Kevin Smith knows you probably won’t see Yoga Hosers this weekend, and that’s okay. Throughout what has been a 22-year career, Smith has endured his fair share of box office disappointments — but he’s also seen some of those same films grow to become cult sensations. So Smith, 46, is confident that his latest effort — a cartoonish romp starring his daughter Harley Quinn Smith and Johnny Depp’s daughter Lily-Rose Depp as a pair of Canadian convenience store employees who have to use their punk attitude, millennial savvy, and questionable yoga training to outfox both Satanist bros and tiny Canadian Nazis made out of bratwurst — will find its audience eventually, whether in movie theaters this weekend or in Netflix queues to come.
Ahead of the film’s release, Smith spoke with EW about the movie’s evolution, his career, and how working with his daughter revitalized his passion for film. Yoga Hosers is in theaters now.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: These characters first appeared in a scene during Tusk, and now have their own movie full of Canadian bratwurst Nazis. How did that come about?
KEVIN SMITH: I think really it just came out of a fear-based place. I thought It’d be cool to make a whole movie with those kids. But after I said that, my next thought was, “Oh my god, if you make a movie with your kid you’re gonna get shredded on the internet. Nobody wants to see this movie but you.” So you realize right away you gotta cross a few hurdles in order to do the thing you want to do, which is see the movie. But I’m a middle-aged man, I just turned 46. I don’t have much time left. When I was a kid I had all the time in the world — so now I feel like, go to the thing that makes you scared, because that’s usually the most fulfilling thing in my case. In order to tell the stories you want to tell, you have to accept early on that sometimes, you and the audience will be in perfect tune and they’ll want to see what you want to show them, and sometimes you stand alone. As long as you get your investors their money back, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Mallrats, my second movie out of the gate, taught me that. Critics hated it, it made no f—ing money, cost $5 million to make and I think we made $2 million in theaters. The message was clear, and there was no internet at that point. I was told repeatedly that it was a failure, and I remember one specific review that was like, “Who did he make this movie for? The audience for this movie doesn’t exist.” I remember that was ‘95. Now, that’s the movie most people talk to me about. It’s the one that’s aged pretty well, considering it’s a world in which everyone knows Stan Lee’s name, and that’s kind of the world we live in now. So I remember when I made it I was told it was a failure, and now 20 years later we’re about to do it as a TV series. You can never tell.
So Yoga Hosers came from a place of fear, which is appropriate because it’s a quasi-horror movie, based specifically on the kinds of horror movies I used to watch on cable TV in the ’80s, and of course the Full Moon movies, which I was a big fan of on home video back when I was a video store clerk. So it’s an homage to those two things, plus a big fat homage to Strange Brew, one of my favorite films of all time. It was one of those movies I stumbled across on TV as a kid, and it became my religion. Which I’m kind of hoping that happens with Yoga Hosers. It’s certainly not gonna happen in theaters, but I always dream about some 12-year-old girl stumbling across it on cable or, let’s be honest, Netflix, and she sees the image of two girls standing next to each other and they’re not fighting over some boy or something like that, but instead they’re fighting these little Nazi sausages. Hopefully she gives it a spin and she’s like, “Oh my god somebody made a movie just for me.” Sometimes, even though it’s scary, you want to make the f—ing thing that you just want to see. That’s kind of been the philosophy of my whole life.
There does seem to be a paradoxical fascination with box office numbers that’s at odds with the way we’ve seen so many movies grow audiences over time.
That’s the sexy part of it. That’s the thing you can communicate easily to generate interest, because that’s all free advertising, the box office reports and stuff. I understand the place for that. It’s fun, that’s how the business works. But you’re right, for all intents and purposes, you’re making art even when you’re making something like Yoga Hosers. Art’s life is told over a long period of time. I’m happy to sit here 22 years after Clerks and still be able to reference Clerks. That movie made an impact and it aged well. I never thought it would find a home, and even after Miramax picked it up I didn’t think it would age past the ’90s. But oddly enough, if you have a sh–ty job, you have a sh–ty job. That translates over decades and generations. So I don’t invest as much in the opening. I know where my true strengths are, and it’s later on. The movie will find its audience; it’s a waiting game. I get the immediacy of the box office. Money is important, I’m not dismissing it, but longevity is the key. You don’t know about that until way down the road, so that’s why I spin as many plates as possible.
So how does the final version of Yoga Hosers match up to your original vision for it?
It got pretty damn close. It’s a movie about teenage girls fighting phallic monsters as written by one of their fathers. You don’t have to be Freud to figure this f—ing picture out. It’s more like a live-action cartoon, the closest I’ll ever come to making a superhero movie. It changed as we were making it because Michael Parks was meant to be in the third act, and he was going to play that guy living under the convenience store. He was playing it more like Joel Grey in Cabaret, so he wasn’t doing a bunch of impressions. Michael got sick unfortunately and we couldn’t get him into the flick, he was kind of indisposed while we were shooting. So I had to scramble to redo the third act. Ralph Garman is a guy I do podcasts with every week, and I’ve sat next to him from sea to shining sea watching him slay every single the audience with those same four impressions he does. And if I cast Ralph, I get to cast Al Pacino and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Adam West.
So it changed from the original conception. Boy, it always changes. For example, the first thought I had about Yoga Hosers was it was gonna be set at a summer camp. It was gonna be more Friday the 13th than anything else. But then I remembered in that scene from Tusk I had them at a convenience store, so that should be the focus because that’s what people know about those characters. So I re-conceived it. Originally, it was going to be called Hero Girl Clerks of the Canadian Wilderness, but after I shifted it to the convenience store, suddenly it became more in the podcast world. We did an episode of a podcast called “Yoga Hosers.” I took the name and the idea of a Canadian yogi who’s very pleased with himself and misuses yoga. It was informed by a bunch of different sources. It evolved many times over the course of the two years we put it together, but I love what it is. I’m never like “man, you should’ve seen the other version.”
What was it like for you and Johnny Depp making a whole movie with your daughters?
Well I can’t speak for him, although he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. For me, it was heaven. I was actually trying to move away from filmmaking a couple years back. I felt like I’d done it so much, and was having way more fun doing podcasts and TV stuff. I was like, “Maybe you had your run and that’s cool.” But once the kid fell in love with acting, suddenly I had a renewed interest in filmmaking because she never showed interest in this stuff growing up. So the fact that suddenly she was into it, made me into it again. It reignited my passion for film because I was like, you mean I can tell stories with my kid? That’s something I hadn’t thought of. Plus, I could give her a film school education. Rather than sending her to college, I could be like look at this. This is what you want to do? This is the greatest trade and tech school in the world, being on a movie set. It really did it for me in a way where I’m like, yeah, I’ll make movies. I’ll just make the movies that only I would bother making, which means chances are not a lot of people are going to be into them. But periodically, my interests and the audience’s interests will be on the same page, and it’ll work.