”So the movie’s sort of like my chance to be like ‘Alright man, here you go. Here’s everything I’ve learned in 25 years since Clerks.’”
Kevin Smith cannot be kept down. Many have tried, from internet trolls to film critics to even his own typically kind-spirited heart fighting back against him. Despite their best efforts, none have yet to succeed. For when he falls, he goes twice as fast as he picks himself back up again. And once that happens, not even a hurricane can bring that tenacity down.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is a true testament of that. In 2017, he had tried to get the film made. He had hit a bit of a wall, that was only stalled further by a near-fatal heart attack he suffered on February 25th, 2018. Most folks would take this as a sign that they need to slow down. Kevin Smith ran in the opposite direction, altering his lifestyle by going straight vegan but also doubling his drive in the process. Nothing was stopping this movie from getting made.
The film is a follow up to 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The plot of the first movie is that Jay and Silent Bob travel to Hollywood to try and stop Hollywood from making a movie about fictional comic book characters Bluntman and Chronic, off of which they are based. The reboot? Jay and Silent Bob travel to Hollywood to stop Hollywood from making a reboot of Bluntman and Chronic. If that’s merely the elevator pitch, there’s way more to unpack if you take the stairs, which involves a subplot about Jay becoming a father that takes over in the third act.
To do an interview with Kevin Smith is to take an adventure. Have questions at the ready, but be prepared at all times to never get to them. Don’t be too invested in what’s on the paper, but make sure you have them just in case. The trick is to wind him up and let him go. And it doesn’t take much. Sometimes it’s as simple as “I loved this movie,” then where other people would say “Thanks,” Kevin says “Thanks, this is how we made it.” And in the process, you get something that far exceeded what you could have predicted. You pass him the puck, then watch him run with it. This is merely part one of our epic talk, with part two coming out tomorrow.
I loved the film.
Oh my God, thanks. We had a good time making it. Obviously it started life as a movie and then became something more than just a movie. Suddenly I was like “This has to stand as my cinematic gravestone. I’ve got to pour everything, because I almost died, mother*ckers. This has to say everything but who I ever was in this life.” And so it took on a different dimension. The original idea was like “I just want to make a movie that makes fun of sequels, remakes, and reboots while being all three at the same time.” And that movie’s definitely still in there, but then it took on this other life post heart attack as well. I think of the movie as my masterpiece. Not like “This is brilliant,” but a masterpiece in the traditional sense of the term. An apprentice works for a master and you do that for years, study under the master. And eventually you present the master with your masterpiece “This is what I’ve learned under your tutelage.” I have no master, no boss, except for the audience. If you work for the audience, you never work a day in your life. So the movie’s sort of like my chance to be like “Alright man, here you go. Here’s everything I’ve learned in 25 years since Clerks.” And it’s not only everything I’ve learned in movies but podcasting and storytelling in general, as a human being and family member. Let me just bestow it all on top of one goofy movie. And it’s so strange because it’s the movie least like. Jay and Silent Bob, go figure. There’s weird emotions running through the movie in the one movie you wouldn’t expect. And I don’t want to scare anybody away. It’s definitely got the laughs that it should have, but the movie makes you feel as well. And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that people have grown up with these characters. They’ve had f*cking Jay and Silent Bob in their life for 25 years and it took 25 years for the Jay character to finally reach adulthood, and he does in this movie. But there’s familiarity. People know a Jay. Oh my sister’s just like Jay. My uncle’s just like Jay. And so because of that, because we’ve been around for like a quarter of a century, I think we get away with some of the emotions in the movie. Especially because it’s the story of a guy and his kid. It’s two people who would’ve benefited from each other who were separated for a lifetime and because of our dopey plot circumstances, don’t get to trade information that would make them happy until the third act.
So there’s this beautiful little story that winds up happening by accident at the center of this joke movie that I tried to make. Scott Mosier, my producer on all the other flicks, he was working on The Grinch remake so he didn’t work on this at all. He didn’t read the script or anything. I showed him the movie when I was done and he was like “Well, I understand what happened here. You had a joke that you really wanted to tell. And the joke is ‘I’m just going to make the same f*cking movie over again and see if anybody notices.’ And that’s a funny joke. And if you had done just that, I would’ve gotten it, but it probably would’ve gotten boring at a certain point. But half an hour into the movie, all of a sudden you showed me a movie I had no idea I ever wanted to see, which is this kid finding out he’s a f*cking dad. And it’s like, you figured that out, too. And so you built the skeleton so that you could make a joke movie, and then you had to put a lot of meat and muscle on it to make it work and that’s like what all the other stuff is.”
So I wanted to do something funny, and hopefully it is funny to people, but after years of doing funny or at least purporting to do funny for a living, I feel relatively comfortable with “Well, I think I know how to make people laugh.” But now what interests me is “Let me poke another feeling.” Like for a while, I was making horror movies. Because I discovered “If you can make a person laugh, you can creep them out. There’s a button that’s like very close to the other button.” And now, post heart attack, I’m all about “Let me see if I can make people feel something.” Because I know how valuable that is. I know that not everyone can f*cking feel something. Sometimes if you can feel it for them, they’ll follow you for life and pay you a bunch of money and stuff like that. And I’ve got an audience that has grown up with me and they’ll feeling what I’m feeling. We’re middle aged. There’s less time in front of us than behind us. And we’re parents and stuff like that. So that starts going into the work as well. I can’t just be like “Jay and Bob put their hands down their pants. Isn’t that funny?” There has to be a little something more substantial to it. I’ll bring the f*cking funny, I mean I’ll try. That’s subjective, right? But at the same time, I want to make sure there’s something else. Like a little meatier meal behind it. And to be able to pull that off in the middle of a f*cking Jay and Silent Bob movie, like that’s what makes me feel like “Oh, I’m not bad at my job.” I spend a lot of time on the internet, you get a lot of people telling you how much you suck at your job, and it’s very easy to believe. But then periodically I do something where I’m like “I don’t know, man. Show me somebody else that could f*cking make the heart shine and beat and pull a tear out of your eye in the middle of a movie about two f*cking stoners that’s a sequel to an old ass movie.” So if you set up weird little tests for yourself and goals that you’re trying to achieve that maybe nobody ever notices but you, but it’s the kind of stuff that keeps you going. Keeps it interesting for you.
Of course. I absolutely love your ability to tell a story, by the way. Both in film and in interviews where you have this wonderfully uncanny ability to answer three of my questions without my ever having to ask them. It’s truly one of a kind. I love it.
[Laughs]. Thank you. I try to over provide. You should see me as a lover, my friend. Talk to my wife. Oh my God. It’s never just like “Hey, we’re having sex.” I’ve got to put on a Cirque Du Solei show because there’s just a way to do things. This is from a life of over compensation. When you grow up heavy and stuff, when you grow up kind of outside the mainstream, You’re always trying to figure out how to fit into the mainstream. “What is going to make me less outside? What can bring me closer and whatnot?”
And so storytelling was my thing. That makes people comfortable, because we all love being told stories. It goes back to childhood. Our parents were the first ones who were like “Here, I’m going to tell you a story.” And we love our parents. They’re everything for us from the beginning of our lives for the rest of our lives. They represent comfort, safety, security. So somebody later in life can offer you the same ability. “Hey, let me tell you a story.” There’s this unspoken kind of hand-off to your parents in some way. Where it’s like “Oh. You’re doing that thing for me that made me feel good when I was a kid.” It’s primal. It’s never like announced. It’s kind of at the genetic level. And storytelling is my favorite thing in the world to do. And I like doing it with movies, but movies are not my first language. Telling stories with pictures could be hit or miss with me. But man, you give me a microphone and stuff, just words, I could get you there.
Right. And probably one of the best testaments to you being a masterful storyteller is your Too Fat for Forty special from years back, where you take one question and proceed to answer it over the course of three hours. And as I’m watching it, I figured out that you were essentially doing an experiment. You were testing yourself it seemed like.
Yes it was! Oh my God. So well observed. That was absolutely it. I knew had to shoot a special, and I wanted to shoot a Q and A special, but like I had done the standard “You ask a question and I’ll answer it and then we’ll cut to another person.” So it was like “Let me see. I know the stories that I want to tell. So let me see if I could get to all of them off of the first question.” And so I kind of laid down a little map behind the bench of all the stuff I wanted to talk about, so I would never run out of something or never have to turn to another question. And then when the night was over, I felt really f*cking good about it, but the audience was pissed because they were like “We came for a Q and A and only one guy got to ask a question.” So then I stayed for another two hours to do a traditional Q and A where people got to ask questions and sh*t.
It is a fascinating study, honestly. I’ve never seen anything like it to this day. And now let’s move back to the film. When you write something like this, something so cameo driven, do you write it with certain people in mind or just as the characters and then cast after the fact? Because there are specific cameos, like Tommy Chong, that only one of two guys could do.
Sometimes you do and then sometimes you can’t. Like in the first drat, there’s a much bigger Bluntman V Chronic movie scene that has like 5 villains in it and we build out the rogue gallery. But as you go through production, you’re like “Hey, we’re lucky to get these people. Let’s just work with what we have.” There were no villains in our Bluntman V Chronic sequence. But I didn’t need them because I was like “Well, I’ve got Melissa [Benoist] playing Chronic, I’ve got Val Kilmer doing Bluntman.” Then at the very last minute they were like “Tommy Chong is available.” I was like “He could be my Alfred!” So suddenly you reverse engineer the scene. That happens a lot with a lot of the cameos. Sometimes people just come in and you’re like “Here, man. We’ll just come up with stuff on the day.” Sometimes they’re playing a scripted part and then augmenting it. Or sometimes the part didn’t exist at all.
Like when we started shooting the movie, the Holden scene wasn’t even in the movie. I had never written it because I hadn’t spoken to Ben in a long time. So I didn’t assume that he was coming back to work on it with us. So that came one week from the end of production. Originally in the movie, there was a scene, it wasn’t even a scene it was a moment, where Jay and Bob are running around their f*cking con. And then they stop and they’re hiding and Jay looks over and he sees this guy, a dad dressed like Silent Bob, putting a lanyard over the neck of a little girl dressed like Jay. And then Jay would see this and we’d push into that, push in on Jay, and then Jay would turn to Silent Bob and go “You know I haven’t been there for Millie her whole life, Silent Bob.” And then that was the turn. But then because Ben was at a junket for Triple Frontier, it was a Netflix movie, and Kevin McCarthy who reviews movies for one of the networks in Washington, he asked Ben “Hey man. Did they call you for Reboot because they’re shooting it right now?” And Ben said “No. Nobody’s called me. And I’m free.”
And so we were about two, three weeks into production at that point. And we all saw that clip and Jason Mewes was like “You’ve got to reach out to him, dude. You’ve got to reach out to Ben.” And I’m like “That’s not… He ‘aint sending no message. That’s just some nice sh*t to say at a junket. Somebody says “Hey, they call you for Reboot?” What’s he supposed to do? Turn around and be like “F*ck Kevin Smith. Anyway, watch Triple Frontier.” No. He’s gonna say something nice and move on. But then Jay kept pushing me and I reached out to Ben and Ben wanted to do something. I haven’t spoken to him in f*cking years, man. All because Kevin McCarthy made that comment at the top of the interview, not only did I get that scene in my movie… Because we had no parts left open. I was at one point going to cast him as Cockknocker because everything else was booked up. Then I thought about it and was like “Wait a minute. Third act takes place at Chronic Con. Bluntman and Chronic were created by Holden McNeil. Could I use you as Holden McNeil?” And he was like “Yeah, please do.” So then I got to write like an 8 page sequel to Chasing Amy in the middle of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. So I didn’t plan for that cameo at all. It just sort of happened along the way. So you have to be open to that. To how malleable you can be.
Like Matt Damon in the movie. We were reaching out to Matt and couldn’t get ahold of him throughout the whole production. So by the time he got back to us, we were on our second to last day and their were no more roles left whatsoever. It wasn’t like “We don’t want you.” We wanted him but there was nothing. So I looked at the movie and was like “Well I’m supposed to do a one minute cartoon montage that gets Jay and Silent Bob from New Jersey to Chicago. What if I just use Matt instead? Push him out on camera and be like ‘Hey man. So I’m Matt Damon and I’m just here to tell you in place of a montage, Jay and Bob went to Chicago.’” So I told my wife I was going to do that and she was like “How come you never think to use him as Loki from Dogma?” And I went “Well, he died in Dogma.” She’s going “But that was a movie.” And I went “Oh my God, you’re f*cking right.” So suddenly I wrote a little Dogma sequel into the one scene with Matt. And I didn’t have that until post. So with a cast of cameos, you have to be malleable and allow yourself to kind of like build.
Like for example, we thought that Snoop Dog at one point was going to be in the movie, and they told us “If you want him, you’ve got to give him a private jet because he won’t fly commercial.” And I understand, he’s super famous. So we didn’t have any money for a private jet, but we made a promotional deal where we got money for a jet and then we lost Snoop. They ghosted us. We heard nothing. So then we were like “Oh. I guess that’s that.” And then the Ben situation happened. And at one point Ben was like “What kind of budget do you have for this movie? Is it possible for you to send a private jet?” And I was like “Never would it be possible for me to send you a private jet except this week. Because we got ghosted by Snoop, I can send you a jet to bring you down to New Orleans.” And Ben was like “If you could do that, I’m there in a heartbeat.” And I asked “Would you do Holden?” And he said “Absolutely.”
So I got a better scene in the movie, I got my friend, the storytelling is smoother because of that, and that happened late, late in the game. Same with Matt.
A good thing came out of being ghosted by Snoop.
Yeah. You think in the moment like “Oh my God, we’re having a problem.” And sometimes the problem turns into a blessing.
Was there anyone that took convincing?
I mean anybody that dragged heals, and if they did drag heals, you gotta remember we were nowehere near Los Angeles. When we shot Strike Back, we shot it in Hollywood. So you could call on a Friday and be like “Hey can you come down to Sweetzer and do two lines?” And they’re like “Yeah, why not?” Because they’re in town anyway. So then I’ll be calling up people and be like “Hey man. Can you come down to New Orleans and shoot for like an hour on Jay and Silent Bob Reboot?” And some people would be like “I don’t know, man. That’s really far.” And then I’d hit them with “You do realize I almost f*cking died last year of a heart attack, right?” And then they’d be like “Alright. I’m f*cking coming. I’m coming.” That worked on most people. Not all. I remember at one point Jamie Lee Curtis was like “I wanna be in your thing. I wanna do whatever you do next,” when I interviewed her for IMdB. And so we reached out when we were casting and she was like “Yeah, I told him I wanted to do something and I can’t wait. I want to do something.” And we’re like “Great. We want you to come play a character in New Orleans.” And she’s like “New Orleans? I can’t make it down there.” So sometimes that kept people away, but most times it actually helped because you’d call up folks and be like “Can you come to New Orleans to shoot?” And they’re like “You want to fly me out and put me up during Mardi Gras in Mardi Gras central? Done and done. Because we shot all throughout Mardi Gras, so that actually helped us. Something we thought might have hurt us because they have literally 77 parade throughout the entire month of March and throughout Mardi Gras. And we thought it was going to be a hindrance but Mardi Gras actually helped us draw talent to come shoot.
Be on the lookout for part two of our epic talk, going up tomorrow.