Kevin Smith Interview- June 23, 2005

Kevin Smith Interview – June 23, 2005
Fred Topel

Part One: Degrassi: Next Generation Signing at Secret Stash LA
Fans in the Los Angeles area will get a chance to attend a unique sort of Kevin Smith signing at his Jay and Silent Bobs Secret Stash store in Westwood. Smith and Jason Mewes will join Degrassi: The Next Generation stars Stacey Farber and Adamo Ruggiero to sign copies of Degrassi: The Next Generation: Season Two.

The event begins at 2:00 pm on Saturday, June 25 at Jay and Silent Bobs Secret Stash, 1045 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. Call them at 310-824-1373 for more info.

In anticipation of the event, Kevin was kind enough to make time for a preview interview. He was in a hotel room in Vancouver between scenes on the film Catch and Release. Harley Quinn tried to make music with the phone buttons, and it sounded like I kept him from a date with his wife, but ever the gracious interview, Kevin selflessly endured all of my inquiries all for the sake of spreading the word about the Degrassi event with one days notice.

Dont worry if youre reading this after the 25th though. Theres still plenty of talk about Passion of the Clerks, Fletch Won, Ranger Danger, Episode III, Evening Harder and more. And note: the usual amount of swearing and sexual references are in this interview, bleeped where possible.

When do you fly in for the signing? Im going to be flying in Saturday morning.

So you go right to the shop? Saturday morning I leave at like 7:00, it gets me in at like 10, so I got a couple hours before the signing.

How do you get through a signing now without smoking? Its relatively easy. I celebrated a year of not smoking by smoking again, and in production its kind of hard to not smoke, especially now just doing the performance thing because I find that I have way more free f*ckin time than I do on my own sets. There, youre the director, youre running around, youre getting ready for each shot. Here, Im an actor, so Im only needed when theyre shooting or blocking. So a lot of free time, Ive been smoking up a storm, but I wont need to smoke at the signing. I mean, Ive learned especially after that year that Im pretty good about putting it down, not needing it. I can go a whole day without smoking if need be.

Will this be your typical signing? I think its going to be different than any signing weve had at the Stash thus far because youre talking about a completely different audience. I mean, theres a little bit of crossover between our fan base and the Degrassi fan base, but the kids did tours across America last year to various malls in big cities. They were getting these turnouts of 2,000-5,000 screaming girls of a certain age. Were talking from 11 to 15, so historically my audience has not been 11 to 15-year-old girls. They set a signing in New York, four different Degrassi kids than Stacey and Adamo who are coming for our signing. And they had a turnout of 1,000 and had to turn some people away. Based on the data that came from that, that Diane at Funamation provided me, again tons of little girls. So its going to be a decidedly different signing than the one that Im used to.

Dont you expect your usual crowd to show up because its you? Well get some because its us but we havent really pumped it as our event. Weve really hyped it as a Degrassi signing. And Mewes and I are there just because its our store, but the episodes in the box set that the kids are signing, Degrassi: Season Two are episodes that we werent even in. We just did the three episodes of Degrassi last season and that DVD will be coming out in November I think. Well do another signing for that, and Me and Mewes feature prominently. That DVD is called Jay and Silent Bob Do Degrassi and features the three episodes plus we did commentary track, theres outtakes, all the stuff that we usually try to put on our DVDs. So I think therell be some cats coming for us but largely, based on the calls were getting at the store too, its people who are not familiar with our flicks, have never heard of our store but know about the Degrassi signing.

How late do you expect it to go? I mean, its scheduled from 2:00 to 4:00 but we always try to get to everybody, so well see. I mean, I cant imagine that it will end at four oclock. I think well probably wind up going over

Part Two: The Degrassi Fascination
How do you get people to pay full retail price at your store when youre not signing there? Well, we only sell of course our DVDs. In this instance with Degrassi: Season Two, well be carrying that for the signing, but its probably not something that well carry after the signing because it has nothing to do with our stuff and were not a DVD retailer primarily. But the movies of ours that weve made that we keep around, I think the reason that were able to move them at full retail, and not above it but at the suggested retail price, is because all that stuff is signed. So somebody coming by, yeah, you can go to Amazon and pick a Clerks X DVD up for $15-20, but you can go to our store and be paying no more than the suggested retail price, but youre also getting it signed, usually by me and Mewes. We sign all that stuff. Even if were not at the store, we keep a surplus of signed merchandise, so even if people come to visit the store and were not there, they can walk away with something signed.

What was the fascination with Degrassi for you? I don’t know, its just a show that really clicked with me. I first discovered it when I was still working at Quick Stop. They used to run it on PBS on Sunday mornings. Theyd run Degrassi Junior High and then Degrassi High back to back. It just kind of appealed to me because it was a great representation of high school, pretty authentic and also it helped that the kids looked like normal kids. It wasnt like turning on 90210 or The OC where youre like, Where do all these pretty f*cking people come from? I didnt go to school with anybody that looked like this. These kids look like real normal kids. Some are ugly, some are cute, some are fat, some are thin. They just look more like real life. It was an accurate reflection of high school I felt. And it was kind of a melodramatic show and I really go in for that kind of thing. Just like a teen soap opera. So I started watching it ardently and then just kept following it. Years later, they started up this Degrassi: The Next Generation and at first I didnt think it would fly because I hold the first series in such high regard and I was like, Why go back to the well? How could they possibly outdo it? And they did. The Next Generation keeps a lot of the characters that I love from the old show, integrates them with new characters and those new characters are just as interesting if not more so. The performers are even better this time around and the scripts are even more edgy and realistic and heartbreaking. So for 25 years, Linda Schuyler, the woman behind every incarnation of Degrassi has kept it an insanely topical and honest piece of television. So for that reason, its always clicked with me. And part of the reason why I felt just enough to go back and follow up Clerks with The Passion of the Clerks, which we get to in September, was because I was like, Wow, if Linda could go back and revisit Degrassi and have it work so well it inspired me to do it with Clerks as well.

How long do you get to stay in LA? Ill be out again on the Saturday night flight, the latest flight I can get out on because the morning after, Sunday morning is my daughters birthday. And theyre all staying up in Vancouver. Were all in Vancouver at the moment. I want to get back here because I think were going whale watching.

How old does she turn? She turns six.

Can you believe it? Yeah, you know, its weird because you get so accustomed to life as it unfolds that it just feels like well, shes always been around. Harleys been in my life for six years and Jens been in my life for seven. It just feels like Ive always been with Jen and Harley. It doesnt feel like Ive ever been without them. It was kind of the same way like when Clerks got picked up. Overnight I went from having a job to having a career. In short order, it felt like, Wow, werent we always doing this? Isnt this what I always did for a living? You just get accustomed quick, otherwise life kind of just rolls over you. So I acclimate fairly quickly. So her turning six, if theres any surprised, its like Im shocked shes not turning 10. It feels like shes been around longer.

Did Catch and Release come about through the Affleck connection? Not really. It came about because of Chris Moore, you know Project Greenlight Chris Moore. Hes been with Jenno Topping, the producer for years. They got kids and everything. They were looking for somebody for that role and they went to Jason Lee. Jason Lee had passed because I guess he was getting involved in My Name is Earl. And Jennos like, We cant find the guy to play Sam. Moore was just like, Well, what are you looking for? And they were like, I don’t know, the last person we went to was Jason Lee and these are the qualities we want the character to have. Apparently, Jenno says that Chris Moore was like, What about Kevin Smith? And she said, For two seconds I stared at him blankly and then it clicked and I was like, Oh my God, yes. So, she brought the idea to Susannah Grant, the director.

And Susannah was like, I kind of know him but do we have anything on him we can see him in? So I didnt send over the movies because Silent Bob doesnt really give you an insight into whether or not I can pull off dialogue. So I sent over those episodes of Degrassi that I guested on because I actually had dialogue. Im playing myself but still had dialogue. And then I sent over An Evening with Kevin Smith. Apparently, it was An Evening with Kevin Smith that got me the job. She was watching that and there was a moment in there where Susannah said that I shifted between being funny and then answering a very real and honest question and then tagging it up with a joke. She was like, Thats Sam. Thats the character. So I came in and read and they gave it to me. About three minutes after I left the office, I called my agent and he was like, They just called. You got it. So it was pretty sweet.

Who is Sam and does he get to kiss Garner? No, Sam dont kiss Garner. Thats kind of Tim Olyphants job on the movie. Hes a friend of Garners characters dead fianc. Its me and this actor, Sam Jaeger, playing Sam and Dennis. We were friends with Jennifer Garners character, Grays fianc who dies. So were all kind of thrown together. Weve known each other for years apparently but were kind of thrown together and grow tighter due to our mutual grief. The movies kind of about how people deal with grief, but itsvery moving and dramatic and comedic. Its kind of a dramedy.

You were really excited to begin Passion of the Clerks early this year. Has the whole Weinstein Company delay been frustrating? Its been a little weird. Thankfully the Catch and Release thing came along at a time where I could kind of move Clerks by a few months because nothing has settled completely in the aftermath of Harvey and Bobs separation from Miramax. I mean, theyre still there until September 30th anyway, but we dont really have any firm details on The Weinstein Company yet. He keeps saying were going, of course, and we intend to go. Hes financing Passion of the Clerks, but theres no concrete infrastructure that theyve revealed to us yet. I guess thats what theyre putting together now. So the long and short of it is if there hadnt been a fallout between Harvey and Bob and Disney, and everything was the way it was, say, a year or two ago, I probably wouldnt have done Catch and Release.

I probably would have just been shooting on Clerks. I wouldve had to pass on Catch and Release. But because things at that point were kind of up in the air, it just kind of gave me a few months to go off and try something different, to do the acting thing, knowing that Clerks was waiting for me when I get back. But being on this movie just makes me more anxious to shoot Clerks because its weird being on somebody elses set and just doing this one function that Ive done on my own movies, but I do so much more on my own flicks as well. So its weird just acting for somebody and not calling the shots, not deciding when a take is done or anything like that. Its been a real education and kind of an interesting process, but it does make me amped to go shoot my own flick.

Have Dante and Randall changed their views on Star Wars? No. No, but there is a Star Wars riff in there that Im really happy with. But no, it hasnt really changed. They dont really go into the new trilogy as much because these dudes are kind of stuck in one place in their lives.

Did you think of new customer encounters? I definitely came up with new customer encounters but that movie was never really so much about the customers. It was always about those two dudes and the lengths they would go to to avoid working, to avoid thinking about even being at work. Thats kind of taken to the next level in Clerks 2 and its also about what happens to the angry young man when he hits his 30s, no longer young but still ang

What happens to Green Hornet now? I don’t know. Green Hornet, Im not sure where it is now. I don’t know if it went with Harvey and Bob or if its staying at Disney. But theres a script out there and I guess whoever has it looks for a director next.

With Ranger Danger on your slate, how will you feel about directing big budget special effects by then? That one Ill be happy to do because its mine. Thats the thing about Green Hornet. I was like, I don’t know, to kind of shoot my wad on a big budget special effects movie on something that I didnt even create and dont really necessarily have a close connection to the material for, just seemed odd. If I was going to make a big budget movie, it should be something that came from me from the get go, like everything else.

So I don’t know. When it comes to that, I think Ill be ready and wont be intimidated just because its my material. Thats pretty much how Ive done every flick, which is why good or bad, whether people like them or not, whether theyre good or not, theyre mine from start to finish. Im invested in them. They have my voice. So I don’t know. It wont bother me having a larger budget on Ranger Danger or it wont be intimidating because Ill know from the get go as Im writing it whats going to be required, how much it will roughly be and what not, and I wont be on uncertain ground or new ground because itll just be an extension of what Ive done before which is write and direct and create stuff, and shoot it using whatever budget. I mean, on Jersey Girl, that was a movie that cost about $30-35 million and it was the most money I ever spent on a movie, although $14 million of that went to Ben and Jen. So roughly it came back to being close to the Jay and Silent Bob budget without the star salaries. But that was kind of a larger budget and I was fine with it, but again I was fine with it because it was my stuff from the get go. I didnt create Green Hornet. I dont have to answer to legions of Green Hornet fans or anyone who even remembers the show affectionately or follow in the footsteps of more popular comic book movies based on popular characters. Nobody could say, Well, f*ckin Ranger Danger aint no Batman because its not even in the same realm. And its mine, so I don’t know. Ill feel much better about a larger budget on that movie.

Is Zach Braff a lock for Fletch? I guess. It depends. Hopefully, yeah, hes in. We met, chatted about it. I got to get him a current draft of the script after I do some more work on it, bring the page count down a little bit. But hed be a great choice and thats who everyones leaning towards.

How did you do a mystery script? Did the book give you all the plot points? Yeah, I did not depart from the book much at all because the book is such an amazing road map. Ive always been a big fan of the book so I tried not to stray as much as possible. So it was a pretty easy adaptation. I mean, the mystery was there. It was something that I felt like I love the source material so I want to honor the source material while sticking to it as closely as possible.

Have you contacted Chevy Chase at all for anything? Since its kind of a year one story, for the version I want to do which is close to the book, thered be no place for Chevy Chase just because its a story about how Fletch first got his job on the paper. So he has to be much younger. So no. I havent spoken to Chevy Chase about it or reached out to Chevy Chase. I don’t think Chevy Chase likes me anyway which is fine. The feelings mutual.

What Fletch qualities do you see in Zach Braff? Hes kind of deft with a subtle comedic performance which is what the movie calls for. Its not overt like the first two Fletch movies. Its closer to the book and the books are closer to an Elmore Leonard type of thing. Whenever I think about Fletch Won, or my version of it, the version I want to do, it feels to me like Out of Sight, the Soderbergh version of the Elmore Leonard book. The first two Fletch movies, and one of which I absolutely love, is far more broad and involves a lot more physical comedy

How many times have you seen Episode III? I think Ive seen it three times now.
Do you still think its close to Empire? Yeah, oh I do. I think it holds up. Like I went and saw Batman Begins and I thought it was amazing and insanely well done and very classy. But to me, it wasnt as fun as Revenge of the Sith.

How surreal is it that you get to be friends with George Lucas? I don’t know that I get to. Ive never met George Lucas.

I thought you had a special connection. No, not at all. I never met the man. I sat across from him once in the commissary at Lucasfilm but that was it. Never spoke with him. Waved at him. That was it.

How validating is it that so many people line up to read what you think of the last movie? I don’t know.

I think that only came about because it was one of the first things, if not the first thing written about the movie out there. So it wasnt like, Well, lets find out what Kevin Smith thinks. It was more just like, Hey, lets see what some guy who saw it thinks. And its never validating when youve got as many people grousing about it, like, F*ck him, what does he know? Its still going to suck. Sh*t like that. The internets kind of full of those clowns. Yeah, it was weird. Put up that review and it crashed our site that day because we got so many hits. Over a million hits, so it was kind of weird.

Will you direct the Star Wars TV series? I don’t know, well see.

Will you mention me in todays diary entry? Yes, of course. If I get to todays. Im about three weeks behind on the blog and thats what I was just working on earlier. But yeah, when I get to today, of course. And wont that be weird? You reading about yourself on the blog. Its always a weird experience for some people because some people clam up around you and stuff. I get this a lot: Dont put this in your blog. Thats become the mantra for the 21st century really. Dont put this in your blog. This is not for the blog. And then you get some people who start telling you some intimate story and then theyre like, Wait a second. I dont want to tell you. Youre going to write about it. To which Im always like, Fool, I dont f*ckin write about your life. I write about my life. So generally when I do stuff like that, when I talk about people Ive spoken to, if they tell me stuff thats very personal, I dont put it in the f*ckin blog. And I hate calling it a f*ckin blog so lets not.

Thats why I said diary. Online diary. But when I write about sh*t in the online diary, its stuff that happens to me directly, or my thoughts and feelings. Not other peoples thoughts and feelings or tales. Unless they interact with me, and then it becomes my story. But somebody telling me their story, like you telling me, Oh my God, I totally got some massive anal last night giving me the full spectrum of details, I probably wouldnt relate that in the diary My Boring Ass Life. I would just write, Well, I spoke to Fred and we talked about nookie. Rather than going into f*cking details because its not my place to reveal how much the copious amounts of anal you get.

And you have another Q&A coming up in Vancouver? Im doing a Q&A on July 9th. I was here in town, I looked at my schedule and I saw that I had some time. Id never done one here so I said, All right, well rent out one of the theaters on Granville, called The Vogue and do a Q&A there one Saturday night.

Are there enough new questions for a new DVD? Yeah, I mean, we finished shooting An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder and that comes out for fall. We shot those two big Q&As, one in Toronto at the Roy Thomson Hall which is a big opera house, and the other at the Criterion in Piccadilly Circus in London. That two disc set will be out in the fall.

So this one wont be part of the DVD? No, but Ill put in a call to the guys that I did Evening with with to see if we wanted to pick it up. Its kind of a production because youve got to bring people out and set up multiple cameras and knock out seats and sh*t like that. But I don’t know, there are some Q&As that Ive done where Im like, God, I wish we had shot that because theres some good stuff there. Its always dependent on the audience, right? Granted, you get some of the same questions over and over, but so much of it is based on the night and the person standing at the mic asking you a question. So much so that each Q&A is different in a weird and wonderful way. And some of them go very, very long. One of the recent ones I did three months ago, four months ago in Jersey, in Red Bank, the first time Id ever done a Q&A in the home town at the Count Basie Theater went the longest Ive ever gone which was seven hours on stage. So I think this one in Vancouver will probably be at least four, maybe five.

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