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Kevin Smith stretches -- 'a little bit'

Director on 'Jersey,' fans, films

By Stephanie Snipes
CNN

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Kevin Smith

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- You could assume director Kevin Smith has never grown up. His movies reflect a world full of comic book heroes, pot addicts and cyber belligerence, all of which provide fodder for his stick-it-to-the-Man style of filmmaking.

But Smith, who wrote and directed "Mallrats," "Clerks," and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (as well as "Dogma," which explored elements of Catholicism through an offbeat plot) is a husband and father as well. And he's put aside his supply of marijuana jokes and sex-craved teenagers to focus on parenthood in the new film "Jersey Girl."

"Jersey Girl" tells the story of Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck), a self-absorbed New York publicist who, after his wife dies, leaves a life of power lunches and celebrity clients to raise his daughter.

Affleck, a frequent Smith collaborator, plays opposite comedian George Carlin, who plays Trinke's father. Liv Tyler, the elfin princess from "Lord of the Rings," plays a video store clerk-turned-romantic interest.

Playing a short-lived role -- literally -- is Affleck's ex-flame and tabloid favorite, Jennifer Lopez. She plays Trinke's wife, who dies 15 minutes into the film.

Smith sat down with CNN to discuss the film.

CNN: Is "Jersey Girls" a quieter, calmer Kevin Smith?

KEVIN SMITH: It's actually closer to who I am in real life. I'm not really so much the [penis] and fart joke guy as I am in the movies. That's just something I've kind of enjoyed doing.

CNN: Do you think this is a new trend for you?

SMITH: No ... I think I've said everything I can about fatherhood. And I'm too [scared] at this age to try drama, straight drama.

CNN: Do you think you get the best performances from Ben Affleck?

SMITH: God, I hope so. I think some other directors when they work with him are content to go with one or two takes, they'll stop when they have the take but not necessarily the performance. ... We go until we get one that's just absolutely dynamite.

CNN: Why was it important to do a film like this?

SMITH: I wanted to try and stretch a little bit see if I could work without the net. And the net is "Jay and Bob" or the interconnection of all the movies.

CNN: Are you nervous about directing "Green Hornet?"

SMITH: I'd be stupid not to be scared. But you know, you got to head into it because ... I'd rather try it and fail then not try ... and then never know if I could have.

The fans strike back

top.smith.affleck.jpg
Smith directs Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck in "Jersey Girl."

CNN: Do you enjoy getting feedback from your fans?

SMITH: The feedback is a mixed blessing. [Naysayers] ... find chinks in your armor man, they'll get right in and ... draw blood. I can't tell you how many hours I've lost worrying about [stuff] that strangers ... have written anonymously in cyberspace.

CNN: Do you let their comments influence your work?

SMITH: It certainly influenced "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." That whole movie is like, me lashing out at the people who post negative [stuff] on the Internet. Or, you find yourself doing advance spin control because of it.

And that's something that most other filmmakers don't have to do. You never see Spielberg out there going like, "Hey, if you liked 'E.T.,' I don't know if you are going like 'Empire of the Sun.' "

CNN: Why do you make yourself so available to your fans?

SMITH: Because I'm still there, I'm still at the other end of the keyboard. ... I'm still in the theater myself. I am them, and they are me to a large degree. I came from that world.

CNN: Does that make you a better writer?

SMITH: Totally, absolutely. And honestly, I'm not saying it makes me a better person than Steven Spielberg, but I can't see how directors aren't more interested in what their hardcore fans have to say about them. That to me is the best part of the job.

CNN: What do people give you a hard time about?

SMITH: The big [bleeping] thing is for people to show up on the Web site and call me a sellout. Particularly when they heard about "Jersey Girl," they were like, "You cast J.Lo.? You [bleeping] sellout," or with "Green Hornet" there were a few [people] who were like, "Oh, you're making a comic book movie? You're such a sellout."

Working with Jay

Jay and Silent Bob
Smith and Jason Mewes in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."

CNN: Isn't making a comic book movie a dream come true for you?

SMITH: Tell me about it. ... I've been writing comic books for years. I've been a comic book reader and fan for my whole life. Me making a comic book movie is the least sellout thing I've ever done.

CNN: Do you think you will do another "Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back?"

SMITH: Before, like two years ago, I would have said "absolutely not." That was when [Jason] Mewes (Jay from "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back") was knee-deep in his abuse stage, when he was way into the heroin and [Oxycontin]. ...

I couldn't take it anymore. It was too much of an effort to get [Mewes] clean. As soon as the movie wrapped, he just succumb[ed] back into drug abuse. I don't want to be the enabler. So, I told him, "Get and stay clean and we'll talk." And he has gotten and stayed clean.


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