No one is more honest about Kevin Smith than Kevin Smith.
Self-deprecating and exceptionally blunt (even for a guy from Jersey), the 46-year-old writer-director fully acknowledges the chutzpah it took to make his first movie, Clerks, at just 22, credits Shannen Doherty for Mallrats' existence, and knocks Jersey Girl down a peg before you can.
Even so, we were a little surprised Smith was so game to rank his own movies, but we shouldn't have been. The man knows which movies he's done well and why critics slam others, and he’s got no problem defending the choices he’s made. That includes his last two films, Tusk and Yoga Hosers, which even Clerks diehards can admit feel like Kevin Smith movies, albeit ones that go completely off the rails. According to Kevin, that makes his latest fare that much more genuine.
"I've gotten to do more than I ever imagined I'd f**king do. I just wanted to make Clerks -- that was it," he admitted to ET. "All this has been beyond comprehension… [and] at a certain point, you're playing on house money. You're no longer going, 'Boy, I hope things work out.' They've long since worked out. So now I've gotten to a place where I [could ask myself],'Well, why'd they work out?’ And they worked out because, I don't want to use the term ballsy, but I was adventurous when I was a kid. I didn't care what the repercussions were. That one kind of Ayn Rand-ian, 'me first' move of 'I'm just here for me, I just want to see Clerks,' launched a career. I didn't see that coming along.”
"I've noticed over the course of two decades of having [a career], one of the first instincts you have is to protect it and try to hold onto it and safeguard it, because now you've got the easy streak: getting paid to make pretend," he continued. "So you start making safer choices and then one day -- the worst part -- you start looking over the fence to see what other people are doing. And that's not how I got there. I didn't get there by making a movie that looked like somebody else's movie. I got there making mine. I've now kind of come back to a place where I'm like, well, f**k safeguarding the career -- just enjoy yourself. If you're going to safe up, why are you doing this at all?"
And that is how we got the Canada-centric Yoga Hosers, which, in a cinematic world that also includes Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Dogma, is either brilliant or his most absurd flick yet.
"I realized I should just make the s**t that terrifies me the most," he explained. "Because the moment we announced [Yoga Hosers], there was a good portion of the Internet that was like, "F**k you and your kid and making a movie with your kid.' That's always going to be out there and that's sometimes the reason not to do s**t, where you're just like, ‘Maybe I won't do it because I don't want to get ridiculed.’ But I've never thought about doing s**t to help the career, and I really shouldn't start now. I honestly look at it like trying to bring the f**king career down, not in a sh**ty way that you don't appreciate it, but like that's where the f**king weird, wonderful s**t happens."
Where does this latest "f**king weird" fare rank among Kevin's cult classics? Probably not where you'd expect, and same goes for Mallrats and Clerks. Here's how he ranked all 11 of his movies:
1. Clerks 2
"Oddly enough, you'd imagine it'd be Clerks, the movie that started my career, but I love the story of Clerks 2 so much more -- about coming to that point in your thirties when you realize you can't be the person you were in your twenties anymore. It's a movie about change, and my generation -- in particular, my gender -- accepts change so poorly. It comes very slowly to us. That was a movie about not waiting to be saved, but being your own hero.
What I love about that movie most is when the boys at the end decide to buy the Quick Stop and reopen it themselves. I've seen the movie a zillion times, and even just talking about it, I get emotional. That's my favorite thing that any of my characters have ever done, because they took control of their lives."
2. Chasing Amy
"Chasing Amy would be my second on the list by virtue of the fact that that's the one that got probably the most appreciation. That was the one where they said, 'He's a legit filmmaker.' It's considered my most grown-up movie, and it also came from a personal life at the time, so it's insanely authentic, but dated now because everyone wears stonewashed jeans and smokes incessantly. There's a lot of cigarettes in that movie."
"I love Tusk. It's just so bats**t crazy, and it was the movie I was never supposed to make. That was the one where I was like, 'Don't do this, it will kill your career.' Then I was like, 'Ooh, that's the reason to do it.' Like, don't be afraid, don't be scared, go forward.
It's the closest movie I ever made to Clerks, even though they're not about the same thing at all, but it was made in the spirit of 'I just want to see it.' I don't give a f**k about my career or somebody else or what people were going to say or what it did at the box office. I just needed to see Clerks. Tusk was the same thing. I was like, 'Nobody's gonna wanna see this but me, but I don't give a s**t. I need to see this movie. Nobody else is ever gonna make it -- might as well be me.'"
4. Red State
"I absolutely adored Red State, because it was me making the least expected movie to come from me. If I had taken my name off it and never told anybody we were making it, nobody would've ever known that I made that movie. It's the one that looks so entirely different and plays so entirely different than the other ones. The only thing it kind of bares a little bit of resemblance to is, like, the dudes are talking about sex, and I've made movies where dudes talk about sex, and there's a religious element, and I've made a movie with a religious element. Other than that, it was me doing Quentin Tarantino by way of the Coen Brothers, so I was happy. I've seen a lot of people make movies that are kind of like Clerks, dudes sitting around talking with their friends, and this was my fan film, the idea of making a movie like a filmmaker that I was a fan of."
"It reminds me of where I came from. It's a snapshot of my life at age 22. But it also gave me everything. It was a career starter. Without Clerks, nothing else ever happens. I'm still working at convenience stores probably, 'til this day. So you'd imagine by virtue of that, it'd be number one on the list, but just in terms of my personal faves, it falls after Tusk."
"I love Dogma. It's an ode to my Catholic youth. A lot of people said you need a catechism book to kind of make it through the movie if you're not Catholic, but if you grew up remotely Catholic, you recognize that flick right away. And it was me working with one of my favorite casts ever. I got to work with the great Alan Rickman and the great George Carlin, two people that we've lost. I can still go back and revisit their performance in that movie, every time, and always remember how amazing they were in real life.
Both of those men were exceptional at what they did for a living. You'll rarely meet people who are as good at their jobs as those two gentlemen were, but I'm always happy to report that, as fantastic as they were, they were equally, if not more so, cooler people. At the end of the day, they were real people."
"Mallrats, oddly enough for a lot of people, seems to be their favorite of my work. They dig Mallrats. They see it as a movie that predicted the future, because now everybody knows who Stan Lee is and everyone talks about comic books. So I got that going for me. That was not the intention! So, Mallrats definitely, so much so, that we're heading back into making it into a series now."
8. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
"Probably the most fun movie I ever shot. It was a cameo affair. Jay [Mewes] and I were there every day, but everyone else usually worked for one or two days or they were on and then off, so it never got boring. You never grew frustrated, because every day it was somebody new. It was like doing a talk show and suddenly you're like, 'Hey, Sean William Scott's here today,' and then 'Hey, Shannen Doherty is here today.' It was just fun.
That was the movie right after Dogma, where we were coming off of 300,000 pieces of hate mail and three death threats, all that religious consternation. This was '99, the days of dial-up, when people wrote letters. That's what was scary -- 300,000 pieces of hate mail written and put into envelopes. So after that, I was looking to make a movie that doesn't piss anybody off. We'd have a good time, nobody's gonna get mad, and that was Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."
9. Yoga Hosers
"Yoga Hosers is very close in spirit to Mallrats but with more antics. And like Mallrats, it's about younger people. These are the youngest people I've gotten to make a movie about, really. Normally, I [wrote about] kids who were just out of high school or just out of college, so [this] is a dream of mine, the John Hughes stuff. What I grew up on, all those kids were in high school, so that's why I look forward to the Mallrats series, because a lot of it is set in high school, and I kind of get to do that John Hughes stuff."
10. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
"I think it's a very emotionally authentic movie, even though it's a f**king comedy. There are real feels in that f**king flick, and I credit Seth [Rogen] and [Elizabeth] Banks with pulling that off. The scene where they finally have sex is honestly one of my favorite sex scenes in a movie ever. No nudity, but it's incredibly poignant. It's really emotional, and then we periodically cut out to make jokes and then cut back into it.
I love that flick, but that flick bares to me the stink of me trying to do Judd Apatow. Because at that point, Judd Apatow movies had taken off, like 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, so I was like, 'Oh s**t, the movies I used to make are popular now. I'm gonna go make one.' I love Judd, but I'm here to do me. But I do love it. And I love when people talk about it. They're like, Zack and Miri's on, this is an unsung flick of yours.' It seems like it's having something of a Mallsrats-ian life. A decade on from the release of that movie, it's become a Thanksgiving movie. It doesn't hurt that the two stars are f**king insanely well-known now."
11. Jersey Girl
"Like everybody, I guess, and not because I don't like it, but just in terms of ranking, Jersey Girl kind of falls at the end. That was the one I took the most heat for. And we had bad luck following Gigli. That hurt us. As a filmmaker, I would love to be, 'It was them, not me,' but I think it was probably a mixture of both. But I'm always proud of the fact that -- and nobody cites this because it's not like a Hollywood math record or anything -- but [Gigli] made six million bucks total in its theatrical run. We opened at eight million bucks, and we followed them, and our job was to be like, 'Hey, remember that movie you f**king hated? Here's another one with both of those people you can't stand!' By virtue of that, we should have made way less money, and we actually did wind up doing close to 30 million.
[In Jersey Girl], George [Carlin] has this one wonderful moment where Ben [Affleck] is talking to him and says something about living alone, and George has this really wonderful delivery about not wanting to die alone. He loved acting, wanted to be an actor the whole time. He wound up being George Carlin, which I think is better than being an actor. I remember when we shot that sequence, right afterwards he goes, 'That was my favorite thing I've ever done.' I f**king rolled a tear watching him make that delivery, and then afterwards, I rolled an even bigger tear because I'm like, 'Aw, George!' But oddly enough, his favorite performance was in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back as the trucker who blows people. Kelly, his daughter, told me that -- that's the one he would show people all the time and be like, 'Look at how wide I open my eyes.'
That's what gets you through, when people are like, 'You f**king suck d**k at this job,' as if that's an insult -- if I sucked d**k at this job, I'd be much better at my job. You just remember the person you idolized, George Carlin, he worked with you many times, and he liked you a lot."
When Kevin and his daughter, Harley Quinn, visited ET for a Facebook Live chat on Tuesday, the 17-year-old actress admitted that it hurts her to see criticism about her dad, turning to him to say, "I love you and I think everything you do is great, so I hate it."
Kevin's reply? "You're adorable, but you're easily fooled, man. You didn't see Jersey Girl."
Maybe not, but George Carlin sure did.