As we chronicled earlier this week, Kevin Smith is going through a time of transition on two fronts: establishing himself as a non-writing director and pulling back his media presence, which makes some recent comments on his next directorial effort all the more intriguing.
After he opens "Cop Out" on Friday, the groundbreaking indie-filmmaking legend has plans to once again work with someone else's material — quite a departure from his self-referential classics like "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy." Although Smith has spoken sparingly with the media over the last several weeks, our compatriots at MTV Radio recently got the filmmaker to spill some details on his Seann William Scott vehicle "Hit Somebody," a movie we first broke the news on a few months ago.
"The next film is a hybrid of sorts; it's also based on other materials," explained Smith, whose "Cop Out" was written by "Las Vegas" TV scribes Robb and Mark Cullen. "It's based on a song by Warren Zevon called 'Hit Somebody.' [A story based on the song] was written by Mitch Albom, the author who wrote 'Tuesdays With Morrie,' amongst other great-selling books."
According to Smith, if it weren't for "Cop Out," he wouldn't be in the right place to make this next film. "I never would have gotten my head around thinking, 'I'm adapting a song?' particularly because it's never really worked out. I mean look at 'Convoy' for chrissakes!'" he laughed, referencing the 1978 Sam Peckinpah dud based on C.W. McCall's 1975 novelty song about truckers. "For me, having directed somebody else's script now, and that song hitting me on the level that it did, I feel like, 'Oh my God, I could use this song as a vehicle from which to tell an insanely personal story.' "
Zevon's tune is about Buddy, a natural-born hockey player who is great at beating other players up, but longs to score a goal someday. Smith, a long-professed hockey nut, said the song has always held a special place in his heart.
"I identify with it in a story about a guy who's part of a hockey league, who's playing professional hockey, but he's there just because he could beat people up," Smith explained. "He's not very good at it — he loves the game so much, but he's not that good at it.
"That's what the song is about and I identify with in a big bad way," he said. "So, I have a story to tell using that and I'll build a script onto it.
"That's the thing I'll be working on next, and I think without 'Cop Out' I would have never been like, 'I'm going to adapt this song!' " Smith explained, saying that the Bruce Willis/ Tracy Morgan comedy has allowed him to stretch new muscles, which will still be active even though he's returning to his writing/directing roots. "I would have been too proud as a writer [to adapt the song], like, 'I'm not touching somebody else's work!'
"Now that I've taken somebody else's writing work and made it mine as a director to some degree, I feel like I could take that song and put everything in my life — 15 years experience [as a filmmaker] — and take everything I want to say that doesn't involve Jay, Silent Bob, di-- and fart jokes and put it into [this hockey story]," he explained before citing an unexpected influence. "I'm looking to make the 'Forrest Gump' of sports movies.
"I know that's ambitious, and it's not like it has a lot of special effects like 'Forest Gump,' but it takes place between 1950 and 1980," explained Smith, whose 'Hit Somebody' will mark his first foray into sports films — although "Clerks" characters Dante and Randal have been known to play some hockey on the roof of the Quick Stop convenience store. "It's just a big fat valentine to the game, and particularly to Canada."
If nothing else, the movie would give Hollywood an opportunity to travel to the Great White North again — but for once, make a movie that actually takes place there. "I should really just go up to Canada and make the movie; most people down here are going to be like, 'Why do you love that place so much? Are you from Canada?' " Smith laughed. "I'm like, 'No. I just like hockey very much.' "