VINCE’S NOTE: The views expressed by the commenter known to me only as Chareth Cutestory in no way reflect the reviews of FilmDrunk, except that I find his irrational Kevin Smith hatred endlessly entertaining.
Because he’s a heartless jerk whose capacity for empathy has been eradicated by years of stand-up comedy, Vince likes to harass me with Kevin Smith scoops. The subject lines to his emails always just say “Kevin Smith,” which might seem benign to him, but they generally throw me into a fugue state from which I emerge hours later, sweaty and bewildered. But I always open the email. I always click the link. He knows this. He is a monster.
Anyway, what follows is a breakdown of Kevin Smith’s update on the horror movie he’s making about a walrus man. Because of course he is.
Settle in, kids. It’s gonna be a loooooong story.
*claws frantically at office window*
As is so often the case with the best-laid plans of SMice and SMen, since the last blog, shit with TUSK went all sorts of astray. And shitty.
Best laid plans of what? What are you saying here? Look, just take a page from the king of Hollywood anecdotes, Robert Evans, and be sure pepper your stories with European convertibles, doe-eyed starlets, and a near constant stream of blatant lies. Spare us your portmanteaus, dingus.
When we last left our zero, he was trying to pull together this weird little horror movie called TUSK, based on episode 259 of SMODCAST, “The Walrus & the Carpenter.” The idea had quickly gone from a goofy, stream-of-consciousness sketch in a podcast to an exercise in possibility and momentum, where I casually guided the whimsy of every artist’s first question (“What if…?”) toward the unruly and expensive moviemaking process — just to see how far it could go. I wanted to bring together the two great passions that have governed the last two decades of my creative life: first indie film, then indie broadcasting. TUSK would be the world’s first movie based on a podcast.
Like A Prairie Home Companion, but more walrus-y. Or that movie Radio, but more retarded.
Also, you probably shouldn’t tout this script’s genesis, given the fact that literally everyone has a podcast these days and the medium is awash in mediocrity. My stepmom is probably badmouthing me on her podcast right now, pausing only to read interminable ad copy for Stamps.com. OH REALLY, DARLENE? I GET A SCALE TOO? TELL ME, WHAT’S THE POSTAGE ON DECADES OF EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE?
For those not playing at home, the podcast episode was inspired by a listing from GumTree.uk, a website that specializes in living situations and apartments to rent. In one memorable listing, a homeowner offers a living situation free of charge — the only caveat being the lodger would have to dress like a walrus from time to time.
Yes — a motherf–king walrus.
Oh, so you just stole this idea from some poor sap whose only crime is having the raw, sexual dynamism that most of us can only dream of? Real nice, Kevin. Real nice.
The listing got my creative juices flowing, and I began reconstructing the whole thing as an old British Hammer horror film, in which a mad scientist intends to sew some hapless lodger into counterfeit blubber, creating a chimera in an effort to answer the ultimate riddle, “Is man, indeed, a walrus at heart?!”
“Yes.” – Andy Reid, throwing a challenge flag at a harp seal.
Mosier and I took the tale in more and more ridiculous directions, cracking ourselves up. And then, in the midst of all the fun, you can hear something strange happen: As stoned as I always am
this walrus picture was starting to sound like a worthy endeavor — or at the very least, a movie I’d like to see.
“You know what? This film might just be worth all the hard work and millions of dollars it will take to create it. Or hell, it might be a complete waste of time and money, but I’d still, like, watch it and shit.”
I wrote the script in 20 days.
What took you so long? And just how big was that cocktail napkin?
But it’s not a movie if everything’s going well. No flick gets out of the first act without the main character facing a hurdle — and I’m nothing if not the main character in the ongoing movie of my life.
The long story short is this:
Oh for f*ck’s sake. In the interests of time and sanity, I’m just going to start excerpting the interesting bits. If you care, Smith goes on to detail how negotiations with the movie studio broke down over the studio’s desire to cast a commercially appealing lead, which apparently clashed with the project’s punk rock ethos. Yes, he writes “punk rock.” More than once.
For a film of this size and scope, casting should be done based on who’s right for the part, not who’ll sell the most tickets. Besides, I imagine the eventual ticket sales generator of TUSK will likely be the audience’s desire to see what a human-walrus movie actually looks like.
Couldn’t the audience instead just watch Paul Giamatti in anything he’s ever done? Close enough, right? “Honey, get in here. This put-upon walrus f*cking HATES merlot.”
We’d lost about a month with nothing to show for it, so I sat down with my financial major domo Carol and asked her to see about pulling money out of my house with a second mortgage.
Flash forward 12 months to Kevin Smith’s foreclosure sale:
“Ladies and gentlemen, here we have the grand foyer. If you look to your left you’ll see a Clerks pinball machine. To your right is a velvet painting of a taint.”
“And what is this we’re walking on? Berber?”
“Jort, actually. Wall-to-wall.”
As easy as it would be to pull together a few million for TUSK from the SModcast audience alone, I’ve gotta leave that money for the new generation of filmmakers — none of whom are gonna find fat patrons if said Medicis are busy funding the ideas of someone like me.
I already have connections in the movie business and can always find backing if I apply myself. And as much as I’d love to hip it up with the youngsters, I know that if I make use of the vast network of contacts and colleagues I’ve built up over two decades making movies, I should still be able to forge a flick without hitting up the audience for their cash until it’s time to sell tickets.
Meanwhile, I went walrus hunting. In making a picture about a guy trapped in a walrus suit, you need an actor with expressive eyes.
I gravitate toward actors who not only crush at their vocation but who can also make the 16-hour days on a movie shoot fun as they fly by. And Justin Long makes shooting days feel…Justin short.
“This movie that’s based on an idea I stole will be financed by Hollywood insiders and will star the guy from those Apple commercials because PUNK ROCK INTEGRITY. And also because Jay Baruchel won’t take my calls.”
I emailed Justin and asked if he was free in October. When he said he was, I sent him to the first TUSK blog I’d written — the one that’d told the story of how TUSK went from a podcast to a script. I wrote, “If this interests you, I can send you the screenplay.” Justin was intrigued enough to give the script a read. This is what he wrote back…
“I don’t know what to say…I’m nauseated, I’m terrified, I’m thoroughly confused in the most entertained way, I’m in. I’m definitely in. I didn’t think Ed Gein and Boxing Helena would ever fuck and have a more deranged baby. You are a twisted imaginative talented motherf–ker and I’d love to go on this trip with you.”
Not even Ed Gein would have been narcissistic enough to include that last sentence, and he used the skin of exhumed corpses as a cravat.
Justin came over to talk about his character, which he felt was a little underdeveloped. Considering the frantic nature of the podcast-to-script origin, he was not wrong.
So even Kevin Smith’s f*cking WALRUS characters are toothless.
“We’re so close to saying something about being human and humane,” Justin observed. “We might as well try to say it.” So together, we rebuilt his character’s background. Justin came up with this great idea involving the tears of a walrus, which I included in the next draft. And just like that, the flick took a jump in quality with smarter subtext. If you reach out to the right people they can make your shit better.
But Carol was telling me that getting money out of my house was going to take six months — which didn’t help my timeline.
Shannon and I met with Anchor Bay/Starz, and they were into TUSK as well — so much so that they offered us half the budget, too. For a minute, Shannon and I thought we could pair up Phase 4 and Anchor Bay and voila. But since they’re technically competitors, that idea didn’t go over huge at all.
How are you this bad at business? Just so I’m clear, you mortgaged your family’s future to make a walrus-based Wilfred because you read a funny post on British Craigslist? “But won’t competing movie studios want to cooperate with each other?” What? No! Goddamn it, Kevin.
Then, just about when we could’ve used some good news…. We got more bad news instead.
TO BE CONTINUED
You’re kidding, right? This keeps going? This isn’t a cliffhanger, Kevin. The audience is a tangle of shattered limbs at the bottom of the ravine by now, and you’re just poking us with your typing wand to see if we’re still listening.
But good luck with TUSK. I’m sure it won’t turn into something you dangle in front of your fans for the indefinite future. And don’t worry about the second mortgage, either. Because what are the odds that a project called TUSK will turn into an exorbitantly expensive artistic disaster?
BONUS LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM BURN! (*shreds guitar for what seems like forever*)
[banner image via Getty]