Kevin Smith is focused on this life.
That became apparent when I asked the moviemaker who wrote the screenplay to “Dogma” if he believed in God. His answer was by far the heaviest part of a generally lighthearted interview with the director who grabbed attention with his first movie “Clerks” and who shot the movie “Mallrats” in Minnesota.
He loves to talk about that movie and is excited about preparing to shoot “Mallrats 2.” Smith was in Minneapolis for two appearances connected to the influx of geeks and nerds who provide such interesting people-watching at the Minneapolis Convention Center where Wizard World Comic Con comes to a close Sunday.
I spoke with Smith by phone before he flew in for his Friday appearances.
Q: Do you still attend mass? I was reading an interview where you recalled your childhood was spent going to mass.
A: No. It’s so weird I was just thinking about that the other day. During “Dogma” I was still a pretty hard-core Catholic, still struggling to hold on to my Catholicism, hence the movie’s existence in the first place. But now, no. My dog passed, his name was Mulder, a month and a half ago. He was 17 and I think when he went there went the last vestiges of my childhood faith.
Q: Do you believe in God?
A: Honestly, when the dog died I kind of realized this. I watched him pass. He was an incredible life force. Never once throughout his entire existence did this dog look up to me and ask, “Am I going to heaven or hell?” He had no religion. I think it was at that moment I just suddenly grew up, hit a point where I was like, “You know what, I don’t need a story that somebody else tells me, that’s going to tell me what’s going to happen after this. Rather than focus on AFTER this, I’m going to focus on THIS. Put all my energy and faith and spirituality into life, not worrying about or wondering what happens after death and listening to anybody who has a story to tell you about angels and whatnot. There’s a plaque hanging at my house, a yoga thing, and I passed it for years and never really read it. It says, “May you realize your divinity in this lifetime.”
It’s not about living in service to some being you can’t see. It’s about living in service to everyone here. Aren’t we supposed to be beings of our own little universes, make things better, not rely on somebody in the sky to help us out? I have zero compunctions about having been raised Catholic. It was great stuff to tell a kid, who didn’t know what would happen to him after he died. Now I know what’s going to happen to me. I’m going to sit in a box and rot in the ground. So I’m going to try to make the most of my life while I’m here. All of that spirituality people want to focus on in the afterlife, I’d rather focus on the living. Being spiritual isn’t necessarily being religious. I don’t begrudge anybody.
I was just with my Mom, she’s struggling to hold on the last vestiges of Catholicism as well. You just get to a point where you’re too old and it doesn’t make sense anymore. Then the truth starts creeping in and logic starts creeping in. It’s not like I lost my innocence or something, you just realize, “Hey, I’m ready to handle more than I did when I was a child.” I would hope I could handle more.
Q: What do you know now about filmmaking that you wish you knew when you shot “Mallrats” in Eden Prairie?
A: I’m not good at it. That’s what I wish I had known when I shot "Mallrats." I wasn’t self-aware. That’s why making “Mallrats 2” will be a joy. Now, I have self awareness. I know I’m not making Shakespeare, I’m making a mall movie with a 2 in the title.
Q: Who’s tougher on actors who are pains in the butt, you or Shonda Rhimes?
A: [Laughter] Shonda Rhimes, she works with more actors. She’s constantly working. I work like every three years. She has more access to actors.
Q: If Bruce Willis is at the same party do you speak or ignore each other?
A: I would go over and give him the biggest hug on earth. That way, if he hauled off and punched me, I could just stand up and be like, SEE! In “Cop Out” he and I didn’t get along that well. But enough time has passed where I feel like I could, as they say, hug it out with Mr. Willis.
Q: Who’s on your list of people you’d never cast in another movie?
A: You never say never in life. I’ve worked with some cats, who maybe I wasn’t mature enough to handle it, or whatever. So I always say, “Hey man, down the road maybe.” “Mallrats 2” gives me the perfect opportunity to cast anybody. It’s a movie like “The Cannonball Run;” it has so many cameos. I could literally jump back through my filmography and pop people in. I just don’t think Bruce would do it. I think he would pop me in the mouth before he’d pop into the movie.
Q: So I can expect some pretty good celebrity sightings when you are shooting “Mallrats 2” here, eh?
A: If we get to shoot in Minnesota that would be a dream. Sadly, the people with the money are going to make me go wherever we get the biggest tax break. Then from what I understand the Eden Prairie Mall is thriving. When we shot in the mall back in ’95 they were below 50 percent occupancy. Even if we wanted to shoot at that mall they would probably be like: ‘Look, this is an active mall.’ Good thing about the United States of America: There are a ton of dead malls.”
Q: Is “Clerks 3” really going to be your last movie?
A: No, no. That was going to be my last movie a long time ago and then I made “Tusk.” Then I said, “Oh, I get it. I don’t have to retire from movies. All I have to do is just make the movies that only I would bother to make.” So that’s how we got to “Tusk.” We just finished “Yoga Hosers,” another one we are working on is called“Moose Jaws,” but first up is going to be “Mallrats 2.”
Q: What was going on with Jason Long’s mustache in “Tusk”?
A: [Long laugh] There is a subtle reference to him eventually being a walrus. That was something he wanted to bring to it. I said, “Go ahead.” I honestly think he was trying to hide his identity from the people watching the movie. He didn’t want to be associated with the flick.
Q: Any chance Jay and Silent Bob will make an appearance together, perhaps try and take down Michael Rooker one more time, for old time’s sake?
A: Absolutely. Now Michael Rooker is a movie star, and on “The Walking Dead” [where] he had a huge part; he was in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Expect Michel Rooker to have a much bigger part in any “Mallrats” sequel, and Jay and Bob will definitely be back.
Q: How many movies do you watch at home in a week?
A: Not a lot, man. I haven’t been in a watching mode lately, I’ve been in a maker mode instead. I’ve been watching a lot of “Mad Men” and “Veep,” which to me have been like creative crack. Before I go write something, if I want to be inspired I’ll watch one of those.
Q: From talking to you now, I can tell that really was your voice on the “Big Bang Theory” a few weeks ago.
A: They called up and said, “Do you want to come do your voice?” and I was like yeah. I work best as just a voice. I’ve got a body built for just doing voice work.
Q: Kaley Cuoco is a better actor than I’ve given her credit for. I think I’ve been distracted by how attractive she is — before her current haircut, which is not helping her out at all — and how ditsy she was in early episodes.
A: [We laughed] I’ve worked with her on the show. She was really good. Since within the show [BBT] we were talking about her auditioning for “Clerks 3,” a lot of people online were like, Dude, cast her in “Clerks 3” because that would be incredibly meta.
Q: I think you should. Who are your friends on CBS’ “Big Bang Theory?”
A: The only one I knew was Wil Wheaton, and he was a guest on the show that episode [where I was a podcast voice]. He’s been on a few episodes. I guess maybe they asked Wil, “Who do you know?” and he said Kevin Smith and that’s how I wound up on the show. But I got to meet the guy who played David. I was a huge “Roseanne” fan, so I cornered him, gave him a big hug.
Q: Leonard on the “Big Bang”?
A: Yeah, Johnny Galecki his name is. I said, “Dude, we model our life on ‘Roseanne,’ We even have our own David in the house.” My daughter’s boyfriend is always around. It was kind of nice.
Q: Do you consider yourself cool or nerdy?
A: I go nerdy. The nice thing is nerdy has become cool. So I won just by being myself. The rest of the world came around.
Q: Describe the Kevin Smith action figure to me?
A: Doesn’t have any moving parts whatsoever. Very sedentary, just like the real Kevin Smith; inaction if you will.
Q: Would you have hired yourself to be the clerk at a store you owned?
A: Never. Oh my God. I was such a lazy fatass. I still am. Thank God I found a job where I can make pretend for a living because I was terrible at public service and blue-collar labor. Really. I would have let me work and then been like, “He’s terrible and he’s probably going to burn the place down.”
Q: How old were you when you stopped wearing superhero underwear?
A: [Laughter] My underwear are mauve color, I would say. Maroon, my wife just yelled out, so technically those count as Super Hero trunks. They’re not technically Underoos but they are not tighty whities. They look like old Superman could have worn them over his costume. New Superman doesn’t do that.
Q: You just celebrated 16 years of marriage. What’s the secret?
A: Sex. That’s it. You can love a lot of people. I love the people I used to love in my life. I just don’t have sex with them anymore. I just have sex with the goodly woman who has been standing by my side for 16 years. You make that person your only port of storm, it’s very easy to keep a good marriage going.
Q: What’s something you do during the day to make romance later a certainty?
A: Brush my teeth. It’s a very clear indicator in this house if I brush my teeth, ’cause I generally don’t brush my teeth. Before we have sex my wife is like, You’d better brush your teeth. I walk out into the room brushing my teeth just staring at her.
Q: Did you cut Twitter’s @JenSchwalbach from the pack because she was as big a hockey fan as you are or did you convert her?
A: She’s more of a casual enthusiast. She loves going to live games but she won’t sit there and watch on TV or follow the seasons. But if I’m ever like, “Let’s go to a hockey game,” she’s always up for it. The energy of a game is great, plus they have booze.
Q: CelebrityNetworth.com ( http://bit.ly/1dZL1l6 ) says you are worth $25 million. Is that estimate high or low?
A: I think that estimate is insanely high. If I was worth $25 million, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, man. I’d be so rich I would be like, “Do your own press.” Trust me. I see my bank account. We’re off about $24.75 million. My wife is just dying: “What? We’re 25 millionaires?” Once again the Internet is bugging wrong as rain.