Kevin Smith says Harvey Weinstein still owes him royalties from Clerks
In a new interview with Variety, Smith reveals that Weinstein, who is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence after being convicted of a criminal sex act and rape, delayed paying him royalties from Clerks — some of which he still hasn't received.
"He was notorious for that. I did encounter that. And I’m still out money," Smith says. "But you got to understand, I never cared about the money. My whole career, my reps were like: 'You’re supposed to be making far more.' Money's never been a motivator for me."
Smith sold Clerks, his first movie, to Weinstein out of the Sundance Film Festival in 1994 for $227,000, and according to their initial agreement, Smith would receive more money if the movie became profitable. After it became a cult hit, grossing millions of dollars, Smith says it took Weinstein years to pay him what he was owed.
"This much I know. They bought Clerks for $227,000," Smith says. "And the movie went out and made $3 million at the box office and stuff. And it took seven years for us to see any profit from that movie. For seven years, they were like, 'Nope, the movie is still not in profit.' And we were like, 'How?' And then there were things."
Smith goes on to detail how Weinstein billed Clerks for some of the costs of renting a yacht at the Cannes Film Festival that was actually for other films like for Pulp Fiction. "There were four movies that Miramax took to the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 — Fresh, The Picture Bride, Clerks, and Pulp Fiction. Miramax didn’t get Clerks in," he says. "We were in the International Critics Week section, which we actually won. I get flown over by the festival. I was given a free hotel room from the festival. This is a long way of saying Miramax didn’t have to pay for anything."
He continues, "There was a yacht, the Miramax yacht, it was called. That’s where all the stars were. But that yacht wasn’t for us. When the festival was over, we got the financial statement. They had taken the entire Cannes bill, everything they spent in Cannes, and just chopped it up into four and Clerks was charged as much as Pulp Fiction. So we all paid an equal share. I remember John Sloss, my lawyer, being like, 'This is nuts. We have to audit them.' And I said, 'No, I can’t audit people I’m in business with. That’s gross.' And we never audited them for years until after Clerks 2."
Smith reveals that it was years later when he finally got "a bunch of money" owed to him from Clerks. "If I was a better business person, I would have gone for more money," he says. "But it felt like – 'Oh, there it is. That’s their process. Movie math.' And, to be fair, I worked at studios and they have way more paperwork and you can see where every dime is going. But the nature of this business is everybody wants to keep as much money as they possibly can."
As for why Smith kept working for Weinstein after that ordeal, he explains that he learned to get "paid upfront from each movie."
"Believe me, I ain’t crying poor. And I got ridiculous escalating salaries," he says. "By the time I did Zack and Miri Make a Porno, I think I made between $5 or $6 million. So come on, that’s ridiculous. But that was my salary. Upfront money was so good. I was never like, 'Hey man, where’s those nickels and dimes on the back end?' And perhaps that’s why they kept making movies with me, even though my movies weren’t box-office profitable. Home video, they were goldmines. That’s really why they kept me around."