The cult filmmaker turned Hollywood heavyweight, Kevin Smith, has been delighting and beguiling his following since the early 90s with the release of Clerks. While his unique films have gathered a strong following, he has branched out into larger blockbusters as well. But he continues to create oddball films for his own sake, and he’s even coming to town to show off his latest. Yoga Hosers screens at The Joy Theater on Wednesday, June 1st, complete with a QnA with Kevin Smith after the film. I got to ask him some questions in advance of the event about this film and his unexpected self-identification.
WYAT: This is specifically a teenager movie, and your other films are for more of a college crowd. What is the difference between those age groups?
Kevin Smith: I never really think about who’s watching it; I just think about what I want to do, what I want to write. Oddly enough, I found out that my maturity level at age 45 is in line with that of a 12 to 15 year old girl as I was making this movie. I was looking at Yoga Hosers as the movie that I wanted to watch back when I was a 12 to 15 year old girl but couldn’t make it until I was a 45 year old man. The jokes are not that different. It’s more tween oriented. Since you’ve got two girls at the epicenter, and the audience is young, it’s a kids movie, I felt that it would be weird to have people yelling “Cocksucker” throughout the show, so by virtue of that, I said, “Alright, it’s going to be PG-13.” I would have been happy to do PG, which would be great because I never thought I’d make something like that. But I’ve done PG-13 before; Jersey Girl was PG-13, another horror movie I made back in my past. The only difference here is that the audience I intend the movie for is the youngest I’ve ever worked for. I’m aiming at a very specific target for it because I took my kid to the movies her whole life and showed her stuff like Ironman, Batman, and Spiderman, and my wife was like, “When is it going to be a girl or woman? None of these movies are about girls.” Over a lifetime, that starts sinking in. At one point, I thought, “You can sit around and complain that these movies don’t exist, or you can try to make one even though it’s outside of your wheelhouse. And that was the fun part of it. I was damned pleased that I could. Most critics don’t believe that I made a kids movie, let alone a human movie, they think it’s weird and terrible. I get it; it’s a bizarre film. It’s a throwback. A lot of people said that my whole career: “His movies are so 90s. He’s stuck in the 90s.” So with this movie, I was like, “Fuck it, I’ll go back to the 80s.” It’s very Ghoulies, not even Gremlins. But I love it to death. It’s a comic book movie for girls. They wear costumes; they don’t wear masks, and they fight Bratzies, one-foot tall Canadian Nazis made of bratwurst, and this big goalie, Goalum, that all the Bratzies jump inside and turn this monster to life and have to save the critics. It’s fun for me, man. It’s a weird movie, very masturbatory, which sounds weird because I’ve got my kid in the movie, but I mean nobody likes these movies but me. That’s why I call them masturbatory, they’re just for me. I didn’t make experimental movies at the beginning of my career. I just made Clerks, and, bam, I had a career. Then Mallrats and Chasing Amy, those aren’t the movies I dreamed to make. I grew up watching Reanimator and From Beyond. But I couldn’t make that shit because I didn’t have talent back then; some people would argue I still don’t. But at least I know what to do on camera now more than I did back then. Back then, I didn’t get to play around like most people do like exploitation movies and low-budget horror flicks, then do some TV, then have a film career. I started with indie film and that brought me into the world of Miramax, which is quasi-studio. So now, later in life, I’m circling back and doing TV, I directed an episode of Flash, and making the movies that one is supposed to do before people see their work. These things are fun; they’re cheap. As long as you keep it cheap, and Yoga Hosers is a 4 million dollar movie, keep it cheap, everyone gets covered by foreign sales and domestic sales, and then you get to be creative. I’ve been trying to make Clerks 3 for three years now, much easier to get money together for a movie about a guy who turns another guy into a walrus and two little girls fighting phallic objects that come out of the earth. People are more willing to take a financial risk on something people haven’t seen before. We’ve seen Clerks and Clerks 2 so we know what a Clerks 3 might look like, but I’ve never seen a movie with Nazi Sausages in it. It’s fun for me; I’m experimental at the right time while still being conventional with my other jobs working for Warner Brothers.
WYAT: What does the term “hoser” mean?
Kevin Smith: Hoser is a Canadian word that American culture might remember from the early 80s when SE TV was still on the air and Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas played the characters Bob and Doug McKenzie. The also had a hit album called The Great White North. From that came a movie called Strange Brew, a movie that was not very successful when it came out. But the derogatory term for the characters was hosers; like blue collar Canadians who drink beer and eat donuts. We were doing an episode of SModcast, and my cohost Scott Mosier coined the phrase. We were reading a story about this Canadian yogi who ran afoul of the law in Edmonton, and we were talking about it and doing little sketches about it, then Scott came up with the term yoga hoser. I laughed hysterically, it was so clever. A month later when I was writing this script, I originally called it The Hero Girl Clerks of the Canadian Wilderness. It was a spinoff of Tusk. I added at one point that the girls were yoga enthusiasts and that left the door open for that term. It terms of marketability, it’s not the smartest choice for a title, but you don’t these things for the market, you do it to see them. It’s a content friendly world now. Even if it doesn’t work theatrically, it’s going to be seen by everybody once it goes digital and hits Netflix. I tend toward the unpopular and the weird.
WYAT: People say you’re too good at making films now and that your initial quirkiness is gone. How do you respond to that?
Kevin: If I were to argue with them, I would say its way quirkier to have Nazi sausages attacking little girls in a convenience store than to have two people sitting in a convenience store talking about other movies. Anybody that misses the old stuff can watch the old stuff. You can only get better with practice; I can only move in one direction. My craft has gotten better. In the beginning, I used to rip stories out of my own life and now I just make stuff up. The stuff I make up isn’t really everybody’s cup of tea, but I’m okay with that. I was okay with that from the beginning. I didn’t make Clerks thinking, “I hope everybody likes this.” I honestly never thought it would play outside of New Jersey because I thought it was so regional and shit. Every time one of the movies has an audience, I’m blown away by it. Mallrats was the second movie we did and it was critically reviled and opened to 2 million bucks. It died. People wrote: “This is what happens when you give one of those Sundance kids money.” I remember me and Scott Mosier sitting there terrified that we were going to have to give the studio the money back that they lost. Twenty years on, Mallrats is the movie that people come up to me the most. Mallrats looks most like the world today; Clerks doesn’t. People were in acid wash and using pay phones. Video stores don’t even exist anymore. But Stan Lee is popular and everyone loves comic books. People dissect this shit like it matters; that’s the world we live in today. Comic book culture went from being underground to pop culture. The movie that many people told me ruined my career, I’m still here today. The alternative is to not make a movie and then wonder what it would have looked like, and who can live with that? Not me. Just make it. I started my career just wanting to see what it would look like. Nobody is going to make a Kevin Smith movie. Trust me. I’ve waited for years before I’ve made them. Nobody wants to make a Kevin Smith movie except Kevin Smith. So that’s my cross to bear. It’s a happy cross; I love these movies. Sometimes I’m the only one.
WYAT: Clerks 2 is my hangover movie. Do you have one movie you watch when you’re unwell?
Kevin: I’m a stoner, not a drinker. But my comfort food movie is The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s along those lines; it’s not loud, there are no explosions, and there is a journey that’s dark and twisted at times. It’s pretty people doing simple things in pretty places, which is the most reductive review of that amazing movie. But it became one of my most watched films; my wife and I have watched that movie so many times. It doesn’t demand a lot of you once you know the story, but it does demand your interest. You can’t just do other shit and you don’t do other shit because you respect it. And it just goes down well. So my comfort movies are classy pictures, oddly enough. It should be Porky’s, but really it’s Talented Mr. Ripley.