Date of Birth: August 2, 1970
If there are three things that Kevin Smith's movies have in common it's this: plots that relate to each other, crass dialogue and recurring characters Jay and Silent Bob. Revered as one of the kings of independent film of the '90s, Smith was born the son of a postal clerk in Red Bank, N.J. He recalls an uneventful childhood in a white-trash town, where he watched hours of TV, read comic books endlessly and went to Mass on Sundays.
After a semester of college and four months at Vancouver Film School, Smith found himself back home working for $5 an hour at Quick Stop, a convenience store in Leonardo, NJ. He decided to write Clerks, based on a go-nowhere convenience store clerk who manages to reroute his dead-end life and find true love in the bargain, with very funny lines along the way.
Written in a month and shot at the store after hours in black and white, the project was funded by borrowing against credit cards and selling Smith's comic book collection for a total of $27,575. The movie stormed through Cannes and Sundance (picking up two awards in the process), was picked up by a major movie studio, did $3.2 million at the box office, played around the world and won Smith a multi-movie deal with Miramax.
Naturally, Miramax had high hopes for Mallrats(1995), Smith's second film starring Jason Lee, Jason London and Shannen Doherty. The ode to a now defunct mall in New Brunswick, NJ, was poorly received. Nevertheless, Smith ended up getting tapped by Warner Bros. to write a movie they hoped would be a smash hit of galactic proportions: Superman Lives. Director Tim Burton and Nicholas Cage signed up, but Burton bailed and the script is still in limbo.
That was all fine and well, because Smith had Chasing Amy on the way. Released in the spring of 1997, the film starred Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams as two friends who fall in love despite the fact that she's a lesbian. Smith received Best Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards and was runner-up in the Boston Society of Film Critic's Choice Awards for the same film and the same award. It also landed on Time and Rolling Stone's year-end Top 10 lists.
His biggest and most controversial film was yet to come. Dogma (1999) was written before Clerks, but Smith wanted to wait until he could get funding for the appropriate special effects. The story is about two fallen angels who find a loophole in biblical literature making it able for them to get back into heaven. Smith had gained such a fanbase with 'Amy' that he got top stars to come aboard (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock amd Salma Hayek) for reduced rates. Despite intense criticism from the church-going public and Disney's (Miramax's parent company) decision to drop the film, it made over $29 million.
Next he directed and starred in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the final of the series. When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were an item, he hired them to star in his next feature, Jersey Girl, which he wrote and directed but did not act in. Unfortunately, they broke up before the film and Smith then cut out the scene in which they got married. Next, he filmed Clerks II (2006).
Smith is married and still resides in Red Bank, New Jersey. He runs his own production company, View Askew Productions, and owns Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, a comic book store. He has a daughter, Harley Quinn, who is named after a character in Batman: The Animated Series. Harley starred, alongside Johnny Depp's daughter Lily-Rose Depp, in Kevin's film, Yoga Hosers (2016).
Photo credit: © James Shaw/Retna/Keystone Press via ZUMA Press
Filmography: (Director)Yoga Hosers (2016)
Filmography: (Actor)Fanboys (2008)