Kevin Smith, famously brash and bawdy since he debuted as a writer, director and actor with Clerks in 1994, may lose a few hard-core fans with the sweet-natured Jersey Girl. But Smith, 34, and his pal Affleck, who appears in four other Smith movies (Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), aren’t afraid of showing their softer side.
Do you have any qualms that Jersey Girl is too sentimental?
This is the one where the hardcore Jay and Silent Bob guys are going to be like, “You totally pussied out, dude.” And I’m sure some people will call me a fuckin’ sellout. It’s subject matter that probably wouldn’t have appealed to me five years ago, because I didn’t have a wife or a child. The movie came from watching my wife, Jen, with the baby. I was thinking, “What would have happened if she died in childbirth?”
Could you clear up whether Miramax postponed Jersey Girl to distance it from Gigli?
It had nothing to do with Gigli. Harvey Weinstein had picked November 7th, and we kept saying, “Dude, that’s when the third Matrix movie comes out. If you put Jersey Girl out the same weekend, I’m going to see Matrix 3.” So he pulled the movie off the date, and we were hoping for December, but we couldn’t because Paramount then slotted Ben’s other movie, Paycheck, into December. So we were all pretty mad. And a little of the fucking anger was focused on Ben, like, “Good God, dude. Must you make fucking nine movies a year that we’re competing against?” So Harvey was like, “March,” and we were really bummed. Then Gigli came out in August, and suddenly Harvey looked like a fuckin’ genius.
Do you think this Benifer episode will affect Ben’s career?
Ben is so good in the movie that I don’t think him and Jen will be the story. And it’s positioned nicely in that all we have to do is be better than Gigli [laughs]. And also it helps that the movie is rather sweet and good-natured and warm and stuff – everything that Gigli wasn’t. People felt it was smug and not funny.
It was Ben who suggested that you cast J. Lo, right?
The first one who suggested it was my wife, who had seen her in The Wedding Planner [with Matthew McConaughey]. Ben seconded it. And I think we got the performance that we got out of him because it was Jennifer. One, he was really fucking in love with her when we were shooting that movie. And also, on a practical level? If it was not Jennifer but somebody else, he would have been trying to leave the set left and right, like, “Can we wrap early so I can meet up with Jen?” So the fact that she was there all throughout the shoot kept him focused.
Did you have any reservations about working with her?
She’s a pro, she comes very prepared, she was never fucking late. She was a real sweetheart, and she was all about him. And I think she was on best behavior as well, because here she was working with her friend’s friend. I didn’t meet the Jennifer Lopez I was prepared for by so many other people, who were like, “She’s going to be a handful. She’s going to have an entourage.” She had a hair and makeup person, that was it. She had a bodyguard, which was understandable, because I saw those two go out, and it was fuckin’ nuts.
Did you ever give Ben relationship advice?
Yeah [laughs]. He didn’t really follow it, though.