Kevin Smith remains one of America’s most iconoclastic filmmakers, offering a somewhat skewed view of contemporary Americana, satirising pop culture at every turn. Those elements are more prevalent than ever in his hilarious new flick, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and this time, nothing is sacred. Paul Fischer talked to Smith recently.
After Kevin Smith took on what some critics felt, was a ponderously philosophical tone in Dogma, the director whom his fans know and love has bounced back in true irreverent style, with his satiric Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It is clear when looking at the film, how much fun Smith had in poking fun at all aspects of American pop culture, a feat he happily admits having worked towards “from Clerks right through this movie.” Looking a bit paunchy and eagerly puffing on a cigarette, the recently married director admits that “the funniest aspect of doing this movie was constantly turning to the audience going: I can’t believe you’re still here; I can’t believe you’re still watching this.” What Smith revelled in, with this film, “was just criticising the movie as we went along. There was an earlier joke at one point during the movie where we were going to stop it cold, and invite a critic like Roger Ebert to come in and review the movie thus far, but I thought that was too precious.” Smith does laugh at himself, not only as we watch this film, but as he happily criticises what he has done, admitting, “that when I watch it I realise it’s me pulling myself for 90 minutes; a real homage which I hope people will at least people will chuckle through. It seems to work as the audiences seem to dig it.”
Smith’s latest New Jersey-set comedy has Jay and Silent Bob learning that a “Bluntman and Chronic” movie is being made featuring their comic book counterparts, drooling at the thought of fat movie cheques rolling in. But when the pair finds that there won’t be any royalties coming their way, they set out to sabotage the flick at all costs. The often stoned pair makes the cross-country trip from New Jersey to Hollywood and along the way they meet up with a quartet of sexy diamond thieves, an orang-utan, and up crashing their way on the Miramax studios sound stages with hysterical results, culminating in a Star Wars-style duel with Mark Hamill no less. “Working with him was pretty cool”, says this die-hard Star Wars fan. “Mind you, I was more a Darth Vader fan than a Luke Skywalker fan, which was why it was fun to fight him”, he says smilingly
Asked how Jay and Silent Bob have changed since their first appearance back in Clerks, and Smith happily concedes that they haven’t. “They haven’t grown or matured one bit”, Smith retorts. “They’ve grown FATTER, as I have, but they haven’t changed, which I think is what is charming about them.” Further defining their appeal, Kevin adds that “Jay is a creature of the Id, who has no filter as to what to say; he just says what’s on his mind. So what’s funny about the character is his lack of moral boundary. He says what he says without thinking of the repercussions, and I’m there to just roll my eyes.” Smith believes that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back “is probably my least mature film to date”, an accomplishment, he says, he is very proud of. “We did two films back-to-back that dealt with weightier subjects [Chasing Amy and Dogma] so it was nice to make a movie that just had NO weighty subject matter to it whatsoever. Even the satire is below-the-belt.” Smith, who is a huge fan of the web, also pokes fun at the Internet “which I’m most proud of, going after the fucking armchair directors of the Internet, and even that is still low-blow stuff, not sharp satire, just satire which is dark and blunt.”
Satire, however, that is an antidote to his much-criticised and controversial Dogma. “After dealing with the controversy surrounding Dogma, not to mention the 400,000 pieces of hate mail and death threats, I really wanted to make a movie where the worst thing that could happen at the end of the day, was somebody would write on a web site that ‘Kevin Smith sucks cock’ and spell ‘cock’ wrong. That’s the worst that could happen on THIS movie, while Dogma was such a trial.” So much of a trial, that Miramax dumped the movie, but happily, the brothers Weinstein made up with Kevin, and with Jay and Silent Bob, Smith has taken pleasure in satirising the studio with some choice moments. “I think the reason I was able to get away with doing that, was payback; they felt bad about dumping Dogma, so they let me bash them a bit in THIS movie, and they were cool with it. I think their philosophy was: If anyone’s going to make fun of us, it might as well be one of our own.” Smith is unconcerned that the film’s plethora of inside jokes pertaining to Hollywood will not cross over to a broader audience. “It’s not like you’re sitting through The Player; this is a pretty broad comedy about Hollywood.”
Smith fans will be sad – or relieved- that Kevin is putting Jay and Silent Bob to rest. “If EVER there was a Silent Bob era, this is the end of it, to say the least. I might still continue to work on him in the comics, because that way, he’ll never age, not to mention stay the same weight.” So a new phase for Mr Smith continues, with a new film based on the Fletch private eye films, or an autobiographical comedy on fatherhood.