Director Kevin Smith strikes back

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
August 19, 2001

These are fighting times for Kevin Smith, the director and star of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”

First the gay and lesbian anti-defamation organization GLAAD had a bone to pick with him. Then Tim Burton got into the act.

After getting pummeled by the Catholic League for his controversial “Dogma”–in which God not only was one of us, but a Canadian in the form of Alanis Morissette–Smith says he wanted to make a light, no-brainer comedy.

“The last thing I wanted was to make anything even remotely controversial this time,” says Smith, 31, phoning from his New Jersey home. “We got so close to the release date without anything happening, and then the GLADD thing kind of exploded.”

Ah yes. That GLAAD thing. After screening the film, the organization found it offensive and asked for–and received–a $10,000 donation from Smith to benefit the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Smith also agreed to make reference to GLADD’s cause in the end credits, but he offers no apology for his comedy.

“[GLAAD entertainment media director] Scott Seomin has said, ‘Kevin isn’t homophobic but the movie is,’ ” says Smith. “I said, ‘Scott, the movie doesn’t get any more personal than this. This is such a huge part of who I am. How can I not be homophobic but the movie can?’ There’s more gay content in this movie than in most gay-themed movies. There are a lot of gay jokes, but not at the expense of the gay community.”

He stars in the film and his wife and daughter appear.

“I’m married now to one of you people,” he says, referring to his wife Jennifer, a former journalist for USA Today. “She plays one of the members of the girl gang in the movie. Our daughter Harley plays me as a kid. That baby looks exactly like I did as a youth. We have two sets of genetics at work. Part of Harley wants to go up, cause my wife is tall and thin. Part of her wants to go out like me, so she’s got to be careful. Hopefully Jennifer’s genetics will win out.”

The movie centers around the exploits of Jay and Silent Bob, a pair of pot-smoking, butt munches who also were featured in Smith’s previous films, “Clerks,” “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma.” Jay (Jason Mewes) is a pointy faced, foul-mouthed horn-dog whose mission in life is to smoke weed and make it with the ladies. Silent Bob–played by Smith–is, well, silent.

After learning on the Internet that a movie is being made about cartoon characters that are based on them and that kids are saying negative things about their alter egos, the bumbling duo decides that the only thing to stop this negative commentary is to halt production of the film.

OK, this isn’t exactly a plot that’ll win an Oscar for best screenplay, but Smith doesn’t care. He had fun writing and acting in it and got to work with friends such as Ben Affleck, who recently checked himself into a rehab center for alcohol abuse.

“Affleck is absolutely OK,” says Smith. “I just talked to him the other day. He lives for being a movie star and would never let anything derail his career. Ben has always been his own biggest fan, but not in an arrogant, egocentric way. Hes very charming. Most actors don’t like to go watch dailies of the scenes they shot the previous day. But Affleck would always be there front row center with a big bowl of popcorn loudly appreciating his own performance. If you’re watching his dailies and hear someone going, “Mmmm. Genius!” you know it’s Affleck.
It’s so cute.”

Unlike his movie star buddy, Smith says his glass is always half empty. Just turned 31, he’s already worried about being nine years away from turning 40–halfway to death in his eyes. And if 99 critics love his work, he’ll obsess about the one who thought it was so-so.

So when Tim Burton slammed him in the press, Smith was hurt. Smith had jokingly pointed out to the New York Post’s Lou Lum-enick that Burton’s surprise ending to “Planet of the Apes” was a rip-off of a plotline in his 1998 comic book miniseries “Chasing Dogma.”

“When I saw his movie, I thought it was uncanny and I told Lou facetiously that I felt ripped off,” says Smith. “Apparently Tim took it very seriously. I spoke to Lou about it and he said that Tim’s publicist called to say more about it, including that Tim would never read anything by me! I want to put that on a book jacket.”

On his Web site (www.viewaskew.com), Smith asks that fans not boycott Burton’s films over this misunderstanding.

Criticism on the anonymous Internet is another matter.

“Tim Burton can say something nasty about me and I don’t really care, because I know who he is and what he’s done,” Smith says. “I don’t know what a guy named Whompa1 on the Internet is, how old he is or what he’s all about. I would love to believe the Internet is made of three 14-year-old boys with just a bunch of different names. The anonymity is the thing that drives me ape s—.”

No offense intended, Tim Burton.

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