A Conversation with Filmmaker Kevin Smith

The Red Bank native talks Jersey, Hollywood and more.

Kevin Smith Photo courtesy of Allan Amato

You’ve said that director Richard Linklater’s low-budget 2002 film Slackers changed your life. How so?

I thought films were these big-budget productions before I saw Slackers. But I learned that you can make smaller films and you could tell a story. With Slackers, Richard wrote this love letter to his hometown [Austin, Texas]. I thought that I could do that.

So your first film, Clerks, was a love letter to New Jersey?

Very much so. I paid tribute to Monmouth County and Highlands. Growing up there had such a huge impact on me.

You left New Jersey almost 20 years ago. What do you miss about it?

That I’ll never have the chance to experience my childhood in New Jersey again. I had the greatest time growing up where I did. 

Do you ever come back and drive past some of the significant places in your life?

It’s a great thing to do with my mom, who is 73… When you drive around with your mother and go down memory lane, it’s like porn for a mom. She took me to Newark where she grew up. Jersey is magic for my mom.

Your daughter, Harley Quinn, was born in Jersey, but grew up in Los Angeles. She’s now an actress and singer and appears in your new film. Did you worry about how different her values would be growing up in Hollywood?

Yes! I was worried she would grow up an a-hole—or even worse, a Kardashian. Fortunately she’s a Jersey girl at heart. She’s very levelheaded even though she’s in this business.

You opened your comic book shop in Red Bank in 1997. Today it seems akin to owning a record store. How long can you keep Secret Stash afloat?

We opened in 1997, and I’m proud the brick-and-mortar store still exists. I know what you’re saying. People read on their iPhone, but I’ll keep the store open as long as it pays for itself. It exists as long as I don’t have to pay out of pocket. 

On October 19, you and Jay and Silent Bob Reboot costar Jason Mewes are appearing at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. The show is already sold out. Do you expect to break the eight-hour Q&A mark you set at the Count Basie Theatre in 2005?

I’ll go as long as the fans want me to go and as long as they’ll let me. That night at the Basie, I talked for so long that only a quarter of the crowd remained. Afterward everyone went to the Secret Stash. I continued talking because I love to talk.

Still a big Devils fan?

It’s in my DNA. My first Devils game was in 1988 against the Flyers. My friend said that we would buy scalped tickets. I was like, “We’re going to commit a low-grade crime to watch a hockey game!” It was a big deal for a sheltered kid. I remember eating a knish at the old Brendan Byrne Arena and feeling freedom for the first time. It was an unforgettable experience.

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