In addition to reuniting him with several of the “Clerks” actors whose careers he helped launch back in 1994, “Clerks III” gave Kevin Smith another chance to direct his old friend Ben Affleck in a cameo role — and pay tribute to their long friendship with a very inside joke.
The two previously worked together on several early-career films, including “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma” and “Jersey Girl,” and as Smith told Variety at the new film’s Hollywood premiere at the Chinese 6, Affleck was extremely eager to appear in a cameo as one of several famous faces — including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze, Jr., Danny Trejo and Melissa Benoist — auditioning for a role in the movie-within-a-movie being made by the Quick Stop clerks.
“He was like, ‘I’m there. It’ll be great.’ It was so blissful. He came in for an hour,” said Smith, who, following several years of estrangement, rekindled their friendship after the filmmaker’s near fatal heart attack in 2018. They worked together again in 2019’s “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” and Smith recently attended Affleck’s wedding to Jennifer Lopez in Georgia.
Smith said he couldn’t resist dropping in an inside joke solely for Affleck’s amusement. “I had written a part for him that was predicated on this old message board that we had at Viewaskew.com,” said Smith, recalling the movie-oriented website he founded in the late 1990s. “He was always fascinated by how much time I spent on it, and he was like, ‘Who are these people? Why do you talk to them?’ I was like, ‘Because they’re my bosses; they actually buy the tickets. Never mind what a critic says. This is the person that paid to see the movie.’”
Smith said Affleck eventually couldn’t resist engaging with the fans on the message boards under a pseudonym, and one day was stunned at the vitriol aimed at Smith from a poster named “Boston John.” “[Boston John] goes, ‘Kev, the board sucks. It ain’t what it used to be. Shut it down.’ And Affleck found that hysterical. He was like, ‘This guy named Boston John is literally telling you what to do with your life!’”
“So when we were coming out to do the audition scene, I handed him the pages and he looked [at his character’s name] and he was like ‘Boston John, the pimp!’” laughed Smith, recalling that Affleck was eager to layer his Bostonian pronunciations onto the character’s escalating rants. “He got to slide into his accent, use his Cambridge as well,” laughed Smith.
The premiere offered yet another reunion for Smith’s expansive ensemble of acting regulars, including original “Clerks” players Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes and Marilyn Ghigliotti, and “Clerks II’s’ Rosario Dawson, as well as Smith’s wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, daughter Harley Quinn Smith and her boyfriend Austin Zajur, all of whom also make appearances in the new film.