THE ASK HOLLYWOOD INTERVIEW
Hear a message from Kevin Smith!
Kevin Smith is synonymous with Independent Film. His debut film Clerks reinvigorated the stagnant waters of American cinema and sparked a new generation of film makers. His somewhat offbeat comedies are infamous for their sharp, witty dialog that is weaved in such a way that the audience is left wanting more.
This past year marked a period of great change for Kevin Smith, as he welcomed into his life his wife Jennifer and their first daughter Harley. His professional life blossomed this year as well as he was able to launch a successful merchandising venture based on his movies that culminated in the opening of Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash in his hometown of Red Bank, New Jersey. Finally, he branched out successfully into other mediums with the appearance of Jay and Silent Bob comic books and the landing of an animated series based on Clerks for ABC.
Kevin continued his remarkable film career as well. His latest film, Dogma, sparked a religious controversy of sorts between Disney, the parent company of then distributor Miramax, and a radical, fundamental religious organization. The "controversy" helped to land the movie at Cannes, where it opened to overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim.
Kevin sat down with us, and in true disregard to his alter-ego, Silent Bob, graciously offered his insight into such areas as the future of DVD, his love of comic books, his presence on the Internet, and to whether or not Ben Affleck is a good kisser. Pull up a chair and listen to one of Hollywood's brightest young minds as he contemplates on success and his role in the world.
The Special Edition of Mallrats is now available on DVD.
HEAR THE AUDIO OF THE INTERVIEW!
PART 1 (4:43)
PART 2 (7:22)
PART 3 (8:25)
PART 4 (6:58)
First, I want to say congratulations, you've had
an amazing year. You got married, the birth of your first daughter, you went to
Cannes with Dogma, which is wrapped and ready to go. What's been the most
amazing thing for you this year?
I think, hands down, the birth of my daughter was pretty huge
stuff. I don't know if you've ever seen a child be born, it's pretty weird and
it's definitely one of those things you've got to see before you leave the
planet. It's quite the experience. It was great, it was very moving and very
powerful and very cool.
Second to that would be the Mallrats DVD release,
which is also very moving and powerful and cool.
You've definitely had quite the experience, do
you think your life could get any better?
Right, yeah. I don't see how, sometimes I kick around and just go
"Wow, it's all down hill from here, isn't it?" I just keep waiting for the
bottom to drop out. And, even if it did-when it does-I don't think I'll have much
to complain about. I don't think I'll become bitter or one of these people who
say "Oh man, I once had it all."
I mean it was nice to have it for a while and
kind of have people dig what I did. If I finally agree not to do it (make a
movie) again, I think I'd be content because it was good while it lasted.
You've also enjoyed your fair share of celebrity
over the last few years, what do you find the most interesting aspect of fame and
I think it's really weird that when you can finally afford to buy
things, people give you things for free constantly. I remember that somebody sent
me a Playstation and I showed my friend Walter. Walter was like "I don't get it.
You could buy a Playstation, why did they give you one? You know, guys like me
gotta buy it." I was like, "Yeah, that's a good question."
When you accumulate
enough cash to buy yourself a little extravagance here or there, people throw
things at you anyway.
What a life! You mentioned the Mallrats DVD that
comes out today and I know that you are a big fan of the laserdisc format, what
do think of the DVD format?
I'm kind of diggin it now. On the Chasing Amy laserdisc, the
Criterion one we did, I think I opened with the comment, "F#*% DVD!" I've had to
recant that, it's a pretty good format.
I was really not looking forward to
starting a whole new collection of something because I think I'd amassed about
like 2,000 laserdiscs by the time that went the way of the dinosaur.
Once I kind
of got into DVD, once I started watching them, checking them out, it's a really
great format. And you can do a lot more with it than you could ever do with
laser(disc). Like just that multiple angle stuff we did with the DVD for
Mallrats, just being able to watch the commentary, from time to time.
I've heard that the Mallrats DVD contains some
revolutionary nuances that, in fact, at certain points during the audio
commentary you can actually hit the alternate angle button and watch you guys sit
around and comment on the movie.
Exactly. You can watch us commenting on the movie. I think the
alternate angle has only been used in porn, you know, so it was really good to
actually...us and porn are the only two people that...man, what would you call
Yeah, two pioneers, us and porn. DVD pioneers. Using the format in
a way not used yet.
I think once people see what we were able to accomplish,
or rather what the good folks at MCA were able to accomplish because Lord knows I
didn't do much with the DVD, I think all DVDs should be as good as this. Whether
you liked the movie or not, it's just a great use of the medium and it's just a
This is what a Special Edition should be. So often you buy a Special
Edition and it's got maybe a trailer on it and it's letterboxed but this is just
loaded and the price is really right.
I think you hit on a good point here about how
the format could open up a lot of doorways to aspiring film makers and offer a
unique look into the creative process of making films. I think this definitely
highlights the importance of DVD.
Yeah, there's definitely stuff to be done with it. It's kind of
breached the chasm between the avid film aficionado techno-enthusiast that made
up the laserdisc crowd and the casual renter or movie watcher, who'll pick up
movies at the video store.
It seems DVD bridges those two worlds and makes it
affordable to be a film enthusiast, even if you're just a movie watcher.
DVD is a booming format, it is one of the
fastest growing technological formats ever. What do you think about the future of
DVD? Do you think DVD is the future of home entertainment?
If you can record on it one day, I don't see why it wouldn't be. I
mean, of course, they would have to stop making VCRs. But again, it's tough to
tell, so many people have their VCRs and switching something, unless it was
really, really important, is never appetizing.
Particularly, when you have
recorded hundreds of hours of TV or a lot of family home videos and what not.
Then you have to go through the hassle of rerecording all of it on DVD or
something like that. So I don't know, I think VHS is going to be around for
awhile, it's still the common man's medium.
I think DVD, in terms of watching
flicks and what not, will definitely jump up there. I don't know if it will ever
get as widely spread as VHS, but it could run a close second.
I hear that there's almost an hour's worth of
additional footage on the Mallrats DVD.
Yeah. We just popped everything on there that was cut out.
Did you have any favorite parts that you were
glad you were able to include?
There was one moment, I think, where Jason Mewes and Jason Lee are
in a scene. At one point Jason Mewes says, referring to a character in the movie,
"Is Lafours out there?" Lee says, "No." Mewes goes, "Well, for a minute
there I thought we were in trouble."
Which is a favorite line of mine that was
cut from the movie. It was just a direct lift from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
So, it was nice that finally saw the light of day. But, all the stuff is
worth seeing and it's really set up nicely in terms that not only is it
entertaining if you liked the movie, but it's also kind of educational to show
you exactly what goes into finally getting the movie out there, what changes from
script to screen.
With all this footage that ended up getting cut
from the movie and the undeserving critical bashing that Mallrats received, do
you think, given hindsight, that you would have cut the film any differently?
I don't think it would have been different in cutting, but it would
have been in the scripting stage, preproduction. I would have stuck more along
the lines of what we started doing as opposed to being urged to "Open it up,
open it up. Make it bigger, make it bigger" by the studio.
Just kept it more
along the lines of how it was initially conceived which is probably about maybe
60% of the movie as it is today is along those lines, but it was about 40% of it
that was knocked out of the box in preproduction, which would have kept it a
little more intimate, would have kept it a little more along the lines of what I
wanted to see.
You mentioned earlier about the video footage of
your audio commentary. There's rumors that Jason Mewes is a little too close to
Jason Lee in some of these shots, is there anything there?
Right. I dont know, they're certainly very chummy. They seemed very
chummy to me when I watched the disc as well.
In keeping with the tradition of hidden "Easter
Eggs" on DVDs, I hear that the Mallrats DVD contains a special Easter Egg from
you and Vincent Perreira.
Right, that's the only one I know of. Yeah, there's one, that's
just about the only one. It's pretty funny if you find it. It's not that
difficult to find, I guess it's difficult to find unless you know where to look
for it. It's very funny.
It sounds like Classic Kevin Smith.
Yeah, actually it's my favorite part of the disc just because it's
kind of smirky.
Looking forward, I know that you've now released
Clerks and Mallrats on DVD and that there's plans to release Chasing Amy on DVD
in the near future, do you plan to release DVDs from here on out day-and-date
with VHS starting with Dogma?
That would be nice when Dogma, hopefully a long time from now, hits
home video that DVD will release day-and-date, that would be really sweet.
Hopefully, we can work that because I hate straggling behind.
I mean, I guess
that's our fault, we have to...the squeaky wheel gets the grease...we have to
push them along earlier along the route, start doing it...if you intend on adding a
bunch of extras, and when we do a Dogma DVD there's again a ton of cut stuff that
we are going to put on to it. I should start that earlier.
I think that speaking on behalf of your fans,
the added content is what we will crave and we would be willing to wait a little
longer to get the goods.
Yeah, I mean too many times even as a laserdisc buyer, I was burned
fast by buying an initial release of something that they released a Special
Edition for it a month later, or even years later.
It would be nice to get as
close to day-and-date as possible, but chiefly, it's all about packing on that
You mentioned earlier that you consider yourself
a DVD alternative angle pioneer, I think another arena in which you are a pioneer
is in the realm of the Internet. You established years ago ViewAskew.com, which
is basically your direct link to the fans.
Oh Yeah. It was interesting. I mean I'm certainly no techno-file
but the day that I discoverd the 'Net I was just like, "Well this is pretty
good." because I found a few Clerks fan sites and I was just like, "You know, I
might as well get out there with them."
Not as a fan site, but somewhere for
them to go, rather than speculate on stuff, and talk to them myself, because these
are the people that employ you more or less, right? They buy tickets to the
movies, buy your comics and buy your stuff.
It's nice to know what's on their
minds and the website is my direct link to that, it allows people the opportunity
to ask you questions, you can ask them right back. It's just a great exchange of
information and you know it never hurts to sit around and have people tell you
that they like your stuff.
I think one quality of your site that makes you
stand out from all the rest is the personal approach that you and everyone else
in the ViewAskew universe take regarding the website. On any particular day you,
Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck and anyone else might pop in to say hi on the web board.
Do you think this is the driving force of your site?
I think so, I mean the website's nice in as much you can look at
the stills from the movies, see a few pictures, and read about stuff, but the
main draw, I think, is that board and the main draw of the board is being able to
talk to the people who are involved in the flicks.
It's just again erasing that
barrier between fan and, for lack of a better term, artist or one of the people
that make the stuff that these people are watching. That's kind of neat to break
that down and not stand on pretense, like what I do is a big mystery-it's not.
Why should we perpetuate that myth that the film maker is a mysterious artiste?
I'm far from an artiste and I'm not very mysterious, so it's nice to get out
there and show them that you're no different than them.
The only difference being
that people know about the stuff that you've done or seen your stuff or you've
gotten some distribution or something like that, because a lot of the people that
come to the board are film enthusiasts themselves or people that have made flicks
or want to make flicks.
I know that you are a big fan of George Lucas
and he was considered a revolutionary, especially in his treatment of
merchandising. I see some these parallels in you with your merchandise and the
opening of the new Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash. How do you see these
developments fitting into the grand scheme of things?
It's just nice. I mean when we first put up the website we didn't
really have a store or anything attached to it. The people said, "Where can we
get a shirt? Do you guys sell posters?" Because of fan demand we were just like
I remember I got like 200 Mallrats posters that the studio gave me when
the movie came out and after the movie tanked they just sat there. I thought I'd
go to my grave with them and we would wrap things in them, cover books with them
and what not because nobody gave a shit about the movie when it was out.
fan site, once the website went up, the fans started asking for them so we
started selling the posters and went through them in a heart beat. I'm one of
these guys that nevers throws anything out because sooner or later, there's a
value to it or there's some worth to it.
That came about because of the fan
demand and then it's a matter of just like what can we put out there that's kind
of cool and that someone would enjoy having? Speaking from the other side of the
table, I know what it's like to want to have a shirt from a flick or a prop or
something like that. Bring a little piece of the movie home with you.
Not only do communicate with your fans, you've
been known to help them out on occasion. In particular, you recently donated
Jay's actual shirt from Mallrats and a 35mm trailer from Chasing Amy to help them
maintain their site devoted to the daily update of anything View Askew related,
NewsAskew.com. Are you surprise by your devoted fan base? Are you surprised that
there would be a need for a daily update of your happenings?
Yeah, it always feels great. When NewsAskew started...it was neat
and like,"Wow, that's pretty nifty," and the updates were kind of sporadic.
Brad (Plevyak) and Chris (Alley) were able to accomplish is to keep tabs on everything that's even
remotely connected to us and it's been invaluable in my day to day just because
they know stuff that even I don't know.
Like, I'll check on NewsAskew and be
like, "Oh really, that's happening? I had no idea." You don't have time to comb
papers or the 'Net yourself for stuff or info about you and stuff you do, so
it's kind of nice that somebody out there digs you, it's incredibly flattering,
so it's really quite neat.
I know a lot of people assume that NewsAskew is just a
part of us, like it's our web site, but it's not, Brad and Chris independently
own and operate it.
Let's talk about comic books. You're obviously a
huge fan of the medium, in fact, Mallrats is almost a shrine to comic books. How
did you become such a big comic book fan and are you excited now that you've been
able to express yourself in that medium?
Yeah, I became a fan just by reading for years, when I was a kid I
just read a lot of comics but I fell out of it in high school because I guess I
was just too cool or something like that to read comics.
Then I got back into it
after high school and comics is just a great art form, a mixture of and the
merging of literature and visual arts, graphic arts. There's a lot of great stuff
out there, so I kind of buried myself in that stuff, I've always been a big
supporter of it.
It was really nice to be given a shot to actually throw my hat
in the ring and give it a shot myself. I was pleased, I guess happy with the Oni
stuff that we do that ties into the movie, like the Clerks comics and the Jay and
Silent Bob mini-series and this year we're going to do a Mallrats sequel in comic
I'm just as happy with the Marvel stuff as well working on
Daredevil, which is quite a leap away from the stuff that I normally do, it was
nice to stretch those writing muscles as well.
And then opening the store was an
extension of that as well, just being able to deal in comic strips and sell
comics in a marketplace that's really not as strong as it was a few years ago and
still kind of show your support. What comic fan wouldn't want to run a comic book
You touched on Daredevil. What attracted you to
I'd always been a big fan of the character based on Frank Miller's
treatment of it and I was really good friends with Joe Quesada and Jimmy
They had done some artwork for Mallrats and they were actually in
Chasing Amy as well, they called when they started their Marvel Knights deal and
said that they got Daredevil and would I be interested in writing it, eventually
I got around to saying yes.
I think it was a mixture of everything, being a fan
of that book, wanting to see if I could handle it, being a fan of comics, I
wanted to see if I could write as good a comic book as the stuff that I like to
read and then also my friendship with the boys (Quesada and Palmiotti).
You mentioned the fact that you are using the
comic medium to spin off ideas from your movies, you've done some Clerks stuff
and you have a forthcoming sequel to Mallrats. You also have a series entitled
Jay and Silent Bob which is a four part series that pretty much follows the
action of those two between Chasing Amy and your forthcoming film, Dogma. How did
you come up with this idea?
It was just an intersting kind of notion to see if I could play
with those two characters in something that was completely their own, to see if
they could carry a story.
Which I've always found they're great back-up
characters, but having them carry their own story is kind of weird because one
guy talks and the other guy doesn't.
It was just the notion of taking them from
the end of Chasing Amy, or where they left in Chasing Amy, to the beginning of
Dogma, showing how they got from one place to the other.
It was nice, I mean,
it's no story I ever would have done in a film and something you would never have
gotten, there's a scene in Dogma that kind of explains why they're in Illiois at
the beginning of the movie but it was nice to actually kick back and write this
whole kind of road trip for them, to show the various stops.
For those curious to
Issue 4, it finally comes out in the middle of August. It's been a long time.
It's taken a year to finish that book, I think, to do that mini-series. Kept them (the fans)
all in suspense.
Do you that this technique of using an
alternative medium to hype films and connect one film to another will become a
more popular film device?
Yeah, I think you've pretty much seen it in practice with the Blair
Witch Project right now. A lot of Internet interest in that flick and they
drummed up a lot of Internet interest on that flick with the various web sites,
the traffic to the web site truly paid off, I mean the movie did like $1.5
million on 40 screens this weekend. That's fantastic.
That's using a completely
different medium to drum up interest. It goes above and beyond simply putting up
a web site as most studios do it, just kind of plugs movies they've got coming up.
The Blair Witch stuff and I'd like to think our stuff too is kind of very
specialized, very grassrootsy.
Do you think that there will be more comics
Yeah, definitely. I want to continue...I know there's going to be a
Bartleby and Loki one shot that ties into the movie, that tells the origin of the
two angelic characters from Dogma, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's characters.
then, like I said, we'll do that Mallrats mini-series as well.
You've been really fortunate to work with a lot
of talented young actors and actresses in Hollywood, such as Ben Affleck, Matt
Damon, Jason Lee, Joey Lauren Adams, etc. How enjoyable is it for you to work
with such talented and wonderful people?
It's great when it really works. Like people like (Ben) Affleck,
and (Jason) Lee, and Jason Mewes, and Matty (Damon), and Joey Adams too.
we had really great relationships so it was kind of a no brainer to use them on
other stuff as well, to make that transition, or keep them along for the ride.
It's not like laying brick or something or doing hard work for a living, film
making, but at times it can be a little strenuous and you want to create the most
comfortable environment as possible, be around friends.
I'm sure Jason Mewes is a favorite of yours to
work given that almost all of your camera time is with him, but besides him do
you have a favorite actor/actress to work with?
(Ben) Affleck and (Jason) Lee are great. I could make movies with
those two guys until the end of time. They're just really great dudes and they
really understand the dialog.
And we have a great relationship off camera and on
camera, behind the scenes, it's really easy to work with those dudes, they get
it, they get the material all the time, makes my job much easier.
You speak of your off camera and on camera
relationships and I have to ask you in regards to the MTV Movie Awards, how good
of a kisser is Ben Affleck?
(chuckles) I don't man that kind of went by in a blur.
That wasn't scripted?
No we knew we were going to do it. I didn't even get to stop and
ruminate on it.
Looking past Dogma, is there any film projects
that we can expect to see in the near future?
I'm not quite sure, right now I'm just kind of working on the
Clerks animated series, I might spend a year doing that and maybe segue into a
film. But right now, it's the first time in five years that I'm not thinking of
the next film which is kind of nice.
You'd mentioned recently that Dogma has a
distributor, did you want to elaborate on that?
No, not yet. I haven't made the announcement yet.
How about a potential release date?
The second weekend of October I'm hearing.
When can we expect to see a trailer in theaters?
Good question. That's a question I've been asking a lot lately.