Kevin Smith and Star Wars since 1994

Kevin Smith speaks to fans during the grand opening of his pop-up Mooby's restaurant in Red Bank, NJ Wednesday, September 8, 2021.Moo18
Kevin Smith speaks to fans during the grand opening of his pop-up Mooby's restaurant in Red Bank, NJ Wednesday, September 8, 2021.Moo18 /

Star Wars is everywhere now. But if you look back 10-15 years ago, liking Star Wars or anything geeky wasn’t as common as it is these days. I always think back to that commercial where a high school boy builds R2-D2 to ask his crush to go see The Force Awakens—I would have been punched in high school for that! So, while these niche franchises have become anything other than niche, there was a time when no one was talking about pop culture, not even in the movies. Kevin Smith helped change that.

Kevin Smith and why his characters are always talking about Star Wars

If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith, you know that his love of Star Wars runs deep. At 7 years old, Smith was the perfect age for Star Wars (now more commonly known as A New Hope). Like most kids his age, he played with his friends, recreating scenes from the movies or creating brand new ones. But, as he tells the Good One podcast, the over-analysis of Star Wars began after rewatching Return of the Jedi.

"It’s the harbinger of the internet. When this movie came out, the internet hadn’t gone mainstream, but that conversation is what the internet would become. The origins of that scene go back to me watching Return of the Jedi for probably the 28th time with my then ex-girlfriend Kim Loughran at her house. We got to that third act where Luke finally goes for it, and Vader blocks the shot. So the movie ends, and for the next two hours, I kept talking to Kim about this scene — if he just spins and cuts through the back of the chair and cuts this dude in half. And she’s like, ‘Well, that’s not what happened.’ So, the over-analysis of Star Wars begins with Kim Loughran."

If you’ve seen Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Clerks II, and most of Smith’s movies—including his latest Clerks III, which he currently touring around the country with—then you also know that the director injects a lot of his own life into his films. After having a conversation with Scott Mosier, his friend, and one-time producer, about Star Wars, he brought a similar conversation into Clerks.

"Then, me and Scott Mosier met at the Vancouver Film School. I try a Star Wars conversation out on Scott because I watch the trilogy one night, and then we go to the coffee shop between classes and I start hitting him up with, ‘It occurs to me that with the Emperor being a kind of holy figure, this is a movie about theocracy.’ Scott was agnostic to the point of atheist, I was Catholic, so we start breaking it down. I’ll never forget: There was a dude in my periphery who was reading a newspaper. And the deeper Scott and I got into talking about Star Wars, the paper went down, and the dude just leaned back and started listening. And it occurred to me that, oh, everyone likes Star Wars now. This was at a time when they were just three huge movies and then they stopped and that was that — they were memories."

Death Star Contractors

And that’s how the Death Star contractors’ scene was born for Clerks. Smith’s characters continued to make pop culture references throughout his movies because he realized, while no one was necessarily having these conversations on a regular basis, everyone knew what Star Wars was by the ‘90s.

Fast forward to 2006, when Smith revisited Dante and Randall in Clerks II, pop culture exploded. There was now a prequel trilogy for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings was a massive success. And while most of Clerks II is made up—it’s just Kevin Smith having fun with his characters and telling a heartwarming story—he did pull from real-life conversations and Q&A acts to write some of the films.

"Well, Clerks II is an interesting beast. I love the movie, but it’s all artifice. Clerks came right out of my real life; I just changed names. Clerks III, same thing. Clerks II, none of that’s true. It’s like Dante and Randal fan fiction. So, I was like, Well, I got to create this whole cloth. What could I use? What would extend it? And I was like, oh, you know, it f***ing kills every time I do that Lord of the Rings bit. So, Elias is not just a Jesus guy but a Lord of the Rings guy, and Randal is more like a f***ing original trilogy guy, Star Wars guy. That’s essentially me being me. I performed that bit for a while onstage, and when I sat down to write Clerks II years later I was like, Oh my God, I’m totally cherry picking. I remember showing Jeff exactly how I’ve done the bit live. It was a nice little showcase piece, not because I’m talented or something, but because everyone knows those Lord of the Rings movies, just like everyone knew those Star Wars movies back in the day."

When it came to Clerks III, Smith is a completely different filmmaker now than he was 28 years ago. He knows how to thread a story together a bit more, so when it came time to bring in the Star Wars reference, the purpose was to be more than clever.

"Yeah, you can drop a Lobot reference. We still have to explain it just in case for those that don’t go that deep, but it’s pretty clear everyone’s familiar with these characters at this point. So, if you are making a Clerks movie, there has to be a Star Wars something. This is sort of a remnant from the old version of Clerks, where there was a scene that was cut where Randal and Dante were down on themselves and insulting each other by calling themselves action figures. And at the end of the movie, Dante’s message to Randal was like, ‘Don’t be Darth, be Luke.’ So, a variation of that got rewritten and put into this, and it kind of became one of the parting thoughts in the third act.That had everything to do with while I knew I had to include a Star Wars something, I felt like rather than just be clever like the Death Star contractors, it could be useful to the story. As a young artist, I wouldn’t have known, but as an old artist, I’ve got experience with like, Well, let’s call this a setup, and let’s call back on it later as a payoff. No one’s going to see it as a setup right now. They’re going to see it as the guys talking about Star Wars and all is right with the world. And then when you get to the end, you’re going to realize, Oh, yeah, Kev was threading the needle, wasn’t he?"

As a Kevin Smith fan myself, I’ve always loved the way he weaved Star Wars and comic books into his work. At times when I felt alone, I could always turn to his characters—often Dante—and feel seen. For many of us, he’s our voice… not necessarily the voice of the independent film, though I believe he once was. I mean the voice of nerds and geeks.

Or maybe not, what do I know? I’m not even supposed to be here today.

Next. 4 actors who could voice Darth Vader in future Star Wars projects. dark

Are you a fan of the Star Wars and other pop culture references Kevin Smith makes in his movies? Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments below!