Hollywood Lost And Found
An Evening with Kevin Smith
My first impression of Kevin Smith's movie Dogma came on one of my routine trips to Disneyland. As we were pulling into the entrance we were met with a mass of angry people holding anti-Dogma signs. Apparently Disney is a parent company of the company that was releasing Dogma or some such thing. Who cares. I flipped 'em off. I didn't know what Dogma was all about, but Clerks rocked and I generally have a low opinion of whiney-assed babies who have nothing better to do than butt into other people's business. If they don't want to watch the movie, then don't watch it...leave us Disneyland patrons alone. Geez, we just want to spend a quiet afternoon with the Mouse.
It turned out that I thought Dogma, like Smith's other movies, was hilarious. That did it, I was officially a Kevin Smith fan! So when I had the opportunity to attend his lecture at the Academy on December 7, 2000, I jumped at the chance.
The first thing I noticed was this is not your usual Academy crowd. I'm used to seeing a mix of old guys in suits and golf shirts and of course groups of film school students, but this was something else. The place was full of kids who looked like extras in Kevin Smith films. I could hear them greeting each other with "Dude!" all over the theater.
I showed up that night with the expectations of seeing Silent Bob. Silent Bob never showed up. Instead, this shorthaired guy who wears the same kind of glasses as my father walked up to the podium carrying a toddler. The little girl immediately reached out of her daddy's arms and pulled the windscreen off of the microphone. Kevin Smith then put his daughter down and she waddled off the stage toward her mother, who was bent over waiting to pick her up. With his wife's butt fully aimed at the audience, Kevin picked that moment to exclaim "that's who I f#@&ked to get that kid." A few minutes later he asked to get the windscreen back from his daughter because he kept popping his Ps. "Daddy's breathing like a fat man up here!"
After a brief intro, Kevin stated that he didn't bring any clips, had nothing prepared to talk about, and wanted to get right into the Q & A. One of his first comments was "I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Academy" as it was unlikely to come up again. He was unlike any other lecturer I had heard at the Academy; foul without being too offensive. And like he said, as he was going over some of the plot points of Chasing Amy, "I believe this is the first time fisting has ever been addressed at the Academy."
One by one, the questioners were given a chance to talk to Kevin. Some of them were kind of lame, but many inspired Kevin to tell some pretty interesting stories. If the questioner would tell too much about him or herself, Kevin would bring them back with "Can you bring this back around to me?"
It was obvious throughout the course of the evening, that Kevin had a great affection for the actors in his movies, and he loved to tell little stories about them. His frankness and humor was first rate. Through much of the lecture, I had tears running down my face and a stomach ache from laughing so hard. It's difficult to convey the deadpan expressions and charismatic smile that accompanied Kevin's answers.
As Kevin did with his first movie, Clerks, he emphatically told an aspiring filmmaker to make a small movie, and finance it himself. He also stated that he doesn't allow for any improv or ad lib in his movies, everything is acted exactly as he wrote it. He said that Ben Affleck drove him nuts by throwing in his ad lib lines. Kevin told him to "put all of your ad libs together and write your own damn movie!" Which he did ... and won an Oscar.
He also talked about skateboarder-turned-actor, Jason Lee. After meeting Jason during an audition, Kevin couldn't find a part for him, but kept calling him back because he was fun. So Jason would come back, hang out with them some more, only to be called back again a month later. Jason likes to use the word porno a lot. Whenever. Such as "let's all go hop in the porno van and go get lunch." Also, if he thought something was good, he would call it Burt Reynolds. "That was the Burt Reynolds shot!" When Jason finally got Internet access, Kevin asked him how he liked it. Jason's response? "You've got mail!"
Kevin said that he was first inspired to make a movie when he saw "Slackers." He was sitting in the audience thinking, "I can do better than this!" So when people come up to him and say "Your movie Clerks inspired me to get into filmmaking," Kevin said he knows what they're really thinking "I can do better than this!" To which, he jokingly replied, "Would you like to step outside?"
|Kevin's story about why Silent Bob finally broke silence in his movie Clerks was surprising. He said many people thought that he did it for art's sake, to which he teasingly replied "oh, uh...sure, yeah...that's it!" In reality, Kevin confessed, he had to take over when the actor who played Jay, Jason Mewes, was smoking pot and kept messing up his line. Finally, Kevin told him to just go, that he would take care of things. So, Silent Bob's first words weren't a powerful social point, it was just because Jay was stoned.
I was particularly interested to hear about how the movie Dogma came about. Kevin grew up in Catholic school as "a big fan of the Lord" and he made the movie Dogma to honor God. He had no idea that it would stir up such controversy. Before the movie was released, the Catholic League started a lot of protests against Dogma, based on rumors that they had heard about the movie. As Kevin said "the money they used to print out all of the anti-Dogma brochures could have fed a third world nation."
He said it was a nice opportunity to learn more about his fellow Christian, he got lots of letters that started out "you f#@&ing Jew [referring to the head of Miramax Harvey Weinstein], and Kevin, you should know better."
When Kevin found out that the Knights of Columbus threatened to show up with 500 people to protest at the opening of Dogma, Kevin decided to show up. He made some multicolored signs, complete with glitter, such as "Dogma is Dogs#&t" and showed up at the theater where the protest was held. He was disappointed to find only about 15 people had shown. A news van showed up and the anchor asked him if he was Kevin Smith, he denied it and proceeded to tell her what an evil movie that Dogma is. The other protesters had a little talk with him about the use of the word "dogs#&t" on his sign, and he had the opportunity to listen to the hateful things these Christians had to say about his mother. It was, all in all, an educational evening for Kevin.
Once the movie was released, all of the protests died down. His favorite come back was "You ARE aware it was jut a movie, right?"
Kevin also had an interesting story to tell about being hired to write the script for the remake of Superman, which was to star Nicholas Cage. The producer, Jon Peters was Barbara Streisand's hairdresser, who later married Barbara and produced some of her movies. Kevin met with Peters at his house to go over the script with him. Peters then told Kevin the three points that Kevin had to adhere to when writing the script:
1) Superman couldn't wear the Superman suit.
2) Superman couldn't fly.
3) In the third act, Superman should fight with a giant spider.
Kevin was incredulous. When he went back to the Warner Brothers studio, they asked him "is Jon still talking about the giant spider?" He found out that Jon Peters had attended open house at his kid's school and learned that spiders are the fiercest creatures in the animal kingdom.
Tim Burton was hired to direct Superman, and eventually hired his own writers. In the end Superman was never made.
An interesting postscript to this story is that later Kevin went to see the movie Wild Wild West. Jon Peters finally got his giant spider.
Kevin talked about the series of Fletch novels. He talked about making another Fletch movie, a prequel. He also mentioned something about egging Reese Witherspoon's house. When asked what he looks for when casting, his answer was "Who can give a good blow job. That's why Ben Affleck is in so many of my films."
Kevin Smith kept talking to his fans until finally someone from the Academy told him that the time was up, and the lecture was brought to an abrupt close. At the request of someone in the audience, Kevin graciously agreed to stay afterward and sign autographs and pose for pictures. I could have stayed there a couple of more hours just to see what would come out of his mouth next. That was one of the most enjoyable evenings I had ever spent at the Academy, but after the blunt observations and gratuitous use of the f-word, I kind of doubt Kevin will ever be asked back again.
--Hollywood Lost and Found
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