In this picture above, from the set of Mallrats -- the guy in glasses on my right? The guy who kinda looks like my beardless Dad (and kinda was)? That's the producer Jim Jacks.
20 years ago, Jim Jacks saw Clerks at Sundance and introduced himself to me at the Fest-ending awards ceremony. We talked movies for a long time -- especially the ones he'd been involved with: Raising Arizona, Tombstone, Dazed and Confused, Tremors. I liked him instantly because he was a movie geek with a legitimate movie career. He asked me to come pitch a movie at Universal, where Alphaville -- the production company he shared with Sean Daniels -- was based. A month later, I did just that. The movie was called Mallrats, and there was no bigger believer in, or fan of, the flick than Jim Jacks -- who died suddenly of a heart attack last Monday at age 66.
Scott Mosier and I were so close with Jim Jacks during Mallrats that we moved into his house for post production. At the time, Jim was an unmarried, childless 46-year-old, so he loved having "kids" in the house. We'd go to movies, go out to eat (Dan Tana's and The Daily Grill), or order in and watch flicks in his home theater. It was the dorm life film school experience all three of us had never had, with said dorm being in the Hollywood Hills and said film school being the movie business. When Jay Mewes was in town, he was another welcomed freeloader, enraging Jacks only once when he left fried chicken grease stains on Jim's kitchen phone. Those were halcyon days...
Jim Jacks taught me how a true movie buff with a little disposable income buys Laser Discs (and later, DVD's): you buy one of everything on the rack to support the industry that supports you (and since we were in the movie biz, they were all tax deductible as work research anyway). Because of this, the man had so many unwatched laser discs, he'd often buy doubles and triples, forgetting he'd already had a particular movie. Rather than return them, Jim would let us pick through his laser disc doubles like they were baseball cards. I remember one time actually saying to Scott "I'll never buy so much of something that I don't have time to open 'em all." And as I write this, surrounded by a DVD/BD library that sports many still-wrapped purchases, I can safely say Jim Jacks definitely rubbed off on me (which sounds filthy and would've made Jim laugh).
Even after Mallrats came and went with little fanfare in the theaters (but a massive audience on home video), we still remained friends -- going out to eat periodically or catching up at his place. Jim always had a series of long notecards on which he catalogued his future projects with the Coen Brothers (he pronounced their name "the Cones"), Billy Bob Thornton, Richard Linklater and all of his filmmakers. If they were the children he'd never have, Scott and I were his bouncing baby newborns in those days. I think he dug us because we were both fresh to the business and part of the first generation of movie geeks. Jim would say he hated talking about movies with studio suits because it was always about the bottom line, not how the movie made them feel. So instead of eating power lunches with his peers and associates, Jim would take Scott and I to eat at the Universal commissary because movie stars ate there and we were eager Freshmen looking to star-gaze at the Seniors (on one occasion, Jim giggled his soup out of his nose because Scott and I were so bad at secretly studying Sean Connery while he ate soup at a nearby table).
Jim Jacks made movies everyone loved, but the big commercial success he craved eluded him... until he struck gold with The Mummy franchise. I was so happy for him when the flick became a phenomenon because it was clear Jim finally felt he'd made a real impact in Hollywood. But the truth is, he made giant contributions to the movie business long before Imhotep turned into a giant sand cloud. Back in his Circle Films days, he backed the Coens. He brought Sam Raimi and John Woo to Hollywood. He brought in Richard Linklater, and he let me make the movie I grew up watching in my Jersey youth and never dreamed I'd get a chance to make: a juvenile morality tale with lots of dick jokes and heart. Sometimes, people credit me with the early rise of Ben Affleck, but really, it was Jim Jacks -- who put Ben in both Dazed and 'Rats. Jim Jacks loved the movies, but he was never sure if the movie biz really loved him. I can't speak for the biz, but I know the audience loved Jim -- even though they rarely knew his name. To borrow a phrase from Dire Straits, he dreamed these dreams for us, so now those dreams are real. But aside from his good taste in flicks, I'll always remember Jim Jacks as the the Godfather of Mallrats -- the guy who wanted to make it the most (after me). That flick led directly to Chasing Amy, and later, Dogma, so Mallrats is a big part of my mythology and who I became -- not only as a filmmaker, but also as a person. None of it would've happened were it not for Jim Jacks.
I'll miss you, Jim. Thanks for shaping the last two decades of my life. Rest in peace knowing you were an absolute success and, with the exception of that one mall picture, you made some excellent, unforgettable movies. I speak for the audience and the industry when I say you did an amazing fucking job, my friend...