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Legendary filmmaker, writer, and podcaster Kevin Smith’s cinema innovation is reaching new heights. Smith, along with partners Secret Network and Legendao, is releasing the world’s first NFT film, Killroy Was Here.
“A lot of filmmakers like myself are moving into the space,” Smith told me via Zoom video Tuesday. “Quentin (Tarantino) worked with Secret before I did and sold a Pulp Fiction script as an NFT. I saw Spike Lee at VeeCon (Web 3 and Culture conference). … So most of us recognize it as like a kind of digital playground, a new place to go take our stories.
“So I asked my producer, David Shapiro, ‘Has anybody ever released a movie as an NFT?’ And he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Can we try?’ … First time it’s ever been done. Making a little bit of history. So I’m thrilled. Can’t wait.”
Another big upcoming movie venture for Kevin, who appears at Fan Expo Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center this weekend, is the release of Clerks 3 in the fall, close to the original Clerks film’s 30th anniversary.
The trailer for Clerks 3 released on Wednesday.
“Look, you don’t enter into this business without a desire to be looked at, talked about. It’s a non-stop quest for relevancy, so to speak,” Smith said when asked if he gets pumped to release teasers and trailers for his films still. “So when you have— generally, I spent a lot of time talking about things that happened before. So I spent a long time talking about Clerks.
“You look at Chris Nolan’s career, he don’t talk about following the first movie he ever made. He don’t even talk about Memento, which is the one that kind of put him on the map, and everybody knows. Chris Nolan talks about what’s next, doesn’t really even talk about— he don’t even talk about Batman that much. He doesn’t talk about what went before.
“I’m the other guy. I’m the guy who’s like people still talk about Clerks because I still keep the conversation going nearly 30 years later. I’m always like, ‘Remember Clerks? Holy crap. Clerks was wonderful.’ So, for me, it’s a different kind of existence than most filmmakers. They tell their stories.
“Like David Fincher makes a movie, and the movie speaks for itself, and he moves on. I make the movies, and the movies live these long lives of long tales and never quite end. I’m still talking about Clerks as we’re about to bring Clerks 3 into the world.
“So when we drop images or tomorrow, we drop the trailer or something like that, if anyone’s engaged in this world where we’re drowning in content… So throwing the imagery out there, dropping the trailer, and having people respond in mass before the thing happens, and bring up warm memories of having seen Clerks when they were young, that’s everything. We don’t do this in a vacuum.
“You don’t make these flicks going like, ‘I hope nobody sees them.’ You hope that the world embraces them. And right now is that beautiful time in the romance where there’s nothing wrong. They haven’t seen the trailer so everyone has a preconceived notion of what Clerks 3 will be, and I haven’t disappointed anybody yet.”
So what made the original Clerks so beloved that Smith’s fans were eagerly awaiting part 3 nearly three decades later?
“I’ll tell you, for years, I never understood why people liked Clerks so much. It’s in black and white, it’s got nobody famous in it and stuff, looks like it was made by children, and it was,” Kevin said.
“I used to just think, well, we were part of the ’90s, so sentimentally and nostalgically will always be wrapped up in some people’s hearts. But I’m 30 years almost in on the job now, and I think I completely understand why Clerks not only connected then, but why people still talk about it today, even though it’s an old ass black and white movie that was made in the ’90s.
“I used to think, ‘This movie will never play outside of New Jersey. If you’re not from Monmouth County, New Jersey, how could you understand this?’ When it went to Sundance, I was like, ‘Wow, not only did it play outside New Jersey, but it played at a film festival, but it’ll never play outside the United States. This is a very American film.’
“And then it played outside the United States. Turns out, that movie can be appreciated by anybody who’s ever had a sh**** job, and that’s literally everybody in the world. So for that reason it’s like one of the most identifiable flicks in the world. I don’t know if a billionaire wakes up, watches Clerks, and goes, ‘Been there,’ unless it was one of those billionaires that like started in retail or some s***. …
“And it’s a job where you’ll do anything but the job itself while you’re on the clock, which is all Dante and Randal do. They just sit around and do anything except wait on customers. They’ll talk about anything, dissect anything, make anything trivial super important to avoid the fact that like, ‘Urgh, we’re stuck here right now.’ So I think I get it after all this time.
“The same way that my kid obsesses over The Office and watches it on repeat. It’s a show about people that go to work, and sooner or later, everybody does. There’s only a rarefied few in this country that don’t know what it’s like to have to get up and go to a place you don’t want to go to but have to because that’s going to pay the bills. So I think that’s part of the charm of the movie, why it’s lasted so long.”
The “kid” watching The Office Kevin is referring to is his 23-year-old daughter Harley Quinn Smith, who appears in some of his recent films. Seeing as how he named her after the iconic Batman villain, getting Smith’s take on the recent report from The Hollywood Reporter that Lady Gaga is in talks to play Harley in Todd Phillips’ upcoming sequel to 2019’s Joker opposite Joaquin Phoenix was a must.
Kevin had a rapid response ready to go when asked about his opinion on the potential casting and if it would take away from Margot Robbie’s widely acclaimed portrayal of the character.
“Not at all. These comic book characters, man, they’re like mythology characters. Nobody’s ever like, ‘There can only be one movie about Zeus or one movie about a cowboy,’” Kevin responded with. “These are larger-than-life figures that even if they have particular identities like Harley Quinn, you can have multiple performers playing them as we’ve seen for eons with James Bond, with Batman, with Superman. The performer can be replaced, exchanged, over and over again. It’s the character that’s the star.
“So when Todd Phillips is like, ‘Hey, I’m going to do a sequel to one of the most successful comic book movies of all time,’ the R-rated Joker movie that won academy awards… This time, the Joker will, of course, have Harley Quinn and Harley Quinn is going to be played by one of the most famous artists on the planet. That to me, is just brilliant, no-brainer marketing, man. That’s smart. And if somebody’s like, ‘Well, I prefer Margot’s version,’ You’ll have both. Nobody’s going to force you to watch either/or.
“But these characters— Batman exists in the movies, Batman exists on TV, Batman exists in the cartoons, Batman exists in comics and video games, and it’s not always the same person playing the character. These characters are so beloved that people will like seeing multiple people tackle the character, particularly people they never expected to.
“Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn is a poster waiting to happen in a dream that nobody ever had before. But now everybody would like to see that. It’s like, ‘Wow, that makes sense.’ Doesn’t mean that everyone’s like, ‘We’re done with Margot.’ Not at all. More Margot, and let’s see Lady Gaga Harley Quinn it up as well.”
Smith, a well-known and self-proclaimed lover of comic books and comic book movies, also shared his thoughts on why directors like Martin Scorsese, Jane Campion, and Ridley Scott make negative comments publicly about superhero films and if the backlash from the fans over the unkind words is warranted.
“Look, everybody is responsible for themselves and everybody chooses to say what they say,” Kevin said. “But oftentimes those directors, it seems, have been in situations, were doing junkets or an interview situation, and it’s a question that gets thrown in there, and it’s not like them going, ‘Get me the New York Times
“It’s also an adjacent to a zillion other questions that are being asked, but in our culture, in our very tribal culture, somebody like Martin Scorsese referring to comic book movies as amusement parks and theme park rides gets a bunch of people who have made comic book movies their lives for the last 10 years very unhappy.
“It kind of gets their dander up. You’re asking a guy who made Goodfellas what he thinks about Spiderman, what do you think you’re going to get? He’s a very serious filmmaker, and he’s a man who’s of a certain age and stuck in his ways. You should not be surprised that’s his response.
“But it doesn’t take away from your enjoyment of the thing. Guess what? For every old filmmaker who’s like, ‘I don’t get it,’ there’s a bunch of young filmmakers who are like, ‘I get it and I want to do it.’ We don’t have to ostracize the people that maybe don’t get or aren’t into the same movies we are.
“Look, I guess maybe I’ve got the benefit of having been a creature of the internet since 1995. So I’ve got it way ahead of almost every other filmmaker when it comes to public relations and talking to the public and talking to the press than maybe any filmmaker except Peter Jackson. He was on the internet before I was. And that means we’ve just made all our mistakes early on.
“We just learned early on. ‘Oh, don’t answer that question. That’s just setting you up for failure. Just redirect.’ If somebody’s like, ‘What do you think about these comic book movies?’ Just talk about like, ‘I love all movies, movies are my life, blah, blah, blah.’
“A lot of people don’t have that experience. There was a time where filmmakers didn’t really do a bunch of press. I’m one of the generation that was pushed forward to sell our movies because we didn’t have any movie stars in the movies. No other way to sell the movie. Put the person who scrimped and saved to tell their story and shot at a convenience store late at night [out there]. That’s interesting. Let them go out and sell the movie and tell the story. …
“I would just urge my fellow filmmakers that when asked, ‘What do you think about comic book movies?’ You hit them with, ‘I love them. I watch every one of them,’ for everyone’s sake. Now, I don’t say that because I’m like that’s what I’d do. I literally watch every comic book movie. So I’m being 100% authentic and stuff.
“But for those cats to just avoid the headache of a bunch of people, like picking apart their filmography… They have people on the internet tearing down Martin Scorsese’s body of work because of what he said about comic books. You want to avoid that sort of thing? Just give them a salute and move on. They’re movies just like any other movies, for heaven’s sake.”
Similar to the myriad of MCU fans all over the globe, Kevin has some theories on where Marvel is headed and who may serve as the next major antagonist following Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige’s recent comments to GamesRadar that the next big threat for the MCU will reveal itself in the “coming months.”
“Well, there’s a part of me that feels Galactus because they want to bring FF (Fantastic Four) in a big, bad way. But I don’t know, man,” Smith said. “They got enough characters now that maybe— I’m not alone in this. It’s not like a hot take, but feels like Secret Wars is coming.
“I felt the closest we’d ever get to Secret Wars was Captain America: Civil War, where it’s like, ‘Look at this. Heroes fighting heroes. This is nuts. It’s just like out of the comic books.’ But I don’t know, man. In a world where they’re doing the multiverse, how far away is somebody like Beyonder?
“How far away is the idea of you’re all being brought to this place away from Earth where no one will get hurt, and you’re all going to fight the s*** out of each other? That’s the stuff of movie magic right there.
“Maybe Galactus is on the way to that, or maybe one is on the way to Galactus because Galactus, in terms of a world-ending threat like Thanos, is about as big as that gets in Marvel. This is a character that eats whole planets, a world-ender of sorts.”