Blue-ray player and DVD's are getting harder and harder to find.
So with this its like I got no say over it, I mean I guess I could have been a prick and said that this has to be released on DVD as well but I'm not going to tell Warner Bros. Home Video there business, they seem to know what they are doing rather well. So when they said that it was just going to be available on Blu-ray, I thought that was a shame but I guess it makes sense. I mean, think about all those cool people that had just VHS back in the day and every time you would tell them, "Hey man, on the Laser Disc they got extras" and a VHS person would be like, "I don't know what that is?" So you know, they got fazed out. DVD's are getting fazed out as we head towards Blu-ray so it just makes sense. But the old version of me probably would have kicked and been like, "It has to be democratic and equal," but I used up all my fight this year with Southwest. I didn't have any fight left in me.
Exactly how long did it take you to record the "MCM" feature for the Blu-ray?
Kevin Smith: The beautiful thing about a corporation like this, which is something I never knew before because this was the first time that I ever worked with some one like Warner Bros. I mean I worked with Universal back in the day when we made Mallrats but that was more for Gramercy so it was kind of a co-production between PolyGram and Universal. So I don't think that I've had the full corporate experience ever before. When you make a movie with a conglomerate corporation like this, a massive movie studio that has been doing it for nearly a hundred years if not more, everybody has a job and everything is fucking taken care of man. In the world I'm from, you spin a lot of plates and you wear a lot of hats, that's just the way it is done and shit. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way because I kind of act like a control freak in order to do my job.
Here though, man you'll get a call the day before and they'll schedule it but anything you need is taken care of, they got it covered. So all I literally had to do was at the junket, I shot the stuff with Seann (William Scott) that you see where we interact with each other. That was when we were in New York. Then three days later I went to a soundstage in Los Angeles and it's pretty much like the room that you see on the Blu-ray. I had the two screens behind me and we were pretty much on a sound stage. It's not like there is a blue screen with a fake sound stage. That was a real sound stage. Basically, they had a bunch of scenes that they wanted me to hit specifically because we had all the extra footage for them and we started that way. Then I was like, "You know what would be way easier? I know that you have these targeted moments that you want to hit so lets kill these and then we'll go back to the top and then we'll just do the whole movie from the beginning to the end." They were like, "You just want to stand here and talk for two hours?" I was like, "I'm Kevin Smith, have we just met? I'll sit here and talk for nine hours if you let me." So they put in a new tape, we started from the top and just went all the way down.
It was very cute ... they had a lawyer sit in the back the whole time because basically every fifth thing I said was never going to make the Blu-ray. My friend was in the back with the lawyer and periodically they would change tapes and I would towel off because I get sweaty and I was like, "What are they talking about back there?" He was like, "About how little of this content will make the Blu-ray." But I new some of it would. When I saw the check disc, they included so much and I was shocked at how much they let slide. I mean a lot of it is me making fun of myself but apparently, legally, you can't sue Warner Bros. if you call yourself fat a lot because I do it on the Blu-ray and I didn't sue them. So they were kind of cool even though there was a lawyer present and they were like, "You can't say certain things." That happens to me a lot because that is always a problem with me on DVD's and whatnot. They wound up letting so much of it actually go that I was really surprised and delighted. So I showed up one day and we did it top to bottom.
So I would say essentially all told for the time that I put in, which is mostly performance stuff, actually standing there and talking, I would say was about three hours in total. They were able to take that and turn it in to this and they did all the work. I was just an actor like those cats are actors in the movie. Suddenly I went from being the director of the movie to being an actor and someone else was directing me for the "MCM" version of the movie. I don't know? The integration of it terrified me at first and then I was so in to it. So much so that I got irritated that I can't do this with every movie I make. You know, shoot it and then release it this way but they own this kind of process so I can't do "MCM" for something else. I wish I had invented it so I could take it with me but it's theirs. So it behooves me to work at Warner Bros. because they're the only ones that are going to let me be in the movie too on Blu-ray.
It's cool. It's like a weird second bite of the apple for me and I realize that I'm not like most directors. Most directors are very talented but I'm not like most directors. They like to let the work speak for itself. A lot of cats I have noticed do that over the years. They don't go out there and defend them selves, talk about what they do and why they do it, the work speaks for itself. With me that has never been the case. I find that the more talented the director the less the director actually has to say after the movie is made. That's why you never hear fucking Clint Eastwood say anything. He makes nine movies a year and never says word one. He doesn't have to. People like me have to. If you don't make movies as well as other people then you have a lot of explaining to do and I always feel kind of like, if I can't get them with the movie then I can get them with the second bite of the apple by talking about the movie.
I picked that up off of one of the first Q & A's that we had for Clerks in Houston in '94. We had the screening and then we did a Q & A afterwards and after that I was talking to someone in the back of the theater and I heard two Mother Fuckers going out and one dude was like, "What did you think of the movie?" He was like, "I didn't like it but I loved the Q & A. Those guys were funny." I remember thinking, hey man if I can't get these guys with the movie, maybe I can get them with the Q & A afterwards. Second bite of the apple and you get one last way to kind of change their way of thinking. You don't want people ever leaving the theater going, "This sucked, it was an absolute waste of my time. I regret it, I fucking want that time back and Kevin Smith and his progeny must die." You never want that. If you can soften them up before they leave so they say, "I didn't like that movie but the Q & A was good." That has been the motif of my whole career. When they were telling me about the "MCM" they were like, "Dude you are going to love this because this is everything that you are about. This is where you get to make the movie, show the movie, make excuses for the movie, make more jokes to put in the movie and just talk about yourself for two hours." I was like, "Sign me up." I fell in love with it once I saw it. Like I said, I was not visionary enough to understand it at first.
How do you feel about social networking sites like Twitter? Do you think that they have changed the filmmaking process at all?
Kevin Smith: I haven't analyzed it that much but I don't think it has changed how movies are made at all, yet. I think the test case to see how powerful Twitter was came when Ashton Kutcher put out Spread, a movie that he did just recently that didn't go in theaters, or at least not very widely, where he played a pimp or a gigolo or something. Ashton Kutcher had the most amount of fans on Twitter at that point and had a whole army at his disposal for this tiny independent film that was only playing in a few places. Essentially he could target them and say, "Go!" Based on how many followers he had you would think that that film was going to fucking open because he can advertise to more people with out using money than any marketing campaign can. Basically he could hit two million Twitter followers without spending a fucking dime, so you would think that the movie would be huge. But it came out and pretty much acted like every other independent film, people who wanted to see it went to see it and the two million people following Ashton Kutcher did not go see the movie. It's not like it died a miserable death but Twitter did not help.
So what Twitter is wonderful for is talking to the fan base, talking to the audience and talking to anybody who has a fucking interest in you or what you do. I've been doing that since '95. I love Twitter and I hope it never goes away but back in '95 I kicked open the doors of our website and we had a message board. That's what I've been doing since '95 so by the time Twitter happened I was like well polished. I had ten thousand hours of practice or more on how to be pithy, respond, interact with people and make it seem like you are having a real conversation with people that you are not even seeing. You know, how to be very candid and comfortable with them on the computer. So by the time that Twitter happened it was great. I was able to do what I did normally on a much larger basis but it doesn't help one iota with how movies get made or anything like that. What it does help is that it is one giant fucking stick. No one fucks with me anymore. Some people get an idea like, "Lets take a run at him or some shit!" But after Southwest, man it's been crazy. I go into a restaurant and people give me a seat like that and that would happen here in town because I tip like crazy, I'm a fifty percent tipper because I came from a busboy mentality, but I travel on a bus across the country so I'm just not on planes and it doesn't matter where I go. Now they're just like, "Get him a seat because he'll start crying on Twitter if we don't get him a fucking seat." So there is that. It became a big stick, which is kind of nice because people tend not to fuck with you as much. But generally speaking for the business I don't think it's improved my business one iota.
Do you get a lot of feed back from your fans on Twitter?
Kevin Smith: All the time, for me the feedback from fans have always been there. What Twitter allows you to get is feedback from people that aren't necessarily fans. What I love about Twitter is, and this has been the late motif of my life, which is: if I don't get you here then I'm going to try and get you over here. With Twitter, you have some people on the fence who say, "Yeah I saw Clerks and the rest of his stuff bugs me." Suddenly you're like, okay maybe you don't like my work but here are a bunch of funny things that I say in the course of a day, here are some things that I'm going to send you, here is my podcast which is free and something is bound to hit. If it doesn't than you were never going to like anything I do regardless. But it always gives you the second bite of the apple of if you don't like this then I can do this, this and this.
Lord knows I'm not George Lucas or James Cameron, hell I'm not even Lawrence Kasdan for Christ's sake. I'm not here and I'm not there. I'm in my own little subset, on my own little Island where people are like, "That's Kevin Smith. He makes Kevin Smith movies. That's it!" I don't get put in groups with other people so any edge that I can get to make myself standout is important. Remember I come from an independent world where you got to notice me because I have no money to pay for you to notice me. Anything that extends the conversation because that is what I've always been interested in doing, not filmmaking and shit like that but the conversation that comes from it. So anything that extends the conversation is okay in my book. It's just not going to equate to dollars and sense. Some people are like, "Well Twitter is fun but how are we going to make any money off it?" I think that they are missing the point. It's not about money it's about communication. It's about me finding out what's on your mind and you finding out what's on my mind. It's cool. It puts you in touch with a lot of people and it fuels you, inspires you and it is a great communication tool, which is obviously what I'm all about.
But in terms of extending the business or helping my film business in anyway ... you know what, it does help and this is how it helps. With this movie, the critics, ass-raped me in a big, bad way. They totally raped me. You would have thought we made Hitler's Mein Kampf and at the end I was like, "P.S. he was right!" They treated this movie like such a cinematic abortion and once again they over reacted in a big, bad fucking way. I would have been upset about it back in the day because all you have to go on then was what critics would write about. That's the world I come from. In order to know what people thought about your movie you would read what a critic wrote about it or you would see what the box office is but you wouldn't really hear from people much unless you went to a screening or did a Q & A and heard from a audience member. So in defense of the internet and specifically Twitter, it allows me to buy past that conversation and now the only means of knowing what people think about my movie is no longer, "Hey what did the critics think?"
Not to take away from them but there are so many critics now, everyone is a fucking critic. I can't treat people special just because they get to see the movie for free. I want to hear criticism from somebody that paid to see the movie and not because I want his ten bucks but because that means more. Someone who says to me, "I didn't pay to see your movie but I hated it," it's like I don't give a shit. It's like we're back in high school and they're saying, "You're not pretty and I'm not going to fuck you!" It's a ridiculous notion. The Internet kind of democratized a lot of things including opinions about movies. Suddenly I could hear from people.
On Cop Out's opening day back east, there was a fucking blizzard. I remember thinking that no one was going to go and that we were going to get killed on the east coast. I went to Twitter and I could chase it all day long to know how it was doing. I would read things like, "There is three feet of fucking snow outside my door and it is going to cost me $40 bucks but I'm going to see your fucking movie because you've been bugging me for two months to do so." If that cat comes back and says, "Your worse than Hitler," then I'll take it from that guy because he did the work, he went out of his way to see it and I'm sorry I let him down. Hopefully I'll get him back on the next one." I can't take it from a group of people that are like, "We breath such purified air. We have the perfect dream job, we get paid to see movies but we forgot how much fun it is and instead we just want to rake everything over the coals." It's not their fault and I get it. Its way more fun to read the bashing of a movie than the praising of a movie but it's like didn't we learn anything from the end of Ratatouille? Didn't those critics learn a fucking thing?
But where Twitter was incredibly helpful was when I used it as a gage to what this one dude who was being paid to write about it said. If I just went off what he was saying I would think that everyone hated the movie but I was hearing from people that bought tickets to see the movie and it was a completely different story. It's like you would sit there and read the fucking Rotten Tomato counter and it would be like, fifteen percent. Wow nobody likes this, I would think. Then I would read Twitter from people that actually paid to see the movie and weren't sitting there trying to impress their friends and show off their cinematic knowledge and they were like, "That was some funny shit dude. Seann William Scott repeating, that's some funny shit." So you sit there and are like, "My God, that is what it is all about." With Schindler's List you want people to have a heavy opinion of it or have something to say but it's fucking Cop Out man, these dudes came at it like it was a retarded kid in class. It was embarrassing what they did to it and that was a real break moment for me where I didn't even feel that protective of it because I didn't write it. I love Cop Out but I'll always treat it like an adoptive kid. Like, "I didn't have you!" Sorry but that's the way I do it. Most people aren't inhuman like that but I am. I would essentially always be a grade removed from it because it didn't come from me, you know? Like if I raised someone else's kid and then he becomes Dahmer. I'd be like, "Wasn't me man, I didn't have this fucking kid, I just raised it. It's nature not nurture!"
In "Cop Out" there is a great nod to "Fletch" at the end of the film, which is a movie that you tried to re-make for a very long time. Can you talk about what that project meant to you and why you wanted to reference it in this film?
Kevin Smith: This flick was a real chance for me to make the Fletch movie that I really never got to make. Not my version of the Fletch movie because I was going to do the Gregory McDonald version of "Fletch Won" and the version of the movie I wanted to make was way more out of sight then the other Fletch movie directed by Michael Ritchie. When I went into Cop Out, I kind of approached it like, let me see how Michael Ritchie approached Fletch and go in to it like that. There's a sense of danger, you know it's a comedy but when we go violent we go violent. It's not like, "Hey man, this dude poked this dude in the eye." It's real people killing each other like in the 80's movies. Michael Ritchie's Fletch was a true barometer for me for this movie. It's not nearly as good as Fletch I mean Fletch is an instant classic. The whole temp score was Harold Faltermeyer's score and a little bit of Beverly Hills Cop. So then when we sat Harold down to watch the movie and to see if he wanted to score the flick he was like, "I think I already did."
Finally, do you have any interest in getting in on the 3D craze and using it for your next film?
Kevin Smith: I don't think so. I think if you make a certain type of bombastic, over the top, fucking tent pole movie blockbuster film then you're definitely going to think about 3D because it's one more way to add a bell & whistle to an already massive film. I mean look, I don't know whether they planned it from the jump or not but I just watched Seth's trailer for The Green Hornet with Michele Gondry directing it and at the end it said that it was, "In 3D!" I thought, good God is that a joke because I know it's a comedy but are they're serious? Now everybody wants to take that 3D process and apply it to movies like Clash of the Titans. James Cameron said, "You can't do it, if you haven't planned it from the start. If you do then it's going to suck!" With all do respect, this man's a genius, but most people going to see movies don't have the eye for detail like Jim Cameron has. Most people are like, "Holy shit that horse came at my face!" It doesn't have to look that great but they made it look great. They found a way to make something they shot 2D and make it 3D. Once these cats made it successful it opens up the floodgates. Everybody's like, "You're making another twenty million off any fucking movie, maybe even more if it's a kids movie, if you pop it up in 3D." To me it's just reads of, "Hey man come see the movie and this chair will vibrate! It's the Tingler!" They're doing that now! It just took me back to that John Goodman movie Matinee. We're living it again like everything that has happened before will happen again. It's still to me bells & whistles and again good work in the hands of people that really want to use it, but can't people just watch a movie anymore?