Director/podcaster Kevin Smith did a full 10 minutes when we asked about Stan Lee turning his pages in Captain Marvel. Long story short: he's pleased.
It's almost a year now - November 2018 - since the great Stan Lee passed away, aged 95, just as the mighty universe he created hit peak zeitgeist. And it's almost half a year since we spoke to Kevin Smith, who's thankfully still with us, despite a massive scare the year before.
Smith has also made a sizeable impact on popular culture, with a joined-up universe of his own - the View Askewniverse - and a new star-peppered movie dropping next month, Jay And Silent Bob Reboot. To celebrate, he'll soon be heading over to the UK for some trademark live Q&As (scroll for details).
We'll hopefully chat to Smith again then, but first, here's an extra from that first one. We'd already overrun, but I wanted to ask about Stan's cameo in Marvel's 2018 movie Captain Marvel, which saw him reading the script for Smith's 1995 movie Mallrats, in which Stan also cameoed.
And crikey, did Kev run with it. Ironically, we'd just been talking about how the director once did a whole live show by answering just one question. And lo, we'd soon get a taste of it too. He barely took a breath.
The Stan/Mallrats moment in Captain Marvel - as a huge Marvel fan, that must have been an amazing thing for you...
You know, honestly, post heart attack, I'm like 'now I get it, I'm probably really gonna die for sure, because all the cool shit's happening.' Reboot, we were able to pull together an amazing cast, everybody came back. And suddenly Captain Marvel gives Mallrats a shout-out.
You gotta remember, 1995 that movie comes out, it was critically destroyed, it was a disaster at the box office. Well, not a disaster - it cost us five million to make and made like two million, so that's a movie that in the moment was delineated to the trash heap of history.
To be sitting in a theatre and watching fucking Stan reading the Mallrats script in Captain Marvel, rehearsing lines from it, a line that I wrote, that was everything. People say to me 'do you wanna make one of those movies?' and I'm like 'not at all.'
[time elapsed: 1.00]
I love those movies with every iota of my being, but I can't make those movies, they take so long. My hat's off to any director who can spend two years telling a story, I don't have that kind of patience. Nor do I have the talent, my stories are all about my bullshit.
I love those [Marvel] stories, but when people are like 'don't you wanna make one' I'm like 'fuck no...' but being referenced in one, that is second only to being in one. I was like, my god, I could die happy. And my wife said 'don't be ridiculous, next you'll want to be in one,' and I was like 'oh my god, you're right.' That's something else...
So suddenly this dopey dream I never knew that I had came true. The Marvel Universe referenced me! After a lifetime of referencing the movies with everything I do, the movies referenced me back, and it was mind bending - this kid who started this journey as a fan, if I could go back and tell him, he'd crap his pants. Oh my god - 'one day you'll be referenced in Captain Marvel' I'd be like 'they eventually get round to Captain fucking Marvel? What kind of wonderful future are you from?'
And I know it's a world where a lot of people carp about the present, but I don't know, I'm like 'yeah, I liked the past too but we didn't have these Marvel movies back then' - these movies are amazing. So to be referenced in one, yeah, that was everything.
The fan in me, that's kind of what drives everything, even now, 25 years into a career, it's only because I'm a fan, it's still fan-driven. Because I'm the world's biggest Kevin Smith fan, and I wanna see the motherfucker's career keep going - I could put myself in all of my stuff, that's easy, I can keep that going. I'm the only one keeping it going.
But to have someone from completely outside my sphere of influence, and in a very powerful position where it's forming pop culture - that movie made over a billion fucking dollars, you could put all my movies together it wouldn't even come close. And I'm not talking about sheer bucks here, I'm talking about eyeballs reached, the story told.
As a storyteller, yeah, the money is a way that they put a number on things, but you're not sitting there going 'I want it to make a billion dollars' you're going 'I just want as many people as possible to see it.' A storyteller should naturally be like 'wouldn't it be great if everyone heard it' - even better if anyone loves it, but you'll never get that. Unless you make Star Wars, and as we've seen lately, that's not even a guarantee.
So at the end of the day it's like, feeling part of something that I'm really not a part of - I don't make those movies, I'm just a fan of them, I talk about them on my podcast, reference them in my movies, but I'll never be a part of that, that's something I'll always be an outsider on.
And to have them reference me, it felt like 'oh they heard of me, that's nuts, fucking... wow.' And my wife is like 'bro, after 25 years, yeah, some people have fucking heard of you,' and I get that. But this is shit that I care about.
It was everything man. Obviously I can fucking do a lot of talking about it, it still means the fucking world to me, and to have Stan up there doing it, after we lost Stan. Even the gesture of like, give Stan a cameo in which Stan for the first time is actually playing Stan - and we know that because he's on his way to audition for Mallrats because the script's in his hands.
Like, I never needed anyone to validate my love for Stan Lee, I'm an early adopter, so to speak - but not that early because he was way older than me - but in terms of stuff I do.
Early on I was like 'this is my fucking guy' - this is one of my heroes ladies and gentlemen. I stuck him in a movie when that wasn't fashionable, and it's like, years ago I did him a favour and put him in a movie, and years later he returned the favour and put me in a fucking way better movie. It was nuts. The tiny investment of time and affection, that's what it was, it wasn't like 'oh my god, lets put him in Mallrats, like that's gonna mean anything to anybody' - but it meant something to me, because I know who Stan Lee was, is, and still remains.
It's nice that the rest of the culture caught up while he was still around. It wasn't like 'Stan died and then the whole world decided that he was the shit' - it's nice that he got to be around for most of these Marvel movies, because he saw the appreciation, he saw every time he popped up in one of those movies, how the crowd would go apeshit, he saw how he brought generations together.
When he passed I saw on Twitter so many testimonials from people like 'I would go to these movies with my kid, and we'd always play Spot Stan Lee - there he is, dad,' shit like that. Breaks your heart. That and Prince. The kind of stuff that I did with my dad, went to the movies, together. Stan became part of so many other's people's DNA, spread like this amazing fucking virus. And I was like an early patient.
It shows you that if you love something, wear it, right on your fucking sleeve. Look where
that led. The original draft of Mallrats, that part was like 'comic book guru', of no name whatsoever, a Stan Lee archetype.
So Jim Jacks, the producer - god rest his soul - said 'who's this guy supposed to be?' Well, it's like the scene in American Graffiti with Wolfman Jack, a comic book figure that everyone knows, and he says 'like Stan Lee?' and I say yeah, and he said 'why don't you just write it for Stan Lee?'
And I said 'I don't know Stan Lee' and Jim Jacks said 'I do' and I was like 'oh my god, Hollywood is good - these fuckers know each other.' So he was the one who reached out to Stan, 'would you want to be in this Mallrats movie?' Because I rewrote it for Stan.
And Stan was a ham, this was at a time when people weren't banging on his door to be in stuff, we asked and he showed up with bells on man, it was fantastic. He flew out from Minnesota, and I remember when we got him, he was like 73, and I remember people being like 'be careful, he's an old man, he could go at any time.' And he lived for almost another quarter fucking century.
It's so funny, as long as I've ever known Stan he was always an old man, but man, you wouldn't know it. He was like a 25 year-old, his passion, his enthusiasm, he taught me by example how to interact with your fanbase.
Marvel had a small but ardent fanbase and he beat the drum for it huge, and not because 'I'm gonna make a lot of money off of it' - it was his job, but often because it was just fun. 'Wow, people are interested, people care about these things that I write about - fuck, let's have fun with this.'
That's the work ethos I've tried for my entire career as well, don't treat it too seriously: and I've got a universe full of characters in all my movies, and they all interconnect. So putting him in Mallrats, back in 1995, there I got to pay back somebody, just the same way I put [legendary US stand-up] George Carlin in my movie, I get to pay back somebody from which I received so much, their work influenced me so much.
And then years later that's it, that's the payback. Stan Lee gave me everything by being Stan Lee, and I was like 'thank you, here, be in this movie.' Which at the time, believe me, didn't seem like a big thank you to anybody. But then years later the thank you gets a fucking thank you, and that's just... nuts.
So it was an honour to see it, a thrill, and also, it has all sorts of repercussions! Like, if I'm in the Marvel Universe, in that movie, did I survive the snap? If I did, did my wife, did my kid, did my dogs? Did Jay Mewes [aka Silent Bob's pal Jay] survive the snap? Will I be able to work in this post-Snap world, if Mewes is not here?
And also, if I'm in that universe then anybody who's a fan of Kevin Smith and goes to Q&As and shows and podcasts, that means they're in the universe as well, because if I'm real then they've gotta be real as well. So it's like, because of this sweet fucking gift, I've become this back door into the Marvel Universe for everybody else. Which sounds sexier than I meant it to.
[End of answer: 10.15]
I wonder if, when you're 90-something, you'll be regarded in a similar way that Stan was? With the films, podcasts, live shows, general enthusiasm - you're putting similar vibes out there...
Oh my god, you're so sweet, thank you for that. I'll just take the 90 years! Fuck! That sounds like a sweet-ass goal.