Kevin Smith has spent his career becoming one of the iconic geeks of the directing world. His film characters discuss pop culture and make references constantly in his films, and Smith himself has even gone on to direct episodes of superhero shows on TV. More than that, though, Smith has consistently worked to make the films he wants to make, no matter how low-budget or derided they are. So what goes into making a Kevin Smith film? What kind of crazy adventures do Smith and his friends get up to while making movies? Hopefully, these facts will explain that.
1. View Askew
Most of Smith’s films are part of the “View Askewniverse,” which is named after Smith’s production company. The films mostly take place in the town of Leonardo, New Jersey and feature multiple characters played by the same actors. Matt Damon has played three different characters throughout the franchise, Jason Lee and Brian O’Halloran have each played four, while Ben Affleck has played five!
2. Take it to the Bank
All of Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse films have been box office successes with the exception of Mallrats, which only grossed $2.1 million on a budget of $6.1 million. By contrast, the highest-grossing View Askewniverse film so far has been Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which grossed $33.8 million, and the most financially successful VA film has been Chasing Amy, which grossed $12 million on a tiny budget of $250,000.
3. Career Landmark
Jersey Girl was a first for Smith in more ways than one. It was the first film he directed and wrote which wasn’t part of the View Askewniverse franchise. It was the first film in which he and Jason Mewes didn’t also appear as actors (the characters Jay and Silent Bob have been the only characters to appear in all of the View Askewniverse movies). Finally, it was the first film he released to get a PG-13 rating.
4. Humble Beginnings
Smith famously began his film career with the low-budget film Clerks, which follows a day in the life of two clerks who work in a variety store and video rental store, respectively. Smith made the film for less than $28,000, mostly through maxing out credit cards and selling his comic book collection. Amazingly, a studio picked up the film and gave it a limited release. The film grossed $3 million and gained a cult audience which fueled Smith’s career from then on.
Despite coming out a year after Clerks, the events of Mallrats actually take place the day before the events of the prior film. You can tell by the way that characters talk about the demise of the unseen character Julie Dwyer. In Clerks, Dante and Randall attend Dwyer’s wake on Saturday, discussing that she had died the day before. In Mallrats, characters mention that Dwyer died that very day.
6. Making it Rain
While Cop Out has gone down as one of Kevin Smith’s lowest-rated films on a critical level (inspiring a controversial rant from Smith against any critics who gave Cop Out a tongue-lashing), the film surprisingly has become his highest-grossing film, making more than $55 million on a $37 million budget.
7. Near Miss
Smith nearly suffered a fatal fall on the set of Mallrats, while filming the Batman homage. Imagine that: Kevin Smith dying before he could even finish Mallrats! Thank goodness he was okay!
8. Lend a Voice, Mark?
A number of well-known celebrities appear in the Hollywood-focused film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, including Will Ferrell, Wes Craven, Carrie Fisher, Jason Biggs, Gus Van Sant, and Mark Hamill. Hamill went the extra mile for the production. He not only spoofed himself in the film, but he also provided the voice of Scooby-Doo when Jay and Silent Bob encounter the Scooby Gang on their way to Hollywood! If only Smith could have gotten him to do the Joker voice too!
In Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck’s character says the line: “Daddy doesn’t want to drive the Batmobile.” Years later, however, Affleck would end up doing just that when he took the role of Batman in the DC Cinematic Universe. Time for a DCU/View Askewniverse crossover?
10. Father/Daughter Bonding
Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, has spent her life making increasingly significant appearances in her father’s films. She played an infant version of Silent Bob (her father’s classic role) in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and made cameos in Jersey Girl and Clerks II. She later took a supporting role in Tusk as a store clerk, reprising the character in a starring role for Yoga Hosers. Most recently, she appeared in dad’s movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, playing Millennium “Milly” Faulken.
12. The Choice is Yours
Kevin Smith was such a fan of actor Michael Parks that he wrote roles in Red State and Tusk specifically for Parks to play. He’s gone on record saying that if Parks hadn’t agreed to take the roles, Smith wouldn’t have made the films. So, depending on what you thought of those films, you have Parks to thank or blame.
13. We Almost Had Snape AND Trelawney?!
Alan Rickman appeared in Kevin Smith’s Dogma as Metatron, a sarcastic and witty angel who helps guide the heroes on their journey to save the world. However, Rickman’s lifelong friend and frequent co-star Emma Thompson was also set to appear in the film at one point. She was set to play the role of God, but she decided not to go forward with the film due to her starting a family. Her child was born soon after the film was released in 1999.
14. Something like Clueless? As If!
Originally, Kevin Smith wrote Chasing Amy to be set in high school, intending for Ethan Suplee to star in it with the tone being similar to the film Clueless. However, after Mallrats performed so poorly, Smith began rewriting the script to involve adults instead of teenagers.
15. Kevin Smith: Wild Card
Despite playing the role of Jay in Clerks, Smith nearly recast Jason Mewes with Seth Green when he began developing Mallrats. Smith had Mewes re-audition for the role of Jay, and everyone agreed that he was the right choice to play the role, but Green apparently remained on-call to replace Mewes if the situation arose.
16. You Got Me
The inspiration behind Smith’s film Tusk is truly bizarre. Smith found a post on the internet where a homeowner promised a rent-free room for someone as long as they agreed to dress up as a walrus. That was all Smith needed to hear, and he started working on the movie—but he didn’t know the whole story. Turns out, a poet named Chris Parkinson had created the post as a prank.
Parkinson was a huge Kevin Smith fan and hoped to reach the director—and it worked! Smith responded by hiring Parkinson on as a producer, which we assure you wasn’t a prank on Smith’s part, despite the film’s box office results.
17. Last-Minute Lee
People who have seen Clerks II might remember that Jason Lee appears in the film for one scene as Lance Dowds. Some fans noted that he looks exactly like his character from My Name is Earl in the scene. This is because Lee was in the middle of filming that show at the time. He simply took a day off to appear in Clerks II when the original actor meant to play Dowds—Matt Damon—was unable to get time off from shooting The Good Shepherd.
18. A Friendly PSA from Dogma
In Dogma, the two renegade angels, Bartleby and Loki, visit a gun shop to buy a weapon. If you look closely, you can see Ben Affleck playing with a knife during the scene and accidentally cut his own finger! This is why you don’t mess around with sharp objects, kids!
19. Next Thing You’ll Tell Me is He Loves Chewlie’s Gum
Some people might forget that Kevin Smith’s first film, Clerks, was vehemently against cigarettes. The attitude leaks into the film’s jokes, and even its plot. Ironically, Smith took up smoking later in life, as can be seen in later View Askewniverse films.
20. That’s Just Meta
In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, features the filming of a Good Will Hunting sequel, featuring three of the original actors from the first film, including Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, and even Gus Van Sant parodying himself. It was actually Smith who brought exposure to Affleck and Damon’s screenplay for Good Will Hunting, leading to it eventually getting made.
21. If You Want Something Done Right…
In Clerks, Silent Bob breaks his silence to deliver one line to Dante concerning his confusion over his own love life. Originally, Jay was supposed to deliver the line, but Jason Mewes had such difficulty saying it that Smith just gave up and said it himself.
22. Awkward on All Levels
At the time of Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s engagement was in all the tabloids, both of whom appeared together in the film. While the film was in production, however, the disaster of the film Gigli caused the studio to downplay Lopez’s involvement in Jersey Girl, especially as Affleck and Lopez broke up offscreen as well. Smith cut a wedding sequence from the movie to avoid snickering in the audience who would be well aware that Affleck and Lopez had ended their engagement.
23. Blast Those Tunes!
Clerks II features the music of black metal artist King Diamond. Kevin Smith, who describes himself as a “closet black metal fan,” managed to be the first filmmaker to get permission from Diamond to use his music in a feature film. To be fair, if you get the chance to have Jason Mewes singing your music, you say yes!
24. You Put the “Moo” in “Mooby”
One of the recurring elements of the View Askewniverse films is the use of the fast-food chain Mooby’s. Based on a fictional children’s character, Smith first introduced the franchise in Dogma, in which the vengeful angels Bartleby and Loki harshly judge Mooby’s executive board for their sins. Smith later brought Mooby’s back as a location in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, only for it to become a main part of the story’s setting in Clerks II. Dante and Randall are forced to work in one after they lose their old workplaces to an accidental fire.
25. O Canada
In recent years, Kevin Smith began releasing what he calls his “True North Trilogy.” These are three horror-comedies set in Canada. The first two films—Tusk and Yoga Hosers—have received mixed-to-negative critical reviews and disappointing box office results while the third film, Moose Jaws, has yet to be released (Smith has assured us that it will be like the film Jaws, except with a moose). In true keeping with Smith’s style of filmmaking, the films are low-budget indie fare, with the same cast either playing the same characters across all the films or playing multiple roles.
26. The Loss of a Friend
Speaking of those multiple roles, Smith has stated that he initially planned for actor Michael Parks to not only play the villain in Tusk, but also the villain in Yoga Hosers. On top of that, he hoped to have Parks play a character similar to Jaws’ Quint in Moose Jaws. However, fate had other plans. Parks became too ill to take part in Yoga Hosers, and he tragically passed in 2017.
27. Down with My Movie!
Kevin Smith’s religious comedy Dogma famously drew a lot of protests and outrage over its perceived mockery of the Catholic church. Smith, himself a Catholic, surprised everyone by secretly joining a demonstration. And here’s the kicker: no one even recognized him!
28. Night Owl
Kevin Smith’s schedule for filming Clerks was absolutely insane. He was actually working in the convenience where he shot the movie at the time. Allegedly, he would work from 6 AM to 11 PM, then he would film more of Clerks until about 4 AM, after which he would try to sleep for a couple hours before beginning work again. This meant he filmed almost all of the movie at night. However, he came up with a simple solution to avoid the continuity errors of a night-time shoot for a movie taking place in the day. He simply wrote in the store’s shutters were jammed.
29. So Does that Make Caitlin his Beatrice?
Plenty of people have decried Clerks as a movie about nothing but pop culture and inane philosophy. However, these naysayers might be surprised to know that Clerks actually drew inspiration from Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. The film’s protagonist, Dante Hicks, shares his name with the author, and the film references the nine circles of Hell described in The Divine Comedy by having nine breaks throughout the running time. Given just how badly everything goes for Dante in the movie, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t too far off.
30. Phonies, Every Last One of Them!
If you thought Smith’s interest in literature was a one-off when it came to Clerks, he returned to that well when he had to name his main characters in Chasing Amy. He named both Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) after characters from The Catcher in the Rye.
31. Who Said Jay Can’t Remember Anything?
Because Dogma included big-name actors like Alan Rickman and Salma Hayek, Smith told his friend and co-star, Jason Mewes, that he had to be on his best behavior. In response, Mewes ended up memorizing the entire screenplay in the hopes that Rickman would be impressed! To be fair, we wouldn’t want to be on Professor Snape’s bad side either.
32. The End! Wait, Never Mind…
Smith intended Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back to be the finale of the View Askewniverse series. That explains why Smith brought back so many references and actors from his previous films (Jason Lee plays two of his prior characters in the film, while Ben Affleck reprises his role as Holden McNeil while playing himself as well). Smith even filmed the scenes in the Quickstop with Dante and Randall’s actors last, as a symbolic farewell off-camera.
33. A Promise is a Promise
One reason why Kevin Smith decided to make another film set in the View Askewniverse after Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was that he had promised his lifelong friend Jason Mewes that he’d be able to play Jay one more time if he could stay sober. Thus, Smith filmed Clerks II as another conclusion to the series.
34. Stalled Sequels
After the success of Clerks II, Smith often talked about making another entry in the View Askewniverse franchise. After plans for a Dogma sequel, Clerks III, and a Mallrats sequel all fell through, he ended up going with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, a parody of the idea of Hollywood reboots. The movie, as you can imagine, features countless cameos from actors of View Askewniverse past.
35. In Hindsight…
When it came to the lead role of Bethany Sloane in Dogma, Smith had a difficult time finding someone who could work. His first choice was Gillian Anderson, and when that didn’t work out, he approached Alanis Morisette. However, Morisette was too busy touring to take the lead role, so Smith ended up casting Linda Fiorentino—and he lived to regret it. Fiorentino allegedly proved very hard to work with, even refusing to speak to Smith on certain days.
On the DVD commentary of the film, Smith remarked that he should have given the role to Janeane Garofolo, who played Bethany’s friend in the first part of the film.
36. The Bruce is Loose
However, that bit of tension on a film set doesn’t hold a candle to when Smith worked with Bruce Willis on Cop Out. Smith made the movie specifically for the chance to work with Willis (after they’d already worked together on one of the Die Hard films), but he soon regretted getting the chance to direct this hero of his. Willis, according to Smith, was incredibly difficult and refused to take direction, while praising Tracy Morgan for his positivity and energy. For his part, Willis accused Smith of smoking marijuana excessively and not interacting with the actors. Safe to say it was a career-low for both of them.
37. We Hate You Kevin Smith!
Kevin Smith courted controversy with his horror film Red State in a way that he hadn’t done since Dogma. The many jabs at the Westboro Baptist Church caused them to furiously protest his film and make threats against him. In a bizarre demonstration, members of the WBC attended a screening of the film with their children. Smith warned them that the film wasn’t suitable for children but they ignored him, only for them to storm out after 20 minutes and decry the film as “filth.”
It wasn’t all bad, though; two members of the WBC who defected from the church complimented Smith on his largely accurate portrayal of religious extremism.
38. We Hate You Too!
In another example of Red State’s controversy, Smith infamously announced that he’d decide the movie’s distribution deal via an auction at Sundance. Representatives of several studios attended to take part in the auction for the rights to distribute Smith’s film. However, when Smith and producer John Gordon took to the stage, Smith bid $20 for the rights and Gordon declared the deal made instantly. Smith later claimed that it was always his plan to distribute the film himself, but people weren’t impressed, decrying the whole thing as a publicity stunt.
39. A Long, Difficult Struggle
Smith’s longtime collaborator and friend, Jason Mewes, is best known for playing Jay in all of the View Askewniverse movies, on top of many other Smith projects. However, Mewes’ drug addiction nearly destroyed their friendship. Smith tried to help Mewes through his problem, even having Mewes live with him and his wife, but it was never enough. Smith eventually kicked his friend out after one of many relapses. But Mewes kept spiraling…
40. Rock Bottom
Mewes stole Smith’s credit card and purchased $1,100 worth of drugs while filming Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. He then went to the very hotel where he and Smith would be hosting a press junket for the film. After putting Mewes through several other rehab clinics, Smith cut ties with him and refused to cast him in Jersey Girl. Mewes eventually hit rock bottom, sought help, and managed to overcome his chemical dependency. Getting clean also saved his relationship with Smith, and the pair have continued working together since then.