JASON LEE
interview by insane wayne chinsang
illustration by debbie

FROM FOUR WHEELS AND CONCRETE TO TWO REELS AND CELLULOID, JASON LEE HAS TAKEN TO EXPANDING HIS HORIZONS, EXPANDING HIS PARAMETERS. INSANE WAYNE BREAKS THE ICE WITH LEE ABOUT ROLES, BOARDS, AND HIS BRAND-NEW FOUNDATION.

Wayne: This month our cover story was written by President George W. Bush. In the story he lists things he wants to blow up. If you could blow up anything, what would you blow up?

Jason: Bad architecture and the suburbs.

W: You’ve starred in most of Kevin Smith’s films. Those films have taken on a cult status that people, primarily young people, have really attached to. When you were growing up, what things, like the Smith films, influenced you?

J: Cartoons and skateboarding. All I ever really did was ride my skateboard. I also really dug the band Kiss and Evel Knievel when I was a kid. And BMX racing. Typical ‘70s and ‘80s suburban activities.

W: You recently started up The Jason Lee Foundation for the Arts. Can you explain a bit about what it is you are trying to accomplish with the Foundation, and have you always had a love of the visual arts?

J: I’ve been collecting art for about ten years and thought to start a foundation so that I could raise money to support artists. To me, good art needs more acknowledgment. The Foundation is now a key supporter of an independent gallery in downtown LA that will hold exhibitions on a monthly basis. Through the Foundation, I can also collect art and make it viewable to people. The idea is to preserve art and raise awareness of its importance.

W: How do the visual arts influence your career as an actor?

J: Acting is definitely creative, but it’s more of what I do as a profession. It’s good fun, but so is shooting photography, supporting artists, and collecting art.

W: You’re currently directing a documentary about two artists, Gottfried Helnwein and Bryten Goss, who are affiliated with the Foundation. How is directing a project different from starring in one?

J: I’m sure that directing a film is much, much more time consuming, but it’s definitely something I’ve thought about wanting to do for many years. Not only would it be fun to direct, but I wouldn’t (as an actor) have to go through hair and make-up every day, or change my damn clothes every morning on the set. Acting is good fun, but it can be a bit tedious. I definitely want to get the director’s perspective one of these days. It’s pretty challenging, and that’s what appeals to me.

W: You started up your own company, Stereo Skateboards, but the company eventually ended up going out of business. I read an article that fellow skaters’ lack of support is what led to Stereo’s demise, and to you eventually leaving the sport of skating altogether. Is this an accurate statement and, if not, what led you to the world of acting?

J: Well, skateboarding is very progressive and things constantly change. We did a lot with Stereo and it had a great life, but all things eventually come to an end. I still feel that Stereo was one of the most influential companies in skating history.

W: When you were skating, you had a large skater following. Since making the move from skating to acting, have you had to deal with fans considering you a “sell-out” to the skating world? If so, how do you deal with those situations: with both them, and yourself personally.

J: Not really a “sell-out”. They’re just a bit confused as to why I would stop skating. I totally understand that, because back in my time, when all I thought about was skating, I couldn’t see life any other way.

W: You’ve been in a lot of comedies, but your work with director Cameron Crowe stands out from your more comedic work. Would you like to pursue doing more films like Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky, or do you prefer to do comedies?

J: I like doing it all. I think I’ve been able to prove myself as enough of an all-around actor to the point where things are pretty open, which has been very positive.

W: Everything I’ve read about you says that you are the kindest person people have ever met, and that you’re nothing like the characters you play. Is that a nice escape for you; to play these people you could never be? Would you like to play a character that is truly like you?

J: Well, it’s funny with acting because I don’t think there’s ever a REAL escape when you’re playing a character. After all, it’s the person playing the role, so there is always that “awareness” of knowing that you’re acting,.. to enough of a degree, anyway.

W: Which character have you played that you think you are most like?

J: This is kind of a general answer, but, all of them.

W: In 1996 you starred in a film called Drawing Flies, which was about a guy trying to track down Sasquatch in Canada. The filming took place in Vancouver. My question is, while filming, did you happen to see Richard Grieco?

J: Unfortunately, no.

W: Out of all of the people you have met in both the skating and acting world, who were you most impressed by?

J: Mark Gonzales from skating, and Kevin Smith, Cameron Crowe, and Lawrence Kasdan from the film world.

W: Do dogs have lips?

J: Well, they must. ‘Cause they’re all pretty damn good at licking their own balls and then smackin’ them lips when they’re done.

W: Any rumors you would like to start about yourself or anyone else?

J: No.

W: Any guilty pleasures?

J: Cigarettes.

W: You’ve skated, acted, and owned your own business. What’s next for Jason Lee?

J: I want to get The Foundation to a point financially where I can buy a big enough building to have an independent museum.

READ OUR SECOND INTERVIEW WITH JASON HERE.