Kevin Smith has talked about his 2018 heart attack so much that he has whittled the details into a perfect story, like a joke a comedian’s been working on for years.
“Less than a month after the heart attack, I was out there in the world telling the story,” Smith says (watch above). “[First] there was an hour-and-a-half version of it, and then I got it down to a seven-minute version to do on [The Late Show With Stephen Colbert]. So I had the benefit of years of talking about that heart attack, probably longer than I should have, and retelling that story.”
The incident eventually manifested in Smith’s work; specifically Clerks III, the third chapter in the comedy series that launched the New Jersey writer-director’s career in 1994.
After Randall (Jeff Anderson) suffers a heart attack, he and longtime friend and co-worker Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) set out to make a movie about their lives at the Quick Stop convenience store. Smith, then, is not just retelling the story of his heart attack — he’s retelling the story of how he made the original Clerks.
Yet the filmmaker, 52, somewhat reluctantly calls Clerks III his most personal film yet.
“I guess, in a weird way, I never think of it as such,” he says. “When I watch Clerks, it’s a biopic. It’s like, ‘Oh, that was my life, that was my thing, that’s what my girlfriend said to me at the time. That’s what my friend said to me.’
“So all the movies I make I watch and they’re very personal whether or tried to make them or not, cause I’m not talented enough to create s*** so I crib from my own life. In this one I probably cribbed the most from my real life since maybe the first Clerks, maybe Chasing Amy .”
Recreating the production of Clerks in Clerks III allowed the self-deprecating Smith to address criticisms he has heard of his movies, like one scene in which returning character Rick Derris (Ernie O’Donnell) calls out the production for being all-white.
“I’ve got the benefit of time on my side, so I’ve heard every reaction to Clerks there is, and I’ve heard every question about Clerks,” he says. “Being able to go back and, not rewrite history, but comment on where you’ve been [is enjoyable].”
Smith compares the Clerks III scene to answering criticisms he has faced for Chasing Amy (a story involving a bisexual woman told through the eyes of a straight man) by making fun of himself for it in 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.
“Suddenly it’s like, ‘Oh, he’s aware. He knows,’” Smith says.
While the Clerks III filmmaker is also a legendary fanboy, particularly of Star Wars, that doesn’t necessarily mean he subscribes to the Hollywood tradition of making trilogies.
“As long as I’m alive, there’s a chance there’s another Clerks coming,” he laughs. “Look, [George] Lucas has Star Wars… this is all I got in life. I got my Clerks.
“I’ll never stop with the Clerks characters because I’ve found that Dante and Randall are my secret heart. That’s the best way into a personal story for me. They’re all personal because I steal from my own life. But these Clerks pictures have wound up being like, ‘Oh, that’s him doing him.’ That’s as close to Kevin as we get.”
—Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick
Clerks III will play in theaters Sept. 13 – Sept. 18 via Fathom Events.
Watch the trailer: