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(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Film

Kevin Smith discusses how he almost made a documentary with Prince

@Russellisation

Known for his wacky sense of humour and eccentric fanboy persona, actor and director Kevin Smith is recognised as one of the most important American independent filmmakers for the growth of the industry at the turn of the new millennium. 

As well as directing the 1994 movie Clerks, a compelling stoner comedy, telling the story of a day in the life of two convenience store clerks named Dante and Randal as they go about trying to get out of actually working, Smith also had a direct hand in the creation of the celebrated Gus Van Sant movie Good Will Hunting, starring Robin Williams and Matt Damon. 

Speaking in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Damon and Ben Affleck credit the fellow Hollywood writer and director as being integral to the release of the 1997 film. “Kevin saved Good Will Hunting,” Damon told the magazine, with the Clerks director convincing the studio that the writing duo also deserved to star in the film they helped to create. As Ben Affleck explained, “The whole thing was we wanted to be actors. And he [Smith] got it to [executive producer] Jon Gordon and got people to believe in it”.

Revisit the moment Prince revealed the favourite song that he ever created

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Attached to direct the feature at one point, Smith decided to turn down the film in favour of his own ventures, telling Variety in 2020, “I still don’t think I would be good at making Good Will Hunting”. Rather self-deprecating in his recollection, Smith continues, adding, “I did not have enough talent to pull it off then. Even now, I don’t think I do. I was happy to help them get their stuff made. And can you believe it? At one point in my life, I had enough juice to help somebody else?”.

Instead, it was around this time that Smith almost worked with the superstar musician, Prince, to create a documentary capturing the majesty of his performance. 

This story is explained in a clip from An Evening with Kevin Smith, in which the director explains, “We were trying to get a Prince song for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back…we were trying to get Prince’s ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ but we couldn’t get any response back from him”. 

Having had no reply from the musician or his agents, out of the blue the director got a call from Prince’s office asking to speak with Smith on the phone. “Prince?” the director asks as he picks up the ringing phone before the musician exclaims his love for the 1999 movie Dogma and proposes that they collaborate on a project together. “I have this thing where I’m gonna debut my new album for a bunch of fans…I want to make a movie that we can bring to the Cannes Film Festival,” Prince pitched to the filmmaker, asking if he wanted to collaborate on a concert film. 

Proposing a bold cinematic style and a massive statement that read “Jesus Christ is the son of God,” Smith was so bowled over by Prince’s proposal that he forgot to even ask whether he could use the track ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ for his latest film. 

Surprisingly, despite their fruitful conversation previously, Prince gave a blunt “no” to Kevin Smith over the phone, yet instead of the rights to the song, Smith was handed the chance to work directly with the musician for a new documentary. 

A famously idiosyncratic character, however, the documentary eventually fell through after quite extraordinary circumstances, outlined in Smith’s full discussion, linked below.