Kevin Smith on Why Quentin Tarantino Said No to 'Tusk' (Guest Column)

From left: Smith, Tarantino and Bryan Johnson, the "TELL 'EM, STEVE-DAVE" ringleader as well as Beard Guy on AMC's "Comic Book Men." This was taken at the Munich Film Festival, Summer 1994, when we were all thinner.
From left: Smith, Tarantino and Bryan Johnson, the "TELL 'EM, STEVE-DAVE" ringleader as well as Beard Guy on AMC's "Comic Book Men." This was taken at the Munich Film Festival, Summer 1994, when we were all thinner.
 

"DEMAREST FILMS SPEARS KEVIN SMITH'S TUSK"

Principal Photography to begin November 4th in Charlotte, N.C.

Oct. 2, 2013 (Los Angeles, CA) – Financier and production company DEMAREST FILMS (Machete Kills, A Most Wanted Man) will underwrite and produce visionary director Kevin Smith's next film, the audacious and utterly terrifying Tusk.

Tusk, which commences principal photography in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Nov. 4, will star Justin Long (Live Free or Die Hard, A Case of You) and cult favorite Michael Parks (Red State, Django Unchained). Smith will direct his own script, which evolved from Episode 259 of his long-running podcast with Scott Mosier, the award-winning SModcast. Tusk's horror story follows a podcaster who sets out to interview an eccentric, reclusive old seafarer, only to find himself a plaything in the gruesome plot of a deranged killer.

Demarest's Sam Englebardt and William D. Johnson will produce Tusk alongside Shannon McIntosh, for Smith's SModcast Pictures banner. Demarest's David Greathouse and Jennifer Schwalbach are executive producers. SModCo's Jordan Monsanto and Chris Parkinson, the author of the hoax walrus ad, are associate producers.

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Demarest CEO Sam Englebardt said of Tusk, "Demarest is a director-driven company, and Kevin has always been at the top of our list of filmmakers with whom we want to work."

Chairman William D. Johnson added, "We are hugely excited to see what results when Kevin applies his brilliant, twisted mind to classic horror filmmaking."

"I can't thank the good folks at Demarest enough for wading into weird waters with us," said Smith. "They are the walrus. Goo-goo-gajoob."

♦♦♦♦♦

I will always be eternally grateful to Sam, Bill and Greathouse. My walrus was drowning deep in the raging seas of unmade screenplays and Demarest flat-out rescued Tusk, pulling the beast onto their production ice floe. So after a month of dimming hope and a constant string of mostly nos, somebody finally said yes. It felt amazing. I cry during nearly every episode of my podcast Fat Man on Batman, so of course I bawled with joy and relief when someone said they believed in my dopey ideas enough to put real money behind it. When I asked them about needing a star to move forward, Sam said, "Cast who you want; we're gonna sell this on you and the walrus."

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Speaking of which, who would build this walrus suit? On the podcast, I'd suggested reaching out to special effects wizard Greg Nicotero. I was one letter off: Greg is the N in the legendary gore-makers KNB EFX Group. But with the N wrapped up in directing The Walking Dead, I went to the K -- as in Robert Kurtzman. The SFX icon who dreamed up the very flick that introduced me to Michael Parks -- From Dusk Till Dawn. The man who made the Army of Darkness march now runs a company called Creature Corps out of Ohio. I sent him the script and he sent me chilling designs for a walrus suit. After talking about it and writing about it, I could finally see what the human-walrus was going to look like. And holy fuck, was it nasty! That's when I realized we weren't making a horror movie; clearly, we were making a monster movie!

So with a walrus suit, one Long walrus, superhero financiers, a new draft of the script, a start date of Oct. 1, and a new home in the Great White North, Tusk was looking like it'd finally wade into the icy waters of production, roughly four months from the moment I recorded the podcast that triggered it.

I'd always dreamed of making a movie in Canada. Granted, I directed the Reaper pilot up North, but that was somebody else's script. In my Canadaphile's heart, the fat boy who started his sojourn into cinema with the Vancouver Film School as his gateway felt his journey would never be complete without making a Canadian film in Canada. In Toronto, we'd found this beautiful mansion in the woods that was going to double for the house of horrors owned by Michael Parks' character in the flick. This wouldn't be the usual movie bullshit of shooting Toronto for New York or some other American city -- this was new bullshit: shooting Toronto for Winnipeg. And as a bonus, I was gonna be in Canada for the start of hockey season. Shit was working out!

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