In 'Chasing Amy', life-long best friends Holden McNeil (BEN AFFLECK) and Banky Edwards (JASON LEE) are enjoying success as the creators of the cult hit comic book 'Bluntman and Chronic.' When they meet fellow comic book artist Alyssa Jones (JOEY LAUREN ADAMS), Holden's desire for the beautiful charmer is immediate. Alyssa, however, has set her romantic sights elsewhere and yet decides, nevertheless, to pursue a friendship with Holden. This presents Holden with a dilemma: Feeling the way he does, can he merely be friends with this woman? Banky, who knows Holden best, doesn't think so.
As the friendship deepens, so do Holden's affections for Alyssa. And cautiously, yet effortlessly, so do Alyssa's for him. With their relationship struggling to define itself, Banky grows more and more frustrated at the notion of losing his best friend to emotional adulthood.
Produced by View Askew Productions, CHASING AMY is the third installment in Kevin Smith's New Jersey Trilogy --
which began with the Sundance and Cannes Film Festival award winner "Clerks", and continued last year with
"Mallrats," which also featured Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee.
CHASING AMY is the third installment in writer/director Kevin Smith's New Jersey trilogy, which began with the Sundance and Cannes Film Festival award winning comedy "Clerks" and with the teen comedy "Mallrats." Produced independently by Smith's and producer Scott Mosier's View Askew Productions for $250,000, CHASING AMY marks a departure for the writer/director. While rich with Smith's patented humorous and provocative dialogue, it is his first dramatic effort.
All three films, however distinct in their narrative presentation and comedic style, share common themes: All are situated in the central New Jersey suburbs where Smith grew up and continues to work and live. Each is linked via one of the three sexually uninhibited "Jones sisters": Heather Jones, the young woman in "Clerks" who informs Dante he's been cuckolded; "Trish the Dish" Jones, the 15-year old sex book author in "Mallrats"; and Alyssa Jones, the sexually adventurous comic book artist in CHASING AMY. And finally, Smith says, all three films depict a time that "for many was painful and forgettable: the years just after high school and beyond when we're being forced into adulthood. Everything seems raw and dramatic then. And when falling in love, emotional for us at any age, is especially turbulent."
With CHASING AMY, Smith thoughtfully, yet humourously looks at how perceptions alter our lives and how our irrational, though human obsessions and self-doubts seem to drive a wedge between us and those we love.
Says Smith, "In 'Clerks,' Dante freaks over the fact that his girlfriend has had sex with 37 guys. I thought that his obsession, that basic insecurity was worth exploring in greater depth with more mature characters."
In CHASING AMY, Holden (Ben Affleck) falls for Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), a sexy young woman who also writes comic books. Alyssa, however, doesn't share Holden's interest in a romance as she is gay. Despite this, the two grow closer and begin to look upon one another as friends. It's an alien concept to Holden that he can be friends with a woman, especially one he's not sleeping with, and even more surprising for Alyssa that she feels that same way about a man. Yet, adventurous by nature, she has left herself open to finding her soulmate. Gradually their friendship turns to love, which disrupts their lives and at the same time estranges Banky from Holden.
Peppered with the writer/director's trademark whip-smart wit, CHASING AMY is a love story about two seemingly incompatible lovers. The film is Smith's take on the muddled topic of courtship and contemporary sexual politics in the 90's but, in this era of "political correctness," with potentially explosive twists. Both Alyssa and Holden are thrown curveballs: hers that she falls in love with a man, his that love cannot save him from himself.
"I wanted to make the film," Smith further explains, "to further explore how two people's love for one another can alter their own perceptions about themselves. What and who we think we and others are changes all the time. Points of view, obsessions, insecurities, everything shapes our self-image. Although Alyssa says she is gay, she doesn't feel constrained by her sexual orientation. So, is she by definition gay? My gay friends say no. She couldn't fall in love with Holden if she were. OK, then what is she? Is she what she thinks she is or what Holden thinks she is, or none of the above?"
"You can't judge her," he continues. "She's still experimenting with her life, making up her mind who she is. She's made her choices and will make others. I can empathize with both of them but Alyssa is the stronger of the two. She walks into the situation with her eyes open while Holden's vision is narrowed by his limited perspectives and experiences." Says Smith: "Holden hasn't figured it all out yet. Alyssa is in the process of learning it."
In addition to themes, issues and locations common to his previous films, CHASING AMY also reflects Smith's penchant for working with familiar faces. Producer Scott Mosier and director of photography David Klein, both Vancouver Film School classmates of Smith's, worked on "Clerks" and "Mallrats," while Jason Mewes appeared in both films as "Jay," "Silent Bob's" fast-talking, pot-smoking buddy.
When casting CHASING AMY, Smith called first upon his "Mallrats" experience which, he jokes, "turned into a six million-dollar casting call for CHASING AMY. I saw a lot of terrific actors I may have never have met otherwise." Particularly impressed with Joey Lauren Adams' performance in that film, Smith created the role of the intrepid, restless Alyssa with her in mind. "I couldn't see anyone else in the role," Smith says. "The investors wanted a name star, but I feel that with this performance Joey proves she's moments away from being a star."
"I've taken a lot of heat for the female chracters I've written," Smith adds. "So with Alyssa I wanted to create a real, living, breathing character. Joey's performance to what I wrote made Alyssa more than even I imagined."
For the two male leads, Smith cast Affleck and Lee who portrayed rancorous enemies in "Mallrats." He created their roles especially with them in mind as well. "It was really in hanging out with Ben off camera that I discovered what a charming, insightful and funny guy he actually is. I saw in him leading man potential. In Jason's case, I knew he was capable of greater depth than I gave him to play in 'Mallrats.' And with this flick both of them exceeded my expectations."
Adds producer Mosier, "The relationship on screen between Holden and Banky is real. They're not just the straight man and funny guy. Both are dimensional, and go from making you laugh to making you feel. The reaction to this film will be interesting because it's nothing like 'Mallrats.' It will surprise a lot of people."
With CHASING AMY, Smith says that he had to live up to his own and no one else's expectations. "This film required me to dig a little deeper than I had before. It helped me to turn a corner as a director."
"Even though I wrote the script, as the director I found that I still had to open up, to be more vulnerable, to make the emotional moments believeable. It's a cliché, but this was a growing experience for me. It forced me to stretch. I really felt like a director for the first time, tackling the emotional stuff I've only danced around before. It's said that there's a thin line between drama and comedy, and with this film I had to walk that line from both sides."
As for the actors, each believes Smith created the perfect environment for them to pursue that emotional range. Adams says, "Kevin opened the door for us, first with his dialogue, then by rehearsing us and helping us get at the characters. He kept at us to get to the core of our characters. It was the best experience I've ever had as an actress." Says Lee, "Working with the same actors that I had just worked with on 'Mallrats' really helped get me where I needed to be faster. It helped in our communication with each other. I felt loose with these people. Since we were already close in real life, we appear close on screen. Kevin set that stage for us."
Affleck agrees. "The script is heavier than Kevin's other's. Much of it is about men coming to terms with sexual issues, their own and women's, and double standards that exists in relationships. Kevin made it comfortable for everyone which made us feel safe enough to go deeper than we might ordinarily have."
Smith concludes that his three films have provided him with a means to work out his own personal insecurities and anxieties. "There's so much of me in these films, of my own doubts and hang-ups that shouldn't and don't occur to most people. Making these films is a lot cheaper than therapy. Or," he reconsiders, "more expensive. It depends on how you look at it or who's paying for it."
With CHASING AMY, Smith says he concludes his trilogy theme of "two guys hanging out" - or does he? "When 'Clerks' happened, I thought it would be a good idea to insure further work by maintaining that it was the first part of a trilogy. It seemed to work for George Lucas." "Dogma," his next film, is about the church, organized religion, and. again featured Jay and Silent Bob. "this quote, unquote trilogy seems to be getting larger as we go."
CHASING AMY was filmed on locations in and around the central New Jersey suburb of Red Bank, as well as locations in New York City in the summer of 1996.