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True Love

...Works in Funny Ways in Kevin Smith's Latest Blast of Wholesome Vulgarity

Kevin Smith makes a porno-within-a-film.

By Cole Haddon | Posted 10/29/2008

Kevin Smith is looked up to in the world of fanboys as something of a god. Not on the scale of someone like George Lucas, but Smith isn't reviled like the man responsible for Jar Jar Binks either. He's just a geek who loves and occasionally writes comic books, knows how to creatively spin four-letter words into vulgarities that would make Larry Flynt blush, and, not surprisingly--judging by the title of his latest movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno--really digs pornography.

Oh, and romantic comedies. "I love [them]," the writer/director and sometimes actor exclaims. "I. Love. Rom-coms. [But] when I see something like [this summer's] Made of Honor, I'm sitting there thinking, Why am I watching this? And my wife is going, `Yeah, why are you watching this?'"

The man who recently wrote on his MySpace blog that he's taking a break from making movies to lose some of the weight he's packed on is smoking a Marlboro menthol and flicking ashes into a tumbler filled with a dark ooze composed of some sort of beverage and the remains of numerous other cigarettes. He makes no apologies for his habit or forcing you to breathe his secondhand smoke; to listen to him ramble tangentially and hilariously, it's the price you have to pay. Today, sitting in a Beverly Hills Four Seasons hotel room, he's pimping Zack and Miri, a sex comedy that imagines Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as old friends who, in order to pay down their mounting debt, decide to make a porno for online distribution. It's also a romantic comedy that doesn't get romantic until the titular characters turn the camera on themselves.

"I...can't stand it when [romantic comedies are] sanitized and cleaned up, and it ends with a kiss," Smith says. "I like mine to have the fucking happen, and then everything falls apart."

In Zack and Miri, Smith gets to combine some of his greatest loves: romantic comedy, Star Wars--the titular friends conceive a Star Whores theme for their first foray into filmmaking (there's an R2-TBag joke not to be missed)--good friends such as Rogen and regular collaborator Jason Mewes (in his first Smith role not named Jay), and, of course, porn, of which Smith is an unabashed fan.

"I like romantic comedies more, but I do like porn very much," he says. "Not so much for titillation anymore. I've been married for 10 years, so sex is built in and free. So porn isn't something I use as a tool anymore. I haven't jerked off to a porn in I can't tell you how many fucking years.

"But I look at porn every morning," he continues. "Every morning I wake up, I do Google news, Guardian U.K., and then I go to the free porn sites--any of the numerous ones I've bookmarked. Just by virtue of the fact that it shocks me that every time I click on it, I never see the same face twice--always different people. Always. It just makes you feel like the whole world is taking naked pictures of themselves. And I'm always looking for that one person I know because, by sheer process of elimination, I'm going to see someone I know. Only recently I realized I'm looking at the wrong pages. Everyone I know is, like, 38, so I have to start looking at cougarlike sites."

Not shockingly, placing the word "porno" in the title has caused a bit of controversy. Turns out most folks don't like even a reference to the subject on their city's billboards and bus-stop walls. For all the hullabaloo that's been generated, though, Zack and Miri is probably Smith's most wholesome movie to date. The filmmaker has a gift for marrying earnest sentiment to vulgarity, a sort of trick he pulls on his unsuspecting audiences. He's never been as successful at the bait and switch as he is here, though, somehow able to turn a scene like Zack and Miri's first sexual encounter, an act carried out on camera in a room full of people, into a tender revelation of true love between the two that turns into a much more traditional message than prudish naysayers might expect.

Smith, however, didn't realize he had something special on his hands until he started screening the movie for critics. "It was all when people started seeing it and saying, `This is the best film you've ever made,'" he says. "I'm like, `What?' The weird one is when people go, `This is the best one you've made since Chasing Amy.' It's a weird compliment to receive, but, on the other hand, I'm like, `Fuck, maybe I ruined . . . the rest of them besides this one.'"

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