The capacity crowd at the ornate Paramount Theatre erupted when Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes hit the stage to introduce their latest film, “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Nearly 3,000 fans cheered the local boys made good (Mewes apparently goes by Jay now) as they kicked off on Oct. 19 a 65-city “Reboot Roadshow” tour, which stops at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Wednesday night.
Smith, 49, beamed while clad in a pink blazer as he waxed about his 13th film during a lengthy but entertaining Q&A after the film screened. It’s ironic that Smith portrays Silent Bob since he is probably the most talkative actor-director in Hollywood, with apologies to Quentin Tarantino.
The humble son of a postal worker and homemaker who was raised in middle-class New Jersey called from his Los Angeles home on Wednesday to reveal what he was thinking when he suffered a major heart attack in 2018.
Smith, who can be profane and silly in the same sentence, also offers his take on Harvey Weinstein, who produced most of his early films, and why Smith gave Ben Affleck his first role as a leading man.
During a chat we had a decade ago, you said director Richard Linklater’s low-budget, 2002 film “Slackers” changed your life. How so?
I grew up watching movies on Cinemax as a kid in New Jersey. I thought films were these big-budget productions before I saw “Slackers.” But I learned that you can make smaller films and you could tell a story. With “Slackers,” Richard wrote this love letter to his hometown (Austin, Texas). I thought that I could do that.
You did just that on numerous occasions using New Jersey as the backdrop of your films.
It’s a lot easier and cheaper shooting in New Jersey than in New York. Early on, I shot where I knew. It made sense.
Your daughter, Harley Quinn, was born in Jersey but grew up in Los Angeles. She’s now an actress and singer and appears in “Reboot.” Did you worry about how different her values would be growing up in Hollywood?
Yes! I was worried she would grow up an a-hole – or even worse, a Kardashian! Fortunately, she’s a Jersey girl at heart. She’s very levelheaded even though she’s in this business.
Speaking of your daughter, what ran through your mind after you suffered your heart attack?
My wife and daughter immediately ran through my mind. I regretted that we didn’t make the “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.” I thought, “Bleep, the last movie I’ll have made is ‘Yoga Hosers.’ ” I had to go out on another note, and fortunately I survived. We made “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.” I had such a great time making the film. Maybe part of it was because of what I went through. I appreciate things more, and I changed my life dramatically.
You look great! Was it diet or exercise that has made the difference?
I’ve spent most of my life eating anything I wanted. I’ve had to make a change, and I feel really good. I’ve never felt this good. My daughter, who is a vegan, helped me change my diet.
Some of the most famous and accomplished actors in Hollywood seem to be content to drop what they’re doing to work on your films. How cool is it that Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Jason Lee will prioritize your projects?
A lot of the people in my movies are really famous, but they’re also amazing friends. We have great times together. I knew them before they were famous. The cool thing is that we all still have such great times together.
Affleck was a relative unknown when he was cast as the lead in 1997’s “Chasing Amy.” You took a calculated risk with an unproven commodity. How certain were you that Affleck would connect with the audience as the protagonist?
Ben is so charming. I thought he had leading man written all over him. I wanted him to be the lead in “Chasing Amy.” When I told him, he said, “Finally!” I just knew he would be the perfect leading man, and he knew it. He was good at playing the bad guys. Look at what he did in “Dazed and Confused.” Ben doesn’t get enough credit for how talented he is.
It’s so ironic that you portray Silent Bob since interviews with you typically last for more than an hour, and your Q&As are marathons. No one can question your ability to act considering how different you are compared to Silent Bob.
Exactly (laughing)! I should win an Academy Award because for me to play Silent Bob, that’s some serious acting. I’m glad someone finally noticed! I’m a better actor than people think.
George Carlin got the shaft from Hollywood, but you wrote in his voice for characters he played in your films.
George Carlin wanted to be Danny Kaye. Instead he became our greatest standup comic. I loved working with George. There was and is no one like him.
When I spoke with Carlin months before he passed away, he detailed why he had such a disdain for Hollywood but enjoyed working with you.
That means a lot. George was a hero of mine, and it was an honor to work with him.
What inspired you to do marathon Q&A’s?
Bruce Springsteen. His shows inspired me. For him it’s been about outlasting the audience. To do a long show, it’s got to be entertaining for those in the crowd. Springsteen obviously has no problem accomplishing that. I try my best to inform and entertain.
Have you had any brushes with the Boss?
There was a benefit in New Jersey at the (Count) Basie (Theater in Red Bank) after 9/11. I was the MC. I was looking forward to introducing Bruce. But before he came on, a guy from Comcast donated this massive check. After that, he was allowed to introduce Bruce.
He said something like, “And now, a man who needs no introduction.” Bruce came out, and he knew that I wanted to introduce him. He said, “Let’s get the MC out here so he can do it right.” I got to introduce Bruce, and it was incredible. It’s something I’ll never forget.
How did you feel when the Harvey Weinstein allegations were made public since he helped launch your career?
It was a bummer. It’s hard to believe that someone who helped me realize my dreams and helped me become a filmmaker is someone I didn’t really know. I had no idea that what he did is against everything that I stand for. It’s truly depressing.
If you had one wish for something that money couldn’t buy, what would it be?
It would be to live in New Jersey again during the ’70s. It was a magical time. I would love to revisit my childhood.
Do you ever come back and drive past some of the significant places in your life?
It’s a great thing to do with my mom. When you drive around with your mother and go down memory lane, it’s like porn for a mom.
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