Cop Out - Bruce Willis and Director Kevin Smith
Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Director Kevin Smith on the set © Warner Bros

It’s a first for Kevin Smith. Cop Out marks the writer/ director/ producer/ editor’s first outing as a director-for-hire. In the last fifteen years he has made a series of successful cult movies including Clerks, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

In the action/comedy Cop Out,Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan play longtime NYPD partners who bend the rules in order to solve cases and save lives. In New York, where the movie was shot, Kevin Smith spoke about this new and unique experience of helming a film he didn’t create.

Why did you decide this would be the first movie you’d direct without having written it?

Cop Out - Seann William Scott
Dave (Seann William Scott) © Warner Bros

Zack and Miri was the last film I had come out, and when it didn’t do what I thought it was going to do, it wound up doing Kevin Smith business which is fine, about 31 million, but we thought it was going to do about 60 (million), when that didn’t happen I was completely crestfallen. If I’d written a movie at that point it would have been a movie about this poor fat director whose movie didn’t make enough money; so I didn’t want to write about a personal experience right then and there.

Warner Brothers sent me (this script) and I read it and loved it, I thought it was really funny. Even though I hadn’t written it, it just hit me at the right time where I was like, ‘You know what, I’ve got nothing to say, this has nothing to say itself, it’s a popcorn movie, and I rarely do popcorn movies, let me try that right now. Let me see if I can work on this other part of the craft, just me as a director, and leave the personality stuff out of it.’

Cop Out - Adam Brody
Director Kevin Smith © Warner Bros© Warner Bros

Were you worried that you’d only be directing it?

I read it with an eye toward directing it, and I figured I might be able to handle this, because it is an action comedy, but it’s like Lethal Weapon with sixty percent less action. It’s mostly just dudes sitting around talking. And the notion of the three tent-pole sequences didn’t seem too difficult, the chase upfront and the Mercedes chase in the middle and the gunfight at the end. I thought, ‘That day I’ll just come to work a little more diligently than I normally do.’

Generally I shoot people talking, and that’s fun for me, and I thought I could do this because it’s just Clerks with cops. They’re older, but it’s two dudes talking to each other, that’s my bread and butter.

My father took me out of school at one o’clock in the afternoon on Wednesdays to see whatever movie opened, 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, Running Scared – my father took me to see all those movies and whenever I think about those flicks I think of my dad, and while I was reading this I was going, ‘Wow, if I’d made this movie, this would be the movie that my father would be like, ‘Oh, you do make movies for a living. This is a movie, it’s got a plot; Bruce Willis is in it, he’s a movie star.’ Because I’ve never worked with a major movie star before, please don’t tell Ben Affleck I said that!

Cop Out - Bruce Willis, Seann William Scott and Tracy Morgan
Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis), Dave (Seann William Scott) and Paul (Tracy Morgan) © Warner Bros

Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan have a great rapport in this.

The chemistry’s there. The Bruce-of-it-all gives you the gravitas; you add Tracy and that’s funny, that’s fresh, that’s different. We started with a great script, and had brilliant ad-libbers in the cast. We always knew there’d be the scripted take, and then the takes where we would deviate and see where it went. Some of the coolest stuff in the movie is the flights of fancy that happened on set.

Did you miss not having your ideas conveyed in this film, like all of your other movies?

I’ve got podcasts, I Twitter, I do Q & As on stage all the time, so I can be myself, express myself in any number of forums, before it just used to be the films. So I’d do it in my film, but now I can do it everywhere on a regular basis for free, I don’t feel the need to put it in a film. So without that I’m just like, ‘Who am I?’

If I’m not the guy who’s making Kevin Smith movies, then who am I? I’m trying to figure out if I have skill after 15 years as a professional, as a director. I called myself a director for 15 years, and I’m trying to see with this movie, can I do it, and I felt that I did. I felt like I directed it. I felt like I brought a little bit to it, I know it was different because I was involved.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.