By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist November 30, 2010 at 2:10AM
Of all the duelling projects in the recent past -- volcano movies, asteroid movies, Truman Capote movies -- one of the oddest has been the two rival "Slap Shot"-indebted hockey comedies, "Goon" and "Hit Somebody." The former's written by Apatow stalwarts Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, the latter's written and directed by raunchy comedy veteran Kevin Smith, and is based on the Warren Zevon song of the same name.
Some mild antagonism between the projects kicked up in the summer when "Goon" poached Seann William Scott, who'd been loosely attached to Smith's project, although the director seemed understanding of Scott's decision. With Smith currently finishing up horror "Red State," which is widely expected to debut at Sundance (with, as we reported yesterday, the distribution rights likely to be auctioned off afterwards), he's moving towards a start date next summer on "Hit Somebody," and to that end, he's just announced his new lead on the project.
On his Hollywood Babble-On podcast, Smith announced that a relative unknown, the 22-year-old Nicholas Braun, will play the lead role of Buddy McCracken, a hockey player who discovers a gift for violence. The actor's credits mostly include family fare like "Sky High" and the TV show "10 Things I Hate About You" (taking over the role originated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but he's in the upcoming rom-com "Chalet Girl," and is among the ensemble cast of "Red State."
Indeed, Smith says on the podcast that "I found so much of my "Hit Somebody" cast making "Red State,'" so don't be surprised if some of the likes of John Goodman, Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, Melissa Leo, Stephen Root, Kevin Pollak and Michael Parks crop up in the near future, as well, perhaps, as less well-known names like Braun. We can't say we're familiar with the actor's work, but Smith praises him to the skies, calling him a "really great actor, I love [him] to death."
Smith also told the podcast's co-host, actor Ralph Garman, another "Red State" veteran, that he's planning to cast him in the film as well. The film's likely to shoot in the summer once longtime DoP David Klein fulfills his commitments on "True Blood," and we imagine a spring 2012 release is likely and perhaps another trip to Sundance for a premiere.
Despite angrily not-really-clarifying rumors of his imminent retirement from filmmaking, Smith added further fuel to the fire, with a tweet last night calling "Hit Somebody" "the last film I plan on making." While Smith doesn't rule out a return in the future, possibly with a third "Clerks" movie, it's clear he's become frustrated in recent years -- the likes of "Clerks II" and "Zack and Miri Make A Porno" failed to widen his fanbase, and "Cop Out," while the biggest-grossing film of his career, was a truly wretched comedy, and the scathing reviews made Smith swear that he'd keep film critics away from future films.
In reality, it's probably a kind of publicity stunt of the kind that rappers are so fond of, but at present, we can't say that we'd miss Smith hugely -- he's becoming an increasingly self-aggrandizing, attention-seeking presence, and this writer can't say he's really enjoyed any of his films bar "Chasing Amy". But having said that, we're a little intrigued by "Red State," which has a promising cast and premise, and should mark a real departure for the helmer. We'll find out if our faith is misplaced when that film premieres at Sundance in January.