"You could go one of two ways with that title," Kevin Smith says about his new flick, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. "One, you do it as we did, where you show the making of this rank amateur porn. Or, you just go 180 degrees away from the title, and make it a meditation on the Holocaust or something, so people getting in there are like, 'What a bizarre, esoteric title!'"
Zack and Miri does not have a bizarre, esoteric title. It's pretty straightforward, actually: The perpetually broke Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are roommates and lifelong best friends, with zero romantic tension. ("You don't fuck someone you met in the first grade," Zack wisely notes when he's asked why he and Miri have never hooked up.) After their water and power get shut off, Zack devises a plan to get their lives on track: Make a porno. "Porn has gone mainstream now!" he insists. "Like Coke or Pepsi. With dicks in it." So with a handheld camcorder, and some eager co-stars (Jason Mewes and Katie Morgan), Zack and Miri decide to have sex with each other on camera—taking careful steps to make sure things don't get weird between them. Things get weird.
That Zack and Miri deals with sex isn't much of a shock, considering Smith's oeuvre, which includes the films, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy. (The apocryphal Jersey Girl shall not be spoken of.) But the likeable, earnest Smith is used thttp://admin.portlandmercury.com/accessories/images/toolbar-italic.gifo making his characters talk about filthy things, not actually do them.
"Usually it's talk, and talk is pretty cheap," he says. I just couldn't escape it on this one: If you have a movie called Zack and Miri Make a Porno, sooner or later you better show some sex."
Sex is shown.
"Anytime we did the straight out, flat-out goofy porn stuff, that was kind of easy—shit, I've been researching that since I was 11," Smith says. "But the big challenge was what to do for [Zack and Miri's] scene. We put those scenes in the last week of production so they could get really comfortable around each other and I could give myself time to figure out what I wanted to do for that sequence. And then the day of, I pulled them out of their trailers and I said, 'I know you guys have been wondering how we're going to shoot this sequence, and I think you guys are going to have all of your clothes on. Basically, you have to carry that whole scene with facial expressions.' And before the relief set in, there was a moment of outrage with both of them. She was like, 'Why the fuck did I work out this hard if you weren't going to make me take my clothes off?' and Rogen was like, 'Why the fuck did I shave my back if you're not going to show me from behind?'
"And I was like, 'Do you really want to be naked?' and they were like, 'No....' But I thought it was more challenging. It's kind of easy to pretend that you're making love with your body—wearing it on your face is a completely different and very intimate look into who you are in the bedroom. And I thought they both pulled it off with flying colors."
That might be the thing that'll catch people off guard: Despite its graphic dialogue and full frontal nudity, Zack and Miri is probably as close to a genuine romantic comedy as Smith will ever make. It's a comedy about two friends making a dirty movie, sure, but it's also a story about two people seeing each other in a different light.
"Hopefully they just laugh their asses off," Smith says when I ask him what he wants audiences to take away from the film. "We pulled out all the stops, just made it wall-to-wall comedy, but at a certain point, it kind of breaks and gets emotional, and I just hope that people can roll with that. Is the love story as strong as the comedy in the movie? Probably not. But it works, man. So hopefully, people get a lot of laughs, and maybe if I'm lucky, maybe even a little choked up."