Kevin Smith on New Jersey, fatherhood and 'Dogma'
November 12, 1999
(CNN) -- The following is an edited transcript of a chat with Kevin Smith, writer, director, and co-star of the film "Dogma." He joined us on Wednesday, November 10, to chat about the film, which opens in theaters Friday.
Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today Kevin Smith and welcome to chat!
Kevin Smith: Hey all!
Question from WebJedi: Sunny1... I've seen the Web site for "Dogma" and it seems Kevin is handling the controversy in stride, has he had any more serious threats to him or the cast because of the film?
Kevin Smith: Not lately. It's been relatively quiet, I can still go to church anonymously without people pointing at me and shrieking like I'm the anti-Christ.
Chat Moderator: Did you think as you were making "Dogma" that it might lead to protests by some Catholics? How much did the protests surprise you?
Kevin Smith: It was something of a surprise inasmuch as I was expecting a different kind of controversy. I thought people would see the film and say, what happened to the "Clerks" guy? He used to be funny. Now all he wants to do is talk about Jesus and church. I was expecting to have to deal with people who were shocked by how unflinchingly pro-faith the movie is -- coming from a guy most people think of as the Dick and Fart joke guy.
Question from Brad4354: Okay here is one...how long has he been working on this project "Dogma"? Has it been something in his spare time (on the back burner)?
Kevin Smith: The script has been around since shortly after the movie "Clerks" got picked up in Sundance 1994. It took a while to gather the guts to make the flick. Now by guts, I certainly don't mean courage of my convictions. I'm talking about trying to realize what was always an overly ambitious film for a man of visually limited talent such as myself. I don't know if any of you guys have ever noticed, but most of my flicks.... all of my flicks ... tend to look like shit.
So with "Dogma," it was important to have it play as technically proficient (i.e. look good) as possible so as not to undercut the story we were trying to tell. It certainly didn't hurt that the last film we had done, "Chasing Amy," got some pretty decent critical notices and did OK at the box office for a film of its size. Then, there was also another little movie we were involved with that many of you probably haven't heard of called "Good Will" something that helped raise our credibility.
Question from NCBoy: Mr. Smith, do you think your latest film reflects a movement on your part to more serious subjects and less straight comedy?
Kevin Smith: I don't think so. I think I'll always try to balance the two if there are stories that are comedic/dramatic in nature that I'm hoping to tell. But that won't be every film, because I know there are a few things I would like to write that have no serious or dramatic content whatsoever and lean toward flat-out humor.
Question from Deldave: Where was the majority of your location shot at?
Kevin Smith: I would guess that about 90 percent of the movie was shot in or around the Pittsburgh area. It was a great town. They hosted us quite well. And even though we never got to see Fred Rogers, I'd say it was a worthwhile stay. The rest of the movie was shot in Asbury Park, in Red Bank, New Jersey, as well as a few exteriors we grabbed in the town I grew up in, Highlands.
Question from Kajoob: How much does being from Jersey affect your filmmaking?
Kevin Smith: I guess entirely and not much at all. I don't tend to trade in New Jersey jokes, unless you feel that the ultimate battleground between good and evil is in the Garden State. I like to set the movies in Jersey because that is where I grew up, and that's where I live and it's nice to be able to roll out of bed -- your own bed, as opposed to a hotel bed-- and go to the set. I always hoped that a career in film wouldn't take me far from home. However, I think if I had grown up in Rhode Island, or Idaho, the movies would have been about the same as they are now with the exception of the setting. I don't know if I'm necessarily Jersey-centric inasmuch as I'm not constantly trying to sell the state as one of the top 10 greatest places to live (it never makes those lists).
'Clerks' proceeding to TV
Question from Sligh: What's the latest on the "Clerks" TV series?
Kevin Smith: Oh, that's going sweet. We've shipped most of the episodes over to Korea to undergo the transition from storyboards to full-blown animation. They are really funny thanks to the efforts of me, Scott Mosier (my producer), Dave Mandel (a former "SNL" and "Seinfeld" writer who was responsible for the "bizarro Jerry episode"), Brian Kelly (a former "NewsRadio" writer), and Steve Luchner (a former "SNL" writer and all-around whacked out and hysterical guy).
The show is also quite gorgeous and visually hysterical, thanks to our director, Chris Bailey -- the guy who directed what is, for my money, one of the only funny Mickey Mouse cartoons, "Runaway Brain." Chris has brought a look to the show that is somewhere right of the comic books we've done and way left of Disney. The episodes we were commissioned to do were only six, and when they start airing, in February, based on our performance in the ratings, ABC will let us know if they are going to order more. But even if they didn't, I'm just happy to have had my own cartoon.
However, I must insist that you all watch it, as I hear these TV shows can make a man a millionaire, and I have a kid who I'm going to have to put through college, not to mention Jason Mewes, who is constantly borrowing money from me.
Question from Cornelius: How's little Harley doing? How old is she now?
Kevin Smith: Harley's great! She's going to be five months at the end of November. I don't know if any of you have kids, but let me enlighten you as to what they do: absolutely ******* nothing. They pretty much sit there and look at you sometimes, and try to figure out why you are addressing them as if they were idiots. They don't walk, they don't talk, they don't smoke, and they just kind of lay there.
But I found that they are somewhat easily entertained. And that's great for me. As I'm always looking for the least challenging way (least challenging and pedestrian way) to make people laugh (it's what I built my career on). So nine times out of 10, you can find me sticking my tongue out at the baby for no other reason than it makes her smile. Now, she is starting to laugh less (tough audience), and mimic me instead -- which I take great offense to, as it feels she is mocking me.
Question from Lusiphur: I hear that Jay and Silent Bob may only have one movie left and then only be seen in print and the "Clerks" animated series (which sounds so great). Is that true?
Kevin Smith: Let me ask you this. How funny would it be to see a 45-year-old Jay and Silent Bob still trading on the same tired (snootchie-ootchie) material? Sooner or later, me and Mewes have to let our screen alter egos go quietly into that already overcrowded cemetery of has-beens and one-joke wonders. You'll find us interred somewhere between Bill and Ted and Bob and Doug, two rows behind Erkle.
Question from Nanabunny: Any chance of casting Jason Mewes in one of your features after the "snootchie-ootchie" material runs dry?
Kevin Smith: Absolutely. I'll never run out of uses for Mewes. In fact, all this Jay nonsense is probably holding him back. I would love to cast him in more challenging roles. Can you see him as a prosecuting attorney in a courtroom melodrama about a little guy who takes on a faceless, corporate monolith? That's the movie I'd like to see.
Working with Morissette 'a career high'
Question from Nathan: What was it like to work with Alanis (Morissette)?
Question from Nagle: Why Alanis for God? Were there any other choices?
Kevin Smith: Working with Alanis was a career high for me. She is just a wonderful, intelligent, funny and centered example of humanity. If I could, I'd work with her every day. If she was a waitress, I'd be her busboy. She was cast in the role of God very late in the production. Originally, the role was written for Holly Hunter (which is why there is still a lingering 'Piano' joke in the flick). We asked her to do it, but she passed, citing the angel movie she had already done, "A Life Less Ordinary." When Allan Rickman came aboard, he suggested his friend Emma Thompson. Emma read the script, and signed on, but had to bag out shortly before we started, citing her desire to stay in England and work on having a baby.
I had asked Alanis years prior to play the lead role of Bethany. However, this was shortly after she finished her "Jagged Little Pill" tour and she said she was too exhausted to even think about heading up a two-month production as the star of a film. But then, years later, as I was on my way out to Pittsburgh to start rehearsals on "Dogma," she'd called to say she had returned from a restful trip abroad to India, and felt relaxed and rejuvenated and inspired. She said she knew most of the roles had been cast already but offered that if there was anything open, no matter how small, she would love to come out and play with us. I told her there was a small, but key role, still uncast. The rest is history.
Question from MikeD: Are you disappointed with Miramax for not standing behind the flick?
Kevin Smith: Not really. Because to me, Harvey and Bob Weinstein are Miramax, and they stuck by the film. They shelled out their own cash to buy the movie away from Disney (our corporate parent) who was bringing us a lot of undue attention at the time (and vice versa), and made sure that it found distribution as opposed to letting it rot on the shelf, which I'm sure would have made Disney much happier. If it weren't for Harvey and Bob, the world might never have seen "Dogma." Blame them.
Question from ChewlyGumGuy: Do you think that any of the actors in "Dogma" have a chance at receiving critical acclaim for their performances in "Dogma"?
Question from Ox4life: Do you feel "Dogma" will earn you an Oscar nomination for writing -- you got snubbed for "Amy."
Kevin Smith: I've already seen a lot of critical acclaim in the reviews we've been getting for the performances in the flick. As far as Oscar chances go, I don't think I make the kinds of flicks that Oscar smiles upon. It would be nice if the Academy recognized the work of the actors, however, because a lot of them broke through any ceilings they may have had prior to the flick. That would make me feel enormously proud. To see any of them get that kind of worthy attention -- particularly Jason Mewes, or that guy who played Silent Bob.
Question from Nathan: Kevin, I love the soundtrack for "Dogma." "Still" is such a wonderful song. How did Alanis approach you about putting it on the soundtrack?
Kevin Smith: It was more or less a mutual decision. For the longest time, we never spoke about the possibility of her lending a song to the movie because I did not want people assuming she was cast for her pipes. I wanted people to assume correctly that she was cast for her thesping skills. But then, a few months ago, we both kind of decided that it was stupid to worry about what some naysayers might think, and waste a great opportunity to have her bring even more to the film than she already did with her performance. So she wrote "Still," which is quite a beautiful song, and sums up nicely what we were trying to say about God in the movie.
Question from DrGonzo: How was it working with Carlin and Chris Rock, especially since they're still best known for standup?
Kevin Smith: Carlin and Rock are birds of a feather, cut from the same cloth. They are both extremely funny, extremely smart, and extremely adept at leaving their day jobs on the stage. Neither of them ever felt the need to always be "on," which is nice, because then you can maintain a conversation with them, as opposed to being the recipient of a command performance. Both of them were extremely giving and generous with the performances and it's never boring having either of them around. There was an interesting dichotomy when they were on set simultaneously because each fell into the respective role of elder statesman and heir to the throne. I only wish both Rock and George had been around for the framing of the Constitution. We'd be living in a much saner society right now, that much I can tell you.
An uncut 'Dogma' on DVD?
Question from JustinTime: You've mentioned how much you love the DVD format. Do you have big plans for the "Dogma" DVD release?
Kevin Smith: Hopefully. We're going to try to put everything we cut out of the movie onto DVD, which would mean over an hour of cut footage. It would be nice to do another commentary track, as those are always fun due to the nature of the conversations. I'm not one of those directors who likes to talk about how I framed a shot, or my "vision" for the film on a DVD commentary.
I'm more into gathering some of the cast and just shooting the **** about making the flick, how we felt when we made the flick, who we were ******* when we made the flick, the terrible things people said about the flick, other people's flicks, or whatever else comes up in conversation. I think the "Dogma" commentary has the potential to be one of our best. Let's keep those fingers crossed.
Question from Skrelnick: Are you gonna take a break from movies after this, or are you developing anything else right now?
Kevin Smith: I think I'm going to take some time down to see if I can work on making this kid of mine any more interesting. Aside from sticking her tongue out, there are any number of irreverent or obscene gestures that she'll need to be taught in order to function as a New Jersian.
Question from Mick234: Will you ever do any more MTV commercials?
Kevin Smith: We'll see.
Question from Jimbo: I heard a rumor that you are the lead candidate to be Anakin Skywalker in the next episode, is it true?
Kevin Smith: You heard that too?
Question from Marfalite: Did you do much research in Christian mythology for "Dogma," or was it mostly pulled from Sunday school memory?
Kevin Smith: Hey, hey, hey -- let's be careful with calling it mythology. This stuff is very real to me and many others. At least more real than the gospel of Pikachu in the church of Pokémon. ("Jesus Christ -- I choose you!")
Question from PrivateRyan: Kevin, you've been scheduled to write "Green Arrow" for DC Comics for some time now. What is the status and will we see the comic published in 2000?
Kevin Smith: I'm going to start writing "Green Arrow" very, very soon. I'm sure that DC will hold off on soliciting it until they have a good eight or nine issues in hand. Apparently, I have this reputation for lateness...
Chat Moderator: Any final thoughts...
Kevin Smith: If any of you people give a damn about me, you'll be there in the theaters on Friday. And then, on Saturday. And then, on Sunday (after church of course).
Chat Moderator: Kevin Smith is joining us via telephone from California. CNN.com is providing a typist for him. Thank you Kevin Smith for chatting with us today!
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