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Silent Bob Talks

An Interview with Kevin Smith

By Christopher Hopeman

Kevin Smith, the off-kilter writer/director best known for his “Jersey Trilogy” (i.e., “Clerks,” “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”) recently dropped by Boston on his national publicity tour for his upcoming film, “Jersey Girl.”

Jersey Girl, a very personal film that Smith wrote soon after the birth of his own daughter, tells the story of Ollie Trinkie (Ben Affleck) raising his daughter Gertie (Raquel Castro) and being torn between his career aspirations and his family responsibilities in the wake of the death of his wife (Jennifer Lopez). Liv Tyler and George Carlin, as Ollie’s father, lead the strong cast.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Smith (quite literally on his hotel room floor) and speak with him about his new film, the new direction it has taken him, and what the future holds for Silent Bob. Smith arrived to his hotel room in his characteristic jean shorts and oversize hockey jersey-like shirt.

During the course of the interview (which amounted to little more than story-telling on account of the hard-core fans who constituted the other interviewers), Smith comfortably slithered from the couch to the floor and smoked the maximum number of cigarettes as could be disposed of in the space of 45 minutes. His demeanor was as cool as one would expect from the actor who plays Silent Bob and from the writer who envisioned him. Unlike Silent Bob, however, Smith was talking. In fact, it was difficult to get a question in sideways. Kevin Smith is, after all, the self-described “Dialogue Guy.” Here is what he had to say:

On his new, more dramatic direction with “Jersey Girl:”

“You got the taste of [drama] in “Chasing Amy,” which was kinda nice, but this time around, we’re pulling on the heartstrings a little bit more. And it is gratifying... more gratifying than making the audience laugh, because... it’s a lot harder to make them cry. That’s when it’s like, well, ‘I’m the lord of their emotions. I control them for the next two hours,’ and shit.”

On possibly abandoning his fan base:

“It’s not [about] how many people are going to watch it; it’s [about] the audience that you are accustomed to, and then suddenly turning around and being like, ‘Here’s something that’s really pussy soft.’ Thankfully the fan base is what it is and there are people who are fans of ‘Chasing Amy.’ They’re not all Jay and Bob guys. But you know the 13 and 14-year-old Jay and Bob guys you’re going to lose ... the hardcore younger ones are probably going to feel like I turned my back on them, and they are the most vocal ones on the Internet. They are the ones who are like, ‘You fucking sell-out’.”

On editing out a 12-second wedding scene with Ben and J-Lo:

“Okay. There’s Jennifer Lopez standing next to Ben Affleck, and she’s wearing a wedding gown and he’s wearing a tux. Who watching the movie is not going to step out of the movie and say, ‘Hey, that’s fucked up. They didn’t get married.’ And suddenly, [the audience] is gone. We’ve lost them for a few seconds, and you don’t want to lose them for any amount of time when you’re telling a story. You want them in that black box focused and in another place in time.”

On the prospect of getting an Oscar:

“Never. Never happen. Can’t do it. Don’t think I have it in me. I’ve seen the people who win Oscars, and Ben [Affleck] excluded, and Matt [Damon], it’s not company that I can see myself ever keeping. Or that anyone sees me in the same context of. So I don’t think that that will ever happen. I don’t think that I’ll ever even get to go to the Oscars. I would just be happy to present. Presenting would be [like] a win [for me]... but they’d need a 10-second delay.”

On his four-year old daughter, Harley Quinn, watching his movies:

“She saw ‘Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back,’ which actually kinda works as a kid’s movie if you turn the sound down. It’s very colorful, and if you turn the sound up at the right moment you get all the fart noises and the kids like that ... She was very enthralled [with the movie]. The Scooby thing blew her mind. She was like, ‘You know Scooby?’ And I was like, ‘Totally.’”

On Harley as a critic:

“She’s like every member of the audience now where she’ll poke holes in your stuff left and right.

She’s like, ‘That’s not Shaggy.’

And I was like, ‘What do you mean? That is too Shaggy.’

She’s like ‘Shaggy wears a green shirt.’

‘You fuckin’ purist. You should be posting on Ain’t It Cool News.’”

“Jersey Girl,” a Miramax film starring Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, and George Carlin, opens Friday, March 26.