From Kevin Smith To Jean-Claude Van Damme

In last week’s Six Degrees, I linked Elizabeth Shue to Val Kilmer at the suggestion of Dan from Bleading Marvelous. She posted a link to the blog on her page wall and a fairly lengthy comment thread opened up, with discussion split between three topics. Most people wanted to talk about how stupid I am for not making the Shue to Cruise (Cocktail) to Kilmer (Top Gun, of course) link. A handful of people wanted to talk about how incredibly stupid I am for not realising that Shue and Kilmer shared screen time in The Saint. All of these people are right and I am a fool.

Some folk were kind enough to overlook my idiocy and threw out some suggestions for future Six Degrees posts and I decided to run with one of them, so thanks to Adam Richard Corrigan for inspiring this week’s post.

Linking Smith to Van Damme is super easy. Kevin Smith played Warlock in Die Hard 4.0, alongside Bruce Willis  . Bruce Willis would later star in The Expendables 2, in which Jean-Claude Van Damme plays the bad guy. Link done, thank you ladies and gentlemen, good night.

Except… that’s really boring. Obviously I want to expand upon it to include some trivia and whatnot, but there’s a deeper story here. I’m a fan on Van Damme’s work (check out Six Bullets on Netflix, it’s actually bloody good), love that he sends himself up (the Coors adverts are genius) and he looks better at 56 than I did at 26, so that’s all great. With Kevin Smith, it’s more personal than that.

Since I first stumbled on to Smith’s films, i’ve been a fan. I’ve watched and/or listened to almost everything he’s ever done, from View Askewniverse to the True North Trilogy (although I really need to catch up and watch Yoga Hosers), from Smodcast to Babble-On, from Evening With to Threevening. The Q&A sessions and podcasts, in particular, helped to keep me level when things were starting to look decidedly wobbly.

This isn’t a diary and i’m not going to pour out my grief and woe here but let’s just say that a few years ago, my family was hit by a run of awful events and times were pretty damn bleak. Laughs were few and far between back then, but in the midst of all the misery Kevin Smith and Smodco helped keep me sane and so for that, should you ever read this Mr Smith, thank you sincerely.

Cut to the almost present day and I still fall asleep most nights listening to the Smodcast network. One night I was lying there, being sleep-kicked by my darling wife and listening to Jay & Silent Bob episode 162, recorded live at Vulture Festival back in 2015. Towards the end of the episode a couple of guys come up on stage and chat podcasts with Smith. They explain that he inspired them and he chats for a while about doing what you love, a prevalent theme in a lot of his talks. That lit a fire under my ass which led to the development of this site. Once again, thanks Kev.

To bring the story bang up to date, my long suffering, always awesome father helped me get the site set up and here we are. Weekly nonsense direct from my fingertips to your eyeballs. Where was I? Right! Six Degrees Of Seperation from Kev Smith to JCVD. Let’s start where my View Askewniverse experience began, with Dogma.

Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, the late great Alan Rickman and George Carlin, Dogma has an incredible cast. For me, though, one performance truly stands out in that movie and that’s Jason Lee as Azrael. He plays it so brilliantly, managing to be utterly twisted and evil but hilariously funny. As well as being my introduction to Kevin Smith’s work, Dogma was also the first time I saw Jason Lee in anything and I became an instant fan.

Yeah, even after the Chipmunk movies

I wasn’t the only person to be impressed by Lee’s performance in Dogma, as it was apparently this role which led to his casting in one of Pixar’s finest works, The Incredibles. Released in 2004, Incredibles is FINALLY getting the sequel it deserves in 2018 although as Syndrome got dragged through a jet engine (Pixar got dark) towards the end of the first film, i’m guessing Jason Lee might not be returning to the role. That said, we’re talking about a Pixar superhero movie, so who knows?

That’s Kevin Smith to Jason Lee, but where to go next? Samuel L. Jackson also voiced a character in The Incredibles, of course, but given his gargantuan body of work that’s way too easy. Craig T. Nelson would let me do a Poltergeist link but right now I can’t remember anyone else from that movie. No, I think we’ll have to go for arguably one of the most recognisable voices in Hollywood. Wallace Shawn.

Shawn voices Gilbert Huph in The Incredibles. If you don’t remember him, he’s the weaselly boss that Mr Incredible throws through a wall. Several walls, in fact. Wallace Shawn is a Pixar mainstay, also voicing Rex in the Toy Story films, as well as putting in appearances in countless other films and television series. To many, however, Wallace Shawn is and always will be the inconceivable Vizzini in The Princess Bride.

I’ve watched The Princess Bride hundreds of times. It has to be right up there with Cruel Intentions and The Flight Of Dragons among my most watched films. It’s heartwarming, hilarious and absolutely a film that everyone should watch at least once. It holds a special place in hearts of it’s fans and in the hearts of those who made it.

“Wow. The dude from Men In Tights is climbing the cliff…”

A true labour of love, most of the actors and filmmakers involved in The Princess Bride have spoken fondly of their time on the film, sharing many entertaining stories from behind the scenes. One recurring theme throughout many of these stories was the fact that Billy Crystal was just too damn funny.

If you watch carefully during the Miracle Max scenes in the film, when Inigo says “This is noble, sir”, you may notice that he looks a little odd. That’s because he is desperately trying not to laugh. Mandy Patinkin, who along with Cary Elwes did almost all of his own stuntwork during the movie, once said that the only injury he sustained while filming The Princess Bride was a bruised rib from trying not to laugh at Billy Crystal. Even the director Rob Reiner had to leave the set during Crystal’s scenes because he would laugh too hard and feel sick!

Billy Crystal is always hilarious, in my opinion. Running Scared, Analyse This (and That), Mike Waz…the green guy from Monsters Inc. Crystal is, in my opinion, one of the kings of comedy. You know who else is on that list of royals? Robin Williams. Now, Williams isn’t the link here, but he’s part of it. Bear with me.

In 1997, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams were filming Father’s Day. I’ve actually never seen it but it didn’t do terrifically well in the box office or with the critics, proof that you can be the best in the business and still get booed. Either way, the two comics were working either in the same building as or across the street from (details are a little fuzzy) another comedy which was filming at the time, a TV show in this case. That show was working on it’s third of what would become ten seasons and was already cementing it’s position as one of the best loved sitcoms of all time. Yup, it was Friends.

Coming soon: Top 5 Best Cameos Of All Time

Apparently, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal wandered in one day, the makers of Friends asked if they wanted to appear in the show and they said yes, so they filmed a completely ad libbed scene and that was that, accidental Friends cameo.

That episode pulled in around 23.1 million viewers, which is pretty respectable. Far from the best figures for the show, however, as the double length episode “The One After The Superbowl” from season 2 drew in over 50 million viewers, the highest in the shows history. This is partly due to the drawing power of the guest stars including Brooke Shields, Chris Isaak and… Jean-Claude Van Damme! Yeah, we got there eventually.

Kevin Smith to Jason Lee to Wallace Shawn to Billy Crystal to any of the main Friends cast to Jean-Claude Van Damme. Long winded but more interesting than doing it in one, right?

Next week, Mel Gibson to Danny Glover in twenty six moves.*

*I’m kidding. I wouldn’t torture you like that. Or would I?!

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