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Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian

“I’ll be pregnant by the time I’m 30…hopefully.” Kim Kardashian interview By E.C. Gladstone Many see Kim Kardashian as ...

Leading Men

Jon Cryer

Jon Cryer

“I’m at the perfect level of fame” JON CRYER By Eric Gladstone Lunching with Jon Cryer in a Los ...

Women on Top

Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde

“I belong somewhere trapped in a castle in the 14th century, in the rain, churning butter…” Olivia ...

Directors

John Waters

John Waters

“I feel like Uncle Remus every time a kid comes up and says, ‘Tell ...

Power Players

Leo DiCaprio at 21

Leo DiCaprio at 21

"At first, I didn't see any reason why we should do it again." By: EC Gladstone September ...

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith

“So I thought, if this is a movie, shit, I could make one of these!”

Kevin Smith Interview, August 1995
By: EC Gladstone

The movies of Kevin Smith resonated with me immediately. I was living in Central New Jersey the same time he was coming up, so the personal experience that he documented in Clerks and Mall Rats hit very close to home. As it turned out, we had several mutual friend and acquaintances, as well as shared touchstones (it’s entirely likely he saw my band perform in Asbury Park or Brighton Bar, though I never asked him), though we never knew each other at the time. This interview took place days after Smith’s 25th birthday, as Mall Rats was about to be released and Chasing Amy was in pre-production. It got very Jersey-centric–because few other interviewers had the opportunity to talk about those elements which were clearly important to him.

EG: I know this is going to seem like an obvious opening question, but I haven’t seen you talking about this much yet: How did you get into filmmaking?

KS: Well, I used to work at that convenience store [where Clerks was shot], and then I went to see Slacker on my 21st birthday, and it was something I wasn’t used to–I wasn’t really into independent film before–there’s no plot, it’s not really about anything, it was made by a guy I’d never heard of, and the budget was like 25,000. So I thought, if this is a movie, shit, I could make one of these! So I went to film school up in Vancouver for a while, that’s where I met Scott [Mosier, producer] and David [Klein], my cinematographer, and I dropped out. Then I went home and wrote the script, and they came out and we shot it.

EG: Did you think you’d be doing this with your life?

KS: When we were making, it of course we had hopes in that direction, but that was like a “wouldn’t it be great” type thing. We never planned for it to go to Sundance and Cannes and that shit. I went from having a job to having a career.

EG: Was it a mindbender to go from a production like that to Mall Rats?

KS: On paper, at first it was. They told us our budget was 6.1 million and I was like “For what?” ‘Well, you’ve got to pay the actors, and the crew…Okay…and you’ve got to put them up at a hotel” Why? They can just stay at my house. “And what about feeding them?” I got cereal. Then when we decided not to shoot in Jersey, the hotel thing made more sense.

EG: Is it important for you to be both writing the script and directing your movies?

KS: Yeah, I’m not nearly as confident as a director. It’s nice because they pay you more to direct than to write–I wish I could get paid more to write than direct. It could be the same amount of money, they could just split it differently to placate my ego. I could never direct someone else’s script–that’s where the confidence to direct comes from, because I’m writing it, so I know exactly how it should play out and how it should look.

EG: Even though you’re making comedies, it seems like you take the writing very seriously–your dialogue is almost dramatic, more like a stage play.

KS: It has that theatrical feel to it. A lot of people said Clerks could have easily been a play, one location almost, and a lot of dialogue. I appreciate that. It’s not for everyone…. It’s very unnatural, but I think it’s how people think. It’s how you wish people would express something. It takes people a while to get into the rhythm. But by the end of the film you’re like ‘Oh, everybody talks like this.’

It reminded me of of New Jersey, in that your characters are almost too intellectual for their own good…or they’re super underachievers.

KS: Right[laughs] Don’t fucking print that, the state has enough things against it. It’s so fucking true though. The model for Clerks was my friends and I sitting around bullshitting, working stupid jobs and talking about stuff as if it really mattered.

Do you do a lot of pre-production and rehearsals with your actors?

KS: Yeah, a month, because otherwise the dialogue comes off punchy and fake.

Were you writing before you starting making movies?

KS: Not really, just short stories, to amuse my friends.

EG: You shot Mall Rats in Minneapolis [to get around union regulations, f.y.i.], but set it like Clerks, in Red Bank, including references to the Menlo Park Mall, and an exterior shot of Route 1 Flea Market…

KS: I wanted to keep the continuity from Clerks–Brian plays Gil again, and Jay and Silent Bob were in Clerks. Once the characters were there, I wanted to use them again, because I didn’t use them as well as I wanted to in Clerks. They’re more as comic relief now.

EG: Clerks really resonated with me because I lived for a number of years in Central New Jersey. You set it there because–

KS: It was the only place I ever really lived.

EG: You’re from Red Bank?

KS: Atlantic Highlands, originally. Now I’m in Red Bank.

EG: What’s your favorite Jersey mall?

KS: Eatontown, and then once I could drive, Woodbridge. A lot of people say our state is the Mall capital, which I don’t necessarily agree with.

EG: Do you think that the mall experience is particularly unique in New Jersey?

KS: I think it’s basically the same everywhere, except in Mall of America. I saw the same things in the place we shot it, kids just hanging out… It’s just mall as setting, as a backdrop for the quote-unquote pseudo-plot [in the movie].

EG:  So tell me some dirt about your notorious bad girl leading lady, Shannen Doherty.

KS: She was such a bitch. She slutted around the entire set… I wish I could say shit like she tied me up and made me direct naked, but there was nothing. She read for the part like everyone else, and then for call backs she read with several Brodies. She wants to get serious and get in to film, so she knows she has to keep a clean nose.

EG: Both of your films are “buddy pictures.” Was that intentional?

KS: With this one, yeah, I wanted to do a commercial film with a pseudo-plot. But the next one is more of a romantic triangle.

EG: And, to put on my film critic hat, would you care to comment on the seeming homosexual undercurrent between Jay and Silent Bob?

KS: Even in Clerks, people wondered if Randall was gay because he was so close to Dante. I don’t know, it makes them kind of sweet, I think. Jay, more in Clerks than Mall Rats, is really chick-fixated.

EG: Talk about the Stan Lee cameo—it kind of became more than a cameo, really.

KS: Yeah, it’s like the Wolfman Jack thing [in American Graffiti]. When we were casting, John Waters called and he wanted to play Stan Lee. But Jim Jacks, one of our producers said “What about Stan Lee?” and I said, yeah, in a perfect world, and he said “Well, I know Stan Lee.”

EG: Were you a comic book collector yourself growing up?

KS: I sold my collection to pay for Clerks. And then once the film took off, I went and started buying it back. Which was kind of liberating, you start from ground zero again.

EG: That comics store on Broad Street in Red Bank—Dave Wyndorf from Monster Magnet used to work there.

KS: Yeah. Small fucking world. The View Askew production company offices are right across Broad Street from the mall where the comics store used to be.

EG: Do you see yourself continuing to revisit these characters, and use the same actors, like something of a reperatory?

KS: Yeah, in the next film, Brodie comes back and Jay and Silent Bob come back. There’s two films I’m doing back to back–one’s called Chasing Amy, that’s going to be my stab at doing a PG-13 movie. It’s going to euphemisms all over the place. It’s set in high school. The idea of doing a PG-13 really intrigued me, especially after seeing Clueless. And then the one after that, we’ll go back and make a more adult film [Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back]… With Mall Rats I was trying to approximate a John Hughes [The Breakfast Club, Home Alone] or John Landis [Animal House] type movie, the shit I saw growing up.

EG: Watching it, I thought it was almost a spoof of that.

KS: Yeah, exactly. As long as your budgets are reasonable, they’ll let you try a bunch of crap. And I’d rather diversify than keep making the same movie over and over.

EG: You just did that piece in Entertainment Weekly with all those other young directors. Do you take any inspiration from any of them in particular?

KS: Independent film has really taken off in the last few months, because of Sundance, and because the budgets are so cheap. Like the norm now is even a 20 to 30 thousand dollar budget. And with the possibility of high yields, you can’t really go wrong. The worst that can happen is that you’ll break even. Studios, while they’re still making movies, they have to replenish constantly.

EG: Were you scared by what a flop SFW was?

KS: No, because it was such a Gen X movie, and I didn’t go out to make a Gen X movie. I was just trying to make a comedy. Anything that’s trying to be something, people will stay away from.

Copyright 2007, ECG

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