So, a bunch of folks have seen this…
…and asked “How the fuck did that happen?!?”
If you’ve got a minute, I’ll tell you.
In late 2005, I had a breakfast meeting with Harvey Weinstein at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Even though we were a few weeks away from shooting “Clerks II”, he was asking what I wanted to do after that. I told him I’d been thinking about this flick called “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” I’d gotten no further than the title when he said “Done. I’m making that movie.”
“Don’t you wanna know what it’s about first?” I asked.
He replied “I thought the title said it all.”
“Well it doesn’t.”
“Fine. What’s it about?”
“It’s a meditation on the Holocaust.”
He stared at me blankly for a beat.
“Alright,” I relented. “The title says it all.”
I never got to see “The 40 Year Old Virgin” in a theater. When it was released in the summer of 2005, we were buried in pre-production for “Clerks II”, so it wasn’t ‘til the flick’s DVD release that I was finally able to kick back and enjoy it. It was a significant watch for me, because that day, I fell in love with the bearded guy who talked about watching a chick fuck a horse and feeling bad for her. But I knew I wanted to work with the guy when I watched him play a video game with Paul Rudd’s character and utter “I’m ripping your head off right now. It’s off and now I’m throwing it at your body. FUCK you!”
The delivery of that “FUCK you!” had me rolling. I rewound that moment multiple times during that viewing.
A few days later, Scott and I had a meeting with Harvey (at the Peninsula again) to talk about the release plans for “Clerks II.” When those discussions were out of the way, he asked “Where’s that porno script?”
“I’m working on it,” I lied. “But, hey – did you ever see ’40 Year Old Virgin’?”
“There’s a guy in that movie I wanna cast as Zack.”
“No – the guy who worked in the stock room. His name’s Seth Rogen.”
“I like that guy. I’m meeting with him next.”
“He’s coming in to talk about ‘Fanboys’. You wanna meet him?”
I never wanna meet anybody. This guy, though, I did wanna meet. And meet him I did, on our way out, as he was coming in. Harvey introduced us, and I immediately told him how many times I watched him say “FUCK you!” to Paul Rudd. He said he was a fan, but I didn’t take him seriously; in Hollywood, people tell you that all the time, even though they don’t mean it. We talked a little bit about “Clerks II” and I said I’d happily show him the flick if he wanted to see it. The guy gave me his phone number and we said goodbye.
When I got home, I slipped the piece of paper with his phone number under the transparent blotter on my desk, beside pics of my kid, my wife, the original cast of “Clerks”, and sundry other mementos. I never called him about that “Clerks II” screening because I figured it’d be awkward somehow – like he’d feel more obligated to go than anything else, and that’s a position I never wanna put anyone in, let alone a guy whose work I like.
A year later, I finally started writing “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” At this point, it was a month out from the release of “Knocked Up”, and I was seeing posters with Rogen’s mug on ‘em all over town. “I’m an idiot,” I thought. “This dude’s gonna be huge. I should’ve written ‘Zack and Miri’ a year ago.”
A week later, I was done with the first unofficial draft – the one I send to Scott for a first look and possible edits. A week after that, on May 14th, I was done with the official first draft. When I submitted the script to Carla, our Weinstein Co. exec, I asked her if she, by chance, had Seth Rogen’s email address (since she was also the exec on “Fanboys” – a movie Seth wound up doing some cameos for). So, on May 15th, at 3:31 in the afternoon, I wrote Seth the following email…
We met very briefly, about a year and a half ago, as I was leaving a meeting with Harvey Weinstein and you were entering a meeting with Harvey Weinstein. I don’t expect you to remember it, but I practically blew you over your “I throw your head at you. Fuck you!” moment in “The 40 Year Old Virgin”.
Anyway, I’m a fan, and that day, I started thinking about writing a script for you. But laze (and “Clerks II” promotional duties) got the best of me, so I never got around to writing it.
Until two weeks ago.
I know you’re probably buried in “Knocked Up” and “Super Bad” stuff at the moment, but if you’ve got an hour or two, I’d love you to read it. We’re not gonna be shooting ’til Jan/Feb ’08, so there’s no immediate rush, I guess. I also know (or at least suspect) that you generate your own material, so I realize I’m doing you no favors, as you’re probably not hurting for work at the moment. Still, I’d love you to read it and, ultimately, be in it, so maybe we can hook up sooner or later.
As I hit send I thought “Yeah, you wanna hook up with him, alright. You and every studio in town, at this point. You snooze, you lose, fat-ass. Next time, don’t be so fucking lazy. This dude’s never gonna respond now.”
At 4:42, that dude responded.
This may sound like bullshit, but when I first moved to LA, I went out to meet with agencies, and one of them asked me what my goals were. I said “to be in a kevin smith movie.” That goal has not changed. I would be honored to read anything you wrote, and am truly flattered and amazed that you sent me this e-mail. I wouldn’t be a writer if it wasn’t for you and your movies. Its as simple as that. Thank you so much.
Naturally, I about fell out of the chair. My man-crush not only responded (quickly, at that), but he paid me just about the highest compliment he could’ve, short of “And ‘Jersey Girl’ is a misunderstood masterpiece.” (Granted, it’s not; but a guy can dream, can’t he? And also delude himself?)
I made plans to get him the script before he went off on a press tour, then waited for a reaction.
Thus began the most tumultuous and agonizing summer of my adult life. “Knocked Up” opened huge and kept earning, turning the stock room worker from “40 Year Old Virgin” into a massive movie star. And movie stars don’t do my flicks unless I knew them before they were movie stars. Add to all this the fact that he was the writer of a forthcoming flick that was enjoying huge advance buzz as well – which means this was suddenly a man who could not only get cast in anything, but could write it himself. Like I’d said in the email to him: he could generate his own material. A guy who could do that didn’t need me or my script. Maybe the nice things he wrote in his email evaporated the moment he enjoyed his breakout success. The dude had something akin to a movie biz Bar Mitzvah; but he wasn’t just a man now – he was THE man.
Then, word came back from his agent and manager that THE man read the script while abroad. Arrangements were made to meet upon his return to the states.
July 6th, Seth came over to my house. I barbecued him some steaks, and we sat around bullshitting about movies, comics, video games and a bunch of other shit. As much as I’d liked him in “Virgin” I know liked him even more. He was laid back like Mosier. He was geeky like me.
And he loved the script.
The plan had been to shoot in January, but we talked about maybe going in November instead, getting the flick done by Christmas. It was all, ostensibly, a go.
Then, a week later, the brakes were suddenly applied big time. Word came back from his agent and manager that we needed to slow down. Seth had other offers to consider, but more importantly, the dude was exhausted. He’d gone from “Knocked Up” to “Superbad” to “Pineapple Express” to “Knocked Up” whirlwind press tours both here and internationally, to a new, just announced gig writing and starring in “The Green Hornet.” He was looking for a break.
So on July 18th, I wrote him again…
Word is you might wanna/need to wait to do “Zack and Miri” ’til after the first of the year. If that’s the case, sir, then don’t sweat it. I know you got a bunch of stuff going on at the moment with “Superbad” opening and “Pineapple Express” in post, as well as “Green Hornet” now (congrats on that, by the way). It would’ve been nice to shoot in the fall, but if you doing the flick means waiting ’til January, then I’m willing to wait. I mean, I want you to be in it, obviously; I wrote it for you
But here’s the thing: I don’t wanna be the nut-biter that’s adding more shit to your to-do list, but if we can at least talk notes in the near future, that’d be nice to get out of the way. I keep hearing you’ve got thoughts/notes on the script, so naturally, since I’ve got time on my hands, I’d wanna address said notes sooner rather than later. If it’s a case of “I’m gonna wanna ad-lib and pitch jokes/alts while we shoot,” then no worries – I’m all for it. If it’s a case of “There are story changes I wanna make,” then that’s something I’d rather know now, so I can either get back to work on the script or be like “You’re out of your fucking mind, you Canuck Fuck.”
So when you’ve got time to go over it (either on the phone, over email, or in person), give a bitch a shout and let him know. With the exception of ComiCon weekend and the first week of August, I’ll be here in town. Waiting. Like a school-girl.
Twenty minutes later, he responded…
Dude, thank you so much for understanding. It means alot. The fact of the matter is that I’m just naturally very lazy and the concept of shooting another movie before the new year gives me cold sweats. When we make your movie, I want to be raring to go. Right now I’m not raring to go anywhere but the couch. The notion of making a movie with one of my heroes when I’m in a headspace where I’m anything less than shitting a brick every second of shooting because of how psyched I am doesn’t seem right. I think right now, I’m just too worn out to be in that headspace. But not for long… Honestly, making a movie with you is a dream of mine.
I’ll read the script again asap and give you some thoughts. Nothing major. Just an idea for a new take here or there, but again, seriously, its one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.
At that point, we moved our start back to January and waited. Then, all was quiet for about two months, during which time, I was biting my nails, piss-scared this dude was gonna wake up and be like “Motherfuck a ‘Clerks’ guy. I’m too huge for his bullshit now.”
I distracted myself by eating a lot and gained a shit-ton of weight. I also preoccupied myself writing “Red State” – which was weird because it’s about as far from “Zack and Miri” as you can get. I ran into Seth again down at the San Diego ComiCon, and saw him briefly at the “Superbad” premiere – during which time I never hassled him about “Zack and Miri.” I forced myself to stop sweating the situation: dude said he dug the script and wanted to do it. If it doesn’t come to pass, it wasn’t meant to be. If something better comes along and he opts to do that flick instead, at least I knew he liked what I wrote and, even for a moment, considered being in it.
Then, shortly after the San Diego ComiCon, we got word that Rosario Dawson (who I’d been championing as the Miri in “Zack and Miri”) took a gig in the new Spielberg-produced, Shia LaBeouf flick. I was about ready to put a gun in my mouth.
On August 8th, Scott, Carla and I started looking to see what actresses were gonna be available in January. With the strike looming, actors and actresses were booking their fall/winter schedules like crazy. Folks started suggesting we do a list of available actors as well, in case Rogen found something else he wanted to do that was gonna be more high profile/pay him more, but I refused. Even though there was no forward momentum on making an official deal with Seth, I had to take the man at his word: he said he wanted to do our flick. Until he said otherwise, I refused to consider anyone for Zack but the guy for whom I wrote it.
Carla pulled together a list of around a hundred actress names. Alphabetically, Elizabeth Banks was at the top of the UTA list. Having dug her in “Invincible” and “Virgin”, I put her into my top five choices. Carla told me her agent had called because she’d specifically asked about “Zack and Miri”. That made me like her even more.
Then, another potential blow came by way of Aint It Cool News, when they erroneously reported that Jason Bateman was being considered for Zack. I started to panic: what if Seth saw that and was like “Fuck Fat Smith for looking elsewhere.”
But this never came to pass, because in early September, after a long summer of feeling like Andi waiting for Blaine to ask her to the prom, Seth came over to the house again, at which point we ate pizza and talked about his notes on the script. He had exactly one, and it was a good suggestion. The fear that he was gonna ask me to wait ‘til after he did “Green Hornet” was allayed when he said he didn’t wanna try to make that flick pre-strike. We went over the potential Miri’s and he went nuts for Banks, telling me that she was really funny and a quick ad-libber. We both agreed she was the perfect Miri.
After that meeting, on September 19th, four months after I first emailed The Man Who Would Be Zack, Weinstein Co. submitted the official offer to Seth’s agent and manager. Negotiations were begun in earnest, during which time, we started auditioning folks for the other roles, with Seth reading opposite them. I met with Elizabeth up at the house and instantly fell in love with her sense of humor (and modest romantic history). She’d read the script and loved it, so Weinstein Co. started her negotiations, too.
On October 31st, while I was trick-or-treating with my kid, I got the phone call that Seth’s deal had been officially closed. I was thirty pounds heavier than when I’d started this journey, but all the stress-eating was worth it. I can lose weight; I couldn’t lose Rogen.
A few days before November 16th, the Weinstein Co. was able to close Elizabeth’s deal as well, so the press release could reveal who both Zack and Miri were gonna be.
On November 25th, I head out to Pittsburgh for good, as we prep for our January 16th start of principal photography on my eighth film, starring Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks.
Very seldom does a situation work out exactly the way you’d like it to. Very seldom do all your dreams come true. I’ve led a pretty charmed life for which I’m thankful every day. I’m convinced I’ve been as lucky as I’ve been, both professionally and personally, because I’m gonna die young. As long as that early demise doesn’t happen before we put “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” into the world (and “Red State” after it), I got no beef (and when I say “I got no beef”, I don’t mean “I don’t care if I die young,” I mean my dick’s small; naturally, I’d be pretty pissed if I don’t get to see my kid grow up because I’m dead).
I owe a great deal of thanks to many people, before we roll a frame of film.
Thanks, Jen – for putting up with five months of me laying on the bed, in a near-fetal position, moaning “If Seth Rogen doesn’t do this flick, I’m gonna make a real porno.”
Thanks, Marsha and Blair – for not insisting that your client aim higher.
Thanks, Mos, Carla, and Phil – for never losing faith and staying on top of this from day one.
Thanks, Harvey and Bob – for stepping up and giving us 25mil to make this flick.
Thanks, Elizabeth – for being Miri.
Thanks, Seth – for reminding me that sometimes in this business, people say what they mean and mean what they say. You could’ve done anything you wanted, and you wanted to do this flick; I’ll be forever grateful for that.
And lastly, Thank God – we’re finally making “Zack and Miri.”
In other great news, today’s the day! JAY AND SILENT BOB’S SECRET STASH RE-OPENS INSIDE LASER BLAZER!
Big thanks to Ron Dassa, who did an amazing job of making it all happen. Check out the pics…
…then check out the actual store itself, as of this morning. Today’s the first day of business, but we’re working on a Grand Opening for the first week in December. Stay tuned for details, but in the meantime, drop in and check us out today!
- And finally, this morning, the new SMod went live…
SModcast 36: SModcast 38: Leeroy Jenkem!
In which our heroes embark on not only the happiest, but apparently also the heaviest cruise that ever sailed, flirt with bi-curiosity via RedTube.com, and get high huffing butt-hash.
Stop reading this and download that shit right now, then come back and let me know what you think.
Brought to you by Kevin, Scott, and the good folks at…
(iTunes users: due to the slow downloading, we’ve decided to stagger the SModcast release. So while SModcast 38 is available right now at www.quickstopentertainment.com, it won’t be available on iTunes ‘til Friday.)