Kevin Smith

Born Aug. 2, 1970, in Red Bank, N.J., Kevin Smith has always forged his own path to glory. Before he established his independent filmmaking street credibility, he first tried the writing route, enrolling in the creative writing program at the New School for Social Research in New York City, then dropping out and enrolling at the Vancouver Film School.

Canada didn't prove to be Smith's cup of tea, though, so he ended up back home in New Jersey, where he spent some down time working at a convenience store. That stint proved to be inspiring, as Smith later teamed with childhood pal Scott Mosier to film Clerks (1994), a talky, irreverent low-budget comedy that became an underground phenomenon.

What followed for Smith were similarly refreshing oeuvres such as Mallrats, Chasing Amy (starring Ben Affleck), the star-studded Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and the buzzed-about Jersey Girl.