[Note: This is an interview with Kevin Smith. Thus, it contains language that isn't fit for family reading. We don't condone such language. But it does make us laugh.]
By almost any standard of measurement, Kevin Smith is a success -- He's made successful movies with big stars, been entrusted with major comic book franchises, toured the country and cameoed on "Degrassi: The Next Generation." But Smith knows his limitations.
"I understand that when you're making movies with a**-to-mouth jokes you realize that there is a ceiling to what you're going to do," Smith acknowledges. "It's not like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' where you can expect to open over a hundred million. You realize that it's a pretty small and rarified audience that wants to sit there and watch a donkey show."
He's referring to some of the more scandalous moments in "Clerks II," the sequel to 1994 low budget comedy that lifted him up from behind the counter of a convenience store without elevating a sense of humor that swings wildly from sexual perversion to popular culture. Although that sensibility is unchanged, Smith has grown. He has a wife (Jennifer Schwalbach) and a daughter (the wonderfully named Harley Quinn) and a desire to show a greater maturity.
"I tried to do that with 'Jersey Girl' and to some extent succeeded, but at the same time I look at that movie and I'm like, 'It's kind of a manipulative movie.' It tends to be a little mawkish in places and whatnot, and I love that movie to death, but at the same time it is sort of a conventional mainstream affair," he reflects.
Thus, while "Clerks II" focuses again on eponymous day-laborers Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), it also talks about marriage, growing up and facing the future. While O'Halloran was quick to agree, Smith had to convince Anderson that the first film was worth revisiting before he even wrote the script.
"[H]e was like, 'People seemed to like that movie for whatever reason, but why would you want to f*** with that? What if the movie sucks and then people retroactively go back and hate the original one?'" Smith recalls. I said, 'Well, let me write it first and base it on that. Read it and if you don't like it, if you really hate it we won't do it and I won't bring it up ever again.'"
He continues, "So I wrote the script and I gave it to him and I waited for him to call me and he made me wait like a day. I was like, 'Oh, s***. This isn't good.' He called and I asked what he thought and he said, 'I have to tell you, man, I think it's funny. It's way funnier than I thought it was going to be. I thought that you were going to retell the old jokes.'"
Smith was surprised, as he wrote the script, that he was relating to his characters on a different level.
"In the first one I was more Dante wishing that I was Randal and this time around I'm definitely more Randal than Dante, which is odd because Dante is the one kind of going through 'I'm having a baby and I'm getting married' type thing, but I'm definitely more in the Randal headspace in terms of like I don't want things to change," Smith says, making a comparison that'll only make sense to "Clerks" fans. "I'm a guy and so naturally change comes very hard to me and it's a weird struggle all the time where it's like how much can you remain the person that you were and still grow at the same time. I look at this movie and I definitely identify with Randal so much."
Smith knows who made the whole thing possible.
"I love my audience almost more than I f***ing love myself which isn't that difficult, but because of them I got the job and that's why I continue to work."
"Clerks II" opens wide on Friday, July 21.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times