It’s been almost 26 years since an unknown filmmaker named Kevin Smith came to the Sundance Film Festival with his directorial debut Clerks. Whether or not you’re a fan of Smith’s work and the “View Askewnivere” he’s created over the course of six movies, he certainly has many fans that have wanted him to return to it. Jason Mewes would have been 19 years old the first time he played the Jay to Smith’s Silent Bob as the street-corner pot-dealers outside the Quick Stop Groceries in New Jersey, and it’s been 13 years since they played those characters (outside of a one-off animated experiment).
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is meant as a direct sequel to 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back as Smith’s Silent Bob and his “hetero-lifemate” Jay find out that Hollywood is once again trying to make a movie based on them… or rather, based on their comic book personas “Blunt Man and Chronic.” Off they go to put a stop to it, and along the way, Jay stop to see his old girlfriend Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) and learns she’s had a daughter, Milly, played by Smith’s own daughter Harley Quinn Smith. Milly doesn’t know that Jay is actually her father, but she and her friends insist the guys take them to the “Chronic-Con” in California.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is quite an achievement for Smith, who had drifted off into doing bigger studio movies like the action-comedy Cop Out before drifting into as trio of horror movies. Smith returns to a lot of familiar territory that should appeal to anyone who has liked any of his movies between 1994’s Clerks and Clerks II in 2006.
The Beat got on the phone with Mewes a few weeks back for the wild and wooly interview that follows:
THE BEAT: I’ve spoken to Kevin so much over the years, but have never spoken to you, so I’m glad I can finally get the other side of the Jay and Silent Bob story.
Jason Mewes: Very cool. You know what? I just decided not to do this one. NYANG!!! I’m just kidding…
THE BEAT: I’ve had some great talks with Kevin going back to Zack and Miri…
Mewes: I bet.
THE BEAT: I think the last movie in this world was Clerks 2 in 2006, and I’m glad that he’s gone back, since I actually liked this movie more than the first Jay and Silent Bob, if you can believe that.
Mewes: Yeah, and he added the whole Jay and Bob are dads now, so I agree. It’s the fun and goofiness of the other movie, but with some added heart to it.
THE BEAT: Obviously, you’ve continued to work with Kevin through the years, so at what point did he tell you that he wanted to make another Jay and Silent Bob movie with you?
Mewes: It wasn’t that simple. I wish it was, because I had asked him over and over again, “Let’s do another movie, let’s do another movie,” and then I relapsed, and I was off the grid for a while. Then he did Tusk, and I was sober and helped him with Tusk, and then we went touring, and he didYoga Hosers, so I had mentioned it a few times. Finally, he was like, “Look, I got excited. I wanted to do another Clerks or Mall Rats, and it didn’t pan out. Now, I’m excited to do a movie in that universe, so let’s do Jay and Silent Bob.”
I was super-stoked, but then I was so wary that we were supposed to do Clerks and Mall Rats, and they didn’t happen, and I got nervous that something was going to happen. I got excited, but I didn’t really put my hopes into it, because I was just like, “Man, I don’t know why stuff keeps happening, but until we were traveling to New Orleans to go shoot this movie, I’m not going to get my hopes up.”
So it wasn’t as easy as like, “Hey, here’s a phone call. We’re gonna shoot Jay and Silent Bob.” I’ve been asking him and asking him and then he said, “Okay, let’s do it,” and then I read it, and it’s super-funny, and then he did a new draft and another draft and then we had to wait and all this stuff. So I’m just saying that it was over time of us trying and trying to get this thing going, but yes, I’m super-stoked that it happened. It was exciting when it finally went down.
THE BEAT: It’s hard to get movies made, but I’ve personally seen the movie, so I know it exists. It’s been 25 years since Clerks, so is it easy for you to get back into playing Jay in the time since you’ve played him?
Mewes: I thought it would be, so much so that I went in the first day, and we had eight pages of dialogue – just to give you the context, most days we did four to five pages – and the first day we happened to have eight pages. It was all inside the comic book store, and it was with Jason Lee, so I was like, “This is going to be easy, man. It’s going to be me doing a scene with someone I’ve worked with in a couple of movies. It’s in one store,” but when I got there, I had memorized the scenes for the day like 80 percent the night before. “I’ll just memorize the rest as the day goes on, at lunch,” so we started getting into it, and long story short, we went two hours over, because I kept messing up my dialogue.
Kevin had me come look at the monitor after the first three takes of Jason Lee. Jason Lee was talking but we were on camera, and it had been so long that I forgot that when someone’s talking, especially with Kevin’s writing, two big long monologues. Let’s say he’s looking at the computer and saying “da da da” and then I say, “What is that?” and then he goes “da da da.” I forgot that when he’s talking, I can’t just stare at him blank-faced ‘cause the camera’s on me. After like three takes, Kevin said, “Come here, bro. Look at playback monitor. Look at your face. Look at me.” Kevin is of course doing his Silent Bob reaction stuff, and I was staring at him.
I’m just saying that yes, I thought it would be me just getting right back into it, knowing exactly, but little did I know, it took a full day of me warming up and doing the scenes with Jay and going two hours over. The good news is after that I knew my dialogue three days in advance for the rest of the shoot. When someone else was talking and I was on-camera – well, you saw the movie – I did some facial expressions. It was definitely interesting, and a lesson learned that first day for me. It doesn’t matter if I did this eight times. It’s been 13 years since I’ve done the character and worked with Kevin’s dialogue where someone’s talking for a very long time. It’s not just like, “Hey, what about this?” back to that person, back to you, back to them. The person talks and talks and talks.
THE BEAT: Between the two characters, Jay and Silent Bob, you end up getting all the best lines and jokes, but you also have to remember that, where he can just do faces and stuff. How do you go about learning all of that dialogue?
Mewes: Again, in the past, I don’t know if I was younger or more used to it, but in the past, I would memorize most of the dialogue for the next day’s scenes, and when I get there in the morning, I’d go over the first scene, and then we have lunch. In the morning, I’d have most of it memorized, but I’d focus on these two scenes, and then I have lunch to go over the next two scenes for the rest of the day. I tried that the first day, and I needed time to warm up. So yes, after that, the need before, I would get the next two days. On Monday, I’d get Monday’s, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s scenes that I was going to be shooting, and Saturday and Sunday I’d work on all three days and memorize them down to 100 percent. Each day, I’d be able to get through it, and by Tuesday night, they’d give me the scenes for Thursday, Friday, and then Tuesday and Wednesday night, I’d work on [those], and I’d have those scenes down. That would be my process.
THE BEAT: It seems very intensive, because Kevin’s movies don’t seem like the type where you can just go in and improvise stuff, since it’s so specific.
Mewes: Yeah, he’s pretty strict on the [script]. He definitely lets me get a little bit of ad-libbing down, but not too much. It was good. It’s fun, and luckily, it’s a character… again, he gets to not focus so much on his [dialogue]. As you said, he doesn’t have to say anything, but I realize why he did that. It’s smart, because he has to focus on the actors and their delivery and everybody else, because remember that he’s directing, but he’s also staying in front of the camera, trying to put on all these expressions and stuff. Definitely interesting, but by the end, we had it down to a pattern. We worked together so many years, I feel like our interactions, we had down.
THE BEAT: I also liked Harley a lot in this movie, and you had a lot of scenes with her. You’ve probably knew her since she was born, so how strange is it doing a whole movie with her co-actors?
Mewes: I mean, it was awesome. It’s super-surreal to have known her since she was a baby, and to get to work with her a.) but b.) get to see how good she is, and how good she’s gotten. Again, you don’t know what to expect, because I’ve seen her in Yoga Hosers, we worked with her, of course, but this was a whole different… she’s the lead actress in this movie, and she’s playing my daughter, and we have these emotional scenes. It was really cool, and it was exciting and cool. I was proud of her the first couple days. We really had moments like that throughout the movie where I just stepped back, and it was so surreal that, “Oh my gosh! We’re doing another Jay and Bob movie 25 years after we did the first movie, and we’re here doing another one.” “Oh my gosh! Harley Quinn is playing my daughter, who I’ve known since she was literally a month or week old.” There were many moments like that throughout the shoot.
THE BEAT: Kevin does a pretty good job keeping up with the times in terms of what’s going on in the world. Were there any worries about the changing times and how people act or react towards comedy now? It’s been 13 years and people are so PC, and they seem to get mad about everything.
Mewes: Yeah, I think there were moments and some situations where Kevin was worried about certain things, but I think the cool thing is that he’d run stuff by people. Like Justin Long played as similar character that he played in Zack and Miri, but then Kevin was like, “Well, wait, when we did Zack and Miri, that was a different time, and Justin Long is playing a character that he might not necessarily relate to. Is that going to bother people?” I think, you know, he definitely asked around, but you’re right. I think Kevin’s pretty good at keeping up with the times and making everything come back full circle. Hopefully, everything seemed good.
THE BEAT: I also like that he’s so self-deprecating and he makes fun of himself a lot, which is probably why his fans like him so much that he doesn’t hold his own stuff that precious that he won’t take shots at himself.
THE BEAT: Do you like that aspect of the comedy yourself?
Mewes: Oh, yeah, I love that. Like when we say, “Who still watches Jay and Silent Bob bullshit anyway?” and we all look at the camera. When I read the script, and I saw that, I thought it was hilarious. The cool thing is that for a while, there was a short period of time during our “Get Old” podcast, when we were touring, before we did the movie, we would read that scene on stage with the audience to see what they thought, get their feedback, see if they laughed, see if they didn’t laugh, and that was one of the scenes we read, where we broke the fourth wall. Every time we would do that scene, people would laugh in the audience, and it like, “Okay, cool. People dig this.” I honestly think Kevin’s writing and everything he’s doing is super-funny, man. It’s super-clever, and he really knows how to make everything come full circle.
THE BEAT: I like the fact that you have the podcast to test material.
THE BEAT: Going back 25 years, did you ever have aspirations of being a working actor? You’re obviously a working actor now. You’re not just doing movies with Kevin. You’re doing a lot of other stuff, including voice-over work. Did you have aspirations or is that just the way things happened?
Mewes: Just the way things happened. I had no plan. I even worked a 9 to 5 job. I delivered pizza. I put roofs on houses, and did construction, like tiling and stuff, all the way up to Dogma. I didn’t plan on doing… We did Clerks, and Kevin said, “Yeah, I wrote a character based on you,” and then we shot it, and I went back to roofing. And then he was like, “Miramax bought it at Sundance, and now I got a three-picture deal and now we’re going to do another movie called Mallrats,” and I was like, “Sweet!” But I still continued to work, and then I had to quit my roofing job to go out to Minnesota to do Mallrats, but when I got back, I delivered pizza at my buddy’s restaurant, and then I started doing construction with my friend. No, I did not plan it, and didn’t even think about continuing to do it really until it was Dogma. Right around Dogma, I was like, “Wow, maybe this is something I can do,” because I’ve done Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and I did an independent movie called Drawing Flies and another one called Vulgar. At that point, I had done three indie movies and two studio movies, and I was like, “Wow, maybe this is actually something I can do.” When we went out to do Dogma, I stopped delivering pizza and working, and that really tried to pursue the whole thing.
THE BEAT: That sounds more practical than most actors or other people in the business do in general. Anyway, it was great talking to you, and congratulations on the movie.
Mewes: Awesome! Thank you, brother. Have a great day!
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot will hit theaters across the country through Fathom Events for two nights only – October 15 and October 17. We also have an interview with Harley Quinn Smith to run later this week.