The following is the transcript, in its entirety, of the interview with film director Kevin Smith featured in the August edition of the News-Register. The interview was conducted by Dylan Biles on July 15.
Note: The interview was conducted in roundtable format. The other press members are listed here. Questions asked by other members of the press are denoted by a "Q." Questions asked by Dylan Biles are denoted by a "DB").
KS: Must be a slow news day in Dallas. How is everybody doin’?
Q We’re all gonna come at you with tape recorders.
KS: Carole, can I get a cup with water in it? You know what? I’ll just take that… is that my ice tea from earlier?
Handler: Yeah. You want me to see if I can find some ice for it?
KS: No, I’m just gonna ash in it. In this non-smoking room. That’s my quiet sort of rebellion. How’s everybody today?
KS (looking everyone in the eye): Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey…
Q: What’s up, bud?
KS: How are you? Good to see you!
Q: Thanks for adding us to your “boring ass life.”
KS: There you all were.
Q: Now it’s really boring.
KS: True dat…. So what should we talk about? Superman? Pirates of the Carribean?
Q: No, let’s talk about a good movie.
KS: It was a little… I just wanted to see him hit something.
A: Well, he hurled that island into the sun.
KS: … just something… he was a very reactive Superman. He’s catching shit all the time. I never any of this… whatever…
DB: I wanted to see him say something.
KS: Yeah… That would have been nice too… there was a lot of this (acts like he’s reacting to what someone says). But, still… any Superman movie is better than no Superman movie at all. Plus, that dude got to make… you look at that flick and you never say, like, “this was made by a fucking committee,” like that was one distinct vision… and anytime any director can make a movie that is the exact movie they want to make, that’s to be applauded. But when you do a $200 million movie, plus, that’s almost unheard of. But he might have used up his chits, now. You know? He might have used up that X-Men juice to make the Jesus/Superman movie. I don’t know if they’re gonna let him do that again next time. Next time they’re gonna be like, “Bryan, this time he has to hit a giant robot or something… this ain’t gonna pan out.”
Q: Or a giant spider.
KS: Or a giant spider would be even better. John Peters was on to something. I used to think he was nuts and now I’m just like, “he’s right.”
Q: So you’re probably sick and tired of talking about your movie.
KS: You know, honest to God, and I don’t say this because we’re in the midst of one, but I love roundtables. There’s just something nice about it because it’s like you’re having a conversation with a bunch of people. It’s like being at a party… that only lasts for like half an hour. It’s… I dunno… I dig it. So, times like this I’m not bored of talking about the movie. When you get into one on one’s sometimes it gets a little tedious. But, this is lively and it always moves along.
Q: Well, it’s fewer times you have to tell the same story.
Q: You can embellish for each.
KS: For every time, I know. Sometimes I just sit there and try to think of different ways to say the same thing and I’m just… I’m not that talented. So I wind up telling the same story over and over again. But I’ll endeavor not to do that right here.
Q: I wanted to ask you about, at Cannes, you know, you’ve had a lot of great experiences where, like, crowds have great reactions to films, but an 8 minute standing ovation… that’s gotta be just…
KS: That was kinda cool. I mean, I think… I don’t know if Michael Moore still has… if he has the record, but he had, what, 14 for Fahrenheit 9/11. But, that’s a very important movie. Ours' is a very unimportant movie. To walk away with 8 minutes… 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 (shakes hand back and forth), nyeeeh. And then, what’s her name, Sofia Coppolla 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 that’s sexy copy, that she got booed at Cannes. So I was just like, if they can’t embrace a movie about a French queen, what the fuck chance do we have? Our movie’s gonna go up and they aren’t even gonna let us finish the end credits, they’re just gonna boo it right out of the theater. So that was… it was actually kinda nice. It was a cool way to watch the movie and, you know, in terms of my professional career, it was definitely one of the top 5 moments. I left there going, “Well, that might have been worth all the effort.”
Q: Were all the other directors standing around going, “Son of a bitch,”?
KS: No… the other directors… I think I’m the only director who goes to other director’s movies. That or other directors just don’t consider me a director. But… well, Richard Kelly went to my screening too and he had like a think in his eye like (rolls his eyes), “Jesus…this crap? I did 2 hours and 40 minutes of, like, right-brained thinking and this?” So, he was there and that was nice. But, generally you don’t see a lot of other film folk. Plus we were on at like 12:30 at night, which was another thing where I was just like, “Wow, what a horrible screening slot,” you know? Because there’s potential that people flat out fall asleep during your movie. And maybe that’s what happened. They caught up on their sleep and when it ended they were like, (starts clapping), “Yea… now I can go party.”
DB: There was a little bit of symmetry for you at Cannes, though…
KS: A little bit… and I fought that symmetry pretty hard. I wanted to go to Sundance because that, to me, would have been truly symmetrical, and Harvey Weinstein was just like, “No dude, we’re going to Cannes.” And I was like, “Yeah, but our career sort of started at Sundance.” And he said that we’d also gone to Cannes with “Clerks” so let’s go back. I bitched and moaned about not going to Sundance because, to me, the genius of returning to Sundance with the sequel to a movie that launched at Sundance… we would have been the only Sundance sequel in history to play at Sundance because “Blair Witch 2” didn’t go to Sundance. So, I was just like, “Man, this would be great,” and Harvey just pooched it and was like, “No, you aren’t ready and the movie’s still too long,” because I think at that point we were about 15, 20 minutes longer than we are now. Cannes, he felt, was more important because, he said, “You know, we’re fine in the States… it’s your international profile that we need to develop.” I was like, “Why, I make movies in English. I don’t give a shit about overseas. I don’t read the foreign reviews. I read the reviews in the United States… that’s where I live.” But, he called it. It was a fuckin’ move. Sometimes I wonder if he, cause I gave him so much shit about not going to Sundance, I often think that before the screening began at Cannes he paid everyone to stand up and clap because he was like, “I gotta get this fat-ass to quit bitching. So please, give him a standing ovation.” But he was present for it and that was cool. So there was a degree of symmetry there. It was nice. I don’t think I should ever go back to that festival though, because what could be better than that? Like, even at 9 minutes it would just be, “been there, done that.” So, I can’t imagine it being better. During that whole week leading up to that screening I kept thinking that nothing would ever top the first time we were here back in ’94 because everything was so brand new and the shock that we had made a movie in the first place, we were still trying to come to grips with it. And to have it played at not just Sundance but at Cannes, and we were meeting people left and right… hanging out with Quentin… it was just… Everyday something new happened and you were like, “I can’t believe that this is our life for the moment.” So, I didn’t think anything could surpass that, and this kind of went above and beyond that. But just that one day, just the one screening, because the 6 days leading up to it sucked. It really sucked just sitting around Cannes watching other people’s movies, because it was hot and I’m not a guy who likes to be in the Mediterranean because that’s where people tend to wear less clothes. I’m a layers man. So I’m the only dude on the Coisette wearing long sleeves sweating balls with two shirts on while chicks on the beach are topless and shit. It’s just not my cup… I like… you know… hold a film festival in Wisconsin, I’m totally there. That’s my kind of film festival. But it was nice to sort of go out on that note.
Q: Well, this was obviously a lot of fun to make. Was there a specific moment where you guys all kind of knew you were back in the Clerks zone?
KS: You know, there was this unifying moment when we were in rehearsals and it started off with… I wanted to do heavy rehearsals. The first time we rehearsed for like 3 weeks to a month straight before shooting, so I was like, “Let’s do it again.” Me and Brian and Jeff would rehearse by ourselves in a threesome a week or two before Rosario kind of got into the mix. Then we brought Trevor in and Jenn and Jason and stuff. So there’s this day at rehearsal, I got Trevor, I got Brian and I got Jeff and, you know, it’s a fine rehearsal but nobody’s off book yet and people are still kind of figuring out line-delivery and what not and we were not camera ready by any stretch of the imagination. Then Rosario shows up two hours into the rehearsal and it was like all three of those dudes collectively sucked in their guts and suddenly gave performances worthy of Olivier. If I’d had a camera I could have shot them because they were like pitch perfect almost on camera performances and I was like, “What the fuck happened? You guys went pigeons to peacocks just because the chick came in the room.” And, so, having her there really kind of elevated not just the movie itself but their performances because everyone was trying to out-act everyone else to impress the pretty movie girl in the room. I dunno. That was the moment when I was just like, “wow, it’s kinda like the first one except like now, everyone’s not trying to impress Lisa.” On “Clerks” it was Jeff and Brian trying to impress Lisa Spoonauer, and I guess Jeff really impressed her because he ended up marrying her at one point, and they were married for close to 10 years before they got divorced. This time around it was Rosario, but Rosario came in with a boyfriend. She’s dating Smith Jerrod from “Sex and the City.” His name’s Jason Willis but he played the character Smith Jerrod… anyone watch Sex and the City besides me? I’m the only one?
KS: I love “Sex and the City” and he played this character in the show where he made it so horrible to be me because I always got over in life as a fat dude with chicks by being sensitive and kind of funny, and be all, “I’ll do anything for you,” and very placating and what not, and most dude with hardbodies that were good looking and shit were just kind of love ‘em and leave ‘em, they don’t need to play up to their sympathies or kind of be sweet. This dude comes on the show and he ruins the curve. He’s cut from God’s own wood, he looks like a God, and he’s sensitive and also wants to hold Samantha’s hand and shit. I was like, “Ugh! He’s ruined it.” He flies in the face of every theory I’ve ever had, and there’s one moment in the movie where Rosario has to deliver the line about pretty boys, where she’s like, “You’ll always try harder than a pretty boy,” and damned if she don’t deserve an award for delivering that line with a straight face cause she’s dating a fucking pretty boy, but he’s also a good dude at the same time. She deserves and Academy Award alone for making you fucking believe she would fuck Brian O’Halloran. That’s an Academy Award worthy performance right there. So, I dunno… there were moments like that rehearsal moment. I mean, even when we went back to the Quik-Stop, there was no sense of like not being there in years cause it felt like we’d been there many times before and what not, but in rehearsals I really felt like it was “Let’s put on a show”-time, and it reminded me of back in the day. The nice thing is that back in the day we rehearsed from like 10:30 at night until 2 in the morning because that’s when the store was closed and that’s when we had everyone with free time. This time around we got at like 2 in the afternoon… A little more time-friendly.
Q: Was that an actual fast food place?
KS: It used to be a Burger King and then it closed down and we took it over… I took the space. They were going to bulldoze it and create condos in that space, so we were able to get it pretty cheap for, like, two months before they took it down. I tell you, the business to be in these days is not the movies, it’s fast food, because you can’t find a closed down fast food joint. It took us two months to find a closed-down fast food joint. It was cost-prohibitive to build one from scratch, so we wanted to find one that had just recently closed down or was abandoned that we could kind of go in and turn into our own… Couldn’t find one, man. It was insane. Every time we went looking for one… there was a Burger King that was closed in Jersey, and we went to rent it and Wendy’s swept in and bought it and Biggie-sized it. Those places don’t close. Apparently Americans really like fast food. So, we had to create that, and we found one in Buena Park which is, out in California, where Knott’s Berry Farm is, like a big theme park. They built this Burger King… like, you’ve got Knott’s Berry Farm and… is there a Six Flags here? Anytime you put up one of those theme parks, there’s a strip in front of it and everybody builds around it so that spill over goes into their joints, and Buena Park is no different. You’ve got a main drag, Knott’s Berry Farm is there, they put up a Medieval Times there, a McDonald’s over there…. There’s now a live pirate’s show… all these places taking up the strip, and then one street over, like, within sight of the Knott’s Berry Farm, but Knott’s Berry Farm can’t see you, is this fucking Burger King. Like some dude was just, “Let’s build it here where nobody will every see it.” They built it in a location where… the burger joint itself was a pretty decent size, but the parking lot that it was situated in was the largest parking lot I’ve ever seen outside of like The Mall of America. It was a massive, like, three football fields size parking lot where the guy was like, “Give us a lot of parking, because they’re coming.” And they never fucking came. So, wisely a few years later they opened up a Burger King on the main drag and this one kind of went to seed and what not, and it sat empty for a while and then we kinda got in there. You know it didn’t have that fast food smell to it. I guess homeless people had lived there, so it smelled like what happens to fast food afterwards. But we got real lucky. It had this hotel next to it, this Day’s Inn hotel and when we went to scout the location I was looking at the motel and there was a sign that said $30 bucks a night for a room. I was like, “That’s cheap.” It’s not like a hotel where you go in and go up the elevator to your room, it’s a motel where you pull up with a hooker and spend 10 minutes and then leave. So, $30 bucks a night, and I turned to Laura, our line producer, and was like, “Wouldn’t it make as much financial sense if we just rented out rooms for dressing rooms instead of bringing in trailers and shit like that? I mean, let’s do the math on it.” So she did the math and she’s like, “It’s relatively close, but I guarantee if we rented out enough rooms we could get the rate knocked down,” and they knocked it down to essentially $15 bucks a night. So instead of having little dinky trailers and what not where the bathrooms in those things are even smaller. It’s tough for a man of any girth to take a shit, we got motel rooms where there’s a nice space between the tub and the toilet and shit like that. So people got to use those as the dressing rooms. We figured people would be there during the day and between takes, but it was such a “let’s put on a show, let’s go to camp,” kind of affair that everyone just wound up staying over night at the Day’s Inn. Even right up to Rosario. Rosario was happy to stay there. She went to Target and bought new sheets, but she was so happy to just kind of hang out and live at the Day’s Inn. We had the whole top floor, and Jason Mewes was like Julie the cruise director from the Love Boat. He organized poker games and pizza parties and shit like that. It was weird, because normally when you are done shooting a flick, everyone wants to go home right away, but everyone just hung out and what not. It was kind of nice. It was sad to see the movie end for that very reason. It’s nice when you get everyone kind of saying that they are there… they’re certainly not there for the money, although we were able to pay people this time around, but like no one was gonna get rich off of making the movie, not even me, fucking sadly. But still they were there because they sorta dug being there. I don’t even know if they all loved the project so much, but they had such a good time making it that they fell in love with it. It’s weird when you’ve got grips electric coming up to you and making suggestions because they believe in the project. Normally those dudes are like, “What do you think?” They’re like, “Whatever, I’m plugging shit in.” These dudes actually kinda got emotionally invested in the story. We had this one jail scene we did in rehearsal where it was just me and Brian and Jeff at the actual location, and I did a closed-set blocking rehearsal with the boys because they didn’t get a lot of time to rehearse that at the beginning of the show. It was so long, and we were going to shoot it at the end, so I was like, "Let's just worry about everything that's gonna go on at Mooby’s. So we went through it and I really liked what the guys did and I was like, “Let’s bring the crew in and do the blocking rehearsal in front of the crew. So all the Keys were watching because the sound people have to figure out where they are going to hang the mike and the grips and electric figure out where they are going to hang the lights and all that stuff. So they’re watching the rehearsal, and the boys finish up the blocking rehearsal, it’s like a 10-minute scene, and something that’s never happened on any other show, the crew started applauding. I was just like, “That’s fucking nuts man. I’ve never seen that happen,” I mean, I’ve worked with Ben Affleck, and I was like, “Well maybe that’s part of the problem.” But it was really like kind of touching, because they were into the guy’s performance. For that few minutes they stopped being crew dudes working on the movie and they just became people watching live theater. So, we got lucky. We got really lucky because the crew kind of fell in love with the movie right away.
Q: I gotta ask about the MySpace promotion. You got 10,000 people you are going to add to the credits. Is it going to be the longest credits ever?
KS: That contest was something… I’ve been a MySpace whore from like, since March 18th I joined it, which is so sad that I remember that day cause it always takes me a few days to remember my anniversary… April 26th… no, April 25th. See, I always mess that up. But I tell you exactly when I joined MySpace, and I fell in love with it and thought it was kind of awesome, cause you know I’d been on the net since late ’95 with View Askew, the message board and what not. But MySpace was a whole different beast all together and I got way into it and suddenly I was like, “I need as many friends as possible.” So, … and I don’t even know them. So, Miramax… Miramax, I always do that…. Weinstein company, cause they were Miramax up till about 10 minutes ago, told me, “Hey, we’re doing a promotion with MySpace,” after I’ve been on MySpace promoting the movie since March and they said, “Hey, we’ve got a great idea,” and I was like, “What is it?” They said, “We’re gonna have a contest for the first 10,000 people who sign up on a Clerks II page we’re creating will be added to the credits.” And I was just like, “Well, that’s fun, that’s cool for the fans, but how do you think you are gonna get any promotional value out of it whatsoever? It’s gonna be a 2 minute contest.” And they were like, “No, no, no. It will stretch out to the release,” and I was like, “You watch, man, the moment you open it up, 2 hours later you are gonna have 10,000 names.” So, sure enough they launched the contest and (snap) got 10,000 names and they said, “Oh, that was fast.” So then they had to expand the contest, so now it’s like anyone who signs up gets onto the DVD credits. There’s a full MySpace DVD credits. So somewhere, you know, 100 years from now if anyone digs this up out of the earth after the coming nuclear war, and watches the DVD, people are gonna be like, “What was MySpace?” It seems like 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, like a 2 1/2 minute trailer that they added on to the end of the movie proper, because I was like, “We locked our credits. I’ve got no space for MySpace credits.” It’s particularly, with Harvey Weinstein who’s such a prickly bear about running time, I was like, “Dude, just because the movie’s now 2 1/2 minutes longer, that’s your problem, not mine. Don’t be telling me to cut something because you want to put in these credits.” They were like, “No, it goes onto the end of the credits.” So, it’s a cool, interesting promotion and stuff like that, and I’ve read any number of reactions to it on the web. People who got involved with it are happy and think it’s cool, and then there are the armchair haters who are like, “This is desperate,” and I’m just thinking, “Whatever.” This guy’s not right and that guy’s not right and somewhere in between is the truth. I thought it was kinda cool. Not as cool as the in theater commentary, which I thought was a genius idea. That was a dude Ethan Noble at the Weinstein Company who said, “We’re thinking about having you do an in-theater commentary track.” I was like, “What do you mean?” and he said, “We do it as a podcast and you download it onto your iPod, you sync it up with the logo on the screen, and then your doing a commentary track while the movie’s playing on the screen. I was like, “That’s fucking brilliant. Why has nobody done that before?” He said, “Well, most people don’t care about the fanbase as much as you seem to, so you seem like the logical guy to kick it off, “ and I was like, “totally,” so me, Jeff and Scott Mosier recorded the commentary track. Normally you do that for the DVD, but now, like second week of release the Weinstein Company’s like, “We’ll make ‘em go twice!” So, it’s the second week and we’ll make them go back and… I don’t think anyone would have gone the first time with it anyway, I guess it makes sense to do it the Monday after [release] 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 people who are into it… I mean, and also, it’s such a… it’s not very scene specific the way we recorded it because I don’t really like to wear headphones when we do the commentary track and just let the movie play and maintain the conversation the whole time. Once you put those headphones on you tend to get caught up in the movie, and then there are long stretches where you aren’t talking and that’s a boring commentary track. So, I make sure we don’t wear the headphones, and then we just refer to the movie every once in a while. So it’s not very screen specific, so you could probably, technically, listen at home and have the same effect as watching it in the movie theater. But of course I’m supposed to say “go see it in the theater.” See it twice.
DB: I’m shocked to find this is all about money.
KS: (chuckles) Yeah, isn’t that weird? I always thought it was show, and not show business. It’s really all about business, man, at the end of the day for those cats. I mean… I get it. I’m certainly not naïve to the process at this point and, you know, as long as there’s a way to kind of work within that system and make it work for you or, you know, where you don’t feel like, “Well shit, I’m such a whore…” Like, making this movie for $20 million would have been stupid, because when you have an ass-to-mouth conversation in a movie, you gotta seal it because not everyone’s going to see that picture. So, for doing it for like $5 million bucks, it was real easy to walk in there and be like, “Give me $5 million bucks to make Clerks II,” and they were like, “Done and done.” They knew that if nobody showed up to see it theatrically, then they’d still kill on DVD. So, taking less money means you can get away with a lot more. So you can have the donkey show, you can have the ass-to-mouth conversations and not have to worry about people not showing up. Like they’re all going to see Pirates and shit, and that’s really not our audience, but you’ve got a rarified audience who’s interested in hearing about massive clits and porchmonkey and stuff like that. So, you know, there’s a way to kind of work within that structure or to make it work for you to some degree and get away with what you want to get away with. It’s just kind of about being responsible with whatever story you are telling. Like figuring out, “What’s the least amount of money we can do it for so that it’ll satisfy their bottom line and we get to creatively do what we want to do.”
DB: When you were doing… I mean, you had Green Hornet, Fletch and Ranger Danger all on your plate, and you’ve talked a lot about doing the Clerks 10th anniversary DVD and kind of fell back in love with those characters, but didn’t you find it kind of risky? Because…
DB: … those characters have become iconic.
KS: I did… but it’s weird, because I went like, on the internet when we announced we were doing the Clerks sequel, there were a very vocal minority that was like, “Ah, he’s a chickenshit because Jersey Girl tanked, and he’s too afraid to tackle the Green Hornet. He’s just retreating and retrenching to familiar territory,” and I was like, man, that’s weird. I don’t see it like that because it’s actually more risky to go fuck with the sacred cow of the first movie that does have this weird, hardcore fanbase to it. And people that, for whatever reason call it a cult classic or call it the seminal ‘90’s indie film, or something like that, I think it’s a little riskier doing something like that than doing the Green Hornet where you are starting from scratch and it’s like, yeah, it may not work, but nobody’s gonna castigate you for doing it. Is that even a word? It is, isn’t it?
A: (affirmative murmers).
KS: Sometimes it slips. I’ll be 36 in August, I’m getting old. So, it was… it came down to… the Fletch thing didn’t happen because they wouldn’t let me cast Jason (Lee), and I just kind of lost interest because I wanted Jason Lee to play the part. Ranger Danger is still somewhere in the distance, but I just want to become more talented as a filmmaker before I tackle that, because that will be a bit pricier. Green Hornet; I thought about it and thought about it, and I was so happy to be offered it, you know, by Harvey because I was like, you want to give me $50-$70 million dollars to make a comic book movie? And he was like, “Yeah, you seem to like comic books.” And I was like, “That’s the criteria? We’ll go to the San Diego ComicCon. There’s about 1000 people who will direct the movie for you!” But the more I thought about it, I was like, man, I’m not talented enough to make a movie like that. I don’t know how to make movies that appeal to the mainstream. I know how to make movies that appeal to the dudes who you look at kind of curiously when you get out of your car at the mall, but I don’t know that I can make the kind of movie where people are like, “Pack up the kids, honey, we’re going to the movies!” 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 that kind of entertainment. Same with Bryan Singer. Same with Gore Verbinski. Same with any of those cats who know how to make people leave their houses on a Friday night and pay 10-15 bucks to see a movie. So I was just like, “I can’t do it.” And also, I’m not that visually talented. I don’t have enough patience to shoot an action sequence. You’ll work two weeks on a three-minute action sequence. I’d rather work two weeks on 400 pages of dialog where people are telling, not showing. That’s what I do. So, I backed out of that, and I did get some heat for it, but you’ve got to go with your gut, and my gut’s pretty big, so I tend to listen to it. My gut was telling me that this was where I wanted to be right now. The movie is definitely something of a… like Jersey Girl informed the making of Clerks II on many different levels. I think Clerks II is what it is and it is strong because we made Jersey Girl. It’s something I would never talk about in production. People would be like, “What’s the script like?” and I’d say, “Oh, it’s kind of a cross between Clerks and Chasing Amy,” when actually it was kind of a cross between Clerks and Jersey Girl. But you don’t want to say that because people would be like, “What? Why would you do that? Jersey Girl sucked!” But it is kind of informed by what Jersey Girl was, and it was also informed by the making of Jersey Girl. Some people felt like that movie didn’t do well and so this was me retrenching, but they missed the target but hit the tree. Jersey Girl played a role, even in the midst of making that movie, I was sitting there going, “The next movie I make, I’m going to make on a low budget with nobody famous,” because there’s something weird about working with celebrities. I mean, I love Ben… I keep casting the dude… but there’s a lot of baggage that comes with casting famous people. You spend two years of your life trying to tell a story, and at the end of it all, all anyone wants to talk about was, “Did you see the big pink diamond? What’s it like?” They just want to know what those two are really like together. And I was like, “Man, I was not the third in their ménage a trios. If you want to know what they are like, ask them.” It’s just kind of disheartening when a back-story becomes more prominent than the story you are trying to tell, and maybe that’s by virtue of the fact that the story we were trying to tell wasn’t interesting enough and people were more interested in the two people who were fucking on the movie. I felt like, “Man, next time I make a movie, I’m going to make a movie where no one is going to give a shit if they are fucking.” Unless, Brian and Jeff start fucking, and then end up in the pages of In Touch Weekly, which would be excellent for our movie in the post-Brokeback era, it’s very cool to be gay. So, Jersey Girl definitely played a role and, I dunno, I probably went way far a field from you question…
DB: No…, but it… the movie felt to me, when I left it, that it was more of like Jersey Girl and Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back because you had the… revisiting the having the characters come back, but kind of had that vibe of Jersey Girl, that was endearing.
KS: That’s the strange thing. Jersey Girl. I remember reading the reviews of Jersey Girl and a lot of people came at me for being overly sentimental. Just like, “This movie’s too sappy. It’s so sentimental to a fault.” I look at Jersey Girl and I look at Clerks II and I think they have equal amounts of sentiment, but you get away with the sentiment in Clerks II because there’s a donkeyshow. You can be sappy and have a dude tearfully tell another dude he loves him, as long as a few minutes before some dude was drilling a donkey up the ass. It’s weird what you get away with. Last movie we had a little girl, so we couldn’t have a donkey show. I guess people like their sentiment balanced with, at least in my case, edge to even it out a little bit more.
PR Lady: One more question and then we’ll rap it up.
KS: Let’s do five more questions.
Q: I suspect I know the answer to this, but did Jason Mewes have any reservations about his Silence of the Lambs scene.
KS: (laughs) Mewes was… ever since that movie, shit, since before Silence came out, Mewes was the king of the tuckback. You’d just be somewhere in public or back at the house, and you’d hear, “Kev!” and you’d look back and he’s just got his mangina on display. All of the sudden the meat and veggies are just packed down below and he’s just standing there. So, he’d been doing it for so long, and I was like, “One day I’m going to put that in a movie, man.” He was like, “Yeah, right.” So I wrote it, and he looked at the script and he sort of panicked and said, “Dude, I’m not going to do this scene!” I was like, “Why not? You do it all the time for free! What, are you afraid people are going to see your dick?” And he said, “Well, it’s a tuck, so nobody’s going to see my dick,” and it feels weird when you get outwitted by Jason Mewes. He’s got a point. So I was like, “What are you worried about?” He told me, “Man, I’m gonna have my shirt off and people are going to look at my stomach. I’m going to have to start doing sit-ups.” And I’m like, “So wait a second, you are going to tuck your dick and your balls back towards your asshole and stand there looking like you have a vagina, and what you are worried about is your stomach?…”
(This is where the tape ran out)
KS: I have a very strong diaphragm. It was the movie… It’s what I really like about the movie. It really was a warts and all, 10 years later picture. Really, technically it is 12 years later. You look at the boys and it’s just, they are older. Usually, in movies, they try to dress people up really well and make them pretty and shit, and we were just the opposite. We were like, “Get out there and look like yourself.” There’s something kind of sweet about seeing them be a little paunchier. I know I am, I’m a lot fatter than I was 12 years ago. So, I think it kind of helps the movie. In the way that the black and white in the first movie was kind of the unwritten star of the flick, there was something endearing about it, I think the uncredited start of this movie is everybody’s gut. The paunch just kind of adds something to it.
Q: Jennifer, your wife, and Harley are also in this movie. What is it like trying to direct your wife and also trying to direct her having to kiss…
KS: Making out with O’Halloren?
KS: If she’d been sitting on the swings making out with Affleck, I might have sweated it a little bit, because there’s always a chance she might start thinking, “Maybe I should trade up.” She’s never going to trade across, thought, because why would she trade one fat dude for another? So, that didn’t bother me too much. The funny thing was, though, I didn’t think about them kissing for most of the time we were shooting. We were doing this crane shot where we came off the top of the building and find them on the swings. That’s the opening shot to that sequence. 12 takes, the camera would come down all fluid and smooth and then all the sudden, as soon as you hit them, you’d see this jump in the camera, and everyone thought it was me kicking the camera. I was watching the monitor, and I was like, “God Damn, can we smooth that shit out?” So we kept doing it, trying to figure out what would keep it smooth. Finally on our 13th take, we got our first fluid, smooth take. I was like, “Ok, we got one, let’s go for another.” At that point you stop thinking about the technical aspect, or the aesthetic of the shot, and you start thinking at what’s going on, and I realized that 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 straight. I kiss and it’s a prelude to fucking. We start kissing and then my hands up her shirt and down her pants. This dude’s sitting there in a prolonged make out session. Brian O’Halloren of all people. So that night, when she got back to the hotel room, I told her, “You and I are going to make out for an hour and 45 minutes.” She was like, “Why?” and I told her it was because he couldn’t have the record. I can’t let Brian O’Halloren have the record. We didn’t make it 20 minutes before I was like, “Ah, fuck this…” She did. It was cute. For the next 24 hours…. He’s got that Van Dyke thing, and I guess my beard is softer because I cream rinse my shit in the morning and I guess Brian doesn’t. He got done kissing Jenn all that time, and she had this red Van Dyke for the next 24 hours.
Q: How did you approach this from a script perspective? You knew you were going to have to do something different, but…
KS: Right, it’s kind of a tricky thing. How, when you are doing a sequel… I mean, we’ve done interconnected movies many times in the past, but this is the first out and out sequel. It has a “II” in the title, so there’s no denying that it’s a sequel. It’s a weird concoction about if they have to be familiar with the first one or not. There has to be a familiarity from the first one, but you have to move everything forward as well. It would have been way easier to be 90 minutes of Brian O’Halloren saying, “I’m STILL not even supposed to be here today,” just ringing the same bell, but I felt like it was enough to just know the guys and know that they had been in the first one and know some stuff, and everything else was going to be kind of different. Like, when I gave Jeff the script, he said “I can’t believe it dude, you don’t do any of the same jokes. It’s pretty original.” I was like, “Thanks for the fucking vote of confidence. What did you think I was going to do?” and he said, “I don’t know, the same thing.” I never tried to be better than Clerks, because that’s a recipe for failure, but I just tried to be as good as the first one. I didn’t want people walking out going, “That fucking blows, Clerks rules.” I wanted people to be able to be like, “You know what? This was as good as Clerks,” and if some people thought it was better, then so be it. I wanted it to be able to stand next to the original one and be a worthy successor so that people could be like, “it wasn’t a waste of time.” I read this quote once where someone said, “Nobody does any sequel for anything but money. The first one you do for love, the second one you do for money.” And I think we might be the exception to that rule, because nobody got rich doing fucking Clerks II by any stretch of the imagination. So, it was… when I went into writing it, I knew there were bullet points I wanted to hit because I’d been thinking about doing a Clerks II for a while, since Dogma… we teased it at the end of Dogma, where it says “Jay and Silent Bob will return in Clerks II: Hardly Clerking,” and then that became Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and then we went on to Jersey Girl. So I had these ideas and I knew it was going to open with the story burning down so it could get us out of the convenience store, I knew there would be a dance sequence where someone was falling in love, and I wanted to do it kind of visually rather than write a long speech. Like, Chasing Amy, Ben is trying to tell Joey’s character that he loves her, and it’s a two pages of dialog, and I was thinking about doing this with this scene between Becky and Dante, but then I was like, “Maybe I should show and not tell this time,” and kind of went for the more visual representation of what I felt like it was like to fall in love. So, I knew I wanted to do the dance sequence, I knew it would end with them owning the store, I knew there would be that pull back, and then it was just a matter of shading it in between those points, and that’s where the real movie happens. So when I sat down to write it, I started writing their conversations, and their conversations shape the scene and lead to the next scene. I always figured that, since Randal’s kind of like me and I don’t’ have an original thought in my head – everything I learned in my life I learned from watching a movie – and if Randal was like, “We have to throw a bachelor party,” then he’d immediately think of Tom Hanks’ Bachelor Party and think about doing a donkey show, so I knew there’d be a donkey show as well. But it was pretty easy. It was just fun. Three weeks later I had the script and felt like, “Wow, this is it.” For me, I love doing the jokes and all, but I couldn’t’ want to get to the jail scene because that was where the heart and soul of the hole picture. I knew I had to have Jay and Bob to make the jokes, but I felt like if we do enough laughs and get to that jail sequence, I felt like I earned the right to kick back and do something a little deeper with those dudes, to show some sentiment in their adulthood. But the long and short of it is I approached it the way I approach every script. I let it write itself. I just kind of sit there and one conversation leads to another.
Q: Will the DVD be a longer version of the film?
KS: It’s not much longer. I don’t like those cuts where you add stuff back into the movie. The theatrical cut, to me, is the director’s cut because that’s the one that I eventually settle on. But there’s some cut stuff, like, in the scene where they go to the go-cart track, when they are coming back in the car they have a brief conversation. There’s like five or six more minutes where they have a longer conversation. They kind of go into this long breakdown dissertation. Randal’s trying to convince Dante that it’s entirely possible for him to impregnate his own mother by jerking off in the bathroom at work. Very, very funny and Brian and Jeff were like, it was eight pages long in a two shot, and they pulled it off like champs. Jeff had monologues where he’s just trying to convince Brian of this, really, really funny monologues. But when I had the picture cut together I was just like, “This is the only scene in the whole movie that feels like it came out of the last movie.” So, by virtue of that, it stuck out, and I thought, “You know, this will be a great DVD extra, but let’s move forward rather than kind of dwell in the past.” So, I know there’s going to be some of that cut material, but there’s also a big documentary. Zach and Joey, Zach is the guy that plays the donkey-fucker, but he is the guy who has been shooting a documentary with Joey. They’ve been working in our office since Jay and Silent Bob came out, and they worked on that Clerks documentary that’s on the Clerks X DVD. So, they’ve been shooting hundreds of hours of footage, all through pre, all through production and all through post. We’ve turned a lot of them into those little shorts on the Clerks II website, the Train Wreck video blogs, but really they’ve been compiling this big documentary about the making of the movie since its inception to its theatrical release, so that will definitely be on there. It will be its own disc, like 90-minutes to two hours.
Q: Now that there’s a two, will there be a three?
KS: If there was… let’s say we opened up and in some bizarre, reverse universe we did Pirates of the Carribean numbers, you know, where suddenly Clerks II caught fire and they’re like, “You did $132 million dollar opening weekend.” First I would fucking pass out. I’d immediately fucking be like, “So long, thanks for all the fish,” and get the fuck out of Dodge. But, if that happened and Harvey Weinstein called me up and said, “You need to get started on Clerks III tomorrow,” I don’t think I could do it. I mean I know I couldn’t do it. It took me a long time to get to a Clerks II and it was never a forgone conclusion that it would ever happen, it just felt like that it was the movie to make at that time. So, if I was ever to think about a Clerks III it would probably be when I hit my 40’s. Clerks is my movie about what it felt like to be in my twenties, Clerks II was what I felt like it was like to be in my 30’s, if I had anything to say about being in my 40’s, if life is all that different, then I image Dante and Randal would be just the guys to help me do it.
Q: The conclusion was a sequel like… it set everything up.
KS: Yeah. I guess so. I guess, if there was another one, it would be about those dudes, like two fucking slacker fucks working for those dudes. Life coming full circle and putting them really into hell. I don’t know. Certainly no plans at the moment. It feels real nice right now as a real bookend between Clerks and Clerks II and all those movies, the View Askewniverse movies we call them, are all connected, minus Jersey Girl which wasn’t set in that continuity. Clerks and Clerks II bookends them really nicely.
DB: Are you done with the Askewniverse now? After Jay and Silent Bob, you said you weren’t going back to the characters and you obviously have now, are you done with it now, do you think?
KS: It feels like, after the… The lesson of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is never say never, because then I went into Clerks II and I took a lot of shit from people saying, “You said you were done!” So, now I’ll never say never. That being said, it feels like that’s the logical conclusion, more-so than Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. End on the note that started you. Without Dante and Randal I wouldn’t be here today having this conversation. They really kinda put me on the map and it feels better to kind of go out with them than to go out with Jay and Silent Bob. Leave the party with who you came with.
DB: It was good luck that you didn’t kill Dante in the first one, huh?
KS: (laughs) I guess, but I think that would have been an awesome beginning to Clerks II. (To everyone else), Because at the end of the original Clerks, we killed Dante off and then we lopped that ending, but if Clerks II began with Randal reading over a grave the Necronomicon in the middle of a fucking rainstorm, with lightning and you just see this hand jut up out of the grave. Randal then helps Dante out of the grave and they start having a conversation about Star Wars and anal sex… Great beginning to Clerks II… and then never reference the fact that he was dead again. Thankfully, we got to start the way we did.
Q: Would you ever write an episode of My Name is Earl, because that seems like the kind of show that you could write a really great script for?
KS: Thank you. I was talking to (Jason) Lee a couple of weeks back, it was at a kid’s birthday party that we were both at, for my kid, and he was trying to convince me to come direct an episode and I was like, “Dude, I’ve watched that show and it’s too good looking.” I don’t make good looking things. And he was like, “What about writing one?” and I don’t know. It takes a large degree of talent to write comedy that quickly. I tend to write long scenes and what not and they have page and a half scenes that are really compact, tight and funny. I just don’t know if I could work in that tight milieu. 22 minutes? That’s like a whole episode is 22 minutes, and I’m just getting warmed up at 22 minutes. I don’t know if I could pull it off. But I keep telling him that I’m going to definitely come and try to direct one of the episodes and see if I can kind of do it. TV scares me because it’s a well-oiled machine by the time you get there as a guest director and, I mean, I guess that might be a cool thing because I won’t have to work to hard because they’ve established the look and then it becomes more about the performances. You know, in the case, you watch that show and all of the actor’s performances are top notch. It’s not like I could bring anything extra to the mix. So I’m just like, "Dude, put me on the show." And Lee's like, "You're not an actor," and I said, “I know, but I like to be on TV.” So, hopefully I’ll end up on the show in the future. They need to make me, like, Randy’s kind of the dopey brother, can’t I be your retarded cousin?
DB: Has Earl given Fletch any new life?
KS: No, and I hoped it would. When the first episode aired and they got great numbers and Jason Lee’s face was on billboards all around town, I called up Harvey Weinstein and said, “Dude, now can I fucking cast Jason Lee as Fletch?” After five years of asking him to do so and having him say now, he was like, “It’s too late, he’s too old,” and I was like, “Fuck!” So, Jason Lee has also kind of lost interest in it over the years, too. I mean, we were gung-ho to do it for 5 years, but then, after hearing no for so long, and now he’s got Earl, he’s just like, “Forget it, if I’m not wanted I’m not going to do it,” and that’s a shame because I think he would have been quite tremendous. But its awesome to see him get the success with that show, because he’s such a good guy, and he’s such a hard-worker, and a really talented, off-beat performer and they found the perfect vehicle for him to kind of showcase him and let him do his thing. He’s such a sweet guy. Very few of them are just good guys in the business and that guy, like Affleck, he’s nice than Affleck. Affleck has an edge to him a bit. Jason is just all gratitude and grace. Its really weird, we went this Q&A while we were shooting Chasing Amy, and they were just showing Mallrats, and I was going to do this Q&A and Joey (Lauren Adams), Jason and Ben were all in Mallrats, so I was like, “Why don’t you guys come with me?” So we all went, and the screening ends and I get up and introduce myself and say, “I brought some people with me,” and I introduced Joey Adams, and there’s a round of applause, and Ben Affleck, and there’s another round of applause, and I was like, “Jason Lee,” and you would have thought Christ was coming into Jerusalem. All we were missing were the donkey’s and the palms. They were just apeshit for the dude, because they’d just watched Brodie for 90 minutes and love him to death. So we get into the Q&A part, somebody asks him a question and they hand Jason the mike and like, 400 people lean forward because they are thinking, “Here comes the funny,” and he’s just not that guy. Like, he gets the mike and he says, “I’d just like to take this moment to acknowledge Kevin for casting me in this movie because it changed my life and I’ll be forever grateful.” And he passed the mike back and everyone’s just like (looks around confused), “alright,” and they started clapping. But they were like, “Where’s the jokes and shit?” but he’s just not that dude. He’s a sweetheart of a guy.
Handler: You guy’s got everything you need?
KS: Well, thanks for making the time. It’s a nice way to end the Dallas press day.