Jason Mewes became a huge favourite amongst genre fans for his turns as Jay in Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse movies. While many have been quick to stereotype Mewes as the loveable stoner sort, the actor himself has been looking to branch out into more varied roles over the years – and now Jason’s making his feature film directing debut with Madness in the Method.
Centred on an alternate universe version of Jason Mewes whose quest to become the ultimate method actor has dark and sinister consequences, we caught up with Jason to discuss the film, the experience of being a first-time director, having to deal with being stereotyped for so long, his dream projects, and a whole host more.
STARBURST: The last time we spoke a couple of years ago, you mentioned how you were in loose talks to direct your first feature – and here we are! So how did Madness in the Method come about?
Jason Mewes: I was out in London doing a movie called Devil’s Tower and I met an awesome dude, Dominic Burns. He was producing this movie. I shot for three or four days, but whenever I go to London or Australia or wherever I always try to leave a couple of days earlier and stay for a couple of days extra. I need to get there early to adjust to the time difference - it takes me two or three days to adapt to the big time-jump – and I always like to stay a couple of days after because I like to do some sight-seeing. So I stayed around after the movie was finished and Dominic took me round. We were in Nottingham, so we did the whole Robin Hood thing. I was just hanging out with Dominic and he was, “Hey man, I hope you don’t mind me asking but what else do you want to do besides getting offered these roles as this slapstick funny guy, this stoner guy? What do you really want to do?” I said, “Look man, I would love to play a Hannibal Lecter-type character or American Psycho. I really want to challenge myself and play that dark character – to see whether I could pull it off.” I always call it a rogue cop, but shows like The Shield, too. Not that I feel like I’m a tough guy, but again I want to play that dirty cop. I told him that and I said, “But I also really, really want to direct.” Since Clerks, I’ve noticed that I see stuff in a director’s viewpoint. When I’m doing a scene, I’ll have ideas. I had directed a music video at that point and I really enjoyed it, and I did a PSA for a company and really enjoyed that – but I really wanted to direct a feature.
So anyway, that happened and a couple of months go by. He and I kept in touch a little bit here, a little bit there, a little email here, a little text there. Two months into it, he wrote me a text saying, “Hey bro, I’m going to send you something. I hope you don’t mind, I took it upon myself to write a script for you from what we spoke about.” I really liked it, and I gave him some notes. He also had this young man, Chris Anastasi, who jumped on board and we started going back and forth with these ideas. We went back and forth, back and forth, and it got to the point where we all really liked it. He was like, “I’m going to try to get money for this.” Again, people say stuff all the time. Six months went by and I really just thought he got another job. He produces stuff and he directed a World War II movie, so I just thought he went back to work. I was working with [Jay & Silent Bob] Get Old so just forgot about it. About six months went by and then all of a sudden he emailed me and said, “Hey, are you around? Can we talk later?” He called me and was like, “Bro, you’ll never guess. Not only did I get money for the movie, they’re going to let you direct the movie!” I was shocked. It was really awesome because Dominic had faith in that I could direct. When we found that out, we also tweaked the movie.
The movie wasn’t what it is now. It was, but it wasn’t. When I found out I was going to direct, I really wanted to stick to some of my strengths which I already know that I can do – which is comedy – so I thought, “Let’s make it a Jay Mewes but an alternate universe Jaw Mewes and everyone will play themselves.” So we went back and forth a little more and we tweaked the script. That’s how it came about. I really appreciate Dom Burns. Dom Burns is the one who thought I could play a different character and that I could totally direct. And he found the investors – people he had dealt with before. It was really awesome of him, and he was like that throughout the whole film. When I was in front of the camera doing my acting, he would be behind the monitor. He was super, super helpful and amazing.
This movie was written solely for you and is a film that only you could star in. Without Jason Mewes in the lead, this movie simply doesn’t happen. That must be quite flattering and humbling, no?
Definitely. It’s awesome that someone took the time to write it and thought of me. It’s hard to look at something about yourself, especially the scene with Kevin when we were supposed to go and do Get Old and I confront him and say some nasty things. In my head I was just, “I know Kevin. He’s not going to care, he knows it’s an alternate universe Jay and Kevin and that I don’t mean anything by it, but will it upset him?” Again, all of that was taken into consideration. It was also nice because all the people that you see in there, most of them jumped straight on board. It was really nice for me and humbling and flattering because I didn’t think Dean Cain, Teri Hatcher, Stan Lee, a lot of the people who were a part of the movie, would’ve been in the movie because we didn’t have a lot of money to offer people. So it wasn’t like, “Hey, we know we can get this person because they only work one day and it’ll be easy for them. It’ll be an hour or less to the location for them and we’re going to give them $50,000.” We didn’t have a lot of money to offer people, and most people were like, “Oh wow, it’s Jay’s first movie? His first directing job? We want to be part of this and see what happens.” That was super, super awesome. For me, it was definitely an eye-opener that people are really nice and sweet. I didn’t even think Teri Hatcher knew who I was or cared, but she did and it was awesome.
Whatever, she’s totally got posters of Jason Mewes on her walls!
[Laughs] You know, it’s funny. Every once in a while I’ll be at a convention and I’ll meet someone. Like, I’m a huge fan of Warehouse 13 with Eddie McClintock. I’m a fan of Eddie’s and a big fan of the show and the other things he’s done. All of a sudden, I saw him at a Comic Con once and he was, “Oh my god, dude! I’m Eddie. I wanted to meet you and I love your stuff!” And I’m just, “No, I love you!” It’s so interesting. I remember this one time Kevin and I were at this awards in, I think, London. Quentin Tarantino saw Kevin, and Kevin knows him of course, so he said hey to Kevin but then he looked over to me and goes, “Jay, I loved you in R.S.V.P.!” R.S.V.P. is a little indie movie that I did, and who would have thunk that he’d have seen it. Stuff like that still catches me off guard and blows me away, man.
The movie has plenty of familiar faces dotted through it, but was there anyone you wanted for Madness in the Method but you just couldn’t make it happen for one reason or another?
Not that I can think of. I definitely know that we had tried to reach out to some people, but there was no one specifically hardcore that we wanted that we reached out to and that they couldn’t do it. For me, I feel like it worked in this sense because I’m hoping that if things go really smooth in the end maybe we can do a sequel.
When it come to finally directing your first feature film, were you nervous, excited, a bit of both?
I think nervous excitement, for sure. I was super excited. It was something that I’d really wanted to do for a while. For me to get to do it and get to make a movie just seems surreal. We got to do two screenings at the Universal CityWalk. For me to walk up and see on the board “10:30am and 4:30pm screenings of Madness in the Method”, it was just so surreal to see the movie that I directed playing in a theater. So I was super excited and super nervous. It was more about the nerves of trying to direct and act in the same movie. What if I can’t pull the two off? And also, I’d never directed any actors before.
Some of it was easy because I’ve worked with or am friends with a lot of the people in there. Then there are some people, like Teri Hatcher. Teri did some awesome things, but there was one take where I was like, “I just want you to be a little more excited and not so mad” – but I didn’t want to give her direction. I was just, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to give her direction. Will she take it like an insult?” I’d never dealt with that, so I didn’t know how to go about it. I remember way back in the day, Kevin in the beginning of his career gave someone a line reading and the actor was, “You don’t give actors line readings. That’s a no-no.” We didn’t know that back then. Now I know just from experience of working with people and being on sets. For me, it was that same thing of like, “I’ve seen people direct and I know people give you direction and it’s okay, but how much direction and do I cross the line of directing and acting?” There were those types of questions that I had, and the nervousness of stepping over the line. But again, I got a lot of good feedback while we were shooting and people took me to one side to say how well I dealt with situations.
Coming out of the movie, what skills do you think you’ve learned ahead of potentially directing another film?
I think two things. Firstly, I definitely wouldn’t want to direct myself again. Not saying ever, but if I did a feature then I’d maybe just want to be in one or two scenes. It would be fun to direct a movie like Chasing Amy, where Kevin put us in one scene - even if it was maybe two scenes – but I wouldn’t want to direct a movie and have me be in the whole thing. I just feel that I couldn’t put my focus 100% on directing and really get the feel of directing and directing rather than directing and acting. My mind, it was 80% on the movie and 20% on acting and memorising my dialogue, or I had to get wardrobe and hair and make-up. So that’s one thing, and the second thing is I definitely think that I got a good feel of talking with the actors and stuff like that. I think I definitely feel more comfortable doing that for when I’m in that situation in the future. And I think I need to do more.
I realise that, for me, I learnt a lot from being around Kevin for so many years and being directed by Kevin – but Kevin edits his own movies. A lot of directors don’t necessarily do that. When he writes a script, he writes, he directs and he edits. So if we’re shooting and you’re running late, he’s able to go, “You know what? I wrote this in the script – ‘the guy pulls up in the car, gets out of the car, walks across the street, goes in the door’”. In his editing brain he’ll be, “Well, I wouldn’t even use that because I would cut from the car screeching to a halt, cutting to the guy at the door looking through the peephole and busting in, so we can lose that crossing the street, walking up the stairs bit.” But I realise when an editor is reading the script separately and you’re not editing, you need all those extra bits to help piece together what he’s editing. When I was shooting I was just, “We don’t need that.” In my head, we cut from me running up, opening the door and then it cuts right inside – instead of it cutting me walking down the hallway, looking at every door, seeing which door is the right door. That’s just an example. But I realised, when we were editing stuff it took a little bit longer because they had to tape together what I said. We wrote down notes on that, so when I wasn’t there they could say, “Well, it’s going to go from here to there.” But I dunno, I guess, yeah, I had to sort of remember that I don’t edit the movie myself. I’m not sitting behind the editing machine piecing it together. These are little titbits I feel like I would have to sort of adjust my thinking to.
You’ve said how Madness in the Method is an alternate universe Jason Mewes, but there are still some very real moments of your life laid bare here. Over the years, you’ve been very open through the podcasts and the live tours, but did it feel a little more personal to this time see elements of your real life in a movie?
No. I guess you could see where it could be me to 100%, but I feel it’s not me playing me. It doesn’t bother me or make me uncomfortable because a) people know a lot about me, and b) I do feel that it is alternate universe – Earth-12 Jason Mewes, Earth-12 Kevin Smith. Everyone is playing somewhat themselves but none of it is 100%. It’s not like we’re really baring our souls on the big screen.
I feel like in the beginning, when I was younger, when I first did Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, people did try to only offer me the parts of the stoner funny guy. They were the only roles I got. Over time, people gave me an opportunity to do stuff like R.S.V.P., which was a different character, then a horror movie, then a movie called Bitten where I play an EMT, then a movie Cell K-11 that was a dark drama set inside of a prison.
So there was that sort of strand to help the movie kick off from what it was, but I do feel like there’s definitely pieces of the movie which are similar to real life – but I do feel it wasn’t set in stone. So no, it wasn’t hard. For me, the hard thing is that no matter if I’m playing Jay or playing Jason Mewes or anything, it’s not so much people seeing me tell my stories or even stories that are a different universe version, just in general, I don’t know why, it’s so hard for me to watch myself acting. I just feel like I’m so judgemental of myself – and I’m sure most people are. There are definitely moments where I see myself do something and I’m, “Wow, that was pretty smooth – I liked that!” But overall I just get really uncomfortable watching myself. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten over that, because I have to watch myself. I had to watch myself in this movie, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot I gotta watch myself. Stuff’s going to be happening and I do have to watch myself, I’m just saying it’s kind of tough. It’s hard for me to immerse myself in that fake world, that fantasy world. That’s why people ask me all the time, “All these TV shows – Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash – who would you want to play if you have a chance to play anybody?” I wouldn’t turn a character down, don’t get me wrong. If they were like, “Jay Mewes, you’re perfect, you don’t even have to audition” I would never say no. I’d want to be in those shows as Security Guard #1, but I love watching them so much. I could sit down and watch Avengers: Endgame and love that world, but if I see myself coming on screen and being all, “Let’s get ‘em, Avengers!” then that just wouldn’t be the same for me. When I sit down to watch these shows and movies, I can really bring myself to be all “Oh man, I’m in Gotham City right now with frickin’ Bruce Wayne. It’s awesome!” When I watch myself, though, it’s just kinda hard.
For you, is it harder for you to watch yourself in a serious role, then, or is it harder to watch you as Jay or a more comedic role?
Honestly, it’s tough to do any of them. I find myself not knowing if I’ve pulled something off. I guess it would be more serious, I guess. Only because I’ve less experience in that. I do know that in comedy if I’m saying something funny it ain’t hard for me to watch myself say something funny – especially if I’m watching it with an audience and I hear them laugh. But again, sometimes there literally will be a weird facial tick or something that might happen. You’ve gotta think that people are watching your every move. Again, not always me if I’m not the main character, but when my parts come up or I’m saying something or I’m trying to be romantic. There’s been a few movies where I’m trying to be silly romantic and in my head I’m just, “What was that? Did it come off good? No?” People will tell me that it’s great but then I’m thinking “Are they just being nice…?” It’s tough to know.
If you could go back in time to speak with 10-year-old Jason Mewes, what would his reaction be if you told him not only would he be an actor one day but that he’d also become a director?
I think I would think I was crazy. Even when we shot Clerks, I had no plans or ambition to act or do movies or be in entertainment in any sense. I just literally was planning on – at 10-years-old especially – just playing around. 14 was when I started working and I literally felt like, “Oh, I’m gonna be doing construction.” Later I got a roofing job, so I started roofing and was, “Ooh, I wanna become the owner of a roofing company. I know what I’m doing and I’m pretty decent at it, and the guy who owns the roofing company I work for seems to be doing really well.” We used to go to his house once in a while to pick up material for a job, and he had this wife that was 15 years younger and pretty, he had the nice Mercedes, he had a two-storey house. In my eyes, at 17 or 18 years old, I thought this guy was doing really well. Literally, that was my goal until I was about 20 years old. It wasn’t until we went and did Dogma that I stopped working construction and roofing and delivering pizza. It was literally Dogma that I stopped that stuff. Even after that I only got lucky because I was able to work at the comic book store that we have in Red Bank, New Jersey. I would help out around ViewAskew with merchandise and stuff like that. I still was doing labour, but it was fun labour – it was comic book store stuff and stuff I love. So, I would tell myself that I was crazy – “What, no one here in Highlands, New Jersey makes movies or directs movies or does anything of the sort!”
As a director now, what would be the dream project for you? What sort of film does Jason Mewes want to direct?
I feel like I would love to direct something like The Thomas Crown Affair or a Murder, She Wrote movie marathon. I love Murder, She Wrote, and they did four movies of that. Again, not saying it wouldn’t be tough because a big part of it is that the writing has to be good, the clues have to be good – you always point someone in the direction of “Oh, it’s gotta be the sister!” – and besides the writing being great to steer people wrong, you want to be able to shoot it well and cool and different. That honestly would be a lot of fun for me. I’d be excited to do horror, comedy, I’m really into anything. If I was told, “You have to pick one, it’s going to be your second movie, you’ve really gotta knock it out the park if you want to do number three”, I would really have to steer towards comedy. I’ve done comedy for so many years and I know comedy’s about timing, and I just feel like I could totally shoot that. I don’t know, I could be wrong. Maybe I could shoot drama better or action. Actually, definitely not action. I definitely wouldn’t want to shoot an action sequence where people are in front of green screen. I honestly feel like that would be really tough. I really would like to do either a mystery or some kind of drama. I would love to do something cool like The Thomas Crown Affair…
MGM is making plans for another remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, with the Russos producing…
Look at that. Someone’s going to read this interview, bro, and they’re going to give it to me. Nootch [laughs]!
What about Jason Mewes the actor, then. What does he want to do?
I would still love to play one of those roles that I’ve been saying. I got to toy around a little bit in my movie. I definitely loved that we got to do Reboot and I’m stoked that that happened, but I just think that I really would love to get on a TV show or do a movie where I play at least something a little more serious, a little darker. I’d love to get on one of these TV shows in a guest spot. I would love to play the FBI agent on NCIS: Los Angeles, where maybe I’m an FBI agent coming to help them and then I get to be in three episodes – and then they’re like, “Hey man, we’re gonna bring you back for next season.” They do that a lot. Hawaii Five-0, man. I was hoping. It was a small part so maybe I didn’t give them enough reason to, but Hawaii Five-0 I got to have a cameo in. I was the guy who worked at the gun range in Hawaii. They went there to get me and they chased me, then it cuts to them with me in the interrogation room. But again, I know on Hawaii Five-0 it happens a lot that people come back all the time. Again, something like that I think would be so awesome – to just be on a show that you like, to get to be in it. Kev and I got to play the security guards on The Flash, and I think it would be dope if we could be those security guards at the same place in a different series – like a Supergirl episode of a crossover or something. Something like that would be awesome. Seriously, I would love to do that. Or again, to do a movie where I play something serious. It doesn’t have to be this super serial killer, but I just think something a little more smooth and serious. We’ll see, man, we’ll see. There was something I was waiting to hear from. I can’t say right now because nothing’s ever set in stone until it’s set in stone. But there was actually a cool role that I’ve been waiting to hear back on. They want me but it’s more of a matter of they’re trying to get everything in place and what the dates are going to be. I’m waiting to hear, but honestly I’m stoked because it’s actually a really cool, different character for me. So we’ll see.
One thing we have to ask about is that you again got to work with Stan Lee on Madness in the Method. As somebody who loves the world of comics as much as you do, how cool and surreal was it to work with Stan again?
It was amazing. It was super, super amazing and sweet. For him to just come down and spend a couple of hours with us was super amazing, honestly. It was a surreal moment. So much so, after he did a couple of takes we had to do a new setup and move the camera, put up a couple of lights, and I literally walked away and started tearing up. My buddy Dominic Burns was like, “Oh, I see you, bro. Right? I’ve got the same way, it’s crazy!” It just was so surreal. We met him on Mallrats when I was a kid, but he’s so amazing, he’s such a hero of mine. I feel like it’s literally what brought Kevin and I to become friends. I was four years younger than Kevin and he was just, “Oh, he’s a little kid? I’m not hanging out with him.” He gave me his comics to leave him alone, and he’d give me more comics when I was done. Then he started driving me to the comic book store once a week, and I went to my first Comic Con with Kevin, Bryan [Johnson] and Walter [Flanagan]. That’s kind of what brought us together – Stan Lee and comic books.
Before we wrap things up, this October sees Jay & Silent Bob Reboot hit the big screen. How was it to go back to the View Askewniverse once more?
It was a lot of fun, man. I’ve been wanting to do another movie with Kevin forever. These were so much fun and they used to be every two years because they were studio movies. Back then, we would spend two or three months with people and then we wouldn’t see them for two years. Then you spend two months with people again. Kevin would hire the same people – the same script supervisor, producer, DP, catering – and it literally was like camp and it was so much fun. Of course, Kevin and I got to hang out for two or three months making believe together. It was always a blast, and so I’ve been wanting to do it for years. Kevin just was sort of hesitant on it for a while, and then he wanted to do Clerks III, then Clerks III couldn’t happen. It was just really awesome and I’m really glad we got to do it. So far, so good, man. The people who have seen it, the few who have gotten to come over to Kevin’s and watch it, it’s been getting really good feedback – so I’m really hoping people enjoy it as much as I do.
Madness in the Method receives its European premiere on Saturday, August 24h at FrightFest, before getting a home release at a to-be-confirmed date.