Kevin Smith on his memoir 'Tough Sh*t'
Those who have perused the current issue of Entertainment Weekly know it features a Q&A with director Kevin Smith in which he talks about his troubled working relationship with Bruce Willis on Cop Out, the 2010 incident where he was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight because of his weight, and his new memoir-cum-self-help book, Tough Sh*t: Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good (out tomorrow).
But is that all the voluble Clerks auteur had to say for himself? Not even close. Below, Smith ruminates further on his new tome, why he hasn’t spoken to Harvey Weinstein for over a year, and the person he would most love to have read a Liam Neeson penis joke.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve published books before that collected your articles and blog entries and podcast ruminations. This is the first time you sat down and wrote a “book” book. What was that process like?
KEVIN SMITH: Honestly? A true pain in the a–. It sounded so much easier when I pitched it. Once again, I blame Twitter. I love Twitter and I blame Twitter for everything. I was online on Twitter for maybe a couple of months doing these things called “Smonologues.” People would ask questions like, “I hate myself. I’m fat. What the f— am I supposed to do?” I just wrote this monologue by way of Twitter, 140 characters at a time. Eventually, I compiled it and put it into a blog. I had about 10 of them and they were pretty popular and I said, “You could actually compile these into a book.” Once again I was thinking, I’ve already done the work, let me just publish it.
When I went in to speak with the good folks at Gotham (who are publishing Tough Sh*t) they said, “We like the idea of you doing an advice book but we’d rather do fresh material.” So I was like, “Okay.” You say “Yes” in the room and then deadlines start coming in. You’re like, “Oh my god, I actually have to sit down and write!” But, like with anything else, I just light a joint and start going.
It was kind of fun. You get to a point where you get chairman emeritus status in anything, you got to share the wealth. Harvey Weinstein gave me the billion dollar advice of a lifetime when the dude said, “The movie doesn’t begin when the lights go down. If you’re really good at your job, the movie begins long before they get in the theater.” Somebody took the time to pass that on to me years ago and I was able to aggregate that into something that resembled a career. Now you can pass it on to somebody else and that keeps the wheel turning. It’s not even altruistic. You inspire other people, they start doing cool sh—, you’re entertained. That’s how we work this thing.
Apart from the title itself, the many parts of this book that are too foul-mouthed to print in full include nearly all the chapter headings, the dedication to your wife’s rump, and the opening line, “I am a product of Don Smith’s b—s.” Why all the potty talk, Mr. Smith?
That, to me, is the beauty of not just adulthood but being a self-made person. At the end of the day you can do whatever you want. George Carlin (who appeared in Smith’s films Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) always impressed me, as a kid right up until the time he died and even now. He was a guy who could do the lowest lowbrow humor, talk like a true vulgarian, yet he was the smartest man I ever met in my life. He was a genius. He was brilliant. His comedy was beyond satirical. It was thinking man’s [comedy]. It was beyond thinking man’s. It was this wonderful blend of common language and uncommon language. I always felt, “Well, if George Carlin can curse then, heavens, cursing’s good enough for me.” Why restrain one’s self?
You have some harsh things to say in the book about Bruce Willis, who starred in your film Cop Out. But what really comes across in that chapter is your sense of disappointment.
Yeah. I hope it doesn’t come across like, “Oh, woe is me!” But you’re allowed to afford yourself some disappointment, even if you’ve got the dream job and whatnot. Whether or not people like the movies I make, each one is made with an “A” effort. I come to every show overpacked and ready to play. I don’t know about anybody else but I always carried a bunch of guilt for getting paid for doing this job because it’s like, “S— man, I’d do this for free, as long as I could cover my mortgage and s— and my wife would let me do it.” You carry a bit of Catholic guilt when it comes to that kind of thing, particularly in cases where I didn’t write it. A Couple of Dicks, which became Cop Out, was something I didn’t write. So when I came to play as director I had to overcompensate in my head because I’m like, s—, I’m not even bringing my A-game in terms of the screenplay. Normally that’s what I’m good at, writing. Directing is a distant ninth.
You mentioned Harvey Weinstein just now and you have a lot of kind words to say about him in the book. But you also write that the last thing you spoke to him was to tell him he should “Shut the f— up” at a 2011 Sundance Festival screening of your film Red State, which he had previously declined to finance.
Have there been any subsequent exchanges?
No, not at all. I haven’t spoken to him since that moment.
The book is critical of what you regard as his abandonment of much of the independent movie ethos. Has he been in contact at all about the book?
He sent me an email when Comic Book Men (Smith’s AMC reality show about the employees of a comic store in New Jersey) was about to air. There was a piece that ran in the L.A. Times and he said, “Saw your commercial, you’ll always be cool in my book.” I don’t know what that meant. I sent him back a very simple email saying, “Good luck on the race,” because he was in the thick of the Oscars. But, no, I haven’t really shared words. Not much to say. You just kind of get to a point where you’re like, “Alright, I guess that happened.”
On your weekly movie podcast Hollywood Babble-On you encourage listeners to send in jokes about the allegedly large nature of a certain movie star’s manhood, all of which begin, “Liam Neeson’s c— is so big…” Has he ever been in touch to say, “Cut it out!”
Every week we do that on Hollywood Babble-On and it brings the f—ing house down. Like, every week 250 people minimum get together and talk about how big his d— is. Whether or not it’s true, it’s pretty funny. I don’t know if he’s heard any of the shows or any of the jokes. But I have a dream that for episode 100 that we get him to do one in that amazing voice. Having seen him on Ricky Gervais’ Life’s Too Short he’s obviously got a fantastic sense of humor. It would be fantastic.
Do you have another book in you?
It’s weird to say, because I’ve been hanging out with him forever — and we tell his story every week on the Jay & Silent Bob Get Old podcast — but the well of stories that Jason Mewes has and the s— that we’ve never even covered in the podcast or in the writing I’ve already done could fill a book. He is a true f—ing survivor. That’s why it’s embarrassing I wrote a book called Tough Sh*t. Nothing bad really ever happened to me. Jason Mewes has survived some really insane tough s—. So I’m always like, “You should write a book.” I think the only way it’s going to happen is if I cowrite it with him. His story is inspiring. As much as I write a, quote unquote, self-help book where I’m like, “Yeah, chase your dreams!” and s— like that, this dude could really help people. Because he’s survived insane abuse. Not just the abuse he’s done to his body with drugs. This was a kid who got lost in the system and fell through the cracks and still wound up keeping his head above water and being a survivor and stuff. It’s a gripping f—ing story. If it’s going to take me writing it, so be it. I could get my head around doing that.