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.
 

Tusk will mark the second time I get to define my job as "sitting around and watching Michael Parks act." And I never would've known Parks' work had it not been for the biggest Parks fan on the planet: Quentin Tarantino. So since Quentin likes to act (and since he had dug Red State), I figured I'd ask him to join me on the cinematic walrus hunt. But not behind the camera -- in front of it.

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So while doing my annual Hall H Q&A at the San Diego Comic-Con this year, I told the audience that I'd given a copy of the script to Quentin, in hopes that he'd play the relentless French Canadian cop on the trail of a monster-maker. A few of the lazier websites regurgitated misinformation they read on other blogs, writing that I had offered Quentin the role of the human-walrus. This was incorrect: I wanted Quentin to play the detective and speak like Les Habitants! I'd heard him do an Australian accent in Django Unchained, so I was hoping he might want to ham it up as a Quebecois as well.

Then the weirdest thing happened: Quentin passed on the role of Guy Lapointe. QT said he dug the script and couldn't wait to watch Parks (pictured, right) let loose his internal Kraken, but he had no interest in acting at the moment. It was a bummer, as having Q in the mix would've been poetic. Without him, I would need someone equally genius to play Lapointe -- our French-Canadian Javert. If it wasn't going to be Quentin, then who would play Guy? And with the loss of Blumhouse and my inability to find any money to make Tusk, there was a far bigger question we needed to be asking ourselves …

Were we were even making a movie anymore?

Tusk had been a fun ride while it lasted, quickly gestating from podcast to screenplay in 20 days. It opened doors, introduced me to new people, and got my juices flowing again. But maybe this was to be Tusk's full potential: just an unfinished reminder of the possibilities of creativity. I'd taken this fun exercise in whimsy as far as it could go, right to the edge of reality. But maybe it was never meant to be an actual film as much as a feeling. Maybe the walrus-muse had done her job stirring up the filmmaker long-dormant in my heart, and now that I had the feeling back, I was ready to make a movie. So did it really matter if we actually made that movie? Hadn't this whole joke gone on long enough already?

Not. Even. Close. Bud.

My agent Phil Raskind came through like Jerry Mah-f---ing-guire and saved the day. Raskind introduced us to Alexis Garcia, a fellow agent at WME who puts together financing for flicks. And Alexis threw [producer] Shannon [McIntosh] and I into a room with Sam Englebardt and David Greathouse.

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The white Sam and Dave come from a film financing banner formed by Sam and William D. Johnson called Demarest. The Demarest bunch dug the Tusk script enough to talk about possibly coming aboard, fully understanding that we had an ambitious timeline. Any patron who sinks large amounts of money into art should always be entitled to proceed at the speed they're most comfortable with; after all, it's their money. But in order for Tusk to be at Sundance on the 20th anniversary of Clerks, this wasn't a luxury we could afford our potential patrons: A decision had to be made pretty quickly.

Sam and Bill made up their minds pretty quickly, and thank SMod almighty … Demarest agreed to make Tusk! The press release after the jump …

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