Jay and Silent Bob are all grown up in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, their first feature film since 2006’s Clerks 2 and an almost-complete retread of their first headline outing, the Strike Back entry from 2001. (The guys from the front of the Quick Stop are once again trying to halt production of a Bluntman and Chronic movie – though this time it is, in a nod to the times, a reboot of the original film based on the characters that were based on, well, Jay and Silent Bob.) Just how much has the duo, played by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, grown? Well, Jay – the goofy, shouty, long-haired weed dealer who lit up the screen in Clerks and then became a sensation in Mallrats – is a father for starters, discovering he’s the long-lost dad to a teenager played by Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn. And Bob talks almost non-stop throughout the film. Just kidding.
But there’s a new maturity to the two mainstays of Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse, the cinematic universe kicked off by Clerks and which includes Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks 2. And in their latest adventure, there’s also a ton of heart: Reboot is a Jay and Silent Bob that will make you tear up – and not just from over-toking.
The two men behind Jay and Bob are all grown up, too, something fans of their podcast Jay and Silent Bob Get Old will know. In the infrequent but lengthy episodes, Smith and Mewes detail the trials of fatherhood – Mewes is a newish dad to a young girl named Logan who has a cameo in the new movie – and addiction and sobriety: Mewes is almost 10 years sober after struggling with heroin and substance abuse. In this exclusive extended interview with Smith and Mewes, they reveal how they first met and formed a lifelong personal and creative bond that would grow and be tested in ways none of them knew when they were just kids at the local rec back in Jersey.
Kevin Smith: “I met Jason – let me see – 32 years ago at this point. We both grew up in the town of Highlands in New Jersey and Jason was a figure of a suburban legend, so people would be like, ‘There’s that Jay Mewes, he broke the window at Cumberland Farms.’ Or, ‘There’s that kid Jay Mewes, I hear he f—ed a dog once.’ Which he didn’t, right?”
Jason Mewes: “No, never.”
Smith: “My friends Bryan Johnson and Walter Flanagan, I worked with them at the Highlands Recreation Center. That means we met in the caring of children, which was so bizarre; he was one of the children. He came after I left and the boys started hanging out with him. He was younger. I was like 17, you were 13. I was hanging out with these two guys, Walter and Bryan, and I was their new cool, funny friend, and then all of a sudden they started talking about funny things that this Jay Mewes guy said. I was like, ‘Mewes? That kid? That local kid?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah man, he’s funny. He hangs out at the rec a lot.’”
Smith: “One day we’re going up to a comic book show in New York; it was me and Bryan and Walter. I get to house to pick up Bryan and Walter and Jason’s there and they’re like, ‘We’re going to bring them with us.’ And I was like, ‘I’m not driving this minor across state lines. No way, man, I ain’t doing that.’ And then Bryan’s like, ‘Well then I’ll drive. And then Jason’s like, ‘Shotgun, nooch!’ And then he jumped in the front seat and then I sat in the back, the whole ride up. Jason was saying all of these funny things up front – snoog and snooch and all that stuff – and Bryan and Walter were like, ‘Ha ha ha.’ And I was sitting in the back, like, ‘He ain’t so funny, man.’ Because I was the new funny friend and suddenly I was being replaced by the newer funny friend.
They lost interest in him. One day he came to my house — he lived like right around the block — and my mom was like, ‘That dirty boy from town is here.’ And I was like, ‘Who?’ And I looked out and it was Jason. ‘Jason Mewes is here. Why?’ And then I went out to answer the door, and he goes, ‘What are we doing today?’ And I was like, ‘We’re not doing anything. We’re not friends. You and me are friends with Bryan and Walter but we’re not friends. We hang out together because those guys; if they’re not around, we don’t really hang out. Do you understand?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, what are we doing today?’ So I kind of adopted him.”
Mewes: “As a 13-year-old, me and my friends would go to the woods. We’d build forts and fix bikes and put rope swings up and do fun stuff. That’s what we would do, but [Kevin, Bryan, and Walter] would talk about comics and movies and they used big words, which is funny now, but they did. It was appealing to me as a 13-year-old because I was like, ‘What are they saying? They’re saying things like ‘Austen-Tayshus’ – what does that mean? That is magical.’ And they would talk about girls. I was 14. I had never even kissed a girl and they actually had a couple of girlfriends.”
Smith: “That’s why he calls me ‘Moves.’ Whenever you hear him talk to me in real life he’s like, ‘Moves, can you do this? Moves come here.’ It’s because when he was young, he’d ask about girls and I would try to be like, ‘Whatever you do – he knew the bases – don’t slide into third. Nobody likes that. You got to treat it right. Here’s a book on gynecology that I got from this flea market and it’s worked wonders for me.’ He would be like, ‘Man, you’ve got the moves.’ I was like, ‘No, I have this gynecology book.’”
Mewes: “At that age, they knew stuff, so I wanted to hang out with him as much as possible. Plus, he had a room full of comic books, and he had tons of VHS tapes and movies and stuff. I remember that, and plus, he had a car and he drove us. All these things were appealing to me because, again, I’d go out and have fun with my friends, but I’d be like, ‘Oh, I wonder what Kevin’s doing. I want to go hang out with him because he’s going to show me Full Metal Jacket. He had knowledge of all movies and directors and they would talk about writers, and my friends would just be like, ‘Hey, have you seen the new Van Damme movie?’ Which was again great, but he would be like, ‘Did you see the Van Damme movie? It was written by Joe Bob, Billy Bob, and directed by Scorsese.’”
Smith: “We became really good friends, and I think he’s the most original human being I’ve ever met. Hands down an American original.”
Mewes: “Honestly, it started off as ‘Neh!’ And ‘neh’ just started off as meaning “just kidding,” because at 13, 14, I was always kidding with my friends and or people and I wanted to make sure they knew I was joking around.”
Smith: “Basically it was a defense mechanism. It was almost like a nervous condition. He would be like, ‘I slept with your mom last night – neh!’ And ‘neh’ meant: ‘Don’t hit me. I didn’t really sleep with your mom last night. I’m joking.’ The kid was always going, ‘neh, neh, neh, neh, neh, neh,’ and then it grew; he started finessing it. He’d be like, ‘Noitch!’ and then like, ‘Nooch,’ but [it meant the] same thing, ‘I slept with your mom, nooch.’ He got to throw a Dutch on it and then it would grow to where he’d be like, ‘I slept with your mom last night, snoochie boochies,’ and stuff like that. It was amazing. I watched the language grow.”
Smith: “One of the first things I thought [when I was making Clerks] was, ‘I’m putting Jason Mewes in the movie.’ Because he’s the funniest person I know, the most original person I know. I want to see if anyone else thinks that ‘snooging’ stuff works. I’m going to stick him outside the convenience store as one of the dealers. I worked at Quick Stop and you always had teenage weed dealers hanging outside the building and stuff. Never one of them – there’s always like a group of at least two. One guy dealing, one guy is his muscle and stuff. I said, ‘I’m going to make him like one of the kids that hangs outside of the store and sells weed.’ And then I didn’t want to give him somebody to talk to because I wanted to showcase all the stuff he says. He’s way more interesting when you just let him go. I was like, ‘I’ma stick somebody next to him. A character who’s his muscle but don’t say anything.’
There’s a character in this movie I loved called My Favorite Year: Herb, one of the writer [characters], never spoke throughout the whole movie and he would always kind of whisper to one of the other writers. In the midst of the chaos of the third act, at one point they cut to Herb and he goes, ‘My God, this makes me happy.’ And everyone stops and looks at him because he hasn’t said anything the whole movie and then the movie just goes back on. I liked that, and I was like, ‘All right, man, I could stick somebody next to Jay who doesn’t say anything and Jay is just talking to him all the time.’ And I went with the name Silent Bob because I was big fan of Twin Peaks and Bob was one of the characters. There was a Mike and Bob that lived above the grocery store, above the convenience store. I couldn’t name his character anything but Jay. He’s Jay and Jay was Jay, so it became Jay and Silent Bob.”
Smith: “We had no idea that there was any sort of awareness for the characters until Mallrats. Like, the first time we did a screening of Mallrats at the San Diego Comic-Con in 1995 at Horton Plaza, that was a screening of about 200 people, and Clerks had gotten to home video, but we hadn’t thought about that. All of a sudden Jay and Silent Bob come up on the screen and the audience erupted with recognition and that blew me away. I’m like, ‘What? How?’ And then I realized, ‘Oh, because people have seen Clerks down on home video and stuff.’ Suddenly we knew, ‘Oh, people liked him.’ And then nobody went to see Mallrats. It made less money than Clerks. It died at the box office.”
Mewes: “Yeah. I had to audition for Jay for Mallrats and it was because the studio was like, ‘Hey, we’re giving you this much money.’ And again, [Kevin] probably could tell it better because he was dealing with the producers and the casting and all that. What I remember is he was telling me, ‘Look, I want you. I can’t see someone else playing Jay. It was based on you.’”
Smith: “I did want him very badly, of course. Jay had to play Jay, but the studio was like, ‘He’s your friend. This is a funny role. It could go to a real actor.’ And so they made us audition a bunch of people and I still felt like he’s the guy. They had him audition against other Jays. Seth Green was one of them. I wanted Jay for Jay, but the studio liked Seth Green, and also [the guy he] does Robot Chicken with, Breckin Meyer. Breckin went on to be in Clueless and stuff. There were two guys that they were like, ‘These are the dudes that we want to play Jay.’
At the end of the day, [Mewes] shined. It was clear that he was the guy, but at the same time the studio was like, ‘We’re here, we’ll do this for you, [but] you can bring him out to Minnesota…’ – that’s where we shot the film – ‘…we’re not going to fly him out, and we’re not going to put him up for your month of rehearsal. So if you want him there, you fly him out, you put him up, and when we see his first day of dailies. If we don’t like him, he’s gone, and we’re bringing in Seth Green.’ I said, ‘OK.’ We had a month to rehearse and he got familiar and comfy with everybody.”
Smith: “You have to be able to act in front of people. He couldn’t do it on Clerks. On Clerks, [for] the dance scene out in front of the store, I was like, ‘All right, man, this is the scene. All we do is dance. Easy. No dialogue. We just dance like you always do.’ And he’s like, ‘I can’t dance in front of all these people.’ And it was literally just the DP, Dave Klein, and Scott Mosier the producer. Those dudes had to like go into RST Video and hide behind the door and the camera was taped down so it would just run on and record. On Mallrats, it was more about learning how to work in front of others so that you don’t clam up. The first day he was great. I thought he was great. Then we sent the dailies into the studio and we were fingers crossed, waiting to hear back from them, and they said, ‘All right, he can stay.’ Then they started paying him from that day forward.”
Smith: “The first cameo that Stan Lee ever did was in [1989’s] The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, one of the Marvel TV movies. And then there was another movie called The Ambulance, but I think we might be the first cinematic cameo that Stan did [in Mallrats]. Everyone calls it a cameo, but to me he was actually one of the supporting characters. He’s in the movie for quite a bit, and he was in there because we loved him. I’d written into the script this “comic book guru” and Jim Jacks, the producer, was like, ‘Hey man, who is this supposed to be?’ And I said, “Well, I guess it’s, in their world, [it would] be like a Stan Lee.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, why don’t you just write it for Stan Lee?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know Stan Lee.’ And he goes, ‘I do.’ And I was like, ‘Hollywood is good.’
Years later when they made the Captain Marvel movie, Stan’s on the train and he’s reading the script for Mallrats. It says ‘Mallrats by Kevin Smith,’ and in that way he kind of introduced me to a bunch of kids that don’t know who the hell I am. He returned the favor. He was a friend, man.”
Mewes: “Stan was awesome. Stan came down when I directed my first feature called Madness in the Method. I remember calling up his guy at the time — it was this gentleman named Max — and being like, ‘Hey, man…’ Stan always jokes with Kevin, and he’s always like, ‘When are you going to put me in your next movie?’ I’m like, ‘Well, he always tells Kevin he wants [to], so maybe he’ll go in one of my movies.’ I was like, ‘Do you think you’d be in a movie that I’m directing and I’m going to be part of?’ And his guy was like, ‘Yeah, he’ll come down for like two hours. You can have him, but he has to be home by 6pm because he will not miss dinner with his wife.’ And I thought that was so sweet.
He came down and he was super awesome and we finally got the camera ready and we started shooting and we did like three takes of the one thing and we did a couple more after. But [after the] first one I said, ‘Oh, can you do it again? Can you do this and say something different?’ And then we were like, ‘All right, we’re just going to move this camera over here and do this and this so you could take like five minutes.’ I walked away and I got a little teary-eyed, because it was amazing. I don’t know how to explain it. It just always was surreal to me, because comics were a huge part of my teenage years — I feel like it was a big part of getting closer to Kevin and Walt and getting to know those guys — and then here we are now, 30 something years later. Meeting Stan was awesome first, and then seeing him every time and him saying hello to me was great, and then for him to be in my movie. I had a moment and I stepped away. I was like, ‘This is so fantastic.’”
Smith: “We had a lot of famous people in Dogma – a lot of big actors and stuff. [And] unlike Clerks, all the reviews talked about Jay and Silent Bob. I’ll never forget, we did our New York Film Festival premiere of Dogma [and] we’re on the stage at Alice Tully [Hall] and during the Q&A, Matt Damon was just like, ‘Look, nobody’s saying it but I’ll say it: Jason Mewes stole the movie out from under everybody on this stage.’ The whole crowd went nuts and applauded. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my Lord, he did it.’ I was always like, ‘I wonder if anyone outside of New Jersey would find you funny.’ And they really, really did.’
Smith: “After that, I was like, ‘Well, the next movie, I’m going to make something that’s just fun. Hopefully we don’t get death threats. Something that nobody could be offended by.’ Also, I should get a little bit of a shout out to Wes Craven as well. After Dogma, we did this tiny piece in Scream 3 and it was at the same lot [where] we’d eventually shoot Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It was CBS and we were there for a day, and I remember being on the lot and being like, ‘This would be fun, man. To be on an actual movie studio lot and shoot a movie and stuff and have Jay and Silent Bob and Hollywood, that’s kind of funny.’ It all kind of coalesced and came together and I said, ‘You know what? Let’s do a movie that’s like you and me. We’ll be the leads this time around. A Jay and Silent Bob adventure.’”
Smith: “There were drugs back then as well. That was the difficulty, man. Getting him clean used to be a problem, because he fell into heroin and Oxycontin and stuff like that. Getting ready for Dogma was a Herculean effort, and then getting ready for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was like the same thing. It was about keeping him away from drugs, rehabbing him at the house – it’s so weird because it’s such a lifetime ago. It’s hard to associate that with the dude sitting next to me, but that used to be a big part of our relationship, and Jay and Silent Bob might be the reason he’s still above ground, because it was always this kind of, ‘Well you got to get clean, man, or else we don’t do this.’ It would be something you could use to keep him on the straight and narrow, but then the movie would end and you couldn’t stop him. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, he was clean throughout — no drugs, but he drank, and you could see he’s got like some kind of loose bloat in his face in the movie. I remember one point, the guy who in charge of Dimension called up. He said he saw the dailies and said, ‘Hey man, should we get Jay a trainer?’”
Smith: The studio was like, ‘Just do a bunch of these Jay and Silent Bob movies.’ They wanted, at one point, for us to cross over; it was such a weird idea in retrospect. At the certain point in their career, Abbott and Costello did a bunch of comedies, but then they started teaming them up with the Universal monsters. The idea was that we should team you guys up with the monsters that we have at Dimension. It was going to be Jay and Bob versus Pinhead from Hellraiser and Michael Myers — because they had the Halloween franchise — and Children of the Corn. The idea was going to be that Jay and Silent Bob would work the puzzle box from Hellraiser and it would send them to different places. The first place it sent them was rehab – that was their idea of hell.”
Mewes: “It’s hard for me to watch my performance in any of the movies, drugs or no drugs, honestly, because I always feel like I watch myself and I’m like, ‘Oh, I could have been funnier here. I should’ve given this look. I should have done that.’ But again, of course, I know [watching a certain scene], “Oh wow, that day I was in the bathroom every five minutes and I kept saying like, ‘Oh, my stomach hurts.’ I remember these bad moments, but not necessarily while we were shooting the character.”
Smith: “It’s almost 10 years now you’ve been clean, right? The big difference-maker at first was the podcast. We did Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, but then he had a kid, he had Logan; suddenly, all his priorities snapped into place. This would be the dude you’d joke about that he wouldn’t be in charge of a dozen eggs, let alone another human being, let alone a small human being, but he turned out to be like super dad. Hands down the best dad I’ve ever seen in my life, and I include myself as a dad in that equation, and even my father. Because he’s got like a million-dollar heart probably; something to do with his upbringing made him super dad because he didn’t know his dad or whatever.”
Mewes: “What I love is that, over the years, [Kevin has] adapted our characters based on where him and I are. Like in Clerks 2 – I had just gotten out of rehab and the ‘Holy Bible son’ and all that stuff [in the script is there because] I literally had just gotten out of six months of rehab and I had some time clean. And in Clerks, I was super obnoxious and you could see it. Then Mallrats I’m a little bit goofier – ‘snoochie boochies’ – and so I feel like it’s always sort of grown a little bit with that. Again, it’s perfect. I think this new movie honestly is super clever, and I ain’t just saying this because he’s here. I feel like he’s super clever in how he ties in all the other movies, how he’s brought it to where I’m a dad in real life and I’ve been sober and I’m married for a while and Jay and Bob are grown up [in this movie].”
Smith: “That’s kind of where Reboot came from. We’d been talking about it on tour. He’s always like, ‘When are we going to make another Jay and Bob movie?’ I’m like, “Never. We did it once and that was it.’ But then I would use it, too. I was like, ‘If you stay sober, maybe we will make another Jay and Silent Bob movie.’ And then one day it came to it, and then the story kind of wrote itself because he was a dad in real life and it was so amusing to see him being this incredible dad. He relates to the kid like I’ve never seen an adult relate to their own child. It might be because even though he’s 45 and she’s four, they’re emotionally on the same wave or whatever, but it’s a really warm, wonderful relationship, and I was like, ‘I’m going to do that for the movie.’ So I stole his real life and put it in the flick.”
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot will release in theaters nationwide on October 15 and 17.