Given that the economy is in the toilet, it’s somewhat appropriate that the money shot in Zack and Miri Make a Porno is actually of a certain bodily excrement. Indeed, this scene was the centrepiece of the film and Thursday night’s post-screening Q&A with Kevin Smith in New York.
But we would never call the movie a piece of you-know-what. Instead, the story of two lifelong platonic friends in dire financial straits who decide to make a porno to pay their rent, power and water bills is an incredibly raunchy but hilarious and heartwarming romantic comedy. Even though Zack and Miri’s financial situation hits unfortunately close to home, their story is uplifting and distracting enough to pull you out of your own money worries.
We saw the movie as part of the CMJ Film Festival Thursday night. Afterwards, Kevin Smith talked about how he made his Porno in a Q&A session. Some of the stories we’d heard before, some we didn’t need to hear (and will graciously spare you from reading), but the five most interesting are below.
5. Kevin Smith chose Pittsburgh as the setting for the movie in part because he thought that was the last place anyone would make a porno.
4. The low, raspy voice Justin Long uses for gay porn star Brandon wasn’t so much a character decision as the result of a chest cold Justin had his first day of shooting. But he and Kevin thought the voice would work for the role, so they used it.
3. It’s fairly widely known that Rosario Dawson was the original “Miri” but had to drop out of the film before shooting began because she was scheduled to film Eagle Eye during the same time period. When it came time to find a new “Miri,” they called all of the agencies to find out who was available and, as Kevin said, narrowed the list down to “six names of girls who wouldn’t slap us if we gave them the script.” Seth Rogen championed Elizabeth Banks, who, Seth told Kevin, almost got the lead in Knocked Up (imagine how Katherine Heigl’s career would be different if that had happened). But who else was on the list? Kevin said it would be kind of “gauche” to name names, but then he paused and did so anyways. The only ones he remembered, though, were Zooey Deschanel and Amy Adams.
2. The film Zack and Miri originally decide to make is a pornographic version or “erotic reimagining” of Star Wars entitled Star Whores. So did Smith and co. have to get clearance from George Lucas to parody his signature flick? Kevin hopes not.
George Lucas hasn’t seen the movie yet, Kevin said. But as much as he’s worried that Lucas might freak out, the iconic director did tell Ben Affleck (at a Thanksgiving dinner at Steven Spielberg’s house when Affleck was dating Gwyneth Paltrow—crazy, we know) that he thought the Star Wars reference Kevin Smith included in Clerks was very funny. And, frankly, after Lucas chose not to comment on that South Park episode in which he and Steven Spielberg literally rape Indiana Jones, we doubt he’ll make a big deal about this.
1. Despite all of the controversy this film has generated (from the MPAA ratings battle to concerns about posters and ads being too graphic), Kevin said he doesn’t believe in using controversy to sell a film. In fact, pointing to one of his most controversial films, Dogma, he thinks that that kind of attention can actually hurt a movie. But he did tell the MPAA appeals story again, this time with a few extra details and anecdotes.
That scene we referred to above was one of the MPAA’s major problems with the film, they told him, and once they insisted it would never play in an R-rated movie, Kevin made it his mission to keep it in there. But by the end of his appeal, as he was waiting for the decision, he thought he hadn’t made a good enough argument and was prepared to negotiate some cuts to get the film down to an R rating and preserve his favourite shot. And then he found out they won the appeal.
Kevin seems to have developed a rapport with the head of the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration, Joan Graves, over the course of his three appeals hearings (all successful). Kevin said she reminds him of his mum, saying things like “Why does it have to be so dirty, Kevin?” So, it’s fitting that after they got the decision, Kevin’s response was “Thanks, Joan. See you next time.”
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