It’s been a great summer for local Kevin Smith fans, one that started when his latest movie, Red State, opened Fantasia in mid-July. “I’m so fucking mad that I missed that screening,” says the filmmaker. “You watch any movie in Canada, you always get a better reaction than you do in America, and I haven’t seen any of my shit in Montreal since way back in the day, in 1994, when the World Film Festival showed Clerks.”
After doing a live recording of SModcast at Just for Laughs on July 28, Smith will finally get a chance to see Red State in Montreal this weekend during the kick-off of the Red Province Tour, a pan-Canadian series of screenings followed by Q&A sessions. He also plans to come back here more regularly in the future. “I’ll be honest with you, and it’s kind of a shameful thing to admit,” says Smith, giggling over the phone, “but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how fucking close Montreal is to Toronto. I’ve been going to Toronto all these years, my friend Malcolm [Ingram] lives there, and one day I was talking about Montreal and I was like, ‘We’d need, like, a day to go.’ And he’s like, ‘What do you mean, a day? You get on the 401 and you’re there in five or six hours.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me! Why haven’t we been going all this time?'”
“Now with the proximity to Toronto revealed and my huge love of hockey, I can tell you I’ll be spending a lot of time in Montreal in the coming year,” he assures. “You know, I’m making Hit Somebody next, it’s a hockey movie set in Canada and, when you talk about Canada and hockey, you can’t not talk about Montreal. So I got to spend time up there so I can get the feel, soak it in and whatnot.”
CHURCH AND STATE
Inspired by Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church and their bullshit “God Hates Fags” campaign, but also by the Waco siege and the U.S. government’s post-9/11 excesses, Red State is a violently nihilistic film that goes back and forth between horror, action and black comedy, all the while blasting away at religion and politics.
“Since Red State was going to be about satirizing religious fundamentalism and all the other extremisms that we deal with down here, it wasn’t going to be the same approach that I would take for Clerks or Mallrats,” explains Kevin Smith. “Suddenly it’s like, ‘Okay, it’s not going to look like anything else I do, what should it look like?’ And then I started thinking, ‘Hey! I always wanted to make a grown-up movie – that’s what I call Quentin [Tarantino]’s movies and the Coen brothers’ stuff – maybe this is the framework for that.’ It came at a time when I was like, ‘I’ve made enough Kevin Smith movies, I’d love to try to make one that’s not a Kevin Smith movie.'”
Red State also marks the return of Smith to the world of truly independent filmmaking; it’s the first picture since Clerks that he’s made without studio backing. And after the film’s controversial premiere at Sundance last January, he brandished a hockey stick that once belonged to his hero Wayne Gretzy and announced that he would self-distribute it, starting with a 15-city U.S. tour, not unlike the one he’s about to embark on in Canada.
“[I figured that] if I just take it to my audience, I think I can play this game financially smarter for this movie and come out ahead of things,” Smith says. “I know how to reach my audience. I reach them on Twitter, I reach them through my podcasts, and I reach them when I tour and do Q&As all the time.” And it worked – between the U.S. tour, foreign sales (including to Phase 4 Films in Canada) and a video-on-demand deal with Lionsgate, Red State is already in the black. “We don’t have a marketing budget, so all we had to make back is the $4-million [production budget], and we made over that. That means every dollar we make from here on out is profit on the movie.”
The 41-year-old writer-director also hopes to drum up Oscar buzz for Michael Parks and his riveting portrayal of Pastor Abin Cooper, the main antagonist of Red State. As such, he set up an Academy qualifying run of the film at the Tarantino-owned New Beverly Theatre in L.A. “If you can show me five better performances [in the Best Supporting Actor category] than Michael Parks’ this year, I’ll eat my fucking hat,” promises Smith. “Come on! That’s acting of the highest calibre. Unfortunately it’s stuck in a Kevin Smith movie! But even if you don’t like that movie, you’ve got to respect the work that went into his performance, as well as John Goodman’s performance, Melissa Leo, the kids [Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, Nicholas Braun], Kerry Bishé… You can’t deny this cast.”
Up next, Kevin Smith will be shooting what he claims will be his final film, the aforementioned Hit Somebody, which will reunite much of the Red State cast, including Michael Parks as a French-Canadian coach. “If you ever saw Twin Peaks, [Parks] played one of the Renault brothers and he had this beautiful French-Canadian accent,” he says. “So I told him, ‘Dude, I have a role for you, you’re a tough-as-nails, ice-cold coach with this low rumbling French-Canadian accent.’ He put it on for me and it was fucking beautiful.”
Smith also has a new book, with the working title Tough Shit: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good, and two TV pilots in the pipeline – one for a syndicated talk show and another for a reality series set in the Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash comic book store in Red Bank, New Jersey. And through all that, he continues to host something like 25 hours a week of podcasts and live radio on SModcast.com. Doesn’t the onetime Silent Bob ever worry about eventually running out of things to talk about?
“I’m wondering if that happens,” admits Smith. “I’m kind of wondering if sooner or later I’ll be like, ‘That’s it, I’ve said everything I need to say.’ Either that or the voice is going to go. I’ve got to start eating a lot of honey!”