Guys on film

Bob Grimm talks shop with indie film legend Kevin Smith

Why is Kevin Smith smiling? Partially because his upcoming movie, Clerks 2, is turning out to be really funny, and partially because he got to talk with notorious RN&R movie critic Bob Grimm.

Why is Kevin Smith smiling? Partially because his upcoming movie, Clerks 2, is turning out to be really funny, and partially because he got to talk with notorious RN&R movie critic Bob Grimm.

Ten years after it made critics retch, writer-director Kevin Smith’s Mallrats has gone on to enjoy cult status. Smith talked with the RN&R about the second DVD treatment for his unjustly maligned sophomore effort. He also discussed some of his favorite movies, a bizarre film idea that never happened, and why he decided to bring back Jay and Silent Bob.

The new Mallrats DVD has an extended cut, which you have deemed “The Version That Shouldn’t Exist.” Why?

It’s just way too long. When we got done with the first cut of the movie, (producer) Scott Mosier and I were like [defiantly], “A two-hour comedy called Mallrats where they don’t get to the mall until a half hour in will work theatrically!” We believed that until we had our first test screening, and the fucking audience just obliterated the movie. As a result of the test screening, we shot a new beginning, the scene that opens the theatrical cut of the movie, and we were off and running. And then it was all for naught anyway because the movie only made two million bucks. The extended cut on the DVD is the version we showed at the test screening.

The slapstick in Mallrats, especially the stuff with Jay and Silent Bob, has an Abbott and Costello/Marx Brothers vibe. When Jay and Silent Bob square off against the shit demon in Dogma, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein comes to mind.

I’ll let you in on a funny little secret that I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody, but since it’ll never come to fruition, here it is. After we did Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Bob Weinstein called me one night about midnight, and he goes [in his best Weinstein voice], “I have a brilliant idea. You know the arc of classic comedy teams? First they start off in another movie, then they get their own movie? What did they then do?” And I was like “Uhh … retired?” And he says, “No, think about it. What did Abbott and Costello do eventually? They met monsters, right? And I’m like, “Bob, do you want to make a Jay and Silent Bob meet monsters movie?” And he’s like “I’ve got Hellraiser, I’ve got Children of the Corn, and I’ve got Michael Meyers’ Halloween. So you put Jay and Silent Bob in with those guys.” So for about five minutes we all mulled over Jay & Silent Bob Meet Michael Meyers. My favorite was the idea where Jay and Silent Bob meet Hellraiser, where they find the box, and their version of Hell is they wind up in rehab. It will never come to pass, but I thought that was kind of funny. Bob wasn’t wrong. The arc exists in cinema history, but I just don’t know if we were necessarily meant to be part of that arc.

Oh man, I want Jay and Silent Bob meet Pinhead.

I told Ben Affleck that story once, who stared at me blankly for about 10 seconds and goes, “You know, at first I was going to say that’s fucking retarded, but I bet you a lot of people would go to see that movie.”

I teach a film class at Truckee Meadows Community College. The other night, I showed Jaws, a film you have listed as one of your favorites. Less than half the class had really seen Jaws before I screened it.

I just assume that everybody in the world has seen Jaws. What are you doing in a film class? You’ve got to imagine that in order to join a film class, you have to be interested in film history or cinema in general, and not just like, “Yeah I saw the Adam Sandler movies, they were fucking awesome.” There’s a place for Adam Sandler movies, just like there’s a place for my stuff, but God, there are so many wonderful movies that so many people today haven’t seen. It just blows my mind. Whenever people ask me “What’s your favorite movie?” I always list five, and I put them in no particular order, because I can’t narrow it down to just one. It’s JFK, The Last Temptation of Christ, Do the Right Thing, A Man for All Seasons and Jaws. The most surprise I always get is off of A Man for All Seasons, but I do definitely get a percentage of the people going “Jaws? Really?” It’s Spielberg’s best movie, and Schindler’s List comes in a close second.

I brought up Do the Right Thing the other night; not one student out of about 40 had seen it.

Get out of here. That’s the film that opened up my social consciousness. It was just a huge eye opener for me. That was also the model for Clerks. Do the Right Thing happens all in the span of one day, as does Clerks. Thing happens in the span of one block, and so does Clerks. That’s why with the original ending of Clerks I tried to twist it (with main character Dante getting shot to death), and do something, do a socially relevant message. But I had nothing to say, so our original ending doesn’t work. That original ending was my Mookie (Spike Lee) throwing the can through the window.

I showed Do the Right Thing in class, and it caused a major argument among the students.

Does it still have that effect? That’s beautiful. Very rarely does a movie elicit a reaction, let alone an opinion. When a movie can really bring out passion, that’s a classic. Lee never has to make another good movie as far as I’m concerned. That’s a brilliant film, and if you can get one brilliant film out of a filmmaker, that’s all you can ask for over a career.

After Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, you said you were done with the characters. Now they will be returning in Clerks 2 (currently in production). Why the change of heart?

I had kind of had it up to here with Jason Mewes, who had a pretty bad drug problem in those days. But then Mewes cleaned up, so that kind of brightened the future for any possible View Askew movies. Then we worked on the Clerks X DVD and fell in love with the characters again. After Jersey Girl, it was just like, “I don’t want to work with fucking movie stars anymore. I want to work with real people like Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran again just for fun.” So it all kind of led to reopening the book so to speak. I don’t want to oversell it, but Clerks 2 is really, really fucking funny.

Kevin Smith is currently doing a video production diary at www.newsaskew.com that is tracking the progress of Clerks 2: The Passion of the Clerks, the follow-up to his debut film, which he has dubbed “a disaster in the making.”