JERSEY GIRL - Q&A with Kevin Smith & Raquel Castro
With writer/director Kevin Smith and actress Raquel Castro who plays Gertie Trinke
Kevin, this film has been described as your most grown up to date, would you agree with this statement?
I don't know who said that - it certainly wasn't me. I guess whoever said it felt that because this film lacks profanity and lacks JAY & SILENT BOB that it was more grown up than any of my other stuff. But for me it was my most personal because it was the closest to who I am of all the stuff I've done to date, although my wife never died - thank God. When I wrote the script I handed it to her, and I told her it was a valentine to her. She asked how this was a valentine to her as I kill her character off in the first 15 minutes and then wind up with Liv Tyler. It didn't quite make sense. But she saw it for what it was, which was kind of a valentine to me and my kid.
And yet JERSEY GIRL is something of a departure from your previous films, is it a change you were comfortable with?
I was comfortable, absolutely. Probably more than doing any of the other flicks I've done because I wasn't raised watching movies like CLERKS or MALLRATS, or CHASING AMY or DOGMA, or JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. I was raised watching movies like this because my mother was a big sucker for drama-dies. I had to sit through LOVE STORY about a thousand times when I was a kid. That stuff kind of stays rooted with you. This movie was always swimming beneath the surface for me, I knew sooner or later I would get to it.
Raquel, did you know Kevin's work before you were cast in JERSEY GIRL?
I didn't know because usually his movies are not rated for my age. But I did see part of DOGMA because I had to go to the bathroom one night and had to go past the TV my parents were watching it on. My mom told me about Kevin and the movies he made, but I didn't see a whole movie of his.
SMITH: That's how most people see my movies, on the way to the bathroom.
How did you come to cast Raquel in the film?
SMITH: Usually when someone casts a kid you read that they saw 10 000 kids and the one they chose simply rose to the top. We saw about 100, 200 tops, in Los Angeles and New York. Of course we were kind of drawn to Raquel because she bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Lopez, so we said 'let's bring her in and see how she is', and thank God she turned out to be a great actress as well. So not only did she look the part, but she also played it insanely well. That old adage about not working with kids or animals is only true to some degree. I could work with this kid again. But I worked with a monkey in JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, and I would never do that again. Raquel I could work with, not the monkey.
What qualities do you identify in Ben that have made him such a big movie star since you first started working together seven or eight years ago?
SMITH: When used correctly he's kind of charming. The problem is when [some] people cast Ben in movies they tend to put a gun in his hand, and have him save the world. I don't know that he's necessarily best served by that. I think he's best when he's playing someone closer to himself. That's what I do, when I write a part for Ben I'm kind of writing it, as Ben, and people seem to like him more in the stuff that we've done together. That's because he's playing himself. I can't even take credit that I got a great performance out of him, it's just I know I'm writing to him and to his character, so he winds up playing it better than when he's running from a space rock or something.
What was it like for you Raquel, having Ben as your screen father?
I liked working with him, he was fun. He was like a big kid, a very big kid.
What is it about New Jersey that makes so many filmmakers, like yourself, so loyal to the place?
SMITH: I guess when you grow up in New Jersey you're kind of growing up in the shadow of Manhattan, and you're always regarded as the toxic waste dump state. You never feel quite good enough, because New York is the shining example of what every city or town should want to be, it's so darned metropolitan. Growing up in Jersey you're always feeling like you're second best, like you're the younger brother or sister of the star athlete in the family who does insanely well, while you're just average. We tend to over compensate because of it, as a state. I've found that people who are from New Jersey are very much like this. We tend to over compensate to make up for this perceived accomplishment deficit that we have. At the same time it also makes you a bit judgmental of the city, because it's supposed to be so darned cool and you spend most of your time going 'yeah New York? - Big deal!
During the big emotional scenes did you find yourself thinking a great deal about your own family, Raquel?
I wasn't really, because it wasn't the same thing. I have two brothers and two sisters, but I was an only child in JERSEY GIRL so I wasn't really thinking about them while we were filming.
Did you spend time with Ben before you started to get to know him a bit?
CASTRO: Before we began filming the movie, me, Kevin and Ben and everybody else who worked on the movie had a big rehearsal for maybe a month or so. That was the time we had. We still had time to rehearse but not with Ben, Jen, Liv or George [Carlin]. I worked with my mom and Kevin, but not with everybody on the set.
You began your career as a maverick auteur, what perception do you think Hollywood has of you now?
SMITH: I don't think Hollywood has much use for me and I don't have much use for them, because I don't really know how to make a mainstream movie or tell a mainstream story. They seem overly concerned with that, with making the most amount of money in the least amount of time. I like to make movies where people just sit around and talk, and that's not the kind of movie that generally makes a bunch of dough. They have to be visually spectacular, mind candy, popcorn movies and I don't really have a popcorn movie in me. I'm kind of comfortable with my career, because I have enough notoriety or cachet to kind of get the movies I want to make made. But not so much where people are counting on me to make a movie that grosses a million bucks or something like that. It's certainly not true of every filmmaker, but the hundred million dollar club is something of a trap because once they're there most directors want to stay there. I think that kind of limits the movies you make, because then you're always chasing the largest possible audience. Me, I like the smaller audiences who get exactly what I'm saying, people who are on the same wavelength with me.
The film is dedicated to your own late father, Kevin. Were the autobiographical elements of the script hard for you to shoot?
Some of the scenes were kind of close to home. I had the same kind of relationship with my father that Ollie has with his dad. My dad was the guy who always kept me honest. When I was shooting the movie, my dad was still alive so these scenes were easy for me. But by the time we were in post-production cutting the movie my father had died, so suddenly those scenes became very difficult to watch, in particular the end scene in the bar when he talks about not wanting to die alone. Thankfully my father didn't die alone. We had the good fortune of all being in the same place the night before my dad died. Me, my brother and sister, my mom and him, my wife and my sister's husband all went out to eat the night before. We had a great time, and the next morning my father had a massive heart attack. So in terms of having to lose your parent, you couldn't ask for a better way to do it. And in terms of having to lose your life as he did, you couldn't ask for a better way to go out, surrounded by the people who loved him and the people he loved. That didn't make watching the scene in the movie any less difficult though, so whenever it comes up in the flick I tend to kind of duck out. I used to grab a cigarette, but I stopped smoking, so now I duck out and chew gum.
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