The untold truth of Jay and Silent Bob

Jay and Silent Bob are one of the all-time great comedy and screen duos. Played by writer-director Kevin Smith and his childhood best friend Jason Mewes in half a dozen of Smith's "View Askewniverse" films, the characters originated as drug dealers hanging out around the Quick Stop in Smith's first feature, Clerks, but have since gone on to fight security guards (Mallrats), renegade angels (Dogma), and an unauthorized biopic (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back). Jay and Silent Bob have also appeared in other movies and TV shows, and even their own animated spin-off, Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie. With news that another Jay and Silent Bob movie is on the way, here's a look into the origins and history of the half foul-mouthed, half-stoic duo. Snootchie bootchies!

The not-so-surprising inspiration for Jay

Smith based the loud, obnoxious, aggressive, and always dancing character of Jay, as portrayed by Jason Mews, on none other than…Jason Mewes. "When we did Clerks, I was 18, 19. That's how I used to act, exactly," Mewes says. "I didn't have any filter, I used to say stuff exactly like that. I'd get yelled at, people would get upset. A lot of the stuff that would be said, me hanging out and dancing and saying, 'what up' this and 'what up' that, that's stuff I had said over the years that Kevin had written down."

The duo's carelessness helped fund Clerks

Smith famously self-financed Clerks—which had a paltry $27,000 budget. That's not a lot of money for a movie, but it's a lot for one guy to have to raise and then spend on a movie which may or may not be a hit (or even get released). Smith got the money by selling off his extensive collection of comic books, pilfering from his college fund, and then maxing out a bunch of credit cards. As he tells in Stephen Lowenstein's 2002 interview collection My First Movie, the rest came from an insurance settlement for a destroyed car that he and Mewes shared. Mewes warned Smith that the area was going to flood, and that they should move the car. Smith said he didn't want to. Good thing they didn't.

Playing Silent Bob turned Smith into a smoker

A standout scene in Clerks featured an anti-smoking tirade delivered by a guy who turns out to have a self-interest in the matter: a representative of Chewlies, a gum manufacturer. That scene reflects Smith's real feelings about smoking, or at least how he felt about it in 1993-94, when the film was being made. He hated the whole idea of smoking, an opinion informed by his years of selling cigarettes all day long at a New Jersey convenience store. Nevertheless, Smith's character of Silent Bob smokes—he is, after all, a drug dealer who hangs around in front of a convenience store all day. Smith made sure not inhale when he had to smoke in character, but those little tastes of nicotine still got him hooked. Smith eventually became a two-pack a day smoker.

Mewes was almost replaced in Mallrats

Smith made Clerks himself, so he was free to cast anybody he wanted—like Mewes, his best friend, as Jay. But because studio Gramercy Pictures made the quasi-sequel Mallrats, Smith had to deal with some corporate interference. Studio executives were adamantly opposed to letting Mewes play Jay again, and instead wanted the more experienced and bankable Seth Green to step into the role. Smith convinced studio executives that Mewes was right for the role that he originated, but the studio still kept Green on call for the duration of the shoot as an understudy should things not work out with Mewes. To add insult to injury, the studio also refused to pay for Mewes to travel to the set in Minnesota or for his hotel room during the shoot. Studio executives even showed up to the first day of filming, fully prepared to fire Mewes if they didn't think he was good enough. Smith made Mewes aware of the situation, prompting him to give as good a performance as he could—and the suits finally approved.

Mewes was extremely prepared for Dogma

After Gramercy's reluctance to cast Mewes, he showed up to the set of Smith's next movie extra prepared. He memorized all his lines before shooting began … along with everybody else's. He'd memorized the entire script. This was because Smith met with Mewes before rehearsals and told him that he needed to do his best work, because not only was Dogma the biggest production they'd ever embarked on, but they had "real actors in the movie" this time, beyond just their core group of friends from Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy. Specifically, the legendary Alan Rickman had been cast in the movie as the angel Metatron. Mewes showed up and gave his performance everything he had because he didn't want to "piss off that Rickman dude."

Mewes is noticeably on drugs during Dogma

Despite memorizing the entire script for Dogma, Mewes still had trouble filming the movie because he was deeply addicted to heroin at the time of shooting. In a series of blog posts, Smith detailed the times during the shoot when Mewes was especially far gone, because it's visible in the film. In the scene where the apostle Rufus (Chris Rock) is delivering his backstory outside the Mooby's, for example, Jay can be seen nodding off. That's a telltale sign of being high on heroin.

Smith helped Mewes get off drugs

Mewes first became addicted to heroin around 1995, and it was Smith who urged Mewes into rehab. After his relapses during Dogma, Mewes moved back in which his mother, who had been diagnosed with AIDS. She shared some of her prescription painkillers with him to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal, a kind act which left Mewes addicted to OxyContin. Shortly thereafter, Mewes was arrested for heroin possession and was sentenced to drug counseling and community service.

In an attempt to get him clean once and for all, Smith invited Mewes to live with him and his family in California after the filming of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Still struggling with drugs, Mewes stole Smith's bank card, withdrew cash, and used it to buy heroin that he had shipped to a hotel where he and Smith were doing press for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Undeterred, Smith kept checking Mewes into a series of rehab clinics, none of which lasted long. Mewes says he hit rock bottom on Christmas Day 2003, when he woke up on a couch that was on fire—which he'd started after getting high and falling asleep by a candle. Mewes returned to New Jersey and attended court-mandated drug rehab. As of 2010, Mewes is drug-free.

Why Jay and Silent Bob show up in Scream 3

Jay and Silent Bob work best in small doses, punctuating the action with their ridiculousness in Smith's movies. But they're such pop culture icons that they've shown up in other places, too, such as an episode of Degrassi and the 2000 movie Scream 3. Like many of Smith's films, Scream 3 was distributed by Miramax. Studio head Bob Weinstein called Smith and told him he had an idea for a Jay and Silent Bob cameo in the movie. It was about a movie-inside-a-movie being filmed, and took place on a movie set. Smith came up with some lines for the scene on the spot, and Weinstein approved them. Mewes was down because he liked the $300 per diem and free T-shirt. He told Smith, "We should do this all the time. We can pop up in every horror movie, and get three hundred bucks a day and a shirt!"

Clerks: The Animated Series

In 2000, Disney-owned ABC commissioned an animated series based on Clerks. While the film's dialogue and plot points are downright filthy, that kind of thing just wasn't going to fly on primetime network television. As a result, the family-friendly network required some alterations from the source material. Among them: Jay and Silent Bob are not drug dealers on Clerks: The Animated Series. Rather, they're just kind of pranksters who hang out outside the Quick Stop, and occasionally sell fireworks to kids. Only two episodes aired before ABC canceled it.