Kevin Smith

Saturday, March 1, 2003

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“Speaking Freely” show recorded March 1, 2003, in Aspen, Colo.

Ken Paulson: Welcome to “Speaking Freely,” a weekly conversation about free speech in America. I’m Ken Paulson. Our guest today is a groundbreaking filmmaker for a new generation. His name is Kevin Smith. Welcome.

Kevin Smith: Thank you, thank you.

Paulson: We’re right here at the Aspen U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. I walked out of this opera house where people are just sort of screaming for you. Your fans are rabid.

Smith: They are a small but vocal group, the vocal minority.

Paulson: You have this conversation and dynamic where you’re like the guy down the street, right?

Smith: I guess it works, but it’s kind of frightening, because I’m told that’s the way Hitler started.

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: He’d go into the beer hall, work them into a frenzy, and then they’re like, “Let’s go take over.”

Paulson: While we where introducing you, talking about being a filmmaker for a new generation, it’s a little pompous —

Smith: It is; it’s terrible, yes.

Paulson: — but the truth is, you make movies different from other generations’ movies.

Smith: Yes, they look bad, whereas the previous generation’s movies look pretty good.

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: Yeah, I guess I found a little niche, right? And we just started talking to those people. I originally started off wanting to talk to myself, just make a movie that just kind of amused me, or it’s touched me in some way, or some movie that I could identify with. ‘Cause I love movies; I love to watch movies. But I can’t identify with everybody up on the screen. Like I love a movie like “Die Hard,” but I do not identify with John McClane. You know, I would never shoot somebody. I would never jump out a building. I would never take my shirt off in public. So, I don’t go, “Yes, that’s me.” I just wanted to make stuff that I can be like, “Hey, that’s me up there.” And, oddly enough, there are enough people who are like, “Hey, that’s me up there too.” That’s kind of the nice thing about it. You’re throwing it out there, and suddenly you find out there are a bunch of people who find the same stuff interesting.

Paulson: The story of “Clerks” is an amazing one, often told as an inspiration for others who want to enter the film business. You know, you spent about 26 grand, 27 grand on this?

Smith: $27,575. And — in 1993 dollars, you know?

Paulson: That would be what?

Smith: At least 30 today.

Paulson: Yeah, that’s right. And you take it to a festival in New York, you pay an entry fee —

Smith: The IFFM, the Independent Feature Film Market.

Paulson: And you learned they’re going to show it, but that’s not as great an honor as you thought it was.

Smith: No, I had seen and read an article — first, I’d read this article by Amy Taubin of the Village Voice about Richard Linklater, who had taken “Slacker” there in ’92 — ’91 or ’92 — and later on he got picked up. So, I was like, “That’s it: you make a movie, bring it to this marketplace, and then somebody buys it, and you’re set for life.” So, we figured, “All right, that’s the trajectory.” And we worked toward that, toward IFFM, because we weren’t really filled in about film festivals and stuff like that. So, we got there, paid the entry fee. They programmed the film; they put it on a Sunday morning, which, I was like, “Great. That gives us all week, you know, to promote the film. They must know it’s good. They put us in that prime, sweet spot.” Then you find out Sunday morning it’s like the dead zone. Nobody goes. So, there are ten people in the audience, most of them cast and crew. But there was this dude in the audience named Bob Hawk, who was a real mover in the independent film world. He’d worked on “The Times of Harvey Milk.” That’s how far he goes back. So, he liked it a lot, and he started talking it up. And he turned Amy Taubin on to it. And Amy Taubin then went on to write an article about it, which was kind of cool, because it brought it full circle. He turned Larry Kardish on to it, who programs new directors/new films at the Museum of Modern Art, kind of the sister festival to the New York Film Festival. One by one, we started getting fairly credible people going, like, “Yeah, it’s good.” Which is weird, because without that one dude, without Bob Hawk being there, nothing.

Paulson: Wow. And after that, after that remarkable breakthrough for you, then this other story about they wanted to rate it “NC-17,” which would be the kiss of death for this Cinderella picture.

Smith: For any movie, particularly for that one. It was, it was weird, because there’s no nudity; nobody gets killed; there’s no gratuitous violence; there’s no sex. It’s people talking about sex. So, they slapped it with this “NC-17″ — that’s what happens when you get the “NC-17″: it’s slapped. They never just hand it to you; you’re slapped with an “NC-17.” So, they slapped us with this “NC-17.” Harvey Weinstein, who’s chairman at Miramax, was like, “Oh, that’s bad.” I said, “Why?” He’s like, “Well, we can’t get it into multiplexes with an ‘NC-17.’” I was like, “Dude, this movie’s not going into a multiplex.”

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: “I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie, but come on.” That was when Miramax was really big on not paying for a lot of advertising. That was before they dumped a lot of money into stuff, before they started having huge P&A budgets. They were working off the old school mentality of “controversy sells.” He said, “Great; we’ll hire Alan Dershowitz.” And I’m like, “Alan Dershowitz? The guy who defended Claus Von Bulow is gonna defend this movie? I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: So, he came on for a press conference; that was the one and only time I saw him and met him. Came on and talked about how it was an important movie for kids to see. They should be able to get in to see, and with an “R” rating, they’d be able to see it with parents. His argument was, “I would want my kid to see this, so that he didn’t wind up like these kids.” That was pretty much the extent of what Dershowitz did for us. So, then when the film actually went to the appeals process which, you know, you go before the National Association of Theater Owners — NATO, it’s called. Not to be confused with the other NATO. There was another guy, who was the Miramax in-house lawyer, who was speaking for us. Dershowitz was nowhere to be found. So, it felt more like, of course, a publicity ploy. Eventually, it came down to NATO watching the movie and deciding whether it was gonna be an “R” or an “NC-17.” And those dudes turned around in three minutes, and turned it into an “R.” Afterwards, I talked to those guys, because I was like, “I can’t believe we went through all this for three minutes.” They were like, to be fair, the MPA, which rates the movie first, before the appeals process goes to NATO, the MPA originally does it. And it’s made up of parents, concern groups, and whatnot. The biggest complaint, apparently, in theaters, is bad language. It’s not violence. People can sit there and watch a woman get raped repeatedly for two hours, and they won’t leave the theater. You know, that’s entertainment, or at least they’re gripped by it or something disgusting. But when people start throwing around the F-word, that’s when people get up and go and want their money back. Which is really weird to me. Language? That does it? You can watch violence and stuff like that — really horrible acts of violence — and language is the thing that gets you on your feet? And it’s the one area in this country where you realize we’re still very, very provincial. Really, really kind of conservative when it comes to language. Sex is everywhere; it’s in all the advertising. We’re a very violent culture here. We stand on the threshold of war. But, man, you use that F-word, you got a bunch of people up in your grill.

Paulson: Having heard that the F-word drives people out of theaters, you decide to test that theory for the next decade, or so.

Smith: Basically, I was like, “Well, if that makes them leave, I think I’m onto something.”

Paulson: Let’s give that a shot. It’s interesting, though, because it is definitely a generational difference.

Smith: Mm-hmm.

Paulson: You know, conversationally. If you’re under 25, profanity, I think, means something different than if you’re over 25.

Smith: Profanity, I think for, like — I’d even extend it to about 30. Thirty and under, profanity is credibility. It’s like, “Hey, you’re speaking my language.” I wouldn’t say 30 and over, but I would definitely say 40 and over in most cases — not all, but most cases, particularly 50 and over — that’s where you really see the generational gap. That’s where people are like, “No, that’s not for me. There’s some things you don’t say in public.”

Paulson: Well, you went on from there to make “Mallrats,” and a remarkable movie called “Chasing Amy.”

Smith: Thank you, yes.

Paulson: That was very well received, and not, I think, the movie people would expect from the man who just finished “Mallrats.”

Smith: No, it wasn’t. It was kind of the picture where people were like, “Ooh, who knew he could talk about something serious?”

Paulson: And, it is — the flip way you’ve described it is “Lesbian falls in love with a guy.” I think you’ve said that’s the only science-fiction film you’ve ever made.

Smith: Right, right, that I’ve made, yeah.

Paulson: It was criticized by some lesbian groups because of that suggestion.

Smith: Yes.

Paulson: The irony of a lot of your well-intentioned work is that you get clobbered by special-interest groups.

Smith: I do. In that case, I mean, I felt it was kind of unfair because we went out of our way to explain that in the movie. Alyssa has this whole monologue where she talks about the reason that she opened the door to women in the first place was to not rule out the possibility of finding that perfect somebody by immediately halving that and just kind of keeping it to one gender. So, she opened the door. And then the person who she wanted to find turned out to be a guy. She was like, “I would be kind of wrong to just turn my back on you, because I was looking for that person. It doesn’t matter if it was a man or woman.” But they didn’t think — that wasn’t good enough, I guess. To be fair, the outcry was very minimal compared to outcry on “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” when GLAAD got involved. That was really heinous, and also a little hurtful, too, because they called the movie homophobic, and they called me homophobic.

Paulson: Let’s talk about that.

Smith: That was weird, especially because I made “Chasing Amy.” I’m a straight guy who made “Chasing Amy.” You don’t get more gay-friendly than that. And they went after the movie, maintaining like, well, these characters promote violence against the homosexual community. I was, “Where?” I remember where one of the two main characters agrees to go down on the other guy. If that ain’t gay-friendly, I don’t know what is, you know? And their argument was kind of weak, so much so that The Advocate threw the movie in its top five best movies of the year. And John Waters, noted gay filmmaker as well, loved the movie, put it in his top-10 list as well. So, it kind of turned out to be a tempest in a teacup; particularly when, three weeks later, Sept. 11 happened. Suddenly, that really didn’t matter. The thing I thought was really sad, aside from me being blasted as homophobic, was GLAAD kind of underestimating the audience, maintaining that, oh, people — 14-year-old boys — are gonna see this movie and go out and beat up some kid in school because he’s gay. I’m like, “Look, (a.) 14-year-old kids don’t get into this movie. I wish they did, because the box office would be much better. But that’s not going to happen, dude. Your fictional worse-case scenario is not going to happen. And it’s certainly not going to happen because of this movie, trust me. Because the two main characters are idiots, and they’re never glorified. They’re painted as idiots from the get-go.” The movie’s about two guys trying to stop Hollywood from making a movie about them. It’s like the Muppet movie on acid. Nobody’s taking it seriously. Nobody’s watching this and going, “You know what? I’m gonna take a page out of that guy’s book. I’ve got to live like a Jay or Silent Bob.” It was kind of disconcerting, but not nearly as bad, as the Catholic League in “Dogma.”

Paulson: Which we might as well turn to next because you were —

Smith: Isn’t it horrible as one leads to the other? It’s like, “And then you pissed this group off, as well.”

Paulson: If we get to the next three or four offensive films you will be making, we’d cover those right now. “Dogma” you knew going in you were rattling cages.

Smith: “Dogma” — I mean, I had suspicions going in that, not that it would ruffle feathers, but just that there was gonna be a real corridor for this movie. It was a real niche film. I felt you had to be Catholic to really appreciate the film. So, right away, I felt, “Boy, this is as small a market as you can get.”

Paulson: You had suspicions?

Smith: Absolutely.

Paulson: George Carlin cast in the role — a religious role. You thought possibly —

Smith: I did. I did. I never thought it would lead to what it led to. Like the Catholic League getting involved. I’d never even heard of the Catholic League until that. I knew the Church would never take a stand on it, because the Church is smart enough to know, “If you don’t want to call attention to something, you don’t point it out and go, like, ‘This is bad.’” Boycotting movies only calls attention to them. “Last Temptation of Christ” probably could have come out without a whimper, except for organizations getting up in arms about it. So, I think the Catholic Church — I’ve spent 32 years in the Catholic Church — my take on it always would have been, like, “We’re not going to say anything about it. It’s a movie with a rubber poop monster in it.

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: How seriously can we take it?” So, I didn’t think they would ever say anything bad. It was the Catholic League, this group lead by Bill Donohue, who I’d never heard of and never took into consideration; those were the guys that got really up in arms. And you find out it’s not just as simple as they don’t like the movie, because they never saw the movie. Bill Donohue never saw the movie until it was out for two weeks, like two weeks into its release, but caused the storm in advance: the letter-writing campaign, and all the press and whatnot. And you look back in your history of the Catholic League, and you find out they go after Miramax quite often. The moment Disney bought Miramax, Disney became this target. Miramax was a target around Disney’s chest. You get no easier press than maintaining that Mickey Mouse, you know, hates Jesus by way of Miramax putting this movie out. They went after Miramax for “Priest” a few years before “Dogma.” They went after ABC — Disney owned ABC — for that TV show “Nothing Sacred” a few years before “Dogma,” two years before “Dogma.” And then we were just kind of the triple threat, the hat trick.

Paulson: For people who have not seen “Dogma,” can you tell us a bit about what the movie’s about?

Smith: It’s kind of a satire or a farce about the end of the world, as brought about by a loophole in Catholic dogma. There’s a lot of what some people call Christian mythology, but us Catholics call biblically true characters, like angels and whatnot, stuff like that. So, it’s about two angels who’ve been trapped on earth for years, and they find a way back into heaven via this loophole, and this kind of rush to stop them from doing so. And, the main character is Bethany, who is a descendent — a long, long, long down the line descendent of Christ. And she works at an abortion clinic. That got a lot of people upset. Mental note: “Never do that again.” And there’s the 13th apostle, played by Chris Rock, who maintains Christ was black, which, oddly enough, that upset people. Which I thought was so weird, because who wants to admit to being upset by that? But they’re out there; they’re really out there, people that want their Jesus white. Kind of unbelievable. So, stuff like that they kind of got up in arms about.

Paulson: I watched the DVD, prior to visiting with you, and I noticed a precede. I don’t know if that was in the original movie, where you say, “Even God has a sense of humor.”

Smith: That was in the movie. That was — originally the movie was supposed up to open with a quote from a Sting song, “All This Time.” And the quote was “Men go crazy in congregations. They only get better one by one.” Two weeks before the movie was going to unspool for the first time, which was at the Cannes Film Festival, Harvey Weinstein was like, “I really think you should go another way. Maybe you should put a quote about satire or something by Swift, you know, to kind of lay the groundwork.” And I said, “If you’re going to go that far, you might as well put up a disclaimer.” He’s like, “Do you want to write a disclaimer?” And I said, “Absolutely.” So, basically we wrote this disclaimer using the platypus as an example of God’s obvious sense of humor and then went on to apologize to platypus enthusiasts, you know, just kind of poking fun at the controversy already started. So, that was Harvey’s idea. I wrote it, but it was a really good idea, because it really kicks the movie off in a great way.

Paulson: You’ve been pummeled by the Catholic League, GLAAD —

Smith: Isn’t that weird? The Catholic League and GLAAD, who else can bring those two together? Maybe child murderers and me can bring those two disparate groups together. It’s kind of disheartening.

Paulson: You seem to take a little pride in that.

Smith: I guess, because they’re two extremes. You know, it’s like people taking the extreme point of view on both sides. The looney left and the righteous right.

Paulson: But then, does that make you then go, “OK. I’ve had enough of this. I’m gonna pull my punches a little bit.”

Smith: No, but I guess it could read as much. I mean, I remember when we made “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” the idea was, like, “Well, after ‘Dogma,’ I want to make a movie that’s not going to offend anybody. I just want to make a movie where there’s no death threats involved,” because we got death threats on “Dogma.” Three-hundred thousand pieces of hate mail, stuff like that; it was horrible. So, I was like, “I want to make a movie that’s just fun.” Cut to GLAAD picketing the movie. So, you can’t win. And then it just comes down to what you feel like talking about that year, whenever you’re gonna make the next movie. So, the movie we just finished called “Jersey Girl” — if anyone finds anything in it controversial, I give up. You know, there’s nothing controversial in the movie. It’s pretty, pretty heartfelt and pretty like — I don’t know, the one thing that people walk away from it going is akin to what we had on “Chasing Amy,” I imagine — I’m projecting. I don’t know. But on “Chasing Amy,” there were people like, “Wow, who knew they could make a movie like that?” I think “Jersey Girl” will be kind of the same thing. People will be surprised by how not controversial it is.

Paulson: “Chasing Amy,” remarkable for a number of reasons, but I think it also reveals how in touch you are with sort of the subcultures of culture.

Smith: Right.

Paulson: In that one it’s the story about comic book writers —

Smith: Right.

Paulson: — and artists and fans —

Smith: Right.

Paulson: — and there is a comic-book fan culture.

Smith: Mm-hmm. I was proud of that because that had never really been depicted before. You’ve got to give your characters jobs and stuff. I was like, “What a great job that I’ve never seen before.” Like, a couple of comic-book artists.

Paulson: And having been somebody — I was a young comic-book collector, and spent endless hours walking up and down the aisles. And somebody insulting the guy who inks —

Smith: Right, right.

Paulson: — saying “You’re just a tracer.”

Smith: Right.

Paulson: You really capture the culture, and I think that probably is something that’s consistent throughout your work. People go, “That really rings true.”

Smith: Thank you. Yeah, it’s nice because I’m one of those people that tends to focus on the negative.

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: I spend a lot of time on the Internet, because that’s the home of negativity. And when I gravitate towards criticism or comments about the work, it’s always the negative stuff. I just kind of leave the positive stuff, like, “Well, they don’t know what they’re talking about. But these negative people, they’ve got my number.” So, I always tend to read about the people who say, “All your characters speak with the same voice. Nobody speaks like that in real life; it’s so hyper-stylized. The actors always sound like they’re acting, and they never sound like a real person.” But it’s nice to hear the flip side, which I kind of box out most times just to focus on the negative. Which is a horrible way to live, but unfortunately I choose that way.

Paulson: The other kick I get out of your career is that all over America, young men read comic books until like 12. And then they go, “Well, I have to put this aside; I need to date now.”

Smith: Right.

Paulson: And then there are some who are harder-core and continue to collect. Um —

Smith: Or some come back, too.

Paulson: Or come back, too.

Smith: I gave up in high school; I was like, “I’m too old for this.”

Paulson: Right.

Smith: And when I was 18, I was like, “These are comic books? Comic books are getting good again.”

Paulson: But you’re a guy who loved comic books as a kid, and then you get to write comic books.

Smith: To write books, yeah.

Paulson: You’ve written “Daredevil.”

Smith: I did a “Green Arrow” run for D.C. as well. I’ve done a few “Clerks” books and “Jay and Silent Bob” stuff.

Paulson: That can’t be as lucrative as film, right?

Smith: Not at all. No, not at all.

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: It certainly doesn’t pay the rent, but it’s fun. It’s like, given the opportunity to do it — because I’ve always found that comic books was a much harder field to crack than film. The only reason I got a job in comics was because I made a movie. I don’t think I ever would have gotten a job in comic books had I not made a movie. Because I can’t draw; I just write. So, it was great. Given the opportunity once, somebody was like, “Hey, do you want to write comics?” Because I’ve been a fan for such a long time.

Paulson: It’s a film-like medium in a lot of ways.

Smith: Kind of, kind of. If you look at our comic books, they look better than most of our films. I’m a flat visual stylist, but when I work in comics, I have somebody interpreting what I’m writing. Somebody else is drawing — essentially, somebody else is directing what I’m writing. So, the comic books wind up looking much better than our movies do, except for, I think “Jay and Bob” looked better. And “Dogma,” too, I think — “Clerks” and “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy,” as much as I love them, I was still developing a, quote-unquote “style,” or learning to move the camera, so, they tend to look a little flat in retrospect. But “Jay and Bob” and then, well “Dogma” and then “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” started looking better visually. “Jersey Girl,” I think, is our best-looking movie to date. That’s because we had Vilmos Zsigmond, the celebrated D.P., shooting it. The comic book stuff, I think, looks really good, but that’s because somebody else was “directing” it.

Paulson: You combine those two loves in writing the long-lost “Superman” script.

Smith: Right.

Paulson: You were going to be the author of the movie.

Smith: ’96, yeah; back in ’96.

Paulson: “Superman Lives”?

Smith: “Superman Lives” it was called, yeah.

Paulson: And that’s a leap from “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy.”

Smith: That was a big leap at the time. It was before “Chasing Amy” came out, but I got the job off of “Chasing Amy.” ‘Cause my agent sent the script around as a writing sample, because I think most people wrote us off after “Mallrats.” But, he sent “Chasing Amy” around while we were making it, as a writing sample to see if people would be into it. Essentially to say, “This is what this guy’s like now.” And a few companies tried to buy it. I remember hearing Barry Sonnenfeld tried to buy it. And we were shooting it at the time; we’re like, “No, we’re making this movie.” It led to the “Superman” gig ‘cause it got me into Warner Brothers. Then they were like, “We’ve got three projects we’d like to see if you want to take a crack at.” One of them was “Superman,” which they said was a long shot, but by sticking with it, I got to do it. But it turned out nothing happened to it.

Paulson: And no one will ever see that?

Smith: Nobody will ever see it now. I guess Brett Radner’s doing a version now with — what’s his name — J.J. Abrams, the “Alias” guy, writing the script.

Paulson: Would this have been a recognizable Clark Kent Superman?

Smith: Very much so. That’s the one thing I was kind of proud about. On the Internet the script got out, and people seemed to largely like it more than not like it. And a lot of people said it was very true to the comics, which I was proud of.

Paulson: The other remarkable story about your career is, I guess is the career of Ben Affleck —

Smith: Yes.

Paulson: — who’s done rather well for himself as well.

Smith: He has, much better than me.

Paulson: And when did the two of you first cross careers?

Smith: Back in ’90 — late ’94, early ‘95 when we were casting for “Mallrats.” That’s when I met Ben. He tells the story that his mother had went to see “Clerks.” His mom’s a real progressive teacher. And she’d seen “Clerks” before him and pushed him into seeing it. And then he heard that we were auditioning for the next movie, and, so, he came in, and that’s the first time I met him, when we started hanging out off that movie. And then “Chasing Amy,” when I started writing it about two years later, I’d known Ben for a while, and Joey and Jason Lee. So, I wrote it with them in mind, particularly with Ben, because I was like, “This dude is funny, charismatic, charming, good-looking. He’s leading man material, but nobody’s ever really seen him as the leading man before.” So, I wrote the first, like, five scenes or something, and I called him. And I was like, “Before I go any further, I’m writing this movie where you’re the lead. Are you into it?” And he was like, “What are you, high? Of course I’m into it. Yeah.” That was the real kickoff of our collaborative efforts together. Yes, he’s in “Mallrats,” but he’s playing the same typical stock bully he had played before many times, including in “Dazed and Confused.” So, “Chasing Amy” was a real kind of growth film for both of us and a real calling card. It showed the world that we were capable of more than what the business had seen us as doing prior to that.

Paulson: And the two of you have maintained a friendship, relationship.

Smith: Yeah.

Paulson: You’re merciless about “Pearl Harbor” —

Smith: I am. We make fun of each other. Although he points out, “Dude, you make a lot more fun of me.” I was like, “That’s because you’re so P.C. now.”

Paulson: And he’s just recently been in “Daredevil.”

Smith: “Daredevil,” yes.

Paulson: And yet he keeps coming back to work for you. Is that competitive pricing? You’re able to match his —

Smith: “Jersey Girl” is the first movie where we actually came close to paying his price tag. Everything else he’d done for scale or a little over scale. “Jersey Girl” was where finally he got, he got paid $10 million. His price at that point was 15; I think he’s up to 20 now. But it was the first movie where he got paid kind of close to what he might normally get. That was only because Harvey Weinstein didn’t want to give him a bigger back end of the movie. Ben was like, “I’ll do it for nothing, as long as I get this huge chunk at the back end.” Because he believed in the movie. But Harvey was like, “No.” Apparently, Harvey believed in the movie, too, and didn’t want to give up any back end. “We’ll give Ben 10 million up front.” I was like, “Really? Is that how you solve problems? Can I have 10 million as well?”

Paulson: [Laughs]

Smith: But I don’t look like Affleck, I think that hurts my chances of getting a bigger paycheck.

Paulson: When we started today talking about the voice of a new generation, I think many would agree that you’ve got an eye and a sense of what a good percentage of young Americans feel and care about. What’s your sense about whether Hollywood gets it or not? I mean, are there other filmmakers out there that you’d say, “Yeah, that’s somebody who really is in touch with the audience”?

Smith: I don’t know; if would imagine probably Hollywood has a better beat on what the audience wants than I do, because I’ve never made a movie that grossed more than 30 million bucks, right? So, obviously my audiences have a ceiling to them. Like the last two movies, “Dogma” and “Jay and Bob” both hit 30. Before that, “Chasing Amy” was 12, you know, which was great, because the movie only cost 250 grand. But still, I’ve never really broken out into the mainstream. Hollywood continues to put out movies every year — multiple movies — that cross the “century threshold” as they say. So, I don’t know if they’ve got their finger on the pulse of what youth is, but they certainly have their finger on the pulse of what youth must want, because, man, they turn out in droves to see some of that crap.

Paulson: And you have your audience, and they keep coming back.

Smith: I’m happy with that; I’m happy with my audience. I’m always shocked that we have an audience to begin with. ‘Cause I never thought the movie would really play outside of where I grew up, outside my own county. “Clerks” was designed more as a calling card movie than anything else. Just a movie to show somebody else, to be like, “Look, can we have money to make this other movie? Here’s our one example of filmmaking.” So, the fact that it got picked up and then we built an audience from there has always flabbergasted me to this day. It’s always kind of amazing. So, that I have any audience at all, whether it’s a $30 million grosser — or with the $3 million grosser “Clerks” was. I mean, that’s gold for me. That’s fantastic. It’s more than I thought I’d ever have.

Paulson: It’s been a great run.

Smith: So far, yeah.

Paulson: Thanks for joining us.

Smith: Thanks for having me.