The director of ''Dogma'' answers accusations that his religious comedy is blasphemous

By Liane Bonin
November 12, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
Lions Gate Films

Making a movie about a demon that travels through a toilet, a God who loves skeeball, and a heroic abortion-clinic employee would seem like a surefire way to tick off your local priest. But director-writer Kevin Smith, whose new movie ”Dogma” opens Friday, has not found the door barred at Sunday mass. ”I’m relatively anonymous at my church,” says the 29-year-old practicing Catholic. ”People don’t look at me like, ‘There’s Satan.”’

But after a vocal protest by the Catholic League, a media-protest group not sanctioned by the Catholic Church, some people think Smith is hell-bent for blasphemy. Not only has a fellow parishioner asked Smith’s priest to denounce ”Dogma” from the pulpit (he refused), Smith has received vicious hate mail, some of which he has featured on his website. ”Comparing me to Hitler is quite a stretch,” he deadpans. ”The letters have ranged from people telling me I should be ashamed of myself to some stuff of a more anti-Semitic nature aimed at Miramax chiefs Bob and Harvey Weinstein. One I will never forget said, ‘You Jews better take that money you stole from us and start investing in flak jackets because we’re coming in there with shotguns.’ And this from a Christian.”

Smith thinks the League might change its tune if its members actually saw the movie. ”A few weeks ago the Catholic League left this message at the office saying [Catholic League official] Dr. Donohue would like a screening set up so he can speak about the movie intelligently,” recalls Smith. ”What has he been doing for the last six months, speaking about it like a jackass? To which the answer is: yes. People are all stirred up about a movie that isn’t really out there. People who sit and watch the film may not get past the harsh language, but as to the religious content, I don’t think they could possibly have a qualm about it.”

Until the tide turns, Smith wishes he were walking in ”Stigmata” star Patricia Arquette’s carefree shoes. ”There was no protest over ‘Stigmata’ when it came out,” Smith says. ”They just dismissed it as trash. Why couldn’t we be dismissed as trash? We’re probably the trashier movie. I mean, we’re a comedy with a rubber poop monster in it.”