Kevin Smith Speaks
Wednesday, June 28, 2006; 12:30 PM
He burst onto the movie scene in 1994 with the low-budget comedy "Clerks." Now Kevin Smith is getting back to his indie roots with a sequel to that cult favorite, "Clerks II."
The writer-director was online Wednesday, June 28 at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss his latest movie and his career in Hollywood.
Smith's directing credits include "Chasing Amy," "Dogma," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and "Jersey Girl." "Clerks II" opens in theaters on July 21.
A transcript follows.
washingtonpost.com: Hi, everyone. Kevin Smith will be joining us in a few minutes. Hang tight, everyone.
Kevin Smith: Hey, it's Kevin. Sorry I'm late. Techincal difficulties. Kinda like a wardrobe malfunction, but minus the exposed nipple.
Kevin Smith: Anyway, here we go. Lots of questions, and I don't have the time to get to them all, but we'll see what we can do.
Bethesda, Md.: Have you ever been mistaken for one of the members of N Sync?
Kevin Smith: I have. Joey Fatone. I've gotten the "What happened to you? Did you stop dancing? You've put on weight." When I explain I'm not, in fact, the N'Synch-er, they chastise me for trying to look like him. I don't mind the error, but I'm sure Mr. Fatone would be insulted by it. Nobody wants to look like me. Not even me.
Bethesda, Md.: What was the motivation for making "Clerks II"? Often you hear of directors making sequels for cash?
Kevin Smith: If I was making "Clerks II" for cash, I'd have to be regarded as borderline retarded. Because there was no cash to be had. The whole flick was budgeted at 5 million -- an amount I would have personally earned had I directed "The Green Hornet" movie instead. So "Clerks II" wasn't for the coin; it was for the love.
That being said, if it earns at the box office, I'd be a happy guy. Not so much for any money I'd see from it, but because it'd be kind of a validation of my ideas and the things I think are funny. And that's all any writer/director really craves: validation. When you're a fat writer/director, you crave validation even moreso. You just want people to say "You're acceptable... even if you look like Joey Fatone after a month-long Twinkie bender."
Philadelphia, Pa.: I read about the guy in Philadelphia who attacked you for making a sequel to "Clerks." Now, I don't mind whether or not it is a sequel, but whether or not it is good. Please tell us what makes your sequel good.
Kevin Smith: That dude was funny. I can't really feel offended by people that bash the flick without having seen it. He's working at a loss.
What's good about the flick is subjective; it's different for everyone. Me? It was worth it to make the flick just to get to a specific scene in the last ten minutes (don't wanna spoil it). For other, it may seem worth it because it's funny. Can't say whether people will dig the movie as much as I do, but I can say this much: you'll laugh when you see the flick. A lot. And not at it, mind you; with it. It's a really funny flick. And buried in there is some heartfelt stuff as well. I don't know; when I talk about it with folks that haven't seen it, I don't want to over-sell it, so I usually just say "Check it out, if you're inclined." That way, they don't go in with expectations -- which is a stupid notion on my behalf, I realize, because the moment there's a 2 in any movie title, there's no avoiding some level of expectation.
Harrisburg, Pa.: What led you to decide to create a mostly silent character? It is more difficult to pull off, because you have to express yourself through body language and expressions, and you are one of the few people who can pull that off well. Did you know you were good at this before you created Silent Bob, or did Silent Bob develop with you over time, or how did you come up with Silent Bob?
Kevin Smith: Whether I'm "good" at it at all is open for debate. But I came up with Silent Bob just so Jay would have someone to talk to. I figured it'd be nice to pair him with his polar opposite: if Jay's always yapping, always moving, and wirey, it seemed to make sense to have him standing beside someone that was the flip-side of those attributes. And keeping him quiet was just a way to let the Jay character ramble without having to get into a conversation. I think he's best when he's not engaged in conversation, but when he's talking to (or at) Silent Bob.
Also, it means I get to be in the movie and not have to memorize any of those long-a$$ monologues I force the other cast to perform.
Herndon, Va.: quickstopentertainment.com? What was wrong with moviepoopshoot.com?
Kevin Smith: Nothing at all. Just felt like we rang that bell long enough. QuickStopEntertainment.com seemed to sum the site up better than MoviePoopShoot. I mean, movies weren't the only thing we covered with that site, so we always kinda felt like it was a misleading name.
San Diego, Ca.: Kevin, not to get all "Brokeback" on you but I've been a huge fan of yours for years. Have you ever thought about putting out any more "Clerks" comics (preferably with Jim Mahfood)? The ones you guys did a few years back through Oni were kick-ass.
Kevin Smith: We've got a "Clerks" comic on the way that Jim just finished inking. It tells the story of how Dante and Randal got their jobs at the Mooby's they're working at in "Clerks II". It'll be available in this "Tale from the Clerks" graphic novel that collects all the Askewniverse comics I've ever done under one cover. Comes out in mid-July, I believe.
Richmond, Va.: Kevin, is there any truth to the rumors that the release date was moved up so it wouldn't conflict with the opening of "Snakes on a Plane"?
Kevin Smith: "Snakes" definitely played a role, as we were going after the same audience: the online folks. However, the move had more to do with Cannes (and wanting to tag up with the good buzz coming out of the fest) and with this excellent, two-week window in July where there was nothing else like our flick out there in the marketplace. When the move was suggested to me by the Weinstein Co. folks, I was ecstatic, because it meant a) people were gonna get to see the flick a lot sooner, and b) because we wouldn't have to compete with "Snakes".
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Hi. I was pleasantly surprised to hear there was a sequel to "Clerks." You're going back to your "indie roots," if you will -- was it sparked by disillusionment over "Jersey Girl"? I must admit -- and I hope you don't mind me saying this -- that I was disappointed by that film only because it seemed so unlike you to make a film that conventional. Wish you all the best with "Clerks II."
Kevin Smith: Thanks for the well-wishes.
"Jersey Girl" definitely played a role, but it was more about wanting to do a small flick with a cast that wasn't gonna be in Us Weekly and In Touch Weekly every week. And unless Brian and Jeff start sleeping together (which, in a post-"Brokeback" era might actually be good for our flick), I don't think there's any fear of that happening again.
It was weird on "Jersey Girl" when folks didn't want to talk about the movie as much as they wanted to talk about whether or not Ben and Jen were gonna get married, or what I thought about that big pink diamond. It's been nice on "Clerks II" because when you talk to press about the flick, they're talking about the actual flick itself -- not who was doing who on the flick.
So, yeah -- "Jersey Girl" played a role in the decision to do the flick; just not the role that some folks seem to think it played.
Bethesda, Md.: I finally got around to watching "Belle de Jour" the other day. I found the sexual dynamics to be a lot like "Chasing Amy." Was Bunuel a conscious (or subconscious) influence on you?
Kevin Smith: The smart play here would be for me to say "Yes" and fake my way through some kind of cineaste response. Sadly, I'm not a smart man --which is why I have to admit that I never saw "Belle".
God, I'm gonna get crucified for that one...
Arlington, Va.: Kevin, great to have you here today! I'm a huge fan of "Clerks," and am really excited to see "Clerks II"! My question today is, what's the status of your proposed "Fletch" movies?
Kevin Smith: "Fletch" is off the table for me. After lobbying for six years to cast Jason Lee as the young Irwin Fletcher, it became painfully clear that it wasn't gonna happen. I thought after "My Name is Earl" took off, it'd be easier to get it done, but even then, the studio was more interested in Zach Braff. And as much as I dig Zach Braff, I always saw Lee in that role. So me and that flick had to part ways.
It's a shame, because Lee would've been golden.
Germantown, Md.: Mr. Smith,
Very big fan. Am curious, which of your many movie lines do fans tend to repeat when they meet you? Also, do you mind that I named my cat Annoying Customer?
Kevin Smith: I get "What's a Nubian?" a lot.
And in regards to your cat's name: expect to hear from my lawyers, sir.
Baltimore, Md.: What do you say to your detractors who claim that your films are occasionally juvenile, when you obviously have intellect and cultural refinement enough to aim at a higher mark?
Kevin Smith: I say they're right. However, that's not all there is to the flicks. But if that's what they choose to see, there's not much I can do about it. All I know is that I've been doing this for a dozen years now, and I don't think the audience would've stuck around if the flicks were simply d**k and fart jokes. Some folks get that, some don't, I guess.
Atl. Highlands, N.J.: Hi Kevin. Your "short film" accepting HHRS's Hall of Fame status was nothing short of brilliant!! Yes, the chocolate cookies are still fabulous (my two eat them for breakfast every day, unfortunately!)and Mrs. Conn regales my 13-year-old aspiring filmmaker with "Kevin" tales on a daily basis. Thanks for ALL your great films! Looking forward to this one!
Kevin Smith: They're pulling me away to do another interview, so I've gotta wrap this up -- which sucks, because there's a slew of questions I'm not gonna get to. If I didn't hit your question, and you feel the need to have it addressed, hit the ol' message board at www.viewaskew.com, and I'll try to get to it later (plus, I'll be able to curse there; a lot; don't feel right cursing on the Post's site; kinda like sh***ing in their living room, y'know?).
Meantime, let's go out on a query from the hometown area, Atlantic Highlands, NJ (mere seconds down the road from Leonardo -- home of Quick Stop).
In looking at it, I now realize it wasn't so much a question as an observation. So I'll say thanks, and hit one more.
Albany N.Y.: Hey Kev, Love your work. Don't let those Hollywood hotheads tell you how to shoot your flicks. What do you think your most lasting accomplishment in cinematography will have been?
Kevin Smith: The donkey show in the third act of "Clerks II." Not only is it funny as hell, but it looks great. Worth the price of admission for that alone, in my opinion, but you guys will have to judge for yourselves. Check it out on July 21st, if you're feeling generous.
Thanks for hanging out. I'm now getting dragged out of the room. Why do they only schedule these things for a half hour? Can we do another one later tonight? I'm heading to Atlanta to do press, but I should be able to hit a chat from 9 o'clock on, if anyone's into it?
Mod? That sound cool?
Thanks for playing, all.
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