Entertainment & Arts

Red State takes Kevin Smith outside comfort zone

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Media captionKevin Smith: "I have been building a nice audience by... coming out afterwards and just talking about it for hours and hours"

Kevin Smith steps outside his comfort zone with his new film about religious extremism - Red State. Having taken the movie on a road show tour across N America, is the 41-year-old film-maker really planning to retire?

No-one does film publicity quite like Kevin Smith.

Best known for indie comedies like Clerks and Mallrats, Smith has spent much of this year taking - and talking about - his latest movie Red State on a roadshow tour of American cities.

"Everything about the flick has been unconventional and so we took it out unconventionally too," says Smith when we meet at the Prince Charles Cinema just off London's Leicester Square.

The cinema is one of Smith's old haunts, where he even has a toilet cubicle named after him. "Membership has its privileges," laughs Smith when I mention his special corner of the gents.

Red State, Smith's 10th film, focuses on the activities of a group of religious fanatics led by preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks).

Having taken to executing "sexual deviants" on the altar, Cooper's followers soon find themselves in a siege situation.

'Horror movie'

The film also stars Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, as the preacher's daughter, and John Goodman as Federal Agent Joseph Keenan.

Image caption Michael Parks plays a gun-toting preacher in Middle America

Anyone expecting another dose of Smith's slacker comedy will be in for a shock. Smith regards Red State as a horror movie.

"People argue that with me - they say it's an action movie, it's a satire, but I call it a horror movie because everything that happens in it is horrifying."

Without pausing for breath, he adds: "Some of the critics will tell you the movie is horrifying, but not in a good way.

"The best compliment I get on this movie is: 'You didn't make this!'"

Smith admits he enjoyed taking a break from comedy.

"I love comedy, don't get me wrong, I love trying to make people laugh. I grew up a fat kid so my natural inclination is to make people laugh so they don't attack you.

Image caption Kevin Smith has been doing Q&A sessions after screenings of Red State

"I like trying to be funny. I did that in the movies for years, but I didn't get into film just to make comedy.

"After doing a lot of Jay and Silent Bob movies, I felt I'd got enough experience under my belt that I could try something out of my comfort zone."

Smith caused controversy at the Sundance film festival this year when he announced he would distribute Red State himself, having said earlier he would auction off the rights.

The subsequent tour saw him take Red State into a cinema and then follow the screening with a Q&A session lasting "as long as the movie".

"The only way to get people to come out of their houses to see something in the theatre is to give them something more," asserts Smith.

But he doesn't enjoy the business side of film-making.

"You're always thinking how the critics are going to receive it, what's it going to do at the box office and that's death to an artist, and that's when the art starts sucking.

"Clerks came from a risky place, because I thought I had nothing to lose. But then when you get a career you've got plenty to lose."

And what of those retirement plans?

"Red State is the second to last movie," he says, emphatically.

"I'm finishing directing soon. I know in my heart of hearts I'm almost done. I've got one more movie to make."

That last project is hockey movie Hit Somebody - which Smith has previously stated will be a two-parter.

"Clerks invented me, and then for years you're that, you're in this box and then you give them something like Red State and they have to reconsider.

"An artist should reinvent periodically just to keep their audience engaged, because once they learn the tricks, you've got to give them new tricks - otherwise they're off across the street watching some other magician."

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