Among geeky film fans, Kevin Smith needs no introduction. He’s brought us such treats as Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma, and recently he’s had a massive resurgence as a giant in the nerdy podcast world.
So far, two movies have come out of Smith’s podcasting: first was Tusk, branching out from a SModcast episode about a Gumtree advert seeking someone willing to dress up as a walrus in exchange for lodgings. Justin Long starred in that one, with Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith featuring in the supporting cast alongside her best friend Lily Rose Depp and her famous father Johnny Depp.
And now we have Yoga Hosers, a spinoff from Tusk in which Smith Jnr and Depp Jnr’s Canadian convenience store clerks are caught up in a madcap mystery involving miniature Nazis made of bratwurst (aka Bratzis), which Kevin Smith himself portrays. Yoga Hosers also had its roots in a SModcast episode, which we touch upon in the following conversation.
Back in July 2016, I got the chance to talk with Smith about the film. Our chat took place the morning after a packed-out Yoga Hosers screening at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, which kept Smith up until 3am. He was in a very chipper mood, considering….
NB: since this interview took place, the Arrow and Mallrats info may not be up to date anymore. For one thing, Kevin Smith’s recent Instagram post revealed that the Mallrats TV show pitches he told me about didn’t succeed in finding a home for the series.
So I was going through YouTube for ‘research’ yesterday…
Right, I do that too. I also go through porn channels for research as well.
[Laughs] … and there was a Vanity Fair interview with Harley, where she said, like, “dad doesn’t really want me watching most of his films” –
That’s not… I mean, look, I’m all for it, in fact I’ve been begging her to watch the movies, but her mom, since she was young, always kind of told her “you don’t want to watch dad’s movies,” and she was like “why?” and she was like “because they’ll break your brain, because you’ll be disgusted…”
Like, she made me out to be a pornographer, so the kid’s only seen Mallrats thus far. And Lily Rose [Depp], on the other hand, like, texts me periodically to be like, “I just watched Chasing Amy, that’s really great. I just watched Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, that’s hysterical!”
I keep telling Harley, I’m like, “Lily Rose is beating you in what you’ve watched of my repertoire,” but no, I’d be all for her to watch everything. There’s really no movie I’ve made that I’d keep from your kid. I can’t think of anything.
I mean we used to show her the movies when she was small, but she didn’t dig on them because they’re talky. They’re not really for kids by any stretch of the imagination, so… Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back played well for her, that’s when I realised, it just a big dirty cartoon. Because you could turn the sound down and she’d still like visually be captivated, if anyone’s been visually captivated ever in the history of film by Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, but a small baby might be able to.
I was trying to think of anything of yours that would be not for kids, all I could think of really was the donkey show in Clerks 2, but even then it’s not like they really –
Well that, at the end, but that oddly enough would be the thing she’d be most affected by, because she’s a big animal lover. So a) she’d be like “aww, there was a donkey there?” and b) “Why did you do that to that donkey?” So yeah eventually, hopefully she’ll get around to all of them, but it’s… you know… the way my movies get consumed seems to be like, very, in portions over the course of a long time.
Like I’m still meeting people and they’re like “oh I just saw Clerks, that was neat.” I’m like, oh my god that was 22 years ago. So, it’s nice if it sticks around, I’ve been lucky enough to have like a long tale where people are still watching the old shit, so much so that I still fucking talk about the old shit, but you know, it’s still, at the same time, it’s comfortable to be able to have those conversations about like, what I did, and where I came from, and how long I’ve been doing that and stuff like that.
But there, you know, honestly, there’s about zero I can think of, in my body of work… I’m trying to think, if there’s anything where I’d go “oh man, don’t look at that or don’t listen to that”, nah… even last night during the Q&A, you know, I still did like my same material, kinda, in front of her. There was a lot of dick references and sex references, but, you know, she’s 17, she’s not… she’s a 17 year old that came of age in the internet.
Like I was born in a more civilised time, before you could just say anything you wanted to somebody, and now she was raised in the trenches, so, you know, it’s just a different experience for her altogether. Like even when it comes to people attacking the movie, she’s just like, “it’s so weird, this person didn’t like the movie” as opposed to like “I’m devastated this person didn’t like the movie!”
She’s used to such a variety of opinions and most of coming anomalously from the internet, about anything in the world, that like, mild dissatisfaction or distate for her is like “that’s weird” as opposed to like “oh my god, we’re ruined.”
So I listened to the SModcast episode Yoga Hoser on my train in today. And I was a bit surprised: it’s not like Tusk when it’s the exact same story.
Yeah, it wasn’t like the Tusk podcast, I just like took the title, and that was about it.
Was it ever gonna be the story of the guy with ancient artefact thing?
No, I think that would’ve gotten me sued, you know? Like, at the end of the day, Tusk was a movie that came from a guy in Brighton, England had written an ad on Gumtree.uk about like this room for rent in exchange for dressing up like a walrus. And that birthed the movie. There were parts of the movie taken right from that posting. So Chris Parkinson, the guy that created the posting, like it was easy to be like “come on over here, and be a producer on the movie.” He was a producer on Tusk, because without him that movie doesn’t exist.
But Simon Metski, I think his name was, was the dude in Edmonton. Like, the notion that this yoga performer, yoga enthusiastic Canadian, that…. clearly our Justin Long character [in Yoga Hosers] is a nod to that, but I think if we just did that dude’s story, man, it might have been a tough thing. I think that dude probably could’ve come after us, and been like “hey, fucking, that’s me!” or something like that.
So instead we just kind of took the inspiration of a Canadian yogi and ran with that.
And when did that get rolled in with the idea to have a full film with Harley and with Lilly Rose?
I think when… I didn’t know that the Colleens were yoga enthusiasts. When we made Tusk, that wasn’t a part of that brief scene they were in. So, originally I think I was gonna call the film like Canadian Girl Clerks. No, Girl Clerks Of The Canadian Wilderness. That was the original title. I was gonna set most of the movie, like it started at the convenience store and then they were about to go to summer camp, and at summer camp we were gonna do a Jason type of thing. Like Friday The 13th. Like a slasher movie.
So, it came down to logistics I think. I think it was just like, if it’s set outdoors then I’ve got to wait until summer to shoot it, and I’ve got to find a camp and stuff. And at that point like you start at the convenience store, like, isn’t that the more interesting device? Like that’s their world, right? Like why be like ‘this is their world! And then we take them to another world altogether, where they go to camp!’
So it’s like, we may hold on to the camp thing, let me just work with these girls who work at the store and like, what’s their life like? And so, I remembered, of course, Yoga Hoser is one of my favourite episodes of SModcast that we ever did, just by virtue of the fact that like, Scott’s pull of that name just destroyed me and makes me laugh.
So I was like I could totally use, in the spirit of Tusk, I could totally use Yoga Hosers as a title for the flick, and then make the girls yoga enthusiasts. But what if they weren’t, like, good at it? What if they had a bad yoga teacher that taught them offensive yoga, or something like that? So it kinda shaped that way, where Tusk was shaped completely by the podcast. You can hear the whole movie in that podcast. Yoga Hosers was like a different sort of Frankenstein monster.
And where did the Bratzis (the tiny bratwurst monsters of the movie) come from, and how did you end up being them?
Originally, they were gonna be called Hitle’uns [like Hitler little ‘uns]. One foot tall clones of Hitler. Just looked like him, and they were little, and Jason Mewes was going to play them. I said to Mewes, “I’ve got a role and if you play this role people are gonna stop saying there’s Jay from Clerks.” He says “what is it?” I say “you play Hitl’uns.” He says “What’s that?” I say “one foot tall clones of Adolf Hitler.” And he goes “who’s that?” And I said “Come on.” And he goes “um… Call Of Duty, the bad guy?” [Laughs] I’m like, “Is that how you remember history?”
So, originally it was going to be him, and instead we got closer to production and I kinda like fell out of love with the idea of just making them little Hitlers. Like, that’s gonna offend somebody. Somebody’s gonna be laughing and somebody’s gonna be like “what the fuck, dude, Hitler’s a real thing” and even if you’re killing him over and over again in miniature, it’s still fucking like… it’s gonna take somebody out of the movie. Somebody’s always been affected by the Holocaust and maybe we’re getting to the point when there’s almost nobody left but, you know, there’s always going to be somebody who’s like “oh man, Hitler ain’t funny.”
So I’m like, well, I don’t want anybody… this is a goofy fucking kids movie, I don’t want anybody to be sat there and be like taken out of it… for that reason. There’s so many reasons to be taken out of this fucking movie, and I didn’t want them to be like “Hitler?!” So I guess I got kinda cold feet about just making it Hitler. I felt it should be something.
Like, Tusk was a rubber Canadian monster, and I knew we had the [spoiler redacted] at the end, which technically wasn’t even a [spoiler redacted] at that point, like, it was that… at first it was a giant map of Canada, created out of body parts, and then I was like, “your third act is about a map? That’s fucking stupid.” And so, then it became [lots of spoilers redacted].
But, so, I’m like, maybe it shouldn’t be Hitl’uns, it should be something rubber, since we’re doing these prosthetics, Bob Kurtzman, the guy that created Tusk is already on the movie. So I bring Bob into the conversation, like “Bob, the Hitl’uns thing isn’t working for me right now, I feel like we should do something to them. Shouldn’t we like put some rubber on them? Make them effects so its not just Jason with a Hitler moustache wearing a fucking flag suit?”
And he goes “what are you thinking?” and I’m like “I think of Germany I think of like the Black Forest, so maybe they could be like woodland creatures, with their faces literally made of tree bark or something? I’ve seen that in movies and that looks cool.”
And Kurtzman goes, “well, when I think of Germany I think of bratwurst,” and I was like “oh my god that’s even better dude. Do me a favour, send me a rendering of Jason Mewes as a Nazi bratwurst.” And he goes “give me two minutes.”
Two minutes later he texted me a fucking drawing, a rendering of Jason Mewes dressed like a hotdog, with a Nazi armband on raising his arm in the salute, and I’m like, “that’s what it is, dude, that’s what we’ll fucking do”. So he gets to work on creating an outfit, so you know, basically we didn’t have to slather Jason in prosthetics. We had to scan him in a computer. And that’s when we then realised Jason had a problem being in prosthetics. And I knew that from like ten years ago, when we both did dummies for Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back that sit in the big Bluntmobile.
Like we stood for the prosthetics process, they like dump it on you, you stick straws up your nose so you could breath, it hardens, they pull it off you, man, they’re classic mask-making. Um, I did it, it was fine. Jason went to do it, but like two minutes into the process he clawed all the make up off his face. He’s very claustrophobic, going like “I don’t like that.”
And he didn’t want to sit for that again, and we didn’t think about it, and he was scanned into the computer instead. And Bob Kurtzman designed this entire fucking elaborate suit – full body – of Jason as a sausage, including this mini fucking sausage cock. It was beautiful body suit. Looked like ‘let’s all go to the lobby’, like a giant anthropomorphic hotdog, that’s what he looked like.
He hadn’t put it on until we were going to shoot, and when he put on the headpiece, like, and Bob started gluing it down to his face, Jason started freaking out and pulling it off. And I was like “oh my god we had this problem ten years ago”, and he’s got some deep claustrophobia issues going back to a real wrecked childhood.
So I was like “I can’t make you do this, dude, you’re a wreck.” Like I’d never seen him like that before in my life, it was like someone had a gun to his head, because he was like “I can’t do it, it feels fucked up!” And I’m like “this ain’t you, this is some shit happened to you as a kid, you can’t get over something like that.” But, at the end of the day, it’d be cruel for me to be like “you have to wear this sausage costume and pretend to be a Nazi” and shit.
I was like, “it’s just Yoga Hosers dude, this ain’t worth it. So don’t do it, man.” And he was terrified that he’d get in trouble, that he’d backed out, because we’d lost a whole day of shooting the green screen stuff. And I’m like “don’t worry about it” and boom, Jason was no longer the Bratzis.
And I went out to Haley first, Haley Joel Osment, because his character’s kind of connected to the Bratzis in the movie. And I called him up and I’m like “hey man, Jason ain’t gonna play the Bratzis anymore. Do you wanna play the Bratzis?” And he goes “fuck yes, I’ll do that.” I go “you’re very enthusiastic” and he’s like “are you kidding me? If I play the Bratzis people will finally stop saying “there goes the little boy from The Sixth Sense.”
And then he didn’t wind up doing it because he had played a Canadian Nazi in the movie, and we were shooting the scene out in Los Angeles that was doubling for old Quebec. And while we were shooting the sequence, this giant fucking board behind him says ‘The Final Solution’ or what the fuck and a cartoon equation for how to kill Jews using beavers and stuff. And he’s got a big Nazi symbol on his arm, and he’s doing the salute and shit.
But we didn’t realise there were people with telephoto lenses deep behind us, paparazzis just popping off shots, and those shots went up on the internet the next day and all the headlines were like “what happened to the little boy from The Sixth Sense?” Because there he is dressed like a Nazi and saluting, so his agent was like, “he’s not doing anymore Nazi shit for you.”
So I go, “you know what? It’s probably for the best.” And then I’m like, who am I gonna go to? And I realise my job on the day, directing the person playing the Bratzis, would be to scream through a thick layer of rubber… so…. just do it yourself, like, at the end of the day, you know what each character moment has to be and whatnot. And I’m the editor, so I know everything I need, so it’s like, “you just throw on the suit and do it.” And Bob had to modify it a bit as it was made for a much thinner dude. And I wound up just wearing the head instead of the entire body. Um, so boom, suddenly I was the Bratzis. I didn’t intend to be in the movie at all. But it was fun at the end of the day, like, “oh I get to wind up in the flick as well.”
Like, Johnny [Depp] got to act with his daughter and stuff, and so technically I got to act with my daughter as well, even though we were never really in the same frame.
Before I get rushed out – is anything happening with the idea to do Onomatopoeia [the DC supervillain that Smith created] for Arrow season 5?
Oh my god, I would love that so much. I’ve not heard from anybody over there, even though I’ve talked about it in the press quite a bit and stuff. Um, but not from team Arrow. I know I’m going back to The Flash, first week of September, to direct episode 7 of season 3. Still haven’t heard anything back from Arrow. You know, I wish, it would be amazing because I would love to write and direct Onomatopoeia in the show. Um, but I know they’re doing – what is it? – Wild Dog this year, as well as Vigilante, so maybe they’re just like ‘we don’t need you’, or whatever. But, at the moment, anyone over there raises a flag, I’m like ‘please, let me in!’ That’d be fun as fuck.
I remember you were saying once you didn’t think Onomatopeia could work in live action. What changed your mind on that?
Yeah, I’ve figured out a way to do it that is kinda bad-ass. And also connects to comics more or less. So instead of just doing the actual sound – which to me, in the real world, would be like the dude from Police Academy making noises with his mouth – he’ll just have little cards. Business cards that have typewritten words of whatever the fuck. So instead of him saying ‘blam’, you’d find this card on your desk and turn around and ‘blam’, he’d shoot you and stuff like that. Which I think is a little more chilly, you know, for doing it in live action.
On a comic book page, those big word balloons with a tiny word in it were so fucking sweet. It looks beautifully graphic, like, at the same time it creates an image of like ‘this is weird’. But I don’t know if audibly making noises would ever work in the real world, so I think those cards would be bad-ass, man. So [you read] ‘slit’, and you’re like “slit?”, and then all of a sudden you turn around he cuts your fucking throat and dude just cocks his head Michael Myers style and watches you go down. So yeah, I’ve obviously thought about it a little bit, but it would be cool to do. Hopefully, hopefully they tap me.
Yeah, I really hope so –
And even if they don’t, maybe I could do it on Flash, or Legends Of Tomorrow, or now Supergirl as well. There’s a couple of shows there!
So what is it next, are you trying to find a place the Mallrats TV show now?
Right now, the deal with Universal is locked. So we go out right after [San Diego] Comic-Con, and pitch to all the networks and streaming networks as well, to find a home. So, I feel pretty good about it. Universal, they have a pretty good track record at placing shows and whatnot. So it seems like we’ve just now moved massively closer to it being a reality. Err, and once pitch week happens, it’s quick, man. Like we did pitch week for Buckaroo Banzai [a TV version of the 1984 film, which Smith was helming at the time], we walked away with three suitors. And MGM and WMA, my agency, are figuring out where they’re going to go at this point, which one they want to go with. So that happened very fast. Hopefully Mallrats will come together equally as fast.
Within a month we’ll know what our future is going to be, which is amazing, because, for the last year and change it’s been like Sisyphus, man, pushing a boulder up a hill. But the moment it became like a series, suddenly everything worked so much easier. That’s kinda sweet.
And also for me, the storyteller, it gives me more time to like tell that goofy story. You know, I would have had ninety minutes to tell that story, now you get like maybe ten half-hour episodes. It’s like five hours to tell the fucking same story, so I get to really flesh out the characters and make a fuck tonne of jokes and stuff. Um, and kind of bring them in gradually over the course of the show. So I look forward to it. A different kind of storytelling.
It feels like working on a Mallrats comic book, an on-going series. I never would have imagined that this fucking movie that nobody saw when it came out, nobody liked, could sustain a life this long and wind up as a series. But I’m gonna think of it as like – because if I think of it in big terms, like ‘it’s a TV show’, it’s kind of a little overwhelming – but if I think of it in terms, like, think of it like a comic book series… you’ve always wanted to do a Mallrats comic book series, this is the way to do it. It just happens that you’re getting to use live actors at the end of the day.
So, it should be fun, for me at least. And that’s kind of been the leitmotif of my career lately, which is like ‘make it fun for me’, usually at the expense of the audience. But this one will feel less like, you know, Tusk and Yoga Hosers. Yoga Hosers and Tusk are just like batshit stupid movies. Mallrats the series won’t be that. It’ll be kinda like Mallrats but stretched longer.
And I was kinda looking back to try and figure out where Mallrats came from. Because it wasn’t like, I didn’t really find my own voice – I didn’t feel like – until Chasing Amy. Like Clerks was me trying to do Richard Linklater. Clerks was me trying to make Slacker. And Mallrats was me trying to make a John Hughes movie. So now it’s like, you know, thinking about making Mallrats a series, that’s where my head goes most often, it’s like, ‘oh my god, Hughes is what fed you.’
So I’ve been going back and rewatching the entire John Hughes canon voraciously, because before you head out and try and create your thing, it’s always great to vibe like a fucking really sumptuous creative meal of somebody else’s self-expression, that like rocks your world in a big bad way. And those are the building blocks of what I became today. So I feel like the Mallrats series is going to be insanely John Hughes-like, just a little dirtier, because I’m not as sophisticated as John Hughes was. But that’s what fed Mallrats the movie, and that’s what’s gonna feed the series as well.
And Harley’s going to be in that one as well?
Harley’s going to play Brodie Bruce’s daughter, Banner Bruce. Yeah, I like that. It makes me smile.
Kevin Smith, thank you very much!
Yoga Hosers is out now on demand in the UK.