March 7, 2011 / 2:09 AM / in 7 years

Kevin Smith: I "feel good" about semi-retirement

<p>Director Kevin Smith arrives at the nationwide tour for "Red State" in New York City March 5, 2011. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi</p>

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Kevin Smith unveiled his new film “Red State” for almost 4,000 swooning fans at Radio City Music Hall Saturday, the first of 15 sneak preview dates for the profane treatise against fundamentalist bigots.

“Let this be a lesson to you that anyone can rent Radio City Music Hall,” he told the crowd, “even a fat kid from New Jersey.”

The subversive comic horror film targets the anti-gay fulminations and takes the U.S. government to task for its simplistic use of terrorist threats as an excuse to do anything it wants.

Smith premiered it at Sundance in January -- and left a lot of studio executives annoyed after he staged an “auction” for distribution rights. Having “sold” the film to himself, Smith seems to be pulling out all the stops to get the publicity he needs to make the $4 million picture profitable.

At Radio City, that included merchandise such as posters, soundtrack dropcards (with Smith signature, $20; without, $10) and his book “Kevin Smith Sells Out,” which sold at a rapid pace.

Post-screening, Smith took to the stage with most of his major cast members -- including John Goodman, Melissa Leo and Stephen Root -- fielding questions from fanboys and even a few girls, though the word “Sundance” never came up.

Instead, Goodman warded off applause for his earlier oeuvre, and Leo bantered with Smith over her own foul-mouthed slip at the Oscars (“I have a really hard time thinking that’s the first time that happened,” she quipped).

The rest of the night was Smith‘s, as fans gushed over the film and expressed repeated dismay that he has said he will stop making movies after 2012’s “Hit Somebody.”

“I feel good about that,” he said about his semi-retirement. “I feel like my critics are probably saying, ‘Oh, good, he’s leaving.'”

But, he added, while he’s done with theatrical films, “I‘m willing to try other directing projects.”

Ultimately, Smith may yet be on to something. “Red State” will do well on the backs of his fans -- the ones with deep pockets and an endless array of questions. That means Smith will have to do the one thing he loves best to promote this film: Keep talking, and talking. On Saturday night, Smithians stood 20-deep at the three microphones set up around the theater even after an hour of arcane and inane quizzing.

If they decide to come out again for the official “Red State” release on October 19, Smith may just be the fat kid who laughs last.

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