Kevin Smith Lets Loose On Directing Bruce Willis in ‘Cop Out’

Bruce Willis and Kevin Smith on the set of Cop Out
Photo: Warner Bros.

It’s become a regular thing for directors and stars to do the press rounds talking about how great their movie is and how much fun it was to make only to come back a year or so later and admit it wasn’t all they said it was or wished it would be. This is an understandable dilemma considering livelihoods and careers depend on these movies making some money while we in the peanut gallery can sit back and say, “Hey, we’ve been saying this for the last year now!”

Michael Bay was the latest to do so in an interview with the Los Angeles Times while discussing the upcoming Transformers: Dark of the Moon he commented on the 2009 blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen saying, “It was kind of a mess, wasn’t it? […] Look, the movie had some good things in it and it was entertaining and it did very well, but it also failed in some key ways. I learned from it. And now with this third movie we’re going back to basics and I absolutely believe this is going to be a much better film than the second one.”

Whether he believes it or not, this is a smart comment to make, but in this business can you really believe anyone whose next paycheck depends on the very public who ridiculed their previous effort? Bay could simply be making this statement so everyone that ragged on Revenge of the Fallen can breathe a bit easier in hopes Dark of the Moon will be an improvement. Or he could actually mean it. We’ll never know, but it still is refreshing to hear what resembles honesty in this business.

Now we move to Kevin Smith, whose Cop Out was raked over the coals in 2010, and rightly so, it was atrocious. Smith took the criticism quite personally and has since decided to limit the number of press interviews he’ll take moving forward as his next film, Red State, is set to debut at the Sundance Film Festival this Sunday, January 23.

I can understand Smith’s frustration, but he took things to absurd levels in the wake of Cop Out‘s criticism. No one wants to see their hard work panned by others, but it’s also up to those putting out said work to understand that’s the nature of things and the good comes with the bad. However, it seems Smith was at the end of his tether by the time the film hit theaters as he has finally let loose regarding his troubles directing Bruce Willis during the filming of Cop Out.

On a recent episode (it sounds like it was recorded in 2010 due to the fact Smith isn’t sure if Red State will be accepted at Sundance and he references The Fighter as coming soon) of Marc Maron’s podcast (via Film Drunk) Smith didn’t mention Willis by name when discussing on set issues, but does say, “Everyone knows who it is. Remember the really funny guy in the movie? It ain’t him… Were it not for Tracy [Morgan], I might’ve killed myself or someone else in the making of that movie.”

Smith goes on to tell a similar story to one he’s referenced before when Willis pretty much refused to take direction before saying it was “like somebody who’s literally working against the production just sitting there to be like, ‘How can I f**k with it today?'”

These statements are a far cry from what he was saying at the press junket when Smith said, “Having Bruce helped. We’d be like, ‘If Bruce doesn’t think it’s funny, let’s rein it in.’ All of us stepped up to the A-game just to make this one dude laugh. It was like, ‘If we can make Bruce Willis laugh, it’s something you can tell your grandkids about. I made Bruce Willis laugh and he didn’t shoot me.'”

When you have troubles like that on the set of any movie, and then have to try and cover them up during promotion, I can’t imagine the film turning out how the director expected it to and harsh criticism on the back end doesn’t help the mood. Smith has been defending the movie to the hilt, but perhaps he’s finally come to terms with things as Red State inches closer, a film he references in the Maron interview as the best film he’s ever made. He isn’t so congratulatory toward Cop Out adding:

“It was difficult. I’ve never been involved in a situation like that where, one component is not in the box at all. It was f**kin’ soul crushing. I mean, a lot of people are gonna be like, ‘Oh, you’re just trying to blame the movie on him.’ No, but I had no f**king help from this dude whatsoever.”

None of this surprises me. Looking back over my review of the film I wrote, “It’s astonishing how redundant every scene is, which may explain why Bruce Willis looks as if he were nothing more than a life-sized cardboard cut out of himself, showing as little excitement to be in this film as I was to be in the theater enduring it.” Perhaps I need to revisit that statement, but then again maybe I should just wait to see what Bruce Willis’s spokesperson says this time.