When indie screenwriters are asked to name their most prolific and influential filmmakers, Kevin Patrick Smith undoubtedly places on that list.
Back in 1994, the iconic stoner comedy Clerks, set in the convenience store where Smith worked, graced our screens. 25 years later, Jay and Silent Bob are all grown up (just kidding) and are doing it all over again all over our screens after finding out that Hollywood is rebooting an old movie based on them. Kevin Smith spoke with Creative Screenwriting Magazine on his filmmaking process and what it takes to get his films to the screen.
While preparing to complete a Clerks trilogy, writer-director Kevin Smith spoke with his agent about acquiring the use of a shopping mall to film in. At first, it sounded like there was an issue, so he considered the idea of making Mallrats 2 rather than Clerks 3, but then another snag came up.
His agent said there were a few options to get the film made. One option would be having the studio pay for the film. The second option would be raising the money to have the studio make the film. And, the third option, which sounded most appealing, was to get the rights to the film and make it without studio interference.
But, as it turns out, his agent was wrong. Smith spent the time writing the screenplay and gathering his production team only to find out that Universal did not ever give up the rights and that they also didn’t want to make the film. “I don’t begrudge them for not making the film, but it’s frustrating not getting to make something I wanted to make.”
Smith clarified, “I make Indie films. I’m used to making what I want to make. Not everyone gets it, but I get to make what I want to make. Simple things like making Clerks 3 or Mallrats 2, when all of the players wanted to be involved, seem simple and yet, there are many obstacles.”
Owning the Rights
At this point, Smith remembered that he and Jason Mewes own the Jay and Silent Bob characters, so nothing stood in their way of making a new stoner film. The latest film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is written and directed by Smith and features an array of celebrity cameos such as Chris Hemsworth, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Rosario Dawson, Val Kilmer, and countless others, in addition to the title characters.
“I knew I had willing participants and I didn’t need anyone’s permission to go along with the idea,” he added. In terms of the story, the characters started off in Clerks as two drug dealers outside of a convenient store and essentially just popped up in an array of Smith’s films over the years.
For Reboot, the screenwriter wanted to make Jay a dad. You read that correctly. “Before, this guy would be the last person you wanted taking care of a child. He couldn’t even take care of himself, so why give him a kid?”
“I thought Mewes was put on his earth to be Jay in movies because that’s what he was good at, but then he had a kid. All of a sudden, I realized he was born to be somebody’s dad,” said Smith about his lifelong friend and co-actor.
In real life, Mewes wasn’t drastically different from Jay. He never knew his father and his mother used him as a drug delivery errand boy in Smith’s hometown. “He got arrested at age nine and the cops kept him in jail until his mother turned herself in. She spent a day thinking about it before doing so. Jay had a difficult childhood and I think that informs who he is as a parent. He does the opposite. He’s the world’s best dad.”
“He spends all of his time with his kid because it’s the best thing to ever happen to him. He just enjoys spending time with this little person. So at one point, I realized that was the movie.”
“Seeing him be SuperDad was a mind-fuck for me. I knew him best in real life, but I never would have called it. He trusts me, so we played it. These movies are a snapshot of who we are at that point in our lives.”
Role of a Lifetime
The casting agent decided to cast Smith’s real-life daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, in the role of Jay’s daughter. “Jason is not a trained actor, so casting any other kid wouldn’t have worked. He would have stared blankly if another kid was crying, but with this kid, who he knew his whole life, there was real emotion there. Those characters gave me everything, so letting them grow up was the least I can do.”
During the writing process, Smith had a heart attack and the doctors said he only had a 20 percent chance of survival, due to a 100 percent blockage in his arteries. While lying on his potential death bed, he considered his career, his wife, his child, and the realization that death could happen that very night, but he decided to accept it and keep writing.
“The one regret I would have had if I died, would be the last movie I made was Yoga Hosers.” Surviving the heart attack pushed Smith to get the Reboot made and put everything he had into it.
Now, if you watch the movie as a fan of Kevin Smith, it’s clear the movie touches on everything in his career and life, which is why he’s also described Reboot as his “final lap.”
“It was meant to be a Masterpiece, not like a classic, but everything I had learned in the business as an apprentice. It’s this weird little nostalgia bomb that comes up over and over again. It’s different after the heart attack. I’m vegan. My dad had two heart attacks and the second one killed him, so it’s genetic and losing all the excess weight is not enough.”
In addition to the nostalgic look at Smith’s career – from Clerks to Mallrats to Chasing Amy to Dogma to Jay and Silent Bob – the film was also meant to poke fun at the studios for making so many mindless sequels and reboots. “The first one made fun of internet culture, so I felt like the way in was making fun of sequels, remakes, and reboots while doing it ourselves.”
Remakes, Sequels, and Reboots
After the filming was over, the writer-director realized the film was actually a “re-quel, but the joke was too late to make it in the film. The film also poked at the recent movement to put women in roles originally written for men. In one example, they made Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) the lead hero in the fake movie, Chronic.
“Jay and Bob have also sort of been left behind as the world has gone forward, so we get to make the fish out of water, or out of time jokes, but still get to trade in woke humor as well. I put up the girl gang on Instagram, and there’s [cheers] but also people saying, ‘Don’t tell me you’re cowering to this quota.’ But it’s not new for me to have women in movies. There’s one joke hidden in the credits about it.”
This mindset actually led to another project for Netflix, where Smith landed as the official showrunner. The writer is now working on an animated ‘He-Man’ series for the streaming platform. The new series will be called Masters of the Universe: Revelation.
This mindset, which has perhaps made Smith more dedicated to his craft, mimics the ideas of the stoicism where Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” As such, Smith now thinks of every project as potentially his last. “I am happy to do this until I die,” he said of He-Man. “It’s not morbid. It’s a fact of life, so I approach everything like that.”
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