Smith on Clerks II

Ten years ago best friends Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) were New Jersey mini-mall clerks still slacking off together in their early 20s. Now, Kevin Smith checks back in to see what kind of changes have rocked their lives — in work, romance and their eternally raucous life philosophy.

What he discovers is that never before have so many still done so little while having so much fun doing it. Now working in the fast-food universe, Dante and Randal have managed to maintain, and even hone, their in-your-face attitudes, agile skill with vulgarities and unbridled love of screwing with the customers. But theyre also faced with such shocking new prospects as marriage, leaving Jersey and finding real careers.

Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) pushes his nothing-is-sacred humor right to the edge and then takes a leap as Dante and Randal invade the world of Moobys fast food restaurant, where the slogan is Im Eating It. Behind the counter, where the only other employees are an uber-nerd (Trevor Ferhman) and a sexy manager (Rosario Dawson), Dante and Randal are free to offend anybody and everybody who so much as orders fries in their inimitably irreverent way.

But, even as riotous debates rage between them over such burning matters as George Lucas v. Peter Jackson v. Jesus, change is on the horizon. When Dante announces that he's going to leave Jersey forever and marry Emma Bunting (Jennifer Schwalbach), Randal plots a going-away party so shocking it will draw the police, the fire department and potential protests from PETA, while altering their lives forever.

The Weinstein Company and View Askew Productions present Clerks II, written and directed by Kevin Smith. The producers are Scott Mosier and
Smith, and the executive producers are Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein and Carla Gardini. The film features cameos by Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Kevin Weisman (Alias) and the comedians Wanda Sykes and Earthquake. It also features the triumphant return of Leonardo, New Jerseys inimitable duo Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith).

Clerks (1994)

In 1994, two counter culture heroes were born: the New Jersey masters of the minimum-wage lifestyle mini-mart Clerks Dante Hicks and Randal Graves. Their raucous retail adventures, caustic camaraderie and sardonically skewed view of the modern world led to writer-director Kevin Smiths first comedy hit, Clerks, and made a mark on pop culture. But, nothing stays the same, not even among those who never want to grow up.

Now, a decade later, Kevin Smith forges an entirely new and different chapter in Dante and Randals lives as he takes another hilarious, irreverent and authentic journey into their farce-fueled friendship and, their sudden brush with big changes — in Clerks II.

For years, Smith debated in his own mind whether or not to revisit the characters he set loose upon the world in Clerks. The original film was a raunchy, razor-sharp, black-and-white comedy that Smith wrote in his parents house and made for little more than an annual clerks salary. Following just one profanely funny day in the life of Quick Stop employee Dante Hicks, the film spawned an animated television series, a comic book series, devoted fans and a slew of imitators.

With his own View Askew production company, Smith went on to forge an entire View Askewniverse and direct such films as Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Jersey Girl, while Clerks quietly became a Gen-X classic.

A second installment

Smith worried that tampering with characters so many people had come to love could be a risky, even foolhardy, business. And yet he just couldnt escape thinking about what had become of Dante and Randal especially as he himself hit his 30s and watched his world start to shift. He began to see a fresh standalone storyline for Dante and Randal as two thirtysomething slackers who have figured out how to mix very little work with a whole lot of pleasure but are suddenly confronted with the one thing they never saw coming: adulthood.

Clerks is a movie I wrote about what its like being in your 20s, and now I felt like I had something to say about being in your 30s, says Smith. So Clerks II checks back in with Dante and Randal ten years down the road at age 33. The underlying question the film asks is if you can you still be a kind of lackadaisical, cynical, wise-ass in your 30s or if you have to in some way grow up, and, how you do that while still being who you are.

Whatever trepidation Smith had about the pitfalls of sequels vanished as soon as he started writing. Instantly, he found Dante and Randals fast-and-furious dialogue flowing abundantly again–crazy debates, zingy one-liners and lingering anxiety about the madness of the modern world all intact. All the fear about besmirching the original went out the door the minute I was finished with the script, recalls Smith, because I really felt like it was something fresh and could very much stand up as its own film, while bringing something new to fans of the first one.

Despite big changes in his own life over the last decade, Smith had no problem honing right back into Dante and Randals headspace. Even though the trappings of my life arent the same, I think my mindset is, says Smith. Ive certainly grown as a filmmaker but I havent deviated that much from the person I was and, theres a part of me that is still very much like Dante and Randal — resistant to change — who watches the world outside my window and is completely befuddled.

Befuddled though they might be, time catches up with Dante and Randal in Clerks II bringing Smiths culture-driven, edge-pushing humor into an intriguing collision with such adult issues as marriage and maintaining friendships through major life changes. As he was writing, Smith decided to bring a new female duo into Dantes always complicated love life including the fiance who forces Randal to face up to the fact that his best buddy might be moving beyond the special joys of the service-job life without him.

New female characters

When I thought about my own life, I realized Im not dating women I dated twelve years ago, so that opened things up to create two new female characters: Emma, Dantes fiance and Becky, the manager at Moobys, explains Smith The women in this flick play a much bigger role than the girls in Clerks did. Emma is kind of the lynchpin of the movie. Shes pretty, she digs Dante and she could be his golden ticket, but shes not necessarily the best person for him. And, then theres Becky, whos really Dantes best friend, which I believe is the jumping off point for any great relationship. But, of course, the primary relationship is always between Dante and Randal, who have their own kind of love story, in a totally heterosexual way.

To complement the constant, cutting banter between Dante and Randal, Smith forged another fresh character: their muddled Moobys co-worker Elias, a Hobbit-loving, Transformer-collecting churchgoer who never met a french-fry he didnt scorch. Whats great about Elias is that he is to Randal what Randal is to Dante, Smith explains Hes this kind of sheltered kid, this battered puppy, who worships Randal. I think hes a welcome addition to the Clerks world.

Throughout, Smith had a blast with his proudly unhinged, nothings-sacred form of comic wit, never pulling back for the sake of propriety proving that even though everyone grows older, some senses of humor just keep getting more bold. I think this story pushes the edge even further than Clerks but, its not because I want to be the guy that always pushes further and further, he notes. The humor just reflects the characters and the way I speak with my friends and what not. The point isnt to offend instead, its to portray people as they really are while being very funny in the process.

Smiths excitement about the project continued to grow as he realized it was also a chance to return to the way he used to make movies before he was bitten by Hollywood success driven less by big budgets and more by good friends, good times and tons of passion. After Jersey Girl, I really wanted to make a movie with people who werent on the cover of US Magazine every week, he comments. For the first time in awhile, I felt I had the freedom to tell whatever story I wanted, to be as raucous as I wanted, and, to be as sentimental and as poignant as I wanted to be.

One person who was taken aback by the script for Clerks II was Scott Mosier, Smiths long-time producing partner. I thought it was hysterical, he says, and I was surprised by how it really upped the ante from the first one. Whats great, is that its not a carbon copy of Clerks its a unique movie unto itself. But, its also filled with all kinds of outrageous moments that I dont think anyone will be expecting.

Kevin Smith's Career

Kevin Smith returns in Clerks II to the characters that were born in his 1994 debut. Clerks was a surprise critical and commercial hit that collected the Filmmakers Trophy Award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival as well as the International Critics Week Award at the Cannes Film Festival that same year.
With friend and producer Scott Mosier and their production company, View Askew, Smith has since continued to write and direct cutting edge independent films such as Mallrats and Chasing Amy, for which Smith won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Original Screenplay. Smiths fourth motion picture, Dogma, a satiric comedy parable about two fallen angels also featuring Jay and Silent Bob, was the second most successful independent film of 1999, behind The Blair Witch Project. The film garnered Smith another Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

He then made a fifth foray in the View Askew universe with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. He most recently directed Jersey Girl starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.

In addition to his directing credits, Smith also co-executive produced with Mosier the Academy Award winning film Good Will Hunting as well as four low-budget, first-film efforts (including Bryan Johnsons Vulgar) and a pair of Sundance-selected documentaries (Reel Paradise and Small Town Gay Bar.)

Smith also wrote and directed the animated version of Clerks which aired on ABC-TV and is now available on DVD. An avid comic book fan, Smith is the proud owner of two comic book stores, both named Jay and Bobs Comic Stash, in Westwood, California and Red Bank, New Jersey.

He has written comic books featuring not only his own characters (the multiple-printed Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob), but also legendary mainstays of the superhero world (the award-winning Daredevil and Spider-Man and the Black Cat at Marvel Comics, and the award-winning Green Arrow at DC Comics), and written a monthly column for UK based Arena Magazine.

Among his other projects, Smith collaborated with John Pierson on his book Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes, a chronicle of the last ten years in the world of low/no budget film. He is also is the author of the best-selling book Silent Bob Speaks, a collection of essays hes written over the years, that saw multiple printings by Talk/Miramax Books.

Smith was one of the first filmmakers to venture into cyberspace, establishing the insanely popular View Askewniverse website (www.viewaskew.com) in the mid-nineties, which in turn spawned a bevy of other Smith-centric sites, including his online diary entitled My Boring-Ass Life, found at www.silentbobspeaks.com.

At the end of the day, the two titles Smith touts most proudly are husband and father. He married wife Jennifer in April 1999 and celebrated the birth of their daughter, Harley Quinn, in June of that same year (you do the math).