KEVIN SMITH on CLERKS II

Interview by Mark Walters

Well the time has come.  CLERKS II is opening on July 21, and the anticipation amongst fans couldn't be greater.  Last year I spoke with Kevin about what we could expect from the new film.  Now that he's screened it, and done quite a bit of promotion, we sat down again to discuss the reactions the film has got, and Kevin's feelings on what he's accomplished.  I was particularly interested to ask him about the film's response at the Cannes Film Festival, where it received an 8-minute standing ovation.  How many filmmakers can say that?  The following interview was done in roundtable style, with some other reporters in the room, so I cover the questions I asked Kevin directly and some of his responses to others there.

MARK: What's up bud?  How are you?

KEVIN: Good, good to see you.  What shall we talk about?  SUPERMANPIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN(concerning SUPERMAN)  I just wanted to see him hit something.

MARK: Couldn't he have thrown that island into the sun?  Something?

KEVIN: He was a very reactive Superman, just catching shit all the time.  A lot of this (holds arms up in a serene flying position).  Still, any Superman movie is better than no Superman movie.  You look at that film and you never say "This was made by a fucking committee."  That was one distinct vision.  And anytime a director can make a movie exactly the way he wants to make it, that's to be applauded.  But when you do a $200 million dollar plus movie, that's almost unheard of.  But he might have used up his chips now.  Might up used up that X-MEN juice to make the Jesus Superman movie.  I don't think they're going to let him do that again next time.  Next time they're going to have a giant robot or something.  Or a giant spider would be even better.  Jon Peters was on to something, man.  I used to think he was a nut, but now, maybe he was right.

MARK: So you're probably sick and tired of talking about your movie, right?

KEVIN: You know honest to God, and I'll say this because we're in the midst of one, but I love roundtables.  It's like you're having a conversation with a bunch of people, it's like being at a party that only lasts like about a half an hour.

MARK: Kind of like DINNER FOR FIVE?

KEVIN: Kind of like DINNER FOR FIVE.  I dig it.  Times like this I'm not bored of talking about the movie.  When you get into one on one sometimes it's just a little tedious.

MARK: Well I wanted to ask you about Cannes.  You've had a lot of great experiences with crowd reaction with films.  But an eight minute standing ovation, that's gotta be just amazing.

KEVIN: That was kind of cool.  I don't know if Michael Moore still has the record, but he had like fourteen for FARENHIGHT 9-11.  But that's a very important movie.  Ours?  Very unimportant movie.  It was a terrifying year, because poor Richard went out there with SOUTHLAND TALES and got his ass handed to him, and the other Richard, Richard Linklater, went in strong with two movies, and the reviews were very like "Meh".  And then what's her name, Sofia Coppola went in there and got the widely reported booing at the critic's screening.  Which I don't think was as bad as they made it sound, but it's sexy copy.  "She got booed at Cannes!"  So I was just like, if they can't embrace the movie about a French queen, what the fuck chance do we got?!  They're not even gonna let us finish the end credits, they're just gonna boo it right out of the theater.  So it was actually kind of nice.  It was a cool way to watch the movie and whatnot.  You know in terms of my professional career, definitely one of the top 5 moments.  Might of been worth the effort.

MARK: Were a lot of the other directors standing around saying "Son of a bitch!"?

KEVIN: No, I think I'm the only director who goes to other director's movies.  Either that, or other directors just don't consider me a director.  Well Richard Kelly went to my screening, and he had a thing in his eye like "Jesus, this crap?  I did two hours and forty minutes or right brained thinking, you did this?"  So he was there, and that was nice.  Plus we were like 12:30 at night.  That's the other thing was we had a horrible screening slot, cause there's potential that people will flat out fall asleep during your movie.  And maybe that's what happened.  Maybe they fell asleep, and when it ended they were like (acts out waking up and clapping) "Amen, now I can go party."  I don't think I should ever go back to the festival though, because what could be better than that?  Even at nine minutes I'd just be like "Been there, done that."

Kevin's feelings about getting back into the CLERKS zone.

KEVIN: There was this unifying moment when we were in rehearsals.  I wanted to do heavy rehearsals.  The first time we rehearsed for like three weeks to a month straight before shooting.  So I was like let's do it again.  So me and Brian and Jeff would rehearse by ourselves in a threesome a week or two before Rosario got into the mix.  And then we'd bring Trevor in and Jen and Jason and stuff.  So the day of rehearsal I got Trevor, and I got Brian and I got Jeff.  You know it's a fine rehearsal, but nobody was off book yet, and people are still kind of figuring out line delivery and whatnot.  We were not camera ready by any stretch of the imagination.  Then Rosario shows up like two hours into rehearsal, and all three of those dudes collectively sucked in their guts.  And suddenly you got performances worthy of Olivier.  If I had a camera I could've shot them, because they were like pitch perfect almost on-camera performances.  And I was like "What the fuck happened?  You guys went from pigeons to peacocks!" just because the chick came in the room.  So like having her there really kind of elevated not just the movie itself but their performances, because they were trying to out-act everyone else to impress the pretty girl in the room.  So that was the moment where I was like "Wow, it's kind of like the first one."  On CLERKS it was like everyone was trying to impress Lisa Spoonhauer.  I guess Jeff really impressed her because he wound up marrying her at one point.  They were married for less than 10 years before they got divorced.  This time it was Rosario.  But Rosario came in with a boyfriend.  His name is Jason Lewis, he played this character called Smith Jared.  Anyone watch SEX AND THE CITY?  Am I the only one?  I love SEX AND THE CITY, and he played this character on the show where he made it so horrible to be me.  I always got over in life by being a fat dude with chicks, by being sensitive and funny.  I'll do anything for you, and I'm very placating and whatnot, and most dudes were hardbodies.  Love 'em and leave 'em, they don't need to play up to their sympathies or be sweet.  This dude comes on the show and he ruins the curve, cause he's cut from God's own wood, looks like a God, and he's sensitive.  He wants to hold Samantha's hand.  And I was like "Oh, it's ruined!"  It flies in the face of every theory I've ever had.  There's one moment in the movie where Rosario has to deliver the line about pretty boys, she's like "You'll always try harder than a pretty boy."  And damn if she don't deserve an award for delivering that line with a straight face.  She's dating a fucking pretty boy, but he's also a good dude at the same time.  She deserves an Academy Award alone for making you believe she would fuck Brian O'Halloran!  That's an Academy Award-winning performance right there.  So there was moments like that.  Even when we went back to the Quick Stop, there's no sense of like "Wow, we haven't been here in years." because it felt like we'd been back there many times.  But in rehearsals is where I felt like it was "Let's put on a show" time, it reminded me of back in the day.  The nice thing is back in the day we'd rehearse from like 10:30 at night until like 2 in the morning, because that's when the store was closed, and that's when I was done working and we pretty much had everyone's free time.  This time we got going at 2 in the afternoon.  A little more time sensitive or time friendly rehearsal periods.

Kevin talks about the MYSPACE promotion where fans can get their names added to the credits.

KEVIN: I've been a MYSPACE whore since March 18th, when I joined up.  It's so sad that I remember that day because it always takes me a few minutes to remember my anniversary... April 26th... April 25th!  But I remember exactly when I joined MYSPACE.  I fell in love with it, I thought it was kind of awesome.  You know I've been on the net since '95 with View Askew message boards and whatnot, but MYSPACE is a whole different beast altogether, and I got way into it.  And suddenly I was like "I need as many friends as possible" and I don't even know 'em.  So Weinstein company told me they were doing a promotion with MYSPACE after I've been on MYSPACE kind of promoting the movie since March.  They were going to have a contest where the first 10,000 people that signed up to a CLERKS II page they created will be added to the credits.  And I was like "That's fun and cool to the fans, but how do you think you're going to get any promotional value out of it whatsoever?"  I mean it's gonna be like a two minute contest.  They were like "No, it will stretch out to the release."  I was like "You watch man, the moment you open it up you're going to have 10,000 names."  Sure enough they launched the contest and got 10,000 names, and were like "Wow, that was fast."  So then they had to extend the contest, and now it's like anyone who signs up I think gets onto the DVD credits.  Like there's a full MYSPACE DVD credit.  Somewhere 100 years from now if anyone digs this up after nuclear war, and watches this DVD, people are gonna be like "What was MYSPACE?"  It feels like it's a very "of the moment" thing.  The cool thing about adding the 10,000 names to the theatrical release is that basically it's a trailer, it's a two and a half minute trailer that they tack on to the end of the movie proper.  So it's a cool and interesting promotion.  I've read any number of reactions to it on the web.  I thought it was a cool idea.  Not as cool as the in-theater commentary idea.  That was a dude named Ethan Noble with the Weinstein company, he was like "We're thinking about having you do a in-theater commentary track."  I was like "What do you mean?" and he said "We'd do it as a podcast, and you download it into your iPod and sync it up with the logo on the screen, and then you're doing a commentary track while the movie is playing."  I was like "That's fucking brilliant, how come no one has ever done that before?"  He said "I don't know, no one has ever cared about the fan base as much as you seem to, so you seem like the logical guy to kick it off."  So me, Jeff, and Scott Mosier recorded a commentary track.  We normally do that for the DVD, but now the Weinstein company is like "We'll make 'em go twice!"  So they'll release it the second week and they'll go back.  I don't think anyone would've gone with it the first time anyway, they'd maybe go the Monday after.  But I thought that was a really good idea.  I don't think it's going to add anything substantial to the box office, but maybe for people who are into it.  It's not very scene-specific the way we recorded it, cause I don't really like to wear headphones when we do the commentary track, we just let the movie play and we maintain a conversation the whole time.  Because when you put those headphones on, you tend to get caught up in the movie, and there are long stretches where you're not talking.  That's a boring commentary track.  So I make sure we don't wear headphones, and then we just kind of refer to the movie every once in a while.  So it's not very screen-specific, so you could technically probably sit at home and listen to it, and have the same effect as just watching it in a movie theater.  But of course I'm supposed to say "Oh, see it in a movie theater, see it twice!"

Kevin talks about what happened to the FLETCH, RANGER DANGER, and GREEN HORNET projects.

KEVIN: The FLETCH thing didn't happen because they wouldn't let me cast Jason Lee, and then I just lost interest.  Because I wanted Jason Lee to play Fletch.  RANGER DANGER is still somewhere in the distance, I just want to become more talented as a filmmaker before I tackle that, because that will be a bit pricier.  GREEN HORNET, I've thought about it and thought about it, and was so happy to be offered it by Harvey.  I was like "Oh, you want to give me 50 or 70 million dollars to make a comic book movie?" and he was like "Yeah you seem to like comic books."  That's the criteria?!?!  Go to San Diego Comic-Con, there 100,000 people there who could direct a movie for ya, they like comic books too.  But the more I thought about it, I'm just not talented enough to make a movie like that.  I don't know how to make movie that appeals to the mainstream.  I know how to make movies for the dudes that you look at curiously when you get out of your car at the mall.  That takes a degree of talent.  People crack on Michael Bay all the time, but I can't make a movie like Michael Bay.  That dude knows how to make those mainstream entertainments.  Same with Bryan Singer or Gore Verbinski, or any one of those cats who know how to make a bunch of people leave their houses on a Friday night and pay 10 or 15 bucks to go see a movie.  I'm also not that visually talented, and also don't have enough patience to shoot an action sequence.  You work two weeks on a three minute action sequence.  That's just nuts.  I'd rather work two weeks on 400 pages of dialogue where people are telling not showing.  That's what I do.  So I backed out of that, and I got some heat for it.  But you gotta go with your gut, and my gut is pretty big so I tend to listen to it.  My gut was telling me this is where you want to be right now.  JERSEY GIRL informed the making of CLERKS II.  I think CLERKS II is what it is, and I think it is strong because we made JERSEY GIRL.

Kevin and his wife Jennifer share a moment at Cannes, during that 8-minute standing ovation.

MARK: Your wife Jennifer and Harley are also in the movie.  What is it like trying to direct your wife, and also having to direct her having to kissing Brian O'Halloran?

KEVIN: You know if she'd been sitting on the swings making out with Affleck I might have sweated it a little more, because there's always a chance she'd be like "Maybe I should trade up."  But she's never going to trade across.  Why is she gonna leave one fat bearded guy for another, you know?  So that didn't bother me too much.  The funny thing was I didn't think about them kissing for most of the time we were shooting.  We did this crane shot, where we come off the top of the building, follow two Catholic school girls out then find them on the swing.  That's the opening shot to that sequence.  And 12 takes man, the camera would come down all fluid and sweet and pimp, and right as we hit them there'd be like this jump in the camera, like a bump.  And everyone thought it was me kicking the crane.  But I was watching the monitor, and I was like "Goddammit can we smooth that out?"  So we kept doing it and kept doing it trying to figure out what would keep it smoothest and why we were hitting that bump at that particular moment.  Around our 13th take we got our first fluid smooth take.  So I was like "We got one let's go for another."  And at that point you stop thinking about the technical aspect or the aesthetic of the shot, and you're looking at what's going on.  And I was like "Goddammit, he's been kissing my wife for over an hour straight."  I started thinking, I don't think I've ever kissed my wife for an hour.  When I kiss it's a prelude to fuckin.  We kiss for a few minutes and then my hand is up her shirt or down her pants.  She's just sitting there in a prolonged make out session, and with Brian O'Halloran of all people.  So that night when I got back to the motel room I was like "You and I are gonna make out for an hour and five minutes."  She was like "Why?"  And I said "Because he can't have the record.  I can't let Brian O'Halloran have that record."  We didn't make it to 20 minutes and I was like "Oh fuck this."  (motions pulling pants down)  It was cute for the next 24 hours.  He's got like that Van Dyke thing, and I guess my beard is kind of softer.  I cream rinse my shit in the morning.  I guess Brian doesn't, cause he got done kissing Jen all that time, and she had like this red Van Dyke on her face for the next 24 hours.  I thought it was kind of funny.


Look for more excerpts from this interview next week, after the San Diego Comic-Con is over.

Check out the VIEW ASKEW official website HERE.  Buy lots of stuff!

Find out more about Kevin Smith HERE.


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