..Gary Dretzka
..
Noah Forrest
..Leonard Klady
..David Poland
..Douglas Pratt
..Ray Pride
..Kim Voynar
..Michael Wilmington

June 14, 2006
May 24, 2006
May 15, 2006
March 14, 2006
January 14, 2006
January 2, 2006
Nov 29, 2005
Nov 21, 2005
Nov 11, 2005
Nov 6, 2005
October 31, 2005
October 22, 2005
August 18, 2005

 

 






Almost 7,000 loquacious effing words from Kevin Smith about Clerks II and his adventures into growing up, "interspecies erotica"; how his movie got an R rating on the first pass and why it shouldn't have; how strange it is to share the MGM logo with The Wizard of Oz; the origins of a sexual practice graphically described in the movie, shorthanded as "ATM"; the story of "Oh!"; and the famous man who doesn't get Silence of the Lambs references. Swearing, graphic sexual language, and Weinstein Company financial strategies follow, along with third act spoilers.


The Passion of the Clerks

Verbal, vulgar, raunchy and relentless, Kevin Smith's Clerks II (***) is an improbable personal statement about love and destiny, especially considering the nine-minute donkey show scene.

Dante and Randall (Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson) are pushing the big 33 in a new dead-end job. After the demise of the grotty Quick Stop mini-mart, the pair mans the grills at a ridiculous fast-food chain outlet called Mooby's. Extended rants about the virtues of George Lucas, Christ and Peter Jackson bubble up, of course, especially from an inspired character, a co-worker named Elias (Trevor Fehrman), a "sheltered, battered puppy" in Smith's formulation. Fehrman's dazed, non-druggy physical humor is almost as much fun to watch as Rosario Dawson playing Becky, the joint's unlikely manager. (Smith's choice to keep the camera on Dawson without cutaways whenever she flirts, cajoles, swears, or dabbles in scatology makes this a very special film for that alone.) Dante's getting married, though, and moving to Florida with his bride-to-be (played by Smith's wife, Jennifer Schwalbach). Who'll be more upset when Dante's gone? Randall or Becky? Let the swears begin. Smith, Fehrman and I spoke in a boardroom atop the Chicago Four Seasons Hotel on June 21, well before the current Internet conflagration over certain reviewers being barred from screenings and Joel Siegel's now-notorious walkout from a New York preview. When I enter, Smith and Fehrman are embellishing a game of keep-away with a business card from a radio show they'd been on the day before. Smith wears a baseball jacket emblazoned with the legend, "Total Whore." (This garrulous conversation contains profanity, explicit sexual language and third act spoilers.)

PRIDE: Was "The Passion of the Clerks" a joke title?

SMITH: No. That was originally the title. It wasn't always a joke, I liked it. 'Cos I thought... there's obviously a joke to it. But I thought it was oddly appropriate on a couple of different levels.

PRIDE: If we're going by the numbers, Randall and Dante are coming up on the big 33...

SMITH: Yeah, but when we announced it and it went out on the net, the general reaction was, I can't wait to see more Dante and Randall, [and] that is a horrible fuckin' title. So they beat it out of me. But I'm not like, "Oh man, I wish I'd stuck with the title." I like Clerks II. It's the undersell. Like, Passion of the Clerks, that, even, that implies expectation. Clerks II, to me, is just like, there's no oversell to it whatsoever. It's just like, there it is. Either you like a II or not.

PRIDE: When you were promoting Jersey Girl, the Passion of the Christ had just opened and you were anxious to see it. So now are you looking forward to Superman Returns [which opened the following week]?

SMITH: Superman, I guess opening day. There's no way I'm getting into a press screening 'cos for the next week it's nonstop press for me.

PRIDE: No issues about it, from having written one of the many scripts?

SMITH: No. I had no issues when they told me I was off the project back in '96. Like, I did my two drafts, and they were like, "We hired Tim Burton and Tim Burton wants to bring on another writer." And I was like, "Done and done." It was not a fulfilling experience. It's not like I hold that up and go, "Man, this is a prime example of my writing, and boy, this would be the best Superman movie of all time." It was working within the lines. It was coloring within the lines. Too many fucking parameters. He's gotta have a giant spider. Too many parameters. It never felt like mine.

PRIDE: Jeez, how many movies lately have had giant spiders?

SMITH: Any movie Jon Peters is involved with has had a giant spider.

PRIDE: I think I have a pretty good understanding of why the Weinstein Company and MGM are working together. But when I saw the MGM logo, I had a big smile. The classic lion logo, you don't tamper with it. But it sets in a few seconds later: MGM is a signatory to the MPAA, so there's no way you could have gone out without a rating. You had to get the R.

SMITH: Which was a big worry for us. 'Cos, when we were done shooting in Los Angeles, but right before we went to Jersey to do the last week of shooting, we showed Harvey everything I'd cut up until that point, which was like an hour and ten minutes. And Harvey dug the footage and was laughing, but the first thing he said after we were done was that there's no way this movie gets an R. I was like, "But that doesn't matter, right?" He's like, "It doesn't. We're not signatories to the MPAA so we can go out NC-17." And I said, "Better than that, dude, we go out unrated. Because then a 5-year-old can get in to see the movie!" And he's like, "You're right." So, for a good four months we had license from the man himself to be an unrated movie.

PRIDE: But you'd go for a rating.

SMITH: It was always the intent to put it in front of the MPAA, but once they gave us the NC-17 we were sure that we were going to get, [Weinstein] would let it go out unrated. And he could milk a little press off whatever controversy there was and cry censorship, whatever. All the standard, old Weinstein tricks would come out of the bag. So when MGM got introduced into the equation, that was solely about pay TV sales. The Weinstein paradigm, the Weinstein Company paradigm, didn't include any pay TV deal. That was a big, integral part to selling any movie for them. Because now the way the company works, it's not just constantly financed by Disney. They work from a war chest, and it's money in, and money out, y'know. So basically, whatever they put out there, they have to see the return of, plus more, so the war chest continues to build. So for them, every movie has to profit. Y'know, every movie has to turn some kind of profit. I mean, it's always been the case with them, but now it's more important than ever. So for them, a pay cable sale that was worth a couple hundred thousand dollars or a million dollars was important. Right now, the way it's described to me, pay cable deals for theatrical films just aren't what they used to be. Because now HBO and Showtime are like, our subscribers are not subscribing based on the fact we can show them Batman Begins this month. They're subscribing 'cos of The Sopranos and because of Weeds and because of all [the] original programming. So the rate that they used to pay for theatrical movies has considerably dropped. DVD has also taken a big bite of that market. So a movie like Clerks II would maybe get a compensatory 50,000 or 100,000 bucks. When Harvey was introduced to the notion that MGM was auctioning off these slots where you could go through their distribution network and then be a part of their pre-negotiated pay TV sales-they have this contract that I think runs until 2009-and it's some ridiculous figure like 60 or 70% of your box office gross.

PRIDE: Which they had no way to fulfill since MGM had gotten out of production.

SMITH: They had gotten out of production. So they were like, we might as well auction off these slots, and since Rick Sands is over at MGM now, and Rick Sands used to be with Harvey for years, it was natural to call up Harvey and offer him this. So Harvey was like, "That's great. There's more money for us there." So suddenly, Harvey calls up and goes, "I've got good news, man. We can do this MGM deal and we'll see a massive pay cable sale that we were never going to see on this movie." I was like, "Does that make you happy?" 'Cos me, I don't give a fuck. I don't watch movies on HBO or any of those things anymore. I buy DVDs. I was like, "Does it make you happy?" He's like, "Yeah, it means more backend." I was like, "Fine, good for you." And we hung up and then I thought about it. I was like, wait a second, MGM might be signatories to the MPAA. So I called him back. I was like, "Harvey, is MGM a signatory to the MPAA?" And he's like, "I dunno. We'll have to look into that." I was like, "Aw fuck, it's coming." And what was coming - and he never flat out said, "You must get an R" - but he said, "I'm telling you Kevin, you're leaving a lot of money on the table for an unrated film. This pay cable deal yields a lot. And also there are a bunch of theaters we won't be able to book the movie into. We've done research, and found out there aren't a bunch of TV spots] we can do that are unrated, unless they're like, this film is not yet rated. Unless we intend to be rated in the first place." So me and Mosier started really biting our fingernails, 'cos it was like, fuck, sooner or later, this is going to go from a friendly persuasion to him going like, "I looked at your contract and you have to deliver an R."

PRIDE: Where would you cut?

SMITH: It was just like, where do you start? And the MPAA is never that helpful in terms of the things they find problematic. They don't tell you, "If you cut four seconds of this, we'll give you an R. They would say something like, "You might want to look at the donkey show." Well, what part of the donkey show? Y'know? It's like nine minutes! It was a real sticking point but it didn't reach the point of ugliness but we were dreading that it would. The experience of making the movie was so fun and so effortless and every day we were doing great stuff, it was a real let's put on a show, Little Rascal type affair. We were waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time, and that seemed like the big fucking shoe that was heading straight into our ass. Which was gonna be like, you now have to get the R, after for months believing we could go out unrated. Finally we could delay it no longer, we're going to have to have this MPAA screening. So we submitted it to the MPAA, and I had my arguments ready to go, like all the movies I could cite, which they don't want you to cite in the appeals process, but I would fuckin' blurt 'em out anyway. All the movies that have gotten an R. Bachelor Party had a donkey show, they got an R. In Brokeback Mountain, fuckin' Heath Ledger spits in his hand, that got an R. Why can't we have the donkey dude spit in his hand in our movie? I was ready for the holy war of all time. The massive fuckin' jihad against the MPAA. Then I get the call from Ethan Noble, who's the Weinstein MPAA liaison, and he's like, "Uh, how's your day going so far?" And I said, "It's going well, sir, but I know you're gonna hit me with the news so it's gonna hurt so you might as well get it out of the way." And he's like, "Surprise! They gave you an R." And I was like, "WHAT?" "They gave us an R." "With no suggested cuts?" "They said there's stuff they personally would cut but they know that you're not going to so they just gave it an R." And I was like, "You are fucking shitting me." And he's like, "Nope, that's it, it's over." So all that sturm and drang and like, oh shit, all that tension and fucking ulcer that I'd been building for a few months at that point immediately fucking went away. When the dust settled, I was just like... Are they fucking nuts? Did they see the same movie?

PRIDE: Yow.

SMITH: And Mosier was like, "Dude, shut up. Just take the R." So thankfully, we got the R, Harvey gets what he wants, the MGM deal, me and Mosier got what we wanted inasmuch as we didn't have to tailor the movie to get the rating that Harvey needed in order to get his MGM deal. And everything ends up happily ever after with the minor exception that it's weird to me to see that lion at the head of the movie. I'd never in a million years ever think I'd make an MGM film. It was heartbreaking to me when Dogma went out and the Miramax logo wasn't at the front of it. I've always been a Miramaxer at heart, a Miramaxketeer, if you will. And the notion of seeing another movie... It took me a while to come to grips with the fact that Miramax wouldn't be at the head of Clerks II, that it would be the Weinstein Company. But y'know, Miramax was Harvey and Bob, so as long as it says Weinstein, it's as good as it saying Miramax. But suddenly seeing the MGM logo, it's a whole different world. It's so strange. We didn't make the movie with MGM, MGM had no part of it and suddenly the Lion's at the head of our movie. But then there's also a flipside, an odd, perverse thrill of the same fuckin' logo that starts The Wizard of Oz starts Clerks II, y'know.

PRIDE: Singin' in the Rain, bringin' in the donkey.

SMITH: Exactly.

PRIDE: Your budget was $5 million, right? How'd this decision work with Scott and Bob and Harvey? Down and dirty, old-timey Miramax, modest means, raunchy content. Mr. Rodriguez likes to say, Harvey offers him more money for sequels, but he wants less each time. That seems like a canny thing to do, and with a property like this...

SMITH: It originally started much lower. The first person I told that I wanted to do it, that I discussed it with, was Scott [Mosier]. We were just coming out of church. We go to church twice during the production, or life of any movie we work on. Once, right before we start shooting the movie and once right before the movie goes theatrical. The reason for that has always been that Mosier going to church, I feel is a big deal. I think that's the kind of thing that even God notices. This admitted agnostic steps inside a church and the ceiling doesn't fall? I figure He takes kindly upon that, so it's very superstitious of me. So we're coming out of church, going to church in advance of Jersey Girl's opening, theatrical opening. We're walking back to the car, and I was like, I think what I want to do next is a Clerks sequel. But hear me out. I want to do it low budget, like 250,000 bucks, like a Chasing Amy budget. And it's just us, and it's Dave shooting and it's a real simple story and it's not going to require special effects and shit. And Mosier's immediate reaction was, I like the idea of doing another Dante and Randall story, but if you're doing it for 250,000, I'm out. And I was like, why? He's like, because it fucking affects me. It doesn't affect you. You make the same movie whether you've got ten bucks or a hundred million bucks. For me, my job gets more and more difficult to pull off the less money we have. I'm not saying we need to make it for ten, fifteen, twenty million bucks, but let's get a comfortable budget where we can fuckin' pay everybody. And have breathing room. We went back and forth on that for a while. I was like, no, people are not going to accept it if it costs that much more than the original. People are going to say, more money, less funny. That kind of shit. Variety will tear us to shreds. Mosier slowly convinced me, look, dude, we work with these people all the time and it's not fair. You and I will make money from this movie. We may not make it up front, but we'll make it on the backend. You're going to ask all these people to work on the movie for peanuts and they're never going to see the backend money we're going to see. Let's let them get paid, let's have everyone be comfortable. And granted, nobody's going to get rich off of making the movie, but they'll get paid for their time. You're asking people to give up months of their life when they could have other jobs. I was like, you're right, you're right.

PRIDE: So you arrived at the budget figure of five million.

SMITH: That was the rough thing that we pitched to the Weinstein Company. And Harvey was just like, a $5 million Clerks sequel? Fine. Done. So we put together a real budget, and Mosier's like, the real budget turned out to be seven. Including music. So we're submitting a $7 million budget, and I'm like, right on. We submitted the budget and immediately got the call back, going like, no, five million not a dime more. And we're like, dude, it's two million bucks more and you know it's going earn, even if nobody goes theatrically, you know it's going to kill theatrically. Doesn't matter. Five million. A penny over five million doesn't make sense. And we were like, what the fuck does that mean? Why does his tune change, why is he so locked into that arbitrary fuckin' figure? And what it was, was, Miramax, in the final throes of Harvey and Bob, before their exit, Harvey didn't know where he was going to be in six months time. He didn't know if he was still going to be running Miramax or if he was going to be out and creating a new company. So suddenly, the notion of just... You know, this is a company that threw money at problems all the time. Like, if you had a problem with Studio 54, just throw fuckin' more money at it. Cold Mountain's going out of control? Throw more money at it. Suddenly, when faced with the notion, "We may no longer be part of Disney and we may have to find money to create our own company," everything became way more fiscally responsible. Suddenly the notion of doing $2 million more for something he knew he could get for five if he just rode our nuts hard enough. He did it. So we tailored back and tailored back, and submitted the $5 million budget and we were able to stick to it. But it is a smart thing to do. You don't know if anybody's going to show up, right?

PRIDE: When everything went diabolic-catastrophic between Harvey and Disney, there was a lot of bad-mouthing, along the lines of ha-ha, he can't work within a budget. This seems a contrary example, where the company can go back to its scrappier roots, be meaner fiscally. It seems a perfect example, "Hey, this is my dime."

SMITH: A very good example. A very true example. Across the board. When we were going to Cannes for Clerks II, for the first time ever, there were issues like, y'know, you can't take the entire cast. At first, it was like, "We're going to send you and Rosario. We're budgeted to take you and Rosario to Cannes and that's it." And I'm like, "Well, look, I love Rosario as much as anyone, but Brian and Jeff are the stars of the movie. How can they not be in Cannes?" "Well, we have no budget for it. There's promotional value in sending you and there's promotional value in sending Rosario, but sending the boys? It just doesn't make sense financially." So finally, I was like, "All right, I'll fly the boys out on my own dime." And Harvey basically conceded. "All right, we'll pay for the boys. But that's it. You've got the boys, Rosario and you." They were going to send Mewes, too, but Mewes didn't go. Suddenly we weren't on Virgin flying out there, we were on Lufthansa by way of Frankfurt. I really half-expected the day after the screening, Harvey to call up and be like, "You know you've gotta check out of that room at noon. Anything more than that, we've gotta pay again." So it's become very leaner and meaner and more fiscally responsible. It doesn't affect me that much, because I've always liked to work less anyway, less is totally more in my book, it gives you more control. But it's interesting to watch that shift and that change. I think it's a good thing. Like I don't make fun of him for it at all. It's kind of cute. It's where they need to be. I like the idea of the war chest. I like the idea of, like you've got this much to work from, go. Because they're a lot more fuckin' selective now in what they make. And they're a lot more tight with how much money they put out there. We were having the premiere July 11 at the Cinerama Dome, seats 800 people. Then they call back, well, you can invite 800 people to the screening, but there's only 300 people budgeted for the party. And I'm like, so, what am I, Schindler? How do I pick?

PRIDE: Schindler's A-List?

SMITH: Exactly! Exactly.

PRIDE: Trevor's character, I have to say, I just didn't get at first, and I mean that in the best possible way. It's like he's always ready to sneeze or snort or fall asleep. He's not a stoner, but an equation of short circuits. As the film goes on, and you get more used to what you're doing, with some of the extended takes, it's like he's having Jerry Lewis thoughts but his body can't figure out what to do with them. What's he all about?

FEHRMAN: I think the discussion we've been sticking with is "battered puppy with Stockholm Syndrome." I did a movie, Now You Know, with Jeff Anderson, who's Randall in the movie. Kevin saw that through Jeff, and what did you decide to write?

SMITH: I basically saw Now You Know, the movie Jeff directed in 2001, right after we finished Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. And when I saw the flick when he was done with hit, he'd cast Trevor in this role, I'd read the script, of Biscuit, kind of based on this dude we knew growing up. And I thought, Trevor's such a weird choice, to me, Biscuit was this big lumbering guy and the chose this lithe little dude to play Biscuit instead. I loved his performance, there's an interesting look to the kid and he's a really good actor. When I started writing Clerks II, I wrote it with Trevor in mind for Elias. We encountered this weird problem on the first day of rehearsals, because, basically, I didn't know Trevor. I only knew his performance in Now You Know. When he showed up for rehearsals, he was originally playing Elias as more of a dude who's at the end of his rope. Kind of always tense. "Get off my back, Randall!", that kind of thing. This is a weird kind of conundrum, I wrote a role for you based on a performance I saw you give that I can't have you give for this character because he has to be 180 degrees away from that Biscuit character, he's gotta be something completely different. It was weird, I never thought about it before, ehhh, can he pull it off? Can he do it? In that first week of rehearsals, we had to find what Elias was. In the script, he's described as kind of borderline retarded. But Trevor is too cute to play borderline retarded.

FEHRMAN: And too smart.

SMITH: Yeah. Way too erudite to pull off borderline retarded. So we had to re-conceive the character without changing any of the dialogue, really, and turned him into the most sheltered fuckin' person that we'd ever met. Basically, a dude whose parents were like, you go to church, you go to school, you can watch the Transformers, that's it. So the dude is kind of socially awkward and insanely fuckin' sheltered. Then when he grew up, he snuck out to see The Lord of the Rings and it changed his life. So he winds up having this battered-puppy relationship with Randall.

FEHRMAN: Because Randall is so worldly by comparison.

SMITH: Right. The only dude who looks up to Randall, who takes a lot of shit from Randall. Rather than being like, fuck this guy, keeps going back for more. I wouldn't call that character nerdy. He's not Urkel. There's something about his performance, he quickly became everyone's favorite. Like Jay was everyone's favorite in Clerks. As we were cutting the movie together, he was the one person that everybody across the board consistently found funny.

FEHRMAN: I like to think because of his religious upbringing, he's really sealed off. This has caused his warped personality. The original approach that I took was that he was repressed and this was causing a tension that externalized. That's why he's so jumpy and excitable. A character who doesn't know why he's angry all the time. But now instead of letting all that energy out, he turns in on himself because Randall's taught him to hate himself.

PRIDE: So. The sexual banter between Dante, Randall and Becky. "Ass to mouth." When it is okay?

SMITH: Never! I don't think it's ever okay. When I encountered, first encountered "ass to mouth" on the web, I was surfing porn sites and I saw this "ATM" site. I was like, what's this weird thing with all the cash machines? So I click on it, and I'm like, "Oh my god. Has it become this bad? Are we so sexually jaded in the age of the Internet that it takes pulling a shitty dick out of someone's ass and immediately cramming it into a mouth to find some sort of like excitement level?" I was like, this is unbelievable. I was so fucking turned off by it and so fascinated by it at the same time, going, like, well, is this a fuckin' creation of the internet, or is this an actual practice. And is it a conscious practice or is it a heat of the moment kind of thing that just happens? [laughs] So it just kind of worked its way into the script.

PRIDE: There's a Harry Crews short story about just that thing, from either the late 60s or the early 70s, but I think it involves clowns and carnies.

SMITH: It goes back that far? I mean, I guess, there's nothing new under the sun. It's just how public or socially acceptable it becomes.

PRIDE: Back to the unfathomable R rating. This is only the few sympathetic portraits I can think of involving man-on-beast sex. I can think of a Belgian film called "Vas de noces," or as it's advertised in New York when a gallery needs to raise money fast, "The Pig F**king Movie." We booked it when I was at Northwestern and the producer flew over to promote it for three days, wearing a tuxedo while walking a piglet on a leash across campus.

SMITH: Genius!

PRIDE: We lost so much money.

SMITH: Is this a sympathetic portrait? It kind of comes off kindly, doesn't it?

PRIDE: You also give the donkey guy the last line in the last frames of the movie, even if it's not over a corporate logo.

FEHRMAN: You don't feel bad for the donkey. You get the sense that those two are kindred spirits.

SMITH: I think what makes it okay is his one throwaway line in the jail, which wasn't in the script, and he sighs after he tells them they're not going to get in trouble or get jail time, and he deflates, "Ahhhh... I miss my donkey." When we first screened it, I swear to you, people, not everyone, but people went "Awwwww!" And you're like, what, he just fucked that thing!

PRIDE: I like in the same scene when Silent Bob speaks, and all you've got is "I've got nothin'."

SMITH: The story of my life right there.

PRIDE: Where does Mewes' "Oh!" come from when he hears the music? The second time he does it is weirdly hilarious, the way his eyes light up like a dog hearing a whistle.

SMITH: It's referring to... There is a girl who shall remains nameless who Mewes would have sex with and um...

FEHRMAN: I did not know this.

SMITH: Yes, Mewes has had lots of sex. And basically she was a lot, she was roomier than Mewes could fill. So whenever Mewes would be thrusting, and some air would get captured and create, y'know, the fart noise, which I believe there's a term for it-

PRIDE: Queef.

SMITH: Queef. Thank you. You take me right back to high school. Whenever she would queef, whenever the queef would kick in, rather than ignore it or just kind of like, Jesus, I'm sorry, we should stop this, whatever, she would go, "Oh!" So I was like what? Mewes was, "I'm serious, dude, she goes 'Oh!'" "So it's like a series of pbbb! 'Oh!' pbbb! 'Oh!' pbbb! 'Oh!'?" He was like, that's what having sex with her was like! So when we were doing the scene, I was just like, I want him to hear the music and acknowledge it before he got into the routine, so I was like, you hear it and you snap to. Mewes has a real hard time with physical direction like that, will you do it for me? And I said, 'It's just like 'Oh!'" and he was like, "Can I say 'Oh!'?" And I said, "Yes, say 'Oh!'" We do the first take and he's lost in his own thought and then 'Oh!' and everyone starts laughing. I never wanted to tell him where it came from.

PRIDE: It's not feminine, but there's certainly a pervy private little sound.

SMITH: It is the sound of a queef, sir.

FEHRMAN: It creates this kind of soft, indirect appreciation for that crazy stuff in Silence of Lambs.

SMITH: The recognition factor on that is insane. The only person who hasn't recognized, and I probably shouldn't tell this story because he'll be dreadfully embarrassed, the only person who didn't recognized the initial strains of that music and people start laughing, holy shit, that's 'Silence of the Lambs.' Song. And when you see him actually doing the Silence of the Lambs dance, they start laughing even more. First screening of the movie, of the hour and five, ten minutes, that were cut together? Harvey's watching it with [Weinstein Co. executives] Carla Gardini and Michael Cole and Carla and Michael start cracking up. Harvey's just looking at the screen and then he looks at them laughing. I saw him lean over to Michael Cole and essentially say, what's so funny? And Michael Cole is like, "This is from Silence of the Lambs," and Harvey's like... "Oh!"

PRIDE: I think it'd be funny even if you didn't know that. It tickles you. It's weird behavior but you don't point it.

SMITH: It's a double-dip, man. For the three people out there who have not yet seen Silence of the Lambs, I think it still works. What I dig about that moment, you start it, you've got him doing the chapstick as the lipstick and then does the nipple tweak and then does the kind of mirror to that dance. Then we go away. That seems like that's the joke. That's funny enough. And people are laughing at it and it's done. Twelve minutes later, after stuff that has nothing to do with what's going on outside, we call it back and go for the full tuck. But the inner story within the story is that for the last 15 minutes that dude has just been doing that fuckin' dance outside [in the parking lot]. If he's not doing this, he's getting high.

PRIDE: Rosario's priceless. In a lot of movies when there's epic swearing or sexually explicit dialogue, you get cutaways, whether it's for ADR or some other reason. You stay full on her face whenever she's got a wad of scatology. This alone makes the movie very special.

SMITH: I appreciate that.

PRIDE: What is the credit you give Rosario in the crazy-long thank-yous in the crawl at the end?

SMITH: The thank-yous? I wrote those like three weeks ago. ["For saying yes and turning in a performance so great, it made me actually believe that Becky would fuck Dante."] I think she's fantastic in the movie, she's a wonderful actress. I would do any movie with her. But the special gift that she brought to this movie was the fact that when we cast her, we would like, awesome, she's going to do it. But then me and Mosier were like, God, nobody's gonna fucking believe she would fuck Brian O'Halloran. There's no two ways about it. Rosario's dating Jason, this dude Jason [Lewis], who played Smith Jerrod in Sex and the City, this impossibly beautiful man cut from God's own wood and the thought of her hooking up with Brian is just like, that's so foreign. Nothing against Brian, but Rosario, no way, it doesn't happen. The fact that you believe, in the movie, that she would fucking be involved with Dante, that, that is an Academy Award-worthy performance as far as I'm concerned. That's better than fuckin' Dame Judi Dench's ten minutes in Shakespeare in Love. It's an amazing performance and it's not even like she had it in her head the whole time, like, I gotta convince people that I would fuck this guy. But she's just so naturally charming and so dialed into him whenever he speaks. You get the warmth in their relationship. The chemistry is there that you fuckin' buy it and you buy it right way. That's a gifted actress, as far as I'm concerned. She even elevated the parts of Josie and the Pussycats that she's in. She's magic, man, she is total goods.

[SPOILER WARNING: WE DISCUSS THE ENDING AND WHAT IT MEANS TO SMITH.]

PRIDE: The ending of Clerks, both as released and the nihilistic climax you originally shot, is similar to the end here, except the meaning has shifted radically. They're not in an imposed hell. They get out of jail and into the Quick Stop and now they're honorable merchants, happy, nails-Red Bull and Beta-tape selling small businessmen, entrepreneurs, salt of the earth. I found that unexpectedly touching. They've chosen a career and a path and it's honorable and it's working class. Salt of the earth.

SMITH: I'm sitting in the editing room, cutting together the jail scene. I love the jail scene. It's my favorite part of the movie. Everything that followed the jail scene, the rebuilding of the Quick Stop... it's like three shots in which they rebuild the Quick Stop. You show them painting, you show 'em sawing a piece of wood to fix the fuckin' roof that presumably caved in. You show them hanging lights and stuff like that, putting the fluorescent light bar in. Everything they did in the shots that follow the jail scene would get me kind of wet-eyed and choked up, because I was like, "Fuck! They did it." Even though they're fictional fucking characters, I just felt this overwhelming sense of pride. 'Cos I was like, they seized the reins of their own destiny. It's not as simple as like, they grew up. But they've figured out-

PRIDE: They've found the means was already inside them.

SMITH: Yes. It was there all along. It is kind of Wizard of Oz. You could have gone home the whole time. They had it, and they figure out, this is it. It all comes from that moment where Randall blurts out," I would buy the Quick stop and reopen it myself." 'Cos he is a nihilist who's a closet dreamer. A dude who would never share information like that for fear of reprisal or somebody fuckin' making fun of him. "Buy the Quick Stop? What are you, dumb?" It's him revealing that secret part of him, that quiet little fucking dream he would never share with anyone until he was backed up against the wall and felt like he had nothing to fucking lose. His friend was leaving, their friendship was over. Both of them, to me, occur to me as incredibly heroic. It's not heroic like Wolverine popping his claws and taking out Jean Grey, it's that quiet heroism of somebody doing something that never in a million years you would expect them to do and arriving at that conclusion themselves. I just love it. That's what works for me. I think that's where the poignancy comes from. I don't know if anyone else feels the same way as me, but I just feel like, fuck, good for them man, good for fuckin' them. It reminds me of the moment that I was like, I want to be a filmmaker. I didn't know what I was going to do with my life, I felt like, I guess I could work at delis forever. And suddenly one day, I was like, I think I want to be a storyteller, I think I want to make films. It's that moment, I can seize control of my own destiny, I can take the reins. It really works for me, man. That's the movie. All the other stuff is scenery. I love the jokes, I love the humor, I love the performances, but that is the movie to me.

PRIDE: You've said after Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back that you'd only make films that spoke to the time of your life. You can't make a movie every year like some people, or every eleven years like Quentin Tarantino. What does Clerks II say about this moment in your life?

SMITH: It really says that more than any other time, I guess I'm at a crossroads. I hit a crossroads and I made a choice. And the choice was, I just wanna make small movies that, y'know, can get the financiers their money back but allow me to tell the exact story I want tot ell and to do it in the shape and form that I want to do it in. For years, I've been fuckin' inundated with people saying, it's time for you to stretch as a filmmaker, it's time for you to grow as a filmmaker, whether visually or just narratively. People always want you to be better and to do more and go further and it's like... I, I don't want to. These are the stories that I want to tell. After twelve years, don't you get it, Harvey? This is what I do. I enjoy doing it and you guys turn a profit off of it, so why do I need to do a Green Hornet movie? Why do something other than what I'm comfortable and fairly good at doing? For me, them going, we're going to buy the Quick Stop and reopen it ourselves and become the masters of their destiny instead of just working for somebody else's ideas of what success is, is me going like, this is what I'm going to do, and that last pullback where it fades to black and white is the question mark in the back of my head going, I dunno, is that the right thing to do? Should I grow as a filmmaker? It's kind of ambiguous. They have this wonderful hurrah where they decide what to do and they make it happen and shit, and then they're just kind of left with the trappings of their own small personal success. I, I'll never know. I won't know for years if the right thing to do was follow this path I want to do, just small movies and whatnot. It's not like I'm tempted to do big movies, oh, I'm just denying this inner need. I don't feel t he need to do it. Is there something to everyone going, you gotta stretch, you gotta grow. If enough people say it, does that make it true? It's easy for me sometimes to be like, no, I've gotta do what's right for me, but I dunno, sometimes you should challenge yourself and that's kind of where I am at the end of the movie. I don't know if this is the right decision, but this is what I'm committed to.

And - The Passion Of The Man Diva ...
Is M. Night Shyamalan for real? And if not, what's he yanking with a prank like Lady in the Water?

- Email Ray Pride

 

 

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