Don’t think Kevin Smith has gone soft just because he made a sensitive family drama without Jay and Silent Bob. Jersey Girl is about a man adjusting to fatherhood, but only Kevin Smith would deal with this man walking in on his daughter and a friend showing each other their private parts. But, to be clear, he staged the scene with utmost concern for the well being of the child actors.
“You tell them that it’s a normal thing, that all kids do it,” Smith said. “And thankfully, you’ve got their parents going, ‘Do it, do it.’ That really helps. But it was weird because you have to go through all sorts of caution measures. Like both of them are wearing underwear under underwear under underwear, so they’re fully protected. There’s no chance of a naughty bit getting hit by the air or anything like that, but it’s tricky. It’s tricky because remember, Bryan Singer got in trouble on ‘Apt Pupil’ when they did the shower scene. There were people complaining afterwards, who were in the cast, that they had to disrobe and jump in the shower and sh*t like that. So you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to have people crying foul after you wrap and sh*t like, ‘You f***ing prostituted my child.’ So you’re very careful and there’s a ton of people standing around, child safety monitors. You go through more effort than you would do if you were actually throwing a kid off a roof in a stunt.”
Smith based the film on his own feelings about becoming a father and realizing that work had to play second to his family. However, at least one character in the film is a total invention. “I’ve been to many videostores, [there’s] nobody like Liv Tyler working at a video store. They all look like me and there’s no romance to be had. No, unfortunately Liv Tyler is a very fictional character.”
Tyler plays a video store clerk who romances single father Ben Affleck. At first, Smith was hesitant to use another video store. “It was weird when I was writing the script, I felt like can I do this? Can I put her in a videostore? Because of Randall. Then I said, ‘You know what? I haven’t really done a video store in a while so I think I can go back to it.’ That to me is indicative of the real world. People go to video stores all the time. It’s an element that I felt okay jumping back into. But there was a point when I was writing it where I was like, ‘Ooh, I could make it RST Video.’ Then I was like, ‘No, can’t do it. Can’t reference back to the other ones.’ I wanted this one to stand by itself. Part of the challenge of making ‘Jersey Girl’ that I had set up for myself was to make a movie that stood on its own. ‘Clerks’ was the only movie we made up until now that had to stand by itself. There was nothing that came before it to lean on. But ‘Mallrats,’ ‘Amy,’ ‘Dogma,’ ‘Jay and Bob’ we could always lean back on the previous movies including ‘Clerks’. So I wanted to do one where there’s no safety net, no Jay and Bob and it doesn’t tie back into that world. It just stands by itself.
Smith has spent much of his press tour for Jersey Girl responding to the Ben and J-Lo backlash, but he assures fans that he only cut Lopez scenes in the interest of storytelling, just like he cut other actors’ scenes. “Some of [her scenes] were longer than they were [in the current cut]. Some of them are exactly the same length they are in the montage. But with the exception of lifting out the wedding scene itself, or the wedding shot, it’s only 12 seconds, nothing was cut because of that. It was just cut because the movie was chunky and it took a while to ramp up and get going. So, when you edit a movie, you just pull sh*t out. There’s as much stuff from Liv and Raquel and George as there is from Ben and Jen.”
When it was announced that Smith would direct a movie version of The Green Hornet, some fans wondered why that character? He was never one of the characters commonly referenced in Smith’s films or talks. But Smith does recall an affinity for the character.
“I did collect it back when I was a hardcore collector in the late ’80s, early ’90s. And I was a big fan of the show when I was a kid because they would sometimes run it back to back with ‘Batman’ which I always watched when I was a kid. But they didn’t have a lot of episodes. They only had one year worth of episodes, where ‘Batman’ I think had two and a half years. So you didn’t see a lot of ‘Green Hornet’. You didn’t see as much ‘Green Hornet’ as you did ‘Batman’. But yeah, I always kind of dug him. I remember liking it so much more as a kid. I re-watched all those shows recently and with the exception of those guys in the mask and Bruce Lee kicking ass, the rest of it is kind of boring. It’s always them after mobsters and racketeers. They didn’t have very colorful villains like the ‘Batman’ stable. But I was always kind of a fan.”
Smith will create a new villain to oppose the Green Hornet in his film. “Having him go after gyp artists doesn’t really make for a big action movie. If you listen to the old radio shows, that’s what he’s always doing is going after mobsters, racketeers and gyp artists. There was one radio show I listened to where he’s going after an insurance scam racket, and it’s like why do you have to put on a mask to do that? There’s nothing really from the run of the comics that I read that I was real fond of. It’s just something I’ve got to create, come up with for the purpose of the movie.”
Though big action scenes will be expected of the film, that is the one aspect that Smith likes the least. “For me, even on the few action sequences we’ve had in, say, ‘Dogma’ or ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’ are always the most painful for me to shoot because it’s boring. It’s really boring. You work your whole day and get two seconds of usable film, two seconds of actual movie time. I’m used to getting like seven pages of dialogue done in a day. So it’s just a matter of rewiring the brain and just being like all right, we’ll work many long hours to get a few seconds of film, but we’ll make it a really interesting, really fun looking film.”
Jersey Girl opens Friday.