There were numerous tributes to legendary comics writer, editor, and personality Stan Lee within Kevin Smith's new film Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, but the role he was originally set to play -- something that Smith had talked about before Lee's passing and had discussed with Lee publicly during a Comic Con event -- was not among them. Lee passed away before production launched on Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, leaving Smith without new footage of his longtime friend and mentor for the film. Ultimately, he worked around that in a creative way -- but it's something we can't really explain in full detail without getting into spoiler territory.
Fans have already seen that Jason Lee's Brodie wears a Stan Lee t-shirt and has a Stan Lee memorial set up in his comic book shop, Brodie's Secret Stash. That much has appeared online and in trailers already. But Lee does appear in the film, in a speaking role -- kind of. The non-spoiler version is that an interview he did with Smith on the IMDboat at Comic Con was partially reused during the film's credits sequence, behind a title card that read "in memory of our marvelous mentor." In the clip, he told Lee that he would be a significant part of Reboot, and during a recent interview, he told ComicBook.com what those plans originally were.
That is, if you haven't figured it out yet, where the spoilers come in. So turn back now if you don't want to know.
In the context of the film, Kevin Smith exists in-story as the director of Bluntman v Chronic, a reboot of Bluntman & Chronic Strike Back, the film that Jay and Silent Bob tried to prevent being made in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Jay & Silent Bob Reboot centers around the pair trying to stop Bluntman v Chronic, but when they get to the set, they end up helping to foil a plot by a Russian agent to kill Kevin Smith live on camera as part of a commentary on American pop culture.
Instead, Smith revealed to ComicBook.com, the original plan was to have Lee in that role. He would have been the guest of honor at Chronic-Con, the Bluntman & Chronic-themed convention in the movie, and would have been the one taken hostage by the Russians.
"Stan was definitely meant to be in the movie," Smith told ComicBook.com. "He was the entire third act of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. He was the dude on stage that the Russians came to get. It was Stan-centric, and then of course, we lost Stan. So at that point, I changed it. I was like, 'Well, I'm going to be there on set, so Kevin Smith can be the guy that they're going after and shit. That's one less person I have to ask to do something for the movie.'"
Still, Smith said, the loss of Lee in his life loomed large and so losing him in the movie too did not sit right.
"I was just like, 'Well, he's not there,'" the filmmaker explained. "I know I'll have the homage in Brodie's Secret Stash. We'll have the shrine. And then in pre-production, I figured out, 'ooh, Brodie's shirt will be Stan. It will look like exactly like it did in Mallrats, the out of focus face, but it's as if somebody crisped it into focus and it turned out it was Stan all along.'"
That still didn't feel like quite enough, though, and it got Smith thinking about whether there was a way to honor the man more completely, without having him physically on set.
"As the movie was finishing, I was like, 'man, one of my favorite moments in my entire life happened to be caught by a camera when we did that little piece, and it's one of my favorite moments because he was absolutely himself,'" Smith said. "He laughs. He's not playing Stan, he's not putting it on for the cameras. He literally thought the whole fucking thing was ridiculous for a minute and just totally broke down, and that was the Stan that I absolutely loved. I loved the creator, I loved my mentor, the guy who taught how to be me in this business, just the way he was him in this business. But that moment of him laughing, I was like, that's f---ing gold, man, and I want that in the movie. He was meant to be there with us. I want to include it."
Smith admitted that he was concerned that the moment might play too crass, and that he worried about audiences thinking that he was somehow dishonoring Lee's memory by including him, but ultimately came to the conclusion that this moment between two friends, in which Stan was not playing the "movie version" of himself, spoke for itself, especially when included in the closing credits and not as part of the film.2comments
In addition to Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and a dozen or so other View Askew veterans, the film is jam-packed full of Hollywood stars including David Dastmalchian, Jason Lee, Joe Manganiello, Craig Robinson, Justin Long, Shannon Elizabeth, Fred Armisen, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris Hemsworth, Method Man, Redman, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Brian Quinn, and Tommy Chong.
Jay & Silent Bob Reboot was featured at a pair of Fathom Events special screenings around the country on Tuesday and Thursday of this week, and will now head out on a "Reboot Roadshow," in which Smith screens the movie to audiences personally, followed by a Q&A after the fact. A wider theatrical release will come later.