PLAYBOY: You both worked at a Quick Stop in New Jersey, which became the setting for Clerks. Were the high jinks as outrageous as in the movie? Did anybody ever have unwitting sex with a corpse?
SMITH: Never. Working at Quick Stop was like working at a fucking library. It was quiet. People would come in, buy their cigarettes and fucking go. The closest thing to reality in the movie was the motherfuckers who were always just leaning outside the building, smoking dope. Jay and Silent Bob came from those people.
PLAYBOY: Jason, you apparently had a difficult time with the Jay character in Clerks even though it was based on you. What was the problem?
MEWES: It was just weird to say that dialogue. I’d look at the script and read a line like “Snooch to the nooch.” Even though I’d said those things a thousand times before, it was weird to say it when it’s lines in a script.
SMITH: He froze up like Cindy Brady on camera.
MEWES: When I was just being me, I didn’t think about what I was going to say. It wasn’t like I was thinking, Okay, I’m going to say this crazy thing and blow this guy’s mind.
SMITH: The character is a cartoonish version of who he was, and he was pretty cartoonish to begin with. He looked at it and was like, “Why would I say ‘Snooch to the nooch’?” And I’m like, “That’s a good question. Why do you say ‘Snooch to the nooch’?”
PLAYBOY: Kevin, the hockey movie Hit Somebody was supposed to be your final film. Now you’re turning it into a TV miniseries and Clerks III will be your final film. Why are you so eager to retire? What’s the rush?
SMITH: The only reason we’re having this conversation, the only reason I got here, is because I fell in love—desperately, head over heels in love—with cinema. But one day, around the time I was doing Cop Out, I started to realize I’d taken my first love, Lady Cinema, and cheated on it by turning it into an ATM. It was what I did because I needed to pay bills. Film had been a passion, and then it became a job. It became a right and not a privilege.
Playboy: You’ve told stories about you and Bruce Willis almost coming to blows on the set of Cop Out. Now that a few years have passed, do you have more insight into what happened? Was it his fault or yours?
SMITH: He’s called me a whiner for talking about it, but fuck him. He whined on set every day. “You want me to shoot before noon?” So if I’m a whiner, fuck you, you’re a bigger whiner. It was the first time I worked with somebody who was a paycheck player. Me, Tracy Morgan, Marc Platt the producer—all of us took massive pay cuts to make the movie because we wanted to work with Bruce Willis. Bruce took what he said was a massive pay cut and let us know repeatedly throughout the shoot that he wasn’t getting paid nearly enough for “this shit.” We really got into it at one point and I thought he was going to deck me. He was like, “You want to take a swing at me?” I was like, “I’ve worked with children who don’t behave like this.”
PLAYBOY: Can we point out the irony of a guy making a miniseries called Hit Somebody declining the chance to hit somebody?
SMITH: Yeah, that’s true. I might not have punched Bruce Willis, but I punched an owl, man. That happened.
PLAYBOY: You punched an owl? Please let there be an explanation.
SMITH: I was out on my deck one morning, everybody else was asleep, and I see this fucking owl coming at me. It looked like something out of an old Ridley Scott movie. And he wasn’t flapping, he was gliding in. It was fucking spooky. I put the math together and I was like, “It’s going after my dog!” I did the bravest thing I’ve ever done or will ever do in my life. If Bruce Willis was going for my dachshund, I would have punched Bruce Willis like I punched that owl.
PLAYBOY: Jason, you were struggling to beat an addiction to heroin and painkillers around the time Kevin discovered he really enjoyed smoking weed. Did that put a strain on your friendship?
MEWES: Weed is awesome, but it’s not tempting to me because I never craved it.
SMITH: It would be like me being on a diet and somebody bringing in a flourless cake. Technically it’s sweet and it’s got sugar, but I don’t like flourless cake.
MEWES: If he’d started doing coke around me, that would’ve been different. Heroin, coke, speed—those were the drugs I craved and chased and woke up every day wondering how I was going to get more.
SMITH: I thought it was fair. You know what, motherfucker? I had to deal with you on fucking drugs all those years. Now it’s my turn.
PLAYBOY: Kevin, it’s been three years since you were kicked off a Southwest flight for being, in your words, “too fat to fly.” Has anything changed? Have the airline’s seats gotten bigger or your butt smaller?
SMITH: There were real-world repercussions. I couldn’t go near an airport because I didn’t want my picture taken. But shortly after it happened, I had these Q&A gigs coming up in Texas and I had to get to them. So I rented a bus. I talked to the bus place and they were like, “How many people in the band?” I’m like, “It’s just me.” There was a long pause, and then they said, “Are you that ‘too fat to fly’ guy?” The bus was a revelation. I realized I could go anywhere. I could tour little clubs all over the country. I could bring my friends. Because I can’t get on a plane, I take a bus. Because I take a bus, hey, I’ll take a bus with my friends and do this. It changed my life for the better. Not that I’m thankful or appreciative to Southwest. They’re still fucking awful. But things worked out.
PLAYBOY: Kevin, no offense, but you’re too fat to fly, and yet you landed a hot wife. Share your secrets.
SMITH: It’s all about the sense of humor. Also, when I met Jen [Schwalbach], I’d just come off an all-liquid diet I’d been doing for four months. Mewes was kicking heroin and I was on Optifast. But I looked good. If I was ever going to land a fucking wife, that was the window. She was working for USA Today and she interviewed me. And after the interview we sat around talking for two more hours. I did everything I could to be interesting and funny and human. I was in a zone. I asked her to be my date to the Independent Spirit Awards. I was nominated for Chasing Amy. She said yes, and then I remembered later I’d already asked Salma Hayek. I was working with her on Dogma, and she was going to come with me as a friend. So I literally had to go to Salma Hayek and tell her I wasn’t taking her to the Spirit Awards. She was stunned. I think it was the first time somebody ever canceled a date on her.
PLAYBOY: You once got into a Twitter feud with Neil Patrick Harris. Was that just a publicity stunt, or were you really pissed at him?
SMITH: He did some interview for that Harold & Kumar movie, and he was like, “The guys in our flick are real actors, not like that Jay character from the Kevin Smith movies.” He called Jason a drugged-out mess who just got stoned and did crazy shit and then we filmed him. It was offensive. This is a guy who hosts the Tonys and shit, criticizing another actor’s performance. I know for a fact that Jason is a good actor. I know who he is, I know what he does onscreen, and I know what it takes to do that. I threw some tweets out, calling Neil on it. And to his credit, he said, “Yeah, you’re right. In retrospect I was wrong,” blah blah blah. Regardless, you don’t go after another actor like that, because what you’re quietly saying is “I’m a better actor.”