Interview: Josh Roush and Kevin Smith Talk About New Film ‘Wrong Reasons’

If you could save an Amy Winehouse, a Kurt Cobain, a Scott Weiland—if you could rescue one rock artist from addiction so that their music can continue to save countless others—how far would you go to do it? That’s the inspiration behind the indie film Wrong Reasons, out now, which was directed by Josh Roush. In the movie, a kidnapper (James Parks) abducts a drug-addicted rock star named Kat Oden (Liv Banks, credited in the film as Liv Roush) to get her clean.

The film—billed as a punk rock thriller, but more accurately described as a black comedy—is the filmmaker’s tribute to punk. And it was that passion for punk that sparked the interest of Roush’s long-time friend, legendary indie filmmaker Kevin Smith, who became the film’s executive producer. New Noise had the chance to sit down with both Josh Roush and Kevin Smith to discuss the exciting new film.

So, what was the inspiration for Wrong Reasons? Where did the story come from?

Josh Roush: I mean, honestly, I just wanted to write something that was near and dear to my heart, which is just punk rock. The genre’s just always meant the world to me. And I wanted to do an exercise in moral ambiguity. I wanted to essentially ask whether the kidnapper did the right thing for the wrong reasons or the wrong thing for the right reasons. That’s some of the genesis of it.

Kevin Smith: I’ve tried to be a “filmmaker” for a lot of decades now and, I’ll be honest with you, never once, in advance of writing something, have I been like, “What’s it about?” I’m so linear, I just let it unfold as I write it. So the fact that Josh had a plan shows you that he knows what he’s doing. That’s what a good filmmaker does. All the people I know who are good filmmakers have a vision and can tell you what their movie is about. Like, what’s the movie beneath the movie? My shit’s so superficial. It’s like, you saw the movies; it’s guys in a convenience store, what the fuck do you want?

So when I first heard him talk about Wrong Reasons as a script, his passion for the subject matter—I mean, number one, I knew he was great with the camera; he’s an immediate maestro—but his passion for punk rock is what ignited every conversation about the script and ignites the movie itself. I don’t have one of those in my repertoire. I can’t be like, “You know what fuels my passion for Dogma? Catholicism!” Not at all; I didn’t like Catholicism. So it’s so fascinating to me to know a guy and watch him become an artist, and become a more serious artist than you are. And that probably has a lot to do with two things: One, he’s got the real legit talent, and number two, I got to a place it was like, this is good enough,;my whole career has been about good enough. Nothing’s good enough with fucking Josh.

Some of our biggest fights have been about him trying to perfect things that I’m like,”You don’t need that shit.” I can look at my first movie—I’ve got that going for me, I could always pull the Clerks-card shit—look at my first movie, it looks like it was shot through a glass of fucking milk. It does not matter how good it looks; it’s what’s at the heart and the intent. But he’s a true filmmaker because he looks at me baffled whenever I talk about, “It doesn’t have to look good just because it’s a movie.” And he actually finds a way to tell his story like I tell my story, but make it good-looking as well, make it visually arresting, have an idea going into the storytelling rather than just be like, “Well, what you see is what you get.” Leitmotif, subtext, those are things that really great filmmakers can bring to the table, and that is definitely what he did with Wrong Reasons.

JR: That’s why I don’t do one of these without Kevin. I’m just like, “It’s about punk rock” and then Kevin goes on for 10 minutes and speaks eloquently.

KS: It’s an absolute elegy for punk rock. I’m not as nearly as schooled in punk, of course, as Josh, but what I am schooled in is you love something so much that you sing your song about that thing. So for me, what I wanted to do with my films—particularly with the early stuff, and even the later stuff—is put a spotlight on people that I thought, ironically, were completely unseen and underserved. But that was the mid-’90s. Josh did that with the thing that he was passionate about, which is punk, and he was able to marry that with a fucking quasi-thriller skeleton to make it even more cinematic. If I was to make his movie, there would be no (kidnapping), there’d be none of that. There just be people sitting around talking about punk rock. But he felt like, it’s one thing to talk about something I love, how about we also make it a movie at the same time? It’s a movie we should move. And (he) did that.

You just answered like three of my questions before I asked them. That’s awesome. Kevin, you don’t do a ton of acting beyond one main role that you’re known for. But what made you want to act in this, too?

KS: But that’s the thing, Silent Bob is—I don’t have quite a Leonard Nimoy relationship with Bob as much, as at one point he was like, “I am not Spock” and then, years later, he was like “I am Spock.” I’ve always loved playing Silent Bob, no shame there, no confusion whatsoever. But I do feel, 30 years into a career, I can safely say, if you’ve ever seen me outside of the Silent Bob role, I’m like this; I fucking love to talk. So playing Silent Bob is probably the toughest performance for a person who just wants to fucking talk. (It) shows great restraint and shows that I can be a completely different character than who I am in real life.

But being able to play Josh, which is what I did in Wrong Reasons, literally wearing the same outfit and whatnot, I was also like, “Shit, he’s not asking me to do something hard. I’ve been fucking studying my subject matter for years. So this is gonna be a walk in the park.” And that’s fun for me. At the root of everything—believe me, don’t get me wrong; I love being a filmmaker. I love everything I do—but, if somebody was like, you’re 53; you can only pick one thing to do for the rest of your life, it would be acting because acting is fucking fun. I did that when I was like 11 years old, 12 years old. And I don’t act with words in the stuff that I do, generally speaking, so when somebody’s like, “You want to say a thing in a film?” it still appeals to the kid in me that’s like, “Oh my god, let’s go make pretend! I’m gonna be this guy, you be that person.” So I love it.

Within the folks that I know, if anyone’s like, “Can you—” they don’t have to finish the sentence before I’m like, “Oh, I’ll happily fucking act.” Acting is fun. At the root of everything I do is performance, or trying to be artsy and stuff, but really it’s fun. What maintains fun? What can still fucking possibly be fun after doing a thing, or many things, for 30 years? And acting is the one (thing that), at this age, still appeals to me. And it’s so little work on my behalf, generally speaking.

And people don’t ask me, like, “Hey man, can you fucking bring Napoleon to life?’ I play variations of myself, so that’s fucking fun and easy. But it doesn’t require me to write anything, to direct anything, and make any big decisions, come up with the money and stuff. So as I get older, naturally I get lazier. Although if you ask the critics, like, “This mother fucker’s been lazy since ’95.” But the older I get, the more I’m like, “Work smarter, not harder.” There’s less time in front of you that behind you, and acting is the very definition of work smarter not harder.

It’s like getting away with something even more than filmmaking. I always felt like filmmaking was like, “I can’t believe I’m fucking get away with this, man; what a scam!” Acting even more so. So if they’re like, “Act like yourself,” I’m like, “Done and done.” I was on The Muppets Mayhem, and (they’re) like, “Can you play you?” I was like, “Can I?! Oh my god, it’s the only fucking speed and color that I have.” So that’s absolutely fine.

And when Josh asked me to do it, it was fun. I got act with Ralph (Garman) who I absolutely fucking adore and has been doing Hollywood Babble-On podcast with for well over a decade, with Josh, as well, as our third guy. So working with Ralph was absolutely delightful anyway, and getting to play Josh in front of Josh.

For Josh—and I specify “for Josh” because I guess I could ask Kevin the same question in other context—but what was it like directing your wife in a movie?

JR: Well, we’re divorced at the moment, so that’s how it ended up. But it was really good; she’s just an absolute talent. She would act her ass off on camera, and then she’d trade hats and have to go into producer mode and schedule lunches and testing during COVID. She’s just insanely talented. I think she’s on some new Netflix production right now. But she’s just one of the best talents I’ve ever worked with in literally every facet from acting to producing. And she helped me do several passes on the script as well.

Now I feel bad asking that question! I did not see that in anything I Googled.

JR: You’re fine. I haven’t made it a big thing, but it’s a thing.

Oh, okay. I did love the also the fact that she’s actually a musician, and that worked its way into everything. Did you make this with the intention of promoting the music as well? Or was that just kind of a happy coincidence?

JR: She actually learned to play guitar to learn this role because she knew she was going to have to play in it because we’ve been writing—I think we wrote the first version of the script about 10 years ago. So she actually picked up the guitar to learn it for this role. And then, along the way, (she) started creating music, started actually doing full songs. So I got my buddy Cam (Mosavian) involved who does the score for everything we do. And we formed a band around that and were able to then use that music in the movie. And they just became this—what’s the serpent eating its own tail?

KS: Oroboros.

JR: I can always depend on him for that. So one thing rolled into the other which rolled into the other, and it just was a very good happenstance.

The one thing I was wondering about in this movie is, so the whole thing is about this big media circus that happens around this kidnapping, and I’m looking at it, and I’m like, “Do those media circuses even really happen anymore?” Because, maybe in the ’90s around Kurt Cobain’s death or the OJ Simpson trial, but I feel like that doesn’t happen that much anymore, and especially with someone who—as I’m watching the movie, I realized—made the cover of our magazine (there’s a shot in the beginning of the film with one of the characters being on the cover of New Noise Magazine), so not the most famous person in the world. Do you think that was a little bit far-fetched? Or was that something you were going for?

JR: This was always meant to be a bit of an indictment against the 24-hour news cycle. I’ve got CNN on the background now and, once they get a hold of a story, they don’t let it go. And the original genesis for this was, what if you could have saved an Amy Winehouse? What if you could have saved Kurt Cobain? Would it have been right to do so (or) wrong to do so if you had to take extreme actions to do it? But I don’t know that it’s far-fetched necessarily, because I feel like, once the media cycle got a hold of the Amy Winehouse news, they exploited the shit out of that tragedy for a good few weeks. I guess there just hasn’t been anybody like that since then. But I don’t view it as far-fetched necessarily, but I don’t know. I’m a ‘90s kid, so I probably did write it with that frame of mind.

It does feel like a ’90s scenario, a little bit, even though everyone’s got cell phones.

KS: When you’re making a movie, sometimes you’ve got to movie. We aren’t making a documentary. And also it feels like, for the last six to eight fucking years, the news cycle has been dominated by one fucking story over and over and over again. But I think there’s always still mini-scandals all the time, but the age of social media just turn(s) them into hourly (things). If those people can really keep it going, it may be a day or two, and then it just moves on to something else. But there will be an initial fucking burst of “This thing happened” before everybody’s like, “Fuck it, it’s not juicy enough” and moves on to something else. So certainly, I can see it. I never bumped into that when I watched the movie.

But I did bump into the fact that Josh went through a lot of trouble just to make a record. They physically made those fucking records for the group. And I was like, “You could have just did that without making a fucking movie, punk boy!” He likes albums. He likes the physicality and having first pressings and shit like that of albums and stuff. When the kids first started talking about making the flick, my contribution was like, “Okay, let’s do KEVeeeos,” which were like our version of Cameo. Rather than doing Cameo, or Cameo takes whatever percentage, we did it on our website, and whatever the people paid the kids got for the flick. So Josh shot his own financing to some degree, because he was the one that shot all the KEVeeeos. And you can hold up the phone and do it yourself, but we didn’t have that technology. So Josh sat there, and we recorded all the shout-outs to people and stuff like that.

JR: We discovered (Cameo) took, like, 20%. So we were just like, “Fuck that. That’s our money.”

KS: Exactly, exactly. It was worth the 20% effort. So love and effort went into it. I come from an indie-film background. Do it for how much you love to do it. Just do it because you can’t believe somebody’s not stopping you and—never mind letting you—just fucking not preventing you from doing it. It’s the only way it comes together. It’s infectious as well. That production, I was there, and it was in the midst of COVID, everyone wearing masks. And it was a two-person fucking production, Josh doing everything behind the camera, Liv doing everything in front of the camera and also producing behind the camera. When we—I know I’m ringing the bell again, believe me, on my tombstone it’ll say “He made Clerks”—but when we made Clerks they were fucking three of us. And when they made Wrong Reasons there were two.

JR: We did have Matt Rowbottom on producing as well as co-DP, so I don’t want to take his credit away. Cameron (Mosavian) who did the score also recorded the sound. But it was a five-person crew.

KS: Yeah, it was pretty tight.

I did love the soundtrack to this film as well. How important was choosing the music beyond the music that was that was created for the character?

KS: I was pushing for all Hall & Oates. And Josh was like, “I don’t think you understand punk.” And I was like, “You don’t understand punk, bitch, because when Sarah smiles—” and I went on a long dissertation about how outside the mainstream Hall & Oates really are. In one ear, out the other for fucking Roush. He was like, “I’ve got my own ideas.” Filmmakers have a vision. So I couldn’t get them to a sensible soundtrack that I knew would sell…back in the ’80s. Instead, he went with an eclectic mix, some of punk’s greatest and most wonderful acts.

JR: I don’t even think Hall gets Oates anymore. Aren’t they suing the shit out of each other?

KS: That’s why they’re in my head, because I was just reading that article going, like,”No!”

Didn’t one put out a restraining order against the other?

KS: Believe me, when I read that I instantly called Jay (Mewes) and was like, “We’re all right, right?”

Iconic duos.

JR: Anyway, before Hall & Oates. (Kevin laughs) No, it was super important to me that soundtrack turn out, at least authentic, if not correct. But once Tim Armstrong said yes, because we’ve worked together in a couple of capacities, every other band was just like, “Oh, if he’s in, I’m in.” If he’s in, I’m in.” “If he’s in, I’m in.” We only missed, I think, two bands that we went out to. And I probably shouldn’t say who, but it just came down to finances.

And then you had a small role there for someone with a bit of a big name, David Koechner. How did that come about?

JR: Koechner goes back to the early days of (Hollywood) Babble-on. He would fill in for you (Kevin) when you were gone. But I was the sound guy at the Hollywood improv for two and a half years, something like that, so I put up everybody from Seinfeld to (The) Rock. Everybody. But for whatever reason me and Koechner we just get along. I don’t know if it’s that Midwest sensibility or that we’re both Neanderthals, (but) we both really just jive. So I think we did Musack together one year or two, I think he was a guest there. So we got drunk and hung out and exchanged numbers somewhere along the way.

I’ve seen the movie described as a thriller, and that just doesn’t seem right to me. I feel like it’s almost more of a dark comedy, in a way.

KS: Yeah, that was my fault. I was like, “Call it a punk rock thriller.” And he’s like, “Why?” And I was like, Because who puts, “Hey, it’s a black comedy!” on the poster? You let people discover that part. I’m not saying I’m the smartest guy in the room, but that was my two bits of marketing advice.

JR: Also, there’s a great story. I went to great travel and like limited expense and I shot this really cool, VHS-style cover for the fucking poster art. And I was so proud. We had a bunch of TVs I actually brought out and I put on a white cyc and put all the characters in it. And I showed it to him. And he was like, “Buddy, this looks like dogshit.” I was like, “Well if you think you can fucking do better than then do it.” And he grabbed (photographer and director) Allan Amato. And then he scheduled it, and Kevin actually, to his credit, directed the photoshoot, and it looks amazing. So fuck me. I was wrong. I don’t know.

KS: And yet somehow I was wrong about fucking Hall & Oates. Makes no sense.

How have you been promoting this film? Did you take it to any festivals?

JR: We skipped all the festivals. I stole (Kevin’s) model. I’ve been his tour manager, tech-wise, for the last few years on his movies, essentially. He’ll shoot a movie and then take it out on the road by himself, and then he’ll do a Q & A afterwards. And that’s how you move the tickets. So I did that on a very, very micro-budget by myself this last winter. And I think I did 18, maybe 19 cities through the U.S., and I toured the movie myself. Some nights, I think it was in Pittsburgh, we went up the same night as like an AFC game, and we had three people in the audience. But then the next night in, where was that, Philadelphia? I think we sold out. So it was feast or famine, but it was a really, really great experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.

KS: You were at one film festival; you opened the SModcastle Film Festival.

JR: Oh, that’s right. My bad, my bad. I called in a favor for that. (laughs)

Is there anything else you want to add or talk about?

JR: It came out on Blu ray and DVD August 15. It’s got commentary with him and I. It’s available on Apple, VUDU, all that stuff.

It’s also on Tubi where it’s free, now, too.

JR: Which just came out last week. So it’s really perfect time to do this interview.

Check out the Wrong Reasons trailer below.

For more information on Wrong Reasons you can follow Josh Roush on Instagram and Twitter.

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