Kevin Smith talks ‘Star Wars’ and more, speaks in Aspen on Sunday
If You Go …
What: An Evening with Kevin Smith
Where: Harris Concert Hall
When: Sunday, Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m.
How much: $45
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; www.aspenshowtix.com
Kevin Smith had a pair of tickets for the big “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” premiere in Los Angeles this week, but he didn’t go. He was here in Colorado instead, doing a run of gigs in comedy clubs and theaters — in his signature Q&A style — which comes to Aspen today.
Though he skipped the franchise reboot’s much-anticipated unveiling, the filmmaker and “Star Wars” superfan — whose irreverent riffs on the movies goes back to the “Death Star Politics” bit in 1994’s “Clerks,” and whose homages included a lightsaber duel with Mark Hamill in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” — got a better sneak peak. He visited director J.J. Abrams’ set during production in England and (dream of nerd dreams!) walked around inside the Millennium Falcon.
“It was like watching your childhood come to life,” he said in a recent phone interview. “J.J. has the best toys on the planet, and he was playing with all of them. It was like going to a friend’s house when you were a kid to play with his ‘Star Wars’ figures, then going home and saying, ‘I wish my mom and dad were rich so they could buy me a Millennium Falcon.’”
He planned to see the movie a few times during his weeklong tour through Colorado, and naturally expects “Star Wars” questions when he speaks at Harris Concert Hall.
“It’s the best Christmas gift you can get,” he said of the new movie. “They can cancel Christmas this year.”
He has high hopes for the continuation of the “Star Wars” saga and the many, many spinoffs in the works for the years to come.
“Some people say, ‘Hey, that’s a cash grab!’” he said. “But I don’t look at it as that. I look at it like they’ve got a lot of money, they’ve got to make movies, and they’re saying, ‘Why not make “Star Wars” movies?’ Disney paid $4 billion for this franchise, so they want to make it last a while. And it can, it just needs to be teed up nicely with this first one.”
Over the past 20 years, Smith has become a singular figure in popular culture. There’s no other director selling out comedy clubs by answering people’s questions. We got to know him through his films — cult comedies turned classics “Clerks,” “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy” early on, more out-there work like “Red State” and “Tusk” more recently. But his presence on screen as Silent Bob, his legendarily hilarious post-screening Q&A sessions, and his commentary on his Smodcast podcasts have made him more than a filmmaker.
“From the beginning, I’ve never been able to let the work speak for itself,” he said. “I’ve always had to come out and make some jokes. … I’m the guy you would have forgotten about a long time ago had I not been allowed to step out from behind the camera and say, ‘Hold on, before you go, I got to tell you what happened! I got in a fight with Bruce Willis, let me tell you that story.”
He doesn’t prepare material for a Q&A, and he could end up talking about anything. Generally, it ends up being a profane mix of his takes on movies and pop culture, brutally honest behind-the-scenes Hollywood stories (his on-set battles with Willis and the ludicrous requests of producer John Peters on the failed “Superman Lives” project are fan favorites), passionate calls for people to follow their artistic dreams and some personal stuff (his memories of his fathers death in his special “Burn in Hell” will have you weeping and laughing simultaneously).
“If you’re a talker, you’re always prepared to talk about anything,” he said.
The thing that’s kept us listening is probably his mix of candor and gratitude and his gift for storytelling – and the fact that he never ceased to be the smartass Jersey boy he was when “Clerks” broke out at the Sundance Film Festival (Smith is returning to Sundance for the first time in February with his new movie “Yoga Hosers.”)
It’s strange, he admits, playing pretend and making movies for a living, even though he generally works with low budgets.
“We’re adults and we stand around and say, ‘You pretend you’re this guy. And you, you pretend you’re this lady. And, action!’” he said. “I’ve always felt weird about it when they’re like, ‘Here’s a bunch of money.’”
But, of course, he wouldn’t have it any other way. If podcasting had come along before he made “Clerks,” Smith said, he probably would have been talking about other people’s movies for the past 21 years.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, with watching people make art,” he said. “But you can watch other people make art or you can make art yourself and making it is way more f-ing fun. … They never tell you this growing up, but I tell my kids all the time: ‘Figure out what you love most in this world, then figure out how to get paid to love it.’”
Smith last made his way through Aspen in 2003, when he did a Q&A at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. While he was here, incidentally, the installation of a soda vending machine in his Los Angeles home went badly and he and his wife arrived home after their romantic Aspen getaway to an epic flood.
“Every time I think of Aspen, I think about having to move out of our flooded house,” he said.
He’ll tell you more about it if you ask him tonight.
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