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|Also Known As:||Jason Edward Mewes||Died:|
|Born:||June 12, 1974||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Highlands, New Jersey, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor|
Sharing a workplace with Kevin Smith earned Jason Mewes a spot in the pop culture fabric of the late 1990s and into the 21st century with a string of appearances as motormouthed drug dealer Jay in the writer-director's interwoven comedies. Mewes' first appearance as Jay came with Smith's feature debut, "Clerks" (1994), which established the character's penchant for manic, stream-of-consciousness monologues, as well as his relationship with non-verbal sidekick, Silent Bob. The worldwide success of "Clerks" in the indie film market led to more appearances by Mewes as Jay in Smith's films, such as "Mallrats" (1995), "Chasing Amy" (1997) and "Dogma" (1999). The characters even got their own movie, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001), which emphasized their buffoonery over Smith's usual trenchant observations about suburban life. However, the sudden rush of fame seemed to have a detrimental effect on Mewes' health, and he struggled for several years with a very public drug problem before returning to acting in films like "Clerks II" (2006) and several independent features. His critically praised turn as an addled would-be porn star in Smith's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (2008) indicated that his unique comic talents could have a life beyond the sweetly stoned limitations of Jay.
Born Jason Edward Mewes in Highlands, NJ on July 12, 1974, he met Smith while in high school and later worked in a store next to the Quick Stop, a video store in New Jersey where Smith worked and which served as the primary setting for "Clerks." Smith eventually penned the character of Jay for Mewes, who agreed to play the role without ever reading the script. Despite having only the slightest of acting experience - a few parts in school productions - Mewes threw himself into Jay, investing the foul-mouthed, blissfully ignorant pot dealer with a mix of edgy cool and endearing fearlessness. "Clerks" eventually became one of the darlings of the 1990s independent film scene, with Mewes' turn as Jay singled out by many fans as a highlight of the movie. The actor was largely unaware of the film's success, so until he received more offers from Smith, he continued working at his day job as a roofer.
Mewes returned as Jay in "Mallrats" (1995), Smith's ill-fated second feature. Jay and Silent Bob's drug dealing was played down in favor of portraying the pair as ill-mannered but harmless goofs who aid the film's leads - Jason London and Jason Lee - in thwarting their exes' attempts to dump them via a TV dating show. Mewes then turned up as Lee's destitute roommate in the Smith-produced indie feature "Drawing Flies" (1996), which marked one of his few screen appearances as a character other than Jay. He was soon back in Jay's wool cap and trench coat for "Chasing Amy" (1997), Smith's remarkably mature romantic drama with Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams as artists who discover that their sexual pasts are incompatible with their present relationship. Jay and Silent Bob were the focus of cartoonist Affleck's latest work, though it was Bob who stood out by first silencing Jay and then relaying his own story of heartbreak to Affleck. The film was a hit with Smith fans and newcomers to the director's "View Askewniverse," and its success helped to bring Mewes back into the spotlight. Jay and Bob earned more substantial parts in Smith's controversial religious satire "Dogma" (1999), which depicted the hapless duo as prophets chosen by God to assist a woman (Linda Fiorentino) in her quest to stop two rogue angels (Affleck and Matt Damon).
As Jay, Mewes was suddenly everywhere in the late 1990s: in promotional spots for MTV and Nike, on television in "Clerks: The Animated Series" (ABC, 2000), in videos for artists like Afroman and Soul Asylum, and in comics penned by Smith, including the inevitable "Clerks: The Comic Book." Mewes was also stepping away from the role with supporting turns in several independent projects, but films like "Tail Lights Fade" (1999) and "Spilt Milk" (2000) failed to earn even perfunctory releases. Jay, however, remained exceptionally popular, as evidenced by Mewes' cameo role in Wes Craven's "Scream 3" (2000).
While Mewes attempted to make sense of his acting career, he was also struggling with a serious drug problem that became public in 1999. An arrest for possession of heroin led to a string of related offenses for prescription drugs and other narcotics. In 2001, Mewes failed to appear before a court in Freehold, NJ; two years later, he pled guilty to six counts of violating the probation established by his 1999 arrest. He was dispatched to a recovery house in New Jersey in 2003, where he apparently overcame his troubles. Making matters more difficult for Mewes during this period was his first starring turn in a major film. Granted, it was "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (2001), Smith's broad, vulgar road trip comedy about the pair's journey to Hollywood in order to stop a big-budget film version of their lives, but the film's success would certainly determine Mewes' viability in the industry. "Strike Back" did moderate business during its theatrical release, but Mewes' personal problems forced him to step away from his acting career and focus on his recuperation.
Smith originally intended to bring the saga of Jay and Silent Bob to a close with "Strike Back," but reprised the characters in 2005 for several appearances on the Canadian teen comedy-drama "Degrassi: The Next Generation." One year later, Jay and Silent Bob came full circle with "Clerks II" (2006), which found the characters largely unchanged from their shenanigans a decade earlier, though now with an evangelical edge earned after a stint in rehab. In addition to his usual machine-gun raps, Mewes enjoyed one of the film's show-stopping moments when Jay recreated the nude dance performed by serial killer "Buffalo Bill" in "Silence of the Lambs (1991). Rumors again swirled that fans had seen the last of Jay and Silent Bob, though Smith reported that they might return in a third "Clerks" movie or via a new version of the animated series.
Newly sober, Mewes began to explore acting opportunities outside of his films for Smith. He played a fictitious version of himself in John Gulager's riotous horror film "Feast" (2006), in which he was dispatched by a voracious desert-dwelling monster. More roles in low-budget features soon followed, including "Bottoms Up" (2006), a comedy in which the object of Mewes' affection was Paris Hilton, and in David Arquette's sly slasher film parody "The Tripper" (2007). Mewes also began working as a voice actor in several animated projects, including "Noah's Ark: The Beginning" (2008), which amusingly cast him as Ham, one of Noah's wayward sons.
In 2008, Mewes and Smith were reunited for "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," the second of the director's comedies to step away from the world established in "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy." The comedy, about two lifelong friends (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) who attempt to solve their recent financial problems by shooting a homemade adult film, featured Mewes in a supporting role as would-be talent for their film. Initial reviews by the online film community seemed to indicate that Mewes' performance was one of the film's strong points. Mewes also branched out to serve as producer and co-star of the indie comedy "Mitch and Stu's Quest" (2009), about - what else? - two potheads who must recover a misplaced stash.
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