U.S. Wal-Marts want ‘Zack and Miri’ DVD cover without word ‘porno’: Kevin Smith
TORONTO – There’s new controversy over the title of filmmaker Kevin Smith’s saucy comedy, “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”
Last fall, some ads for the film were rejected south of the border because of the word “porno.” Now, Smith says Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. have asked that the cover of the DVD, set to hit shelves Tuesday, omit the word too.
“I’m just so shocked that the word ‘porno’ meant that much to people in terms of, like, they found it insanely offensive and don’t want to see it on display,” the outspoken writer-director said Thursday in an interview from Los Angeles.
Smith said Weinstein Co., which released the film Oct. 31, has complied with Wal-Mart’s request and created new DVD covers for the retailer, but the director worries that some unsuspecting customers will be fooled when they see the shortened title.
“Some Wal-Mart-er could buy it and think: ‘Oh, Zack and Miri, looks lovely,’ and pop it in and there’s … some pretty graphic stuff,” said the indie icon, known for such slacker hits as “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”
“I mean, at least with the word ‘porno’ in the title, you can kind of give people a warning about what they’re in for.”
Wal-Mart did not immediately respond to calls for comment Thursday.
As for the DVD release in Canada, Smith said retailers here will sell the cover with the full title.
“Zack and Miri Make a Porno” stars Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks as roommates who shoot an adult flick to make quick cash. While the film does include nudity, vulgar content and colourful language, it is not a porno but rather a romantic comedy, said Smith.
Before the film hit the big screen, the Motion Picture Association of America gave it its most restrictive rating – NC-17, which means no one under that age is admitted. After several appeals from Smith, the organization lowered the rating to “R,” which allows under-17 viewers in if they’re accompanied by a parent or adult over 21.
In Canada, most provinces gave it an 18A rating, in which viewers under that age can only see the film if accompanied by an adult.
The MPAA also rejected some “Zack and Miri” ads, deeming them “highly sexually suggestive,” so Weinstein Co. created new posters that had stick figures representing the actors.
Smith said he was initially “flabbergasted” about the uproar over the word “porno” but now: “I’ve thrown up my hands at the whole thing.”
He also said he’s not worried that the continuing controversy will bring down his DVD sales, noting the film has actually led to new opportunities for him.
“‘Zack and Miri’ did some weird things for my career in as much as I guess lots of folks at different studios finally considered it a like, movie-enough movie, where they could be like, ‘Hey, would you like to direct movies for us?”‘ said Smith, who made his first film, “Clerks,” for just US$27,575 in his home state of New Jersey.
With new opportunities at his door, Smith said he’s largely abandoned what he calls the “Askewniverse” – a comical world with recurring characters including misfits Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith).
“I just can’t imagine bringing Jay and Silent Bob back, man,” said Smith, whose character was a mute who always wore a baseball cap, black trench coat and long hair.
“I’m 38 now, I’ll be 39 in August. I cannot imagine spinning a backwards baseball cap and leaning against a convenience store wall. Those characters would just stop being cute – they’d become depressing, you know? Old, fat (guy) leaning outside a convenience store with another dude and they’re selling drugs to teenagers?
“The charm would be gone, I think. But Dante and Randal (from ‘Clerks II’) I think could still be viable … but beyond that it just feels like the Askewniverse is kind of done. ‘Clerks II’ was a really nice way to close it up.”
Smith will be in Toronto next week for two speaking engagements at Roy Thomson Hall, and for Q&A sessions at the Kevin Smith Film Festival.