Expect more controversy from the ''Clerks'' creator

By Jeff Jensen
Updated August 27, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

Wasn’t this supposed to be the one that wouldn’t make anyone mad? The one where everyone would just laugh and laugh and laugh? ”It was. It truly was,” says Kevin Smith, sounding bone-weary from weeks of stumping for — and defending — his latest writing?directing effort, ”Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” a potty-mouthed, movie-spoofing $20 million comedy starring Jason Mewes and Smith himself as the titular hopped-up horndogs. Dotted with cameos from Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Chris Rock, and a slew of other actors who’ve appeared in his four previous films, ”Jay” was intended to be Smith’s controversy-free follow-up to 1999’s ”Dogma,” which rankled Catholic groups for its irreverent look at faith.

For fans of the Jersey-based, low-fi auteur, who made his debut in 1994 with ”Clerks,” Smith’s fifth flick will no doubt fill them with hero-done-good pride. In turn, Smith calls Jay a ”valentine to the people who helped put us here now.” The Miramax-produced movie’s winking plot has the dopey duo storming Hollywood to put the kibosh on a Miramax-produced movie about stoner superheroes based on them. Along the way, there are playful potshots at ”Scooby-Doo,” ”Planet of the Apes,” ”American Pie,” and even Smith’s beloved ”Star Wars” (a ”blunt-saber”-wielding Mark Hamill has what’s easily the film’s best line — unprintable, of course). With Lee and Affleck reprising roles from 1997’s ”Chasing Amy,” Smith says ”Jay” marks the closure of his ”askewniverse” of recurring characters. ”It’s just time to move on,” he says.

Some people seem to feel he can’t move on soon enough. Last month, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) voiced outrage over the R-rated film’s saturation of crudely articulated jokes. Though Smith takes offense at GLAAD’s offense, he has made a $10,000 donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation and added a credit-roll disclaimer denouncing real-life hate speech. He now considers it a dead issue, noting that ”things quieted down in the press considerably once Ben checked into Promises,” a reference to Affleck’s recent decision to enter rehab for alcohol abuse. Smith has had other things to worry about, too — like a last-second decision to create expletive-free TV spots with himself and Mewes as their onscreen alter egos to promote their movie. Smith also seems aware that ”Jay” may not please the same critics who championed ”Chasing Amy” and ”Dogma.” He’s fiercely proud of his latest film but concedes they may have a point.

”The stuff I’ve done until now was written from the perspective of a person who didn’t work in the movie business,” says Smith. ”The danger is, if your personal life becomes less interesting than it was before you became a filmmaker, you’ve run out of real things to say.” The director, who’s married (his wife, Jennifer, appears in ”Jay” as a jewel thief) and has a 2-year-old daughter, says his next movie, which he hopes to shoot in 2002 with his ”Chasing Amy” cast of Affleck, Lee, and former girlfriend Joey Lauren Adams, will be a low-budget ”chamber piece” that deals with very personal subject matter: fatherhood.

Now 31, Smith figures he has about nine years left in the movie business; he has long planned to retire by age 40. He’s at work on a follow-up to the 1985 Chevy Chase comedy ”Fletch,” and he’s editing together six episodes of his canceled ABC animated series ”Clerks” into a feature. ”How many more experiences can one have to write about?” says Smith. ”The only real big thing you have left to talk about is death, and when I do know enough about that, I won’t be making movies anymore.”


  • Movie
  • R
  • 92 minutes
  • Kevin Smith