Highlands, New Jersey, 2 August 1970.
Attended the New School for Social Research in New York for one semester,
and the Vancouver Film School in British Columbia for four months.
Married Jennifer Schwalbach, 1999; daughter: Harley Quinn.
Enjoyed critical and commercial success with his first feature,
, 1994; hired by Jon Peters to script
, but his script eventually was rejected, 1995; established View Askew
production company with Scott Mosier; owner of Jay and Silent Bob's
Secret Stash (comic book store), Red Bank, New Jersey; created
Clerks: The Animated Series
, ABC-TV, 2000.
Cannes Film Festival Young Cinema Award, Sundance Film Festival
Filmmakers Trophy, and Deauville Film Festival Audience Award, for
, 1994; Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, for
View Askew Productions, 69 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701, U.S.A.; c/o
Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, 35 Broad Street, Red Bank, NJ
Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary (short) (+ sc, ro as himself, pr)
Clerks (+ sc, ro as Silent Bob, co-pr, co-ed)
Mallrats (+ sc, ro as Silent Bob)
Chasing Amy (+ sc, ro as Silent Bob, co-ed)
Dogma (+ sc, ro as Silent Bob, co-ed)
Drawing Flies (Gissing, Ingram) (ro as Silent Bob, pr)
A Better Place (Pereira) (pr); Good Will Hunting (Van Sant) (co-ex-pr)
Vulgar (Johnson) (ro as Martan Ingram); Independent's Day (Zenovich—for TV) (as himself); Overnight Delivery (Bloom) (co-sc, uncredited)
Big Helium Dog (Lynch) (exec pr); Tail Lights Fade (Ingram) (exec consultant)
Scream 3 (Craven) (ro as Silent Bob); Preacher (Talalay) (exec pr); Coyote Ugly (McNally) (co-sc)
Clerks and Chasing Amy: Two Screenplays , New York, 1997.
Dogma: A Screenplay , New York, 1999.
Jay & Silent Bob: Chasing Dogma , Portland, Oregon, 1999.
Marvel's Finest: Daredevil Visionaries , New York, 1999.
Clerks: The Comic Book , Portland, Oregon, 2000.
John Pierson, "With the Conversational Collaboration of Kevin Smith," interview in Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes , New York, 1995.
"Film Fraternity," in Filmmaker (Los Angeles), no. 4, 1995.
"God Bless the Mall of America," in Premiere (New York), July 1995.
"Malleable," interview with M. Ingram in Film Threat (Beverly Hills), December 1995.
"Shannen Take 2: Director vs. Star," in Film Threat (Beverly Hills), December 1995.
"A Conversation with Writer and Director Kevin Smith," interview with C. Duritz Jr., in Film History (London), no. 2, 1996.
"Obsession Confession," in Details (New York), November 1996.
"Strip Teased," in Details (New York), November 1996.
"Lovelines," interview with R. Pride in Filmmaker (Los Angeles), no. 3, 1997.
"Mr. Smith Goes to Emotion," interview with G. Fuller in Interview (New York), April 1997.
"Mr. Smith Goes to Hollywood," interview with Mark Salisbury, in Premiere UK (London), December 1997.
"Mr. Smith Goes to Church: Religious Spoof Dogma Came out of Crisis of Faith, Filmmaker Says," interview with Bruce Kirkland, in Toronto Sun , 7 September 1999.
Smith, C., "Register Dogs," in New York , 24 October 1994.
Taubin, Amy, "The Sweet Sell of Success," in Village Voice (New York), 1 November 1994.
Peary, Danny, "What's the Catch," in Movieline (Los Angeles), March 1995.
Taubin, Amy, "Before the Fall," in Village Voice (New York), 5 September 1995.
Wheeler, K., "Have Script? Will Travel," in Onfilm (Auckland, New Zealand), no. 5, 1996.
"Great XPectations," in Time (New York), 9 June 1997.
Elias, M., "De l'amour different," in Séquences (Montreal), July-August 1997.
Rudolph, E., "View Askew Lines up Its Sights," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), August 1997.
Current Biography (New York), February 1998.
Talty, Stephen, "The Clerk, the Girl, and the Corduroy Hand Job," in Playboy (Chicago), December 1998.
* * *
It is fitting that Kevin Smith hocked his comic book collection to partially finance Clerks , his breakthrough independent feature. The characters in Clerks and his subsequent films are reflective of the video game/comic book culture in which he came of age. They are slackers, stoners, and convenience store/suburban mall lounge lizards whose obsessions—American pop culture, drugs, and a colorfully graphic, gossipy, who-laid-who view of sex—have not transcended adolescence or young adulthood; his more entrepreneurial characters are artists, rather than yuppies. Smith's films are set in a nondescript suburban-American landscape that is as much a part of his celluloid palate as Monument Valley was for John Ford.
The worst that can be said of Clerks is that it is a movie made by a very young person who is short on real-life experience, and whose world view has been derived from repeated screenings of Star Wars . But that is precisely the point: Clerks features a distinctive cinematic sensibility that can be fully appreciated by those of Smith's age and background.
The main characters in the film are Dante, a likable 22-year-old convenience store clerk, and his obnoxious pal Randal, who works in an adjacent mom-and-pop video store. Dante and Randal are afflicted with the sort of ennui that the media tells us is the scourge of those contemporary twentysomethings who have not yet become millionaires by playing the stock market on-line. Dante resists the pleas of his girlfriend Veronica, who has been pressuring him to leave his dead-end job and return to school. He constantly complains about his job—if he quit, he would not be forfeiting a banker's salary—and he obsesses about an ex-girlfriend who has just become engaged. Randal, meanwhile, spends more time talking trash with Dante than clerking in the video store. He casually and smugly insults customers, and is forever managing to foul up Dante's life.
Clerks was inspired by Smith's experiences working for $5 an hour at the Quick Stop, the New Jersey convenience store that is the film's primary setting. He penned the script in a month, filmed it at the store during his off-hours at a cost of $27,575—and promptly found himself, at the tender age of 24, at the epicenter of the burgeoning mid-1990s independent film movement. There is neither sex nor nudity in the film, just some rough, locker-room language in which characters engage in hilariously profane sex-oriented conversations. Yet because of that language Clerks originally was rated NC-17, a fact that Miramax, the film's distributor, cannily milked for the maximum amount of publicity. The rating was changed to R on appeal.
Mallrats , Smith's follow-up feature, was a critical and commercial failure. Its story involves a parade of characters who hang out at a suburban mall; among them are T.S. Quint and Brodie, slackers who have just been dumped by their girlfriends. But Smith proved that he was no one-shot success story with his next film: Chasing Amy , a romantic comedy in which he ponders what might happen if a heterosexual male were to fall in love with a woman who is completely unavailable, not because she is married or has a steady boyfriend but because she prefers sleeping with women. Chasing Amy is the story of Holden, a successful young comic book artist who works with Banky, his old high school pal, and becomes smitten with Alissa, a perky fellow comic book artist, without knowing that she is a lesbian.
Suffice to say that in the final reel of a standard Hollywood romance, Alissa would permanently renounce her sexual preference and she and Holden would set off on a happy-ever-after dance along the New Jersey Turnpike of life. But Chasing Amy is no generic Hollywood product. So what happens to Alissa and Holden as they work out their feelings is far more complex and credible. As their stories unfold, Chasing Amy becomes a knowing examination of what it means to fall in love, and the sexual and emotional baggage that men and women bring to relationships in our modern era. With regard to Holden's connection to Banky, Chasing Amy contemplates the meaning of friendship and the petty jealousies that may come between friends as well as lovers. Ultimately, the film works best as a fervent plea for open-mindedness, compassion, and sensitivity. As such, it is by far the most fully developed of Smith's first three features.
Dogma , Smith's next film, is a wickedly funny satire/fantasy/road movie about Loki and Bartleby, fallen angels who find a loophole in the Bible that will allow them to re-enter Heaven. As they set off on their quest, an array of characters parade across the screen. They include a woman whose religious faith has been severely tested, a messenger sent from heaven, a black apostle, a demon, and a muse. The film's cheeky irreverence is exemplified by Smith's casting of the anti-establishment comedian George Carlin as a Cardinal, and the pop singer Alanis Morisette as God. But the filmmaker is just being playful; he does not take cheap shots at his subject matter. Despite its absurdist overtones, Dogma is a serious-minded reflection on the meaning of faith and spirituality. To this end, Smith poses a series of questions: Why do we practice religion, and what do we get out of our faith? How do we know that what is written in the Bible is fact? How do we know that the images of Jesus found in religious art are true-to-life? Could there have been another apostle, and might he have been black? Can a practicing Catholic justify working in a womans' health clinic? Could God really be a "she"? As Smith asks these questions, he also comes to conclusions. He is critical of the manner in which religion has been sold to the masses, as if it were a soft drink or potato chip; the corporate marketing of images that the masses come to worship as idols; and all of the wars and violence that, through the ages, have been carried out "in God's name."
Depending upon your point of view, Dogma either is a provocative or profane film. To some, Smith is thoughtfully reflecting on the nature of faith. To others, his satirizing of religion is tantamount to blasphemy. And so, unsurprisingly, Dogma was the subject of much controversy prior to its release as it was denounced by conservative Catholics as being sacrilegious. Miramax, once a beacon for independent filmmaking but now an arm of Disney, bowed out as distributor. Dogma eventually was released by Lions Gate Films.
Smith's films, all of which are powered by non-stop dialogue, are extensions of each other in that their characters are interrelated. Those portrayed or mentioned in one might be friends, acquaintances, old schoolmates, or former lovers of those in another. Two of Smith's creations slink in and out of each, and actually have featured roles in Dogma : Jay and Silent Bob (the latter played by Smith), a two-person slacker/stoner Greek chorus. Jay (Jason Mewes) is the loquacious one, endlessly obsessing about and commenting on sex and drugs, while Silent Bob is usually, but not always, speechless. When he does speak, he offers gems of wisdom. In addition to Jay and Silent Bob, Smith's films usually feature two male characters (Dante and Randal in Clerks ; T.S. Quint and Brodie in Mallrats ; Holden and Banky in Chasing Amy ; and Loki and Bartleby in Dogma ) who are long-time friends or partners, and who verbally spar as if they are Ralph and Alice Kramden in The Honeymooners.