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Silent bob strikes back
Annointed the critics’ golden boy with his low-budget debut Clerks, actor, director and writer Kevin Smith has since had as many misses as hits. So for his new politically tinged horror Red State, Smith turned his back on Hollywood and distributed the film himself.
Roe McDermott, 26 Sep 2011
After a rocky relationship that spanned almost two decades, this was the year Kevin Smith and Hollywood finally decided to see other people. Having raged against critics who panned his 2010 cop-buddy movie Cop-Out, fallen out with his one-time mentor and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and announced his upcoming two-part film Hit Somebody will be his final film as a director, Smith used his Sundance premiere of Red State in January to sound his official war-cry. In a passionate 20-minute speech, he lambasted movie studios for their elitist and outdated approach to marketing, which he claimed is too expensive and advertisement-focused for new and independent filmmakers.
“I never once knew jack-shit about business. I’m a fat, masturbating stoner,” Smith proclaimed. “If somebody told me all the stupid, horseshit, uncreative, backwards ass bullshit business that I now have in my head that I’ve pushed out creative things to make way for, like, ‘It’s going to be a four quadrant movie, we’re going to show it here, here, here and here. If we do that then we’re going to look at this money coming in and then that goes back, don’t forget about the revenue stream with DVDs…’ It’s too much fucking horseshit. I just want to tell stories.”
Them’s fighting words! And if any story was well suited to Smiths’ unapologetic and uncompromising vision – as well as his attraction to controversy – it’s Red State. Based around a group of religious fundamentalists very obviously modelled on the Westbro Baptist Church – known for protesting the funerals of dead soldiers and their now infamous slogan of ‘God Hates Fags’ – Michael Parks plays the patriarch and pastor, Abin Cooper. Both Parks and Smith were determined to give the character some depth, and to portray the American government as no less morally confused than the gun-toting Baptists.
“You know what’s boring? It’s boring to do Abin Cooper as a moustache-twirling demon. What’s interesting is to do Abin Cooper as a human being, because that’s even scarier. It’s one thing if it’s just, ‘I hate all gay people.’ It becomes a cartoon. Look at how sweet he is to his grandkids. Look at how he cares about his family. And yet he still feels these horrible things. That’s what intrigues me, not the superficiality of good triumphing over evil. I knew I couldn’t make a flat-out horror movie, but I knew I could unsettle people with the flick, and I could just constantly put out unnerving notions. One of the most unnerving notions is that Abin Cooper, aside from the politics, doesn’t seem like such a horrible monster.”