Nobody does raunchy quite like Kevin Smith, a proud Jersey boy who's as profusely good-natured as he is sweaty. Best known for unapologetically crass flicks such as 'Clerks' and 'Mallrats,' which aren't so much peppered with penis jokes and vulgar sexual references as they are saturated with them, Smith is taking his biggest gamble yet with 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno.'
Combining his trademark uninhibited sexual humor with the unabashed romanticism of his surprisingly heartfelt 1997 flick 'Chasing Amy' (the most emotionally resonant film ever made about a lesbian who switches teams), 'Porno' stars Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as two lifelong pals who -- you guessed it -- decide to make porn to pay the rent.
In an exclusive (and uncensored) interview, Moviefone talks with Smith about the awkwardness of shooting his first sex scene, the glory of full-frontal nudity and why you probably won't be seeing Jay and Silent Bob on the big screen ever again. -- By Tom DiChiara
1. Why did you decide to set 'Zack and Miri' in Pittsburgh as opposed to your usual stamping grounds of New Jersey?
I mean, in a world where we're leaving the Askewniverse, it felt like that was a nice natural break. For some reason, I could get my head around people making porn in Jersey -- because we've come close. I couldn't get my head around people making porn in Monroeville, right outside of Pittsburgh, so we wound up going there.
2. What spawned the idea for the movie?
I guess it had been swimming around in my head since 'Chasing Amy,' back in '96 or '97, and it's taken various permutations and shapes over the years. But when I saw [Seth] Rogen in '40-Year-Old Virgin,' it just crystallized. I was like, "Oh my god, there he is. There's the guy. There's Zack." And suddenly I was off and running.
3. So you wrote the script specifically for Seth?
I wrote it just for Seth because I just fell in love with him in that movie. That movie was just really, really genius. And he felt like one of my characters.
4. I think the feeling's mutual. Rogen said that he came to Hollywood and told his agent that he wanted to be in a Kevin Smith movie.
Isn't that sweet? That was very sweet. Yeah, he said that to me in the first email he sent me, which I was delighted to receive because I had cold emailed him and just been like, "Hey, I know you can generate your own material, but I got this script that I've been writing for you that I think you'd be perfect for, but I would get it if you didn't want to do it because 'Knocked Up' looks like it's going to be huge. But anyway please read it." Within five minutes I got an email back and it said, "No bulls***, when I first came out to Los Angeles and my agent asked me what I wanted to do ... I said I wanted to be in a Kevin Smith movie -- and that hasn't changed." I was like, "Cha-ching!" It was kind of a sweet moment. It was like one of the top five emails I've ever received.
5. And did Elizabeth Banks land the role of Miri because she'd been in 'Virgin' with Seth?
Kind of, yeah. Originally I had written it for Rosario Dawson, but Rosario did 'Eagle Eye' instead, so she wasn't available. And so we were kind of left with no Miri. And we went through the list of available actresses for when we were shooting ... and she was one of six names. And alphabetically she was at the top of the list. So when Seth came over one day to talk about that and other things, I said, "Here's the list of potential actresses." And right away he was just like: "Banks! Oh my god, Banks is so genius. She was great and funny in '40-Year-Old Virgin,' and she got really far in the 'Knocked Up' audition. She was almost the female lead in 'Knocked Up.'" So he's going, "I vote for Banks." And we were off and running.
6. How was it working with Elizabeth?
Well, I met her. She read the script at the house. We sat outside talking for two hours; I just kind of fell in love with her. It's so strange because she wound up being like THE best actress I've ever worked with. She is beyond awesome. Y'all see like finished products of films and TV shows she's been in. When you're sitting in the editing room with raw footage, and you've got say six takes on her, every take while being the exact same is very different. She just gives you so many f***ing choices -- subtle things, subtle expressions. She's fantastic.
7. Your movies can get pretty raunchy, but you've never really filmed a sex scene before. What was that experience like?
Yeah, I mean, I only did like one nude shot in 'Mallrats,' and it was such a horrible f***ing experience, I never wanted to do it again [laughs]. It was really bad to just be like, "OK, so in this sequence you're going to take your top off" and see that, like, f***ing deer-in-headlights look that I know I would have if somebody was like, "Can you take your top off?" So when we were scheduling the flick, we scheduled Seth and Banks' love scene the last week because I didn't know how I wanted to shoot it yet. And also I thought, let's give them tons of time to get used to each other.
8. What was the first sex scene you shot?
The first porno sequence we shot was Katie [Morgan] and [Jason] Mewes. You couldn't ask for two better people to do the first porn scene with. One of them is very used to taking her clothes off -- she works in adult film for a living; that's her day job. The other guy, since he sprang forth from the womb, has been humping everything -- the air, the table leg, your leg. So he was well-practiced as well. The two of them together, I didn't feel any hesitancy. I think if it had been two other actors I would have been like, "OK, so, maybe here you would take your blouse off." I was able to just go like: "By this point you guys are naked. By this point, you guys are in position 1, 2, 3, 4 -- and move around the counter." And they were just like, "Great, great great."
9. Did Katie's background come in handy during the shoot?
Katie was very helpful because she's got experience shooting with two cameras on the porn thing, where one is catching everything -- insertion and what not -- while the other is cleverly angled so as to hide insertion for play on some hotels and sh** like that, maybe cable, Skinemax. She was just like, "Look, if you go like this a little bit, you won't be able to tell that he's not in me at all." And I was like, "I never thought I would have this conversation -- but that's awesome!" [Laughs.] And you never felt bad asking Katie to do something because you just had this feeling that the worst thing I could ask her to do didn't even come close to like the most basic things she has to do in her day job. So I felt pretty good about that.