Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Kevin Smith Talks Revisiting His Real-Life Heart Attack With Clerks III - Exclusive

Writer, director, and actor Kevin Smith burst onto the pop culture scene in 1994 with "Clerks," an ultra-low-budget, black-and-white glimpse at a day in the life of workers at a New Jersey convenience store — a subject that Smith was intimately familiar with. The movie vaulted him to fame and led to a writing and directing career that continues today. It also established him as a celebrity personality in his own right. In the years since, Smith has become an in-demand speaker, host, and podcaster, ensuring that people know him through much more than his movies. In fact, Smith has shared so much of his life publicly that many fans closely followed Smith's recovery after he survived an especially dangerous heart attack called a "widowmaker" several years ago.

It was a life-changing experience for Smith, and now he's dramatized it in the second sequel to "Clerks," "Clerks III." The new movie returns to the Quick Stop convenience store, which a middle-aged Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) now own. When Randal suffers a near-fatal heart attack and resolves to make a movie about his life, things get extremely meta. Smith's decision to reflect on life and death through "Clerks III" is a reflection of how he's felt since his real-life heart attack. "It's something I think about because I went through it," he noted. "It doesn't come from some dude who's like, 'Man, death, right?' I was in it. I was close. Real close."

Smith sat down with Looper to discuss why he chose to revisit his heart attack in "Clerks III" and how that granted him the ability to make an especially authentic film.

Making an authentic sequel

Kevin Smith said that revisiting his heart attack for "Clerks III" wasn't difficult for him because "My whole career, I've been stealing from real Kevin Smith and sticking it in the movies and stuff. This was no different." However, before he tackled "Clerks III" and delved into the implications of the health scare he'd been through, he had to finish "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot," which he was in the midst of making when his heart attack happened. "'Reboot' is something of a party movie. It's like, 'Oh my God, I'm alive,'" Smith explained. "The next thing that I sat down to write was post-heart attack. 'Reboot' was written pre-heart attack and with drafts after my heart attack, but the first full script post-heart attack was 'Clerks III.'"

While Smith had previously written a version of "Clerks III," he confessed that he overhauled the story in the wake of his near-death experience because "that movie was me trying to do grief before I really knew what grief was. It's a guy talking about death without the experience of death itself."

"I was always worried about the authenticity that 'Clerks' has, that 'Clerks II' didn't have, and that 'Clerks III' couldn't have. 'Clerks' is dripping with authenticity, because I worked in the store," Smith said. "'Clerks II' ... I won't say it's artificial, but it's a movie. It's full of artifice ... It's not really informed by my life at the time.

With "Clerks III," however, Smith has once again been able to create a movie that's informed by his personal experiences. "'Clerks III' is so close to 'Clerks' because it literally is informed by my reality. Not only did I used to work at a Quick Stop, but I had that heart attack and I did make a movie about working at a convenience store in black and white," Smith reflected. "I was like, 'This is a way that I can make an authentic 'Clerks' sequel and push the story forward and bring it to a place I've always wanted to bring it.'"

Lionsgate, in partnership with Fathom Events, will be releasing Clerks III exclusively in theaters from September 13 through 18.