Kevin Smith Interview

Here I am, nervous as hell, waiting for a call from the man himself, Kevin Smith, to talk about his brilliant Clerks II.

DRING!
Hello.
Hi, I’m looking for a Kevin.

Speaking – wait a second, I’ll put you on speakerphone…
CLICK!
Aww, crap.

Yeah, I hung up on Kevin Smith. Thankfully, he was kind enough to call my stupid ass back!

DRING!
Hello?
Hi, this is Kevin Smith.

Hey, I’m so embarrassed. I’ll try again and I’ll take my time…
OK, Kevin?

Yeah, I’m here.

I’ll get on with the interview now!
Yeah, let’s go.

For starters, I loved the film-
Thank you, sir.

One thing I noticed is that it’s kind of a throwback to the 1990s and the early films of Richard Linklater, Cameron Crowe and yourself, obviously.
Right on.

Was that something that was intended?
I think by virtue of the fact that you’re doing a sequel to an early ’90s film, it was gonna be unavoidable to some degree. Particularly because the subject matter you’re dealing with are dudes that are stuck, you know, at some place in their life that they haven’t gotten out of in quite some time. So it was probably a foregone conclusion that it would have this ’90s feel to the whole thing. It was probably accentuated even more so by virtue of the fact that we used a lot of ’90s musical artists. You got some Alanis Morrissette, you got some Smashing Pumpkins, you got Soul Asylum, Talking Heads… There’s no current piece of music in it, really, so I think it takes you right back to that place in the early to mid-90s when we first came out with “Clerks”.

You mentioned that it’s about arrested development basically. Do you think that’s something specific with this generation?
Yeah, I mean, it feels like our parents were of a generation where they got out of school, they got married, then they got jobs, particularly our fathers. They didn’t sit around and talk about, ‘this job is not fulfilling to me.’ They just took a job, you know, it wasn’t about fulfilment, it was about earning a living. Our generation, while not the first to kinda explore this philosophy, was certainly the most vocal about it. Like, we seem to be kind that are like, ‘I’ll play the game but I’m gonna play it by my own rules. I’m gonna get me a job that’s fulfilling to me, but in the meantime I’m just gonna work in this job for the time being. And what you find out is that sometimes the ship doesn’t come in, you know, sometimes you’re kinda waiting for that moment where you figure out that you’ve grown up and it doesn’t necessarily always come to pass.

I thought that they ended up pretty well at the end of the film.
Yeah, it does kinda work out for them, but there is that ambiguous closing shot where we kinda pull back and you get the feeling that maybe this isn’t exactly what they wanted.

I think it ties with the relationship stuff as well, because there’s a sense of being afraid of change there, too.
In terms of the relationship stuff, when you’re dealing with these long-term male friendships, I’ve always felt that they’re almost marriages, you know? Really, you’re just one cock in the mouth shy of being gay. It’s almost a romantic relationship to a large degree. And there is separation anxiety. It happens when one of you goes off and gets married, and suddenly life’s gonna change irrevocably for the other person. I dunno, it’s the kinda thing I like to write about, like, dudes in these almost emotional romantic relationships.

I thought that the last speech that Randal has was more moving than “Brokeback Mountain”.
It’s too kind, sir. That’s high praise, thank you.

And with the women as well… I was sceptical at first that Dante would have two hot women going after him, it’s a bit “Archie”.
Yeah, it is very Archie! That’s why Rosario Dawson deserves an Academy Award for this movie, she makes you believe she would actually fuck Brian O’Halloran.

I was surprised you didn’t go for the “Archie” reference, you know, because of “Chasing Amy”.
I know, I felt we’d kinda made the “Archie” reference already. But there is kind of this Archie undertone to the whole thing where you’re looking at the guy and going, why him? If I was a chick, I’d go for Randal.

Yeah, for sure. You mentioned Rosario Dawson, she does kinda steal the film from the regulars. How did you come about casting her?
Um, her name was one on a very short list that Harvey Weinstein had given us, cause he was like, ‘Look, I understand that you gotta cast Brian and Jeff as Dante and Randal, and Jason Mewes and you as Jay and Silent Bob. But you gotta give me some face to put on the poster that people outside of your family will recognize.’ So, he gave me the list of like, 6 actress names to kinda go for. And I was kinda hesitant to do it because I didn’t wanna put anyone in the movie that was more well known than, say, Brian or Jeff. Cause I didn’t want that feeling of people looking at the flick and being like, ‘Well, there are two dudes that we haven’t seen since the first flick and someone really famous.’ I felt like it might rip you out of the reality of the flick. So we chose Rosario Dawson’s name cause we were like, this chick is the least likely on this list to say yes to do the movie. So let’s go to her and when she passes, we’ll tell Harvey, ‘See? Nobody wants to do the movie, let us cast an unknown.’ And ironically, she turned around and said ‘Yeah, I totally wanna do it.’

And we were flabbergasted, you know. I was a huge, huge fan of Rosario from “25th Hour” and I thought she was great in it. And I never expected in a million years that she would hitch her rising star to our fading star. So when I met her at rehearsal for the first time, I kinda got to know her and I figured out what it is about her, like, why she would say yes? It’s cause she’s not one of these careerist actresses that, like, decide that they’re gonna do this movie because it will lead to this movie and it’ll lead to working with this director and it will lead to an Academy Award. She just does movies because it’s a subject matter she’s interested in. She picks the movies she does based on stuff that strikes her fancy. So you can sit there and talk to her about “Johnny, the Homicidal Maniac”, which is this little b&w independent comic, and she can quote lines from it verbatim. It’s always amazing when a girl knows anything about comics, let alone independent comics, let alone a girl that looks like Rosario.

But you know, she’ll talk about how her greatest career regret was getting cut out of “The Devil’s Rejects”. She had a cameo in the Rob Zombie movie last year where she got to be killed by Doctor Satan. And she was like, ‘I was so bummed that I got cut out because I love Rob Zombie and I love horror flicks.’ And you just realize that she’s a real person, just one of the boys. Also she doesn’t put a lot of importance on playing the Hollywood game, she just likes to do stuff that she’s interested in. So I was like, I gotta know, why did you say yes to be in this movie, what was it? And she was like, ‘I always wanted to see a donkey show.’

Speaking of which, how did you get away with interspecies erotica?
You know, I’m still trying to figure it out. I really felt like the MPAA, the ratings board, was gonna turn around and be like, ‘You’re out of your mind. We’re not gonna give this movie an R, we’re gonna give you an NC-17. Or even worse, we’re not gonna let you release it at all with any sort of MPAA tag on it.’ I was pretty surprised that they let it ride. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that like, yeah there’s a big donkey show in the movie, but at the end there’s a 10 minute speech of a dude who’s trying to tell his friend that he loves him. I guess it softens the blow of the donkey show, you know? There’s lots of sentimentality in the movie and I guess it tempers the edge of your stuff.

Even more shocking than that, I was surprised by how well directed the film is.
Oh, thank you.

I always knew you were a great screenwriter, but even you would say that you’re not the best director in the world.
No, totally, I’m horrible.

But this film I thought was really well crafted.
Thank you. We really kinda gave it our all this time around. There was a big conversation between Dave Klein, who’s the DP, and myself cause we were like, one of the uncredited stars of the first movie is its look and the fact that it looks so shitty and grainy and b&w. We were just like, should we do that again? Do we intentionally try to make the movie look bad so that it matches the other movie? And then we decided that would be kinda stupid and disingenuous because the only reason the movie looked that bad in the first place was because we had no money, it was low budget. So we figured, we got money this time around, let’s actually go the other direction and try to make the movie look as good as we possibly can make it look. Basically bring to bear everything we learned over the course of the last twelve years of making movies.

Well, it worked. I would even say that your film’s poetic, something I would never have associated with your work before. Like the Go-Karts or the Jackson Five scene, those are some beautiful moments.
Aww, I so appreciate that. The Jackson Five scene was like a way to, like, of course I knew I had to have a moment where he’s trying to express to her that he’s falling in love with her. I could’ve gone the “Chasing Amy” route and written two pages of a speech for him to deliver. But then I was like, maybe this time I’ll show and not tell, and give a visual representation of what I feel it’s like to fall in love and it just seemed to work out.

Are you familiar with the work of David Gordon Green?
Yeah, yeah.

It made me think of that, I thought it was as good-
Right on, man. Hey, did you just write a review for the movie online?

Yeah, I did.
I read that fucking review, sir! That was an excellent review!

Montreal Film Journal?
Yeah, the Montreal Film Journal. I read it today cause I looked at the Rotten Tomatoes page and that review is up there. Oh, sir, I loved that review, I can’t thank you enough. I thought that was phenomenal.

No problem, it came from the heart.
Thank you for that killer review. That made my day. I read that this morning when I got up and, I’m so not bullshitting you, that put a spring in my step

We went on to talk a bit about his internet presence, his infamous dislike of “Magnolia”, and the commentary he recorded for the “Road House” DVD that’s coming out on July 18, but I’ll leave it at that: Kevin fucking Smith visited this website! How cool is that?

CLERKS II opens nationwide Friday, July 21. Go see it, it’s the funniest movie in years!