Kevin Smith's involvement in the movie and comics industries led to a number of interactions with Stan Lee, with the filmmaker detailing that he was proud to call the Marvel icon a genuine friend. During a recent episode of his podcast Fatman Beyond, Smith recalled his last in-person encounter with Lee.
"Last time I saw Stan, face to face, was on his birthday last year. Max, his body man, called me up and said, 'We're having a 95th birthday party, surprise party for Stan.' I said, 'Are you sure that's a good f-ckin idea?'" Smith joked. "The word 'surprise' at 95, these things don't go together. He said, 'We won't yell loud.' So we went to the steakhouse in Beverly Hills, there with a bunch of people, Lou Ferrigno was there, as well. And Stan came in, we all softly said, 'Happy birthday,' and I remember his first reaction, he goes, 'Who are these people?' And he came in and got his propers and sat down at the table and stuff. I went over and chit-chatted with him a bit, took a picture."
Smith demonstrated his love of comic books in his first film Clerks, though it was Mallrats which fully embraced a number of references that, at the time, only comic book fans would pick up on. Smith even managed to recruit Lee to play himself in the film, years before Lee began his impressive streak of Marvel movie cameos.
"Every time he ever saw me, after he'd say, 'Hey, Kev,' he said, 'When we making another movie?' Always," Smith recalled. "And he asked me that day and I said, 'Real f-ckin' soon, man, I promise you. We're so close.' And he said, 'Oh, fantastic.' And we took a picture. And then I didn't see him again. A couple months later, I had a heart attack and the last few months have kind of been about that."
Even though Smith hadn't seen Lee in quite some time, the two were seemingly still close. Smith pointed out that, given Lee's diminishing health, his representatives reached out to the filmmaker in hopes of setting up a meeting between the two.
"I got a request on Friday. Jordan, who runs our company, Jason's wife, she goes, 'Stan wants to see you.' And I said, 'What?' She goes, 'They asked if you'd come up to see Stan,'" the filmmaker admitted. "So, I said, 'Of course, when?' They're like, 'As soon as possible.' They said, 'He's good for like five, seven minutes, but he's asking about you,' and so I was like, 'Alright, man, I'm home all next week, lock it in.' So I was supposed to go see him this week."
As with most tragedies, you never see them coming, with an emotional Smith then recalling how he learned the devastating news of Lee's passing earlier this month.
"And then, I was walking the dog the other day, and I got a call from Jordan, and I said, 'What's up?' And she goes, 'The reporter's announcing that Stan has passed,'" Smith divulged. "And that was a tough f-ckin' morning. Like, he was a great man. He was f-ckin' 95 and closing in on 96, so he had a legendary life, but it's just weird being in a world where those stories stop. That's it. So I had to write sh-t down so I didn't forget. You take for granted the time that you have with people, and then one day, you realize, sh-t, you don't get to make any more memories. The amazing thing was I got to make any memories at all. Can't believe I met the man once, let alone can call him a friend."
While that project Smith was talking about might have never come together, fans can still witness one of Lee's best roles in Mallrats, allowing him a much longer monologue than many of his Marvel Cinematic Universe cameos.