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With production grinding to a halt in the face of the coronavirus crisis, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense of how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood’s top writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.
The world around Kevin Smith may have changed drastically, but not his pace. “How I’m living now is not much different from how I was living then,” he says. The prolific writer-director, podcaster and con attender has used the quarantine to, among other things, finish a Mallrats sequel script while also working on his new He-Man animated series for Netflix, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, as well as launching podcasting initiative/archive ThatKevinSmithClub.com. He’s also used the time off the road to clean his home office, which he has, of course, turned into yet more content by reading old journals on his new morning show, Wake & Bake With Silent Bob, and tweeting out pictures of unearthed memorabilia.
On a recent Friday, Smith took a break to talk through his busy schedule, offer his take on THR‘s Sundance/COVID-19 article and explain why he ultimately decided against trying to pull a Kumail Nanjiani and bulk up in quarantine.
So how are you doing? You seem busy.
I kind of shaped my job so I can spend most of my workday at home. We had just come off the road when quarantine started. We did 67 cities in three countries over the course of four months with the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Roadshow Tour. I was going to have less than a week to hang out and then I was back on the road for South by Southwest cause I have this documentary that my friend Malcolm Ingram directed called Clerk, about me and my career, that was debuting there. Then I had the HorrorHound festival in Ohio, then some gigs in New Jersey.
I remember thinking, “Man, it would be so nice to be able to sit around the house for just a month.” That way I could eat right and go hiking in Runyon Canyon. And so, oddly enough, the universe provided it by way of this. And then I was, “Well, I’ve got the free time that I wished for, I might as well get to work on Mallrats.” So I wrote Twilight of the Mallrats, which is the Mallrats sequel we’re going to shoot once they let us out back into the world. And now I’m knee-deep in a rewrite of Moose Jaws, which is the last part of the True North trilogy that goes along with Tusk and Yoga Hosers and is Jaws with a moose instead of a shark. At the same time, we’re not done with Masters of the Universe, which is a show I’m doing for Mattel and Netflix. Even though the rest of the business is shut down, animation is a thriving game. You can still keep making cartoons without having to open a studio.
So I’ve tried to keep busy, cause I noticed in the first two weeks of the quarantine that I had just started watching things and eating a lot. And that’s my favorite thing to do in the world — even more than have sex — watch TV and eat food at the same time. Suddenly we were in a world where next week didn’t matter — hell, next month didn’t matter — and what are you trying to stay in shape for? We’re going through a national trauma! You should be allowed to eat food! After two weeks I realized if this keeps up, I’m gonna have another heart attack. So I had to structure and discipline a lot better.
But like most people who have a home office, I got my shit set up the way I need it to be. It looks like a giant me-seum. Everywhere you look it’s pictures of me and shit I’ve done over the course of my career. There’s one whole wall full of Kevin Smith Funko Pops. So I live in this very Kevin Smith-oriented cocoon where if I don’t leave this room, you would think I was the most popular fucker on the planet. (Laughs)
Well, uh, that was the first question …
(Laughs) My bad. Sorry.
Second was, “What does your day look like now?” I feel like that’s been handled. Have you learned anything about yourself during quarantine?
Absolutely. I’ve learned that, number one, I must be an attention whore at heart. Most entertainers are. Because even with nothing to do, I keep finding things to do and saying yes to things. “Will you be on my podcast?” “Will you be on my Zoom?” Yes, yes, yes. Clearly it’s because I must need the attention. Thank god there are those alternatives, because those of us who live on the stage, I don’t know when we can get back to doing that. When I came off the tour I was seeing 1,500 people a night. I don’t know if I’ll ever see 1,500 people in a room again until they find a vaccine for this thing.
On the physical side, I’ve found that even though I’m sitting there with nothing to do, and surrounded by food, I can still kind of master myself. So I’m more mature than I assumed — especially when I sit in this [home office] and look around at my world; none of it’s mature. But I was able to make a mature decision about my health in quarantine. Plus, I’m hiking every day. I mean, I’m certainly not gonna come out of this ripped. There was, like, one day where I was like, “You know, you could totally pour yourself into a regimen and fucking build serious muscle and then just stay off the internet for a while, and then when we’re released into the real world, just rock ’em with these fucking pictures!” But, you know, I’m not in a Marvel movie. (Laughs) I don’t have that kind of trainer or a financial incentive to go without anything pleasurable. I’m already a vegan! So I’ve already given up so many pleasurable things in life. At a certain point, my wife was like, “Why are you even entertaining that notion?” “I don’t know. I’m gonna be 50 in August. I just wanna see.”
What are you watching, reading, playing or listening to right now?
My favorite watch of the quarantine thus far has gotta be The Mandalorian. I was on the road when it dropped. And it might be why I’m in such a good mood about the quarantine, because it began with pure Star Wars magic. I wanted to break the quarantine just to go find Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni and kiss ’em both on the mouth for making something so fucking beautiful. I watched this amazing movie called Swallow. It’s about pika. It’s about this woman who lives in a beautiful house, but it’s a very sterile environment, and she just starts eating weird things. First she eats a marble, then she eats a paper clip and a fucking battery and shit. As I was watching this movie, it reminded me of every movie that made me want to be a filmmaker back in the early ’90s — the highest compliment I can give a movie. It just had that indie film vibe to it, like only in the independent field can a movie this outstanding and this singular get made.
Have you dusted off any old hobbies or found any new ones?
I haven’t picked up any old hobbies. I have dusted off a few things, inasmuch as I started cleaning my office, cause it looks like a hoarder lives here — I mean, a hoarder does live here. So I’ve been piecemeal doing that, which has led me down every path. I guess my favorite hobby is Kevin Smith, period. I’ve never let that hobby go!
I was gonna ask about Jay & Silent Bob Mall Brawl. I saw you and Jason Mewes played it on his Twitch channel.
That game was an absolute delight. Trevor [Fehrman], who plays Elias in Clerks II, reached out to me years ago, like, “Hey, me and my friend are indie game developers. Can we do a Jay and Bob game?” I said “Oh god, go nuts.” So they are designing this game called Jay and Silent Bob: Chronic Blunt Punch. … In order to raise the money to build the game, they put out this mini game. And it is fucking phenomenal. It’s so fun. Very rarely does someone get to play with my IP. Like, I’m the only guy who plays with my toys. So it was a really fun exercise to see what other creative people would do with my characters.
What are your go-to comfort foods during the lockdown?
The ice cream I’ve been eating, oh my god. Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. They make regular ice cream, but they make these vegan tubs with these incredible flavors. We’ve got six people in the house, so we’ll get six tubs of ice cream and six tubs of ice cream fucking disappear! Everybody takes one and fucking runs to their corner of the house and eats it like a rat.
I wanted to ask about Twilight of the Mallrats. On Jay’s Twitch, someone asked a question about the original cast returning, and you said, like, “Everyone on the poster is coming back.” Can you elaborate?
In the script, Brodie comes back — that’s Jason Lee. Renee comes back — that’s Shannen Doherty. Jay and Silent Bob of course come back. Gwen comes back — that’s Joey Lauren Adams. T.S. comes back — that’s Jeremy London. Willem comes back — that’s Ethan Suplee. Mr. Svenning comes back — that’s Michael Rooker. Shannon comes back — that’s Ben Affleck. So everybody who was on the poster, everybody who was a factor in the original, returns for this. Now, whether or not all those people will come back, we’ll see. But we had really good luck with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.
It’s fun going back to that world. Years ago, when I was thinking about making a Mallrats 2, it was called Mallrats 2: Die Hard in a Mall. So now this [version] closely resembles what it sequelizes. It’s a father-daughter story: Brodie Bruce and his daughter, Banner Bruce. There was a tweet the other day, and somebody was like, “Why do you keep writing daughters into things? Why can’t he have a son?” And you know, I hate to tell people, but I’m not that creative. I’m a father of a daughter. So I can write that shit in my sleep, man. This is where I work out all my shit! If I had a son I could write that, but I can write boys all day long — I’ve been doing that my whole fucking career.
We did a story about Sundance being a possible early COVID incubator. And it lent credence to an office theory, because right after that — in late January, early February — something came through THR and absolutely laid people out. Do you have any theories to add?
When I got to Sundance, I got up for IMDb to interview people. I saw everybody who was in the movies at Sundance this year. Everybody came in, all their publicists and shit. People coughing just because of that cold air. After that, I went back on two months of the rest of my tour. Every night, not only did we see 1,500 people in a closed space, but we would do VIP meet-and-greets afterward, take pictures with 100 people. Everyone backstage had overpaid to see this movie, so naturally I’m like, “Hey!” and I throw my arms around them. All that time, I never even got a cold. So there was a theory that those of us on the tour had maybe gotten it and we just didn’t realize it. [Our tour manager] Josh just went two days ago to do that test to find out if you ever had it, and he never had it. If he didn’t have it, then I damn-skippy didn’t have it. We were in an SUV together every day for, like, four months.
What’s at the top your to-do list when this is all over?
Right now I’m desperate to make [Twilight of the] Mallrats and Clerks 3. I’ve reached a place now — I used to be so self-conscious about making movies that connected to one another, because one time I read on the internet, “Oh, all he does is make those Jay and Silent Bob movies.” And so then I consciously tried to move away from that. But I never found as much happiness away from my characters as I did making movies with my characters. So as I enter midlife — well, I’m well into midlife, so as I enter old age at 50, I should probably be thinking about saying something new, but I’ll be honest with you, I was frighteningly original a couple years ago when I made that fucking walrus movie [Tusk], and the whole world was like, “Go back to makin’ the other movies, man!” So I’m gonna do that for a little bit. I feel like our future, oddly enough, is in the past.
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