In the past we've gone to the Florida Film Festival in nearby Orlando for specific films or just to see something different from the usual cineplex fare, but this was the first time we made the two-hour trek for a particular person. Jason Lee's late-scheduled appearance on the Festival's closing night (he doesn't even appear in the Festival's program) was not an event we were prepared to miss. We were worried that he might be as reticent as he is on the commentary track for Mallrats, speaking once or twice during the movie's running time, but we figured an audience might be able to coax some response from the man who played Brodie and Banky.
To call it an "evening" with Lee is something of an overstatement; Lee himself didn't show up until 11:30 p.m. The event started at 9:30 on June 17, 2001 with a showing of Chasing Amy, which was of course well-received. There's nothing like a two-hour introduction via film to get a crowd warmed up.
When Lee did make his appearance, he looked more than a little like a deer caught in headlights. The Annie Russell Theater on the Rollins College Campus was absolutely packed (we just barely got tickets, and stood in line for two hours to get decent seats), and the average age of the audience was under 30.
Lee took questions from the audience with occasional interpretation from one of the Film Festival officials. (We didn't get his name. Sorry, guy.)
On Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back:
Of course, Lee plays both Brodie (from Mallrats) and Banky (from Chasing Amy), but the two don't interact. Lee "didn't think that was in the budget." Both characters have scenes with J&B, but don't appear much (if at all) with other characters. There is "no closure" in the relationship between Holden (Affleck's character in Chasing Amy) and Banky, but "you definitely... find something out... about Banky."
"Definitely Mallrats." As his first film, Mallrats holds a special place in Lee's heart.
Cameron Crowe (who directed Lee in Almost Famous) vs Kevin Smith as directors:
"They both like dialogue a lot, but Cam covers the s--t out of scenes." Lee also confided that Crowe is the most meticulous director he has worked with. "Yeah, he's pretty anal."
When not being deluged with stupid "Actor's Studio" questions, Lee was able to answer a few questions about upcoming projects:
Vanilla Sky (a remake of the 1997 film Open Your Eyes by Alejandro Amenabar) will be "unlike any other Cameron Crowe film you've seen," but will still be recognizably Crowe's work. Lee said he was "playing 'the friend' again," but said all of the actors did "amazing" work.
No mention was made of Big Trouble, the Disney film starring Tim Allen and Rene Russo based on Dave Barry's novel.
Lee hopes to have his own production company up and running "later this year," with which he will produce projects of personal interest, including a screenplay written by a friend.
Lee ended the evening by talking skateboarding with some interested audience members. Our friend Loren mentioned seeing him in Tampa a few years back. His reply: "Yeah, I've rocked Tampa a couple of times."
Although we had our shiny-ink pens and Mallrats DVDs at the ready, Lee did not hang around to sign autographs, which, at midnight, was just as well. It was nice just to get a chance to see Jason Lee as a person instead of a character.
-Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton