Tagline: With no power comes no responsibility.
The sequel to writer / director Kevin Smith’s 1994 Sundance favorite, “Clerks II” continues the intersecting stories of laterally mobile Dante and Randal (Jeff Anderson) and their career slacker shadows Jay At the age of 33, New Jersey mini-mart clerks and best friends Dante Hicks (Brian O Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) have it made they work with each other, slack off all day. But when the local Quick Stop that has been their entire life and livelihood suffers a cataclysm, Dante and Randal have to do the unthinkable: find new minimum-wage jobs.
Now, they re bringing their rapid-fire one-liners, bad attitudes and unbridled love of fun at the customer s expense to Mooby s burger joint, where the only other employees are an uber-nerd and an entirely too sexy manager (Rosario Dawson). But when Dante announces that he’s going to leave Jersey forever and marry Emma Bunting (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), his co-workers plan one last send-off that quickly goes awry.
As unbridled debates rage over such burning matters as Return of the King v. Return of the Jedi; George Lucas v. Peter Jackson v. Jesus; and how far is too far in every area from teenage sex to “customer relations,” Dante has to figure out an even bigger riddle: just how friendship, love, work and having a great time every single day can all come together in one humble adult existence.
About the Flick
In 1994, two “counter” culture heroes were born: the New Jersey masters of the minimum-wage lifestyle – minimart 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 Smith’s 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 Randal’s 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 clerk’s 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.
But 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 couldn’t 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 stand-alone 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 it’s 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 Randal’s 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 Randal’s headspace. “Even though the trappings of my life aren’t the same, I think my mindset is,” says Smith. “I’ve certainly grown as a filmmaker but I haven’t deviated that much from the person I was – and, there’s 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 Smith’s culturedriven, 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 Dante’s always complicated love life – including the fiancée 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.
“When I thought about my own life, I realized I’m not dating women I dated twelve years ago, so that opened things up to create two new female characters: Emma, Dante’s fiancée and Becky, the manager at Mooby’s,” 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. She’s pretty, she digs Dante and she could be his golden ticket, but she’s not necessarily the best person for him. And, then there’s Becky, who’s really Dante’s 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 Mooby’s co-worker Elias, a Hobbit-loving, Transformer-collecting churchgoer who never met a french-fry he didn’t scorch. “What’s great about Elias is that he is to Randal what Randal is to Dante,”
Smith explains “He’s this kind of sheltered kid, this battered puppy, who worships Randal. I think he’s a welcome addition to the ‘Clerks’ world.” Throughout, Smith had a blast with his proudly unhinged, nothing’s-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, it’s 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 isn’t to offend – instead, it’s to portray people as they really are while being very funny in the process.”
Smith’s 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 weren’t 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, Smith’s 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. What’s great, is that it’s not a carbon copy of ‘Clerks’ – it’s a unique movie unto itself. But, it’s also filled with all kinds of outrageous moments that I don’t think anyone will be expecting.”
Barely Clerking: Dante and Randal in Fast-Food Paradise
The original stars of “Clerks” — Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson – at first greeted the idea of reprising their infamously irreverent characters Dante and Randal not with open arms but with rank skepticism. “It was like, wow, do you really want to touch a film that is so beloved and such a great little gem and try to be as funny and original as the first one was,” recalls O’Halloran. “We went back and forth for awhile in the beginning – but then we read the script.”
Ultimately both men were won over when they encountered the entirely new world in which their dead-end-job duo find themselves. “I thought Kevin had found such a great place to bring the two characters to ten years later,” O’Halloran continues. “I also thought it was actually funnier than the original. Their interaction and their dialogue and all the topics they banter about were awesome. The jokes are more rapid-fire — yet the issues that come up are bigger and things everyone can relate to. It’s a lot of fun to see how these guys handle the changes that are coming their way.”
O’Halloran certainly wasn’t surprised to find Dante still toiling at the Quick Stop when the movie begins. “I know a lot of people like Dante who are in this situation where they aren’t quite sure where they want to go in life so they just stick with what they know, and, for Dante that’s the Quick Stop,” he notes. “There haven’t been that many big changes for Dante over the last twelve years — he’s obviously still best friends with Randal and they still have a chemistry that’s awesome — but now he feels like there should be more.”
That special Dante-Randal chemistry bubbled immediately back to life the minute O’Halloran and Anderson were back on the set together – almost as if they’d spent the last twelve years trading barbs and banter. “It was really easy for us to pick that right up again and I think it’s because of Kevin’s writing style,” says O’Halloran. “He has such a good grasp of their dialogue that it just rolls right off your tongue. And, right from the start, Jeff was Randal at his most Randel-esque – the wise guy who will take issue with absolutely anybody or anything.”
This time around, O’Halloran also got an extra bonus: a romantic alliance with none other than one of Hollywood’s hottest actresses, Rosario Dawson. He was impressed not only with her famous charisma but even more so with how she seemed to slide right into the film’s authentic Jersey style as if she’d always been a part of the story.
“Rosario just really got Kevin’s writing and the whole View Askew universe,” he says. “You might think she would be kind of weird in this movie but she completely fits in and just sparkles on the screen. I have to say it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the character she plays.”
Perhaps more nerve wracking for O’Halloran was having an extended make-out scene with director Kevin Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach, who plays Dante’s dominant fiancée. “Kissing the boss’s wife was potentially problematic because… I didn’t want to spoil it for Kevin,” he jokes. “But seriously, I was quite nervous and she was terrific, but strictly professional.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Anderson started out vehemently opposed to revisiting Randal. “Kevin took me to lunch to discuss it and I vomited up my Koo Koo Roo when he said sequel,” jokes Anderson. “I didn’t know anything at that point about the story or where it was going to take place and I guess I really didn’t know what to expect. But, when I read the script, I was pleasantly surprised. I felt it had similarities to the first one yet was different enough that it worked entirely on its own. Really, I thought it was pretty ballsy of Kevin to try to add new elements and I loved it. Dante and Randal are at a new place in their lives but they’re still as filthy talking as ever.”
Anderson was amazed to see that Randal was still alive after ten years of making acerbic fun of everyone and everything he encounters. “I was surprised nobody had throttled Randal yet, the way he harasses people,” he says. “He must be a fast runner.”
And yet some see Randal as winning the film’s maturity sweepstakes. “I think I might have to give Jeff’s character in this film the edge in the maturity category,” says Mosier. “For all his antics, I think Randal is the one guy who has the truest sense of who he is. He knows what he wants in life and, in a way, he has to convince Dante to go after what he wants, too.”
Once on the set, Anderson found the rapid-fire repartee with Brian O’Halloran instantly returning. “We’re basically like the Skipper and Gilligan,” he quips. “We don’t see each other that much but, we instantly fall right back into that groove as soon as we do. I have a feeling if we hung out all the time we’d actually be Dante and Randal – which is probably why we don’t hang out. That would be dangerous.”
Just Eating It
When their beloved Quick Stop suffers an unexpected calamity, Dante and Randal are forced to leave the only world they’ve ever really known and search out new jobs. Fortunately, they find equally mindless work at Mooby’s, a fastfood joint in need of a couple of relentlessly unambitious, uniform-wearing burger-slingers. But, Mooby’s comes with a perk: a sexy, sharp-tongued, Mustang-driving manager named Becky who will change Dante and Randal’s lives in more ways than they could ever imagine.
To create the role of Becky, Smith wound up recruiting one of today’s most sought-after screen actresses: Rosario Dawson. It was a decision he didn’t make lightly. “We were kind of nervous about bringing in a well-known actress to play Becky because we worried how someone like that would fit into this world,” he admits. “But Rosario was just so brilliant, it was clear she would fit in seamlessly. We actually thought she would never say yes but she really connected with the material. She has a great East Coast ethos that helped inform the character and you never think about her being Rosario, you think of her as Becky all the way. I think she brings something wonderful to the picture. She humanizes the character to the point that I was going ‘did I really write that?’ And, most of all, she pulls off the complete miracle of letting the audience really believe she would fall for Dante.”
Dawson had long been a fan of both Smith and CLERKS. “I thought it was incredibly well written and made by somebody who really understood and appreciated film,” she says. “It was the first time I can remember that real language like that – the way people talk when they’re dissing each other and just going at it, having fun for hours – was captured on screen. He was able to translate that feeling into something really amazing on the screen.” She continues: “I’d always wanted to work with Kevin but I haven’t done a lot of comedy so I didn’t see it happening. I was really shocked and excited when I was sent the script.”
Dawson was also intrigued by Becky’s relationship with Dante. “They’re going through one of those weird moments when friendship starts to turn into something else and you don’t really know how to make that change,” she explains. “What’s interesting is that Dante and Randal already have this kind of relationship where they can be very outrageous with each other but you still know they have this very strong friendship. I think Becky is slowly building something like that with Dante – and then it’s pretty scary to try to move that into the space of being lovers . . . especially when Dante’s fiancée is sending out wedding invitations.”
In the midst of the constant chaos of Dante and Randal, Dawson was sucked right into their world, which helped to create her naturalistic performance. “I’ve never really been a fast food person but if Mooby’s actually existed and if these characters were real, I’d want to work there so badly, because it’s constantly hilarious,” she says.
Most of all, Dawson was thrilled to become a member of the View Askew team. “It’s just so wonderful to see what a family Kevin has created and how much loyalty and friendship and respect everyone has for each other,” she comments. “I had such a great time making this movie and it was so refreshing and freeing to be so relaxed. At the same time, Kevin is very conscious as a filmmaker, and it was a very tight, smart production. It’s a great balance he has.”
Also new to the View Askew world is the character of Elias, Dante and Randal’s delightfully pathetic fellow employee. Even while writing the script, Smith had in mind a particular actor for the role: the relatively unknown Trevor Fehrman, who came to Smith’s attention through an indie film that Jeff Anderson had directed entitled “Now You Know.”
“Trevor’s this really handsome kid from Minnesota who’s great at playing that kind of slightly off character. He does the aloof thing really well,” says Anderson. “But I was surprised when Kevin came to me and said ‘what do you think of Trevor as Elias?’ I had no idea he knew who Trevor was – I thought he slept through my movies!”
Once Fehrman was cast, Anderson had a lot of fun working with him. “What’s funny is that Elias drives Randal nuts the same way Randal drives Dante nuts so it was a great mix,” he says. “Trevor also has a completely opposite delivery. Dante and Randal do this fast dialogue back and forth but Trevor really slows it down so it becomes a new, fun dynamic.”
Ferhman was already familiar with Smith’s work. “I’d seen all of his films and I even liked a couple of them,” he deadpans. “Plus, when I got the script I was really excited because I was working at my uncle’s company doing data entry — it was my first real job and it was awful. It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I was so ready to get out. So, when Kevin called, it was like the hand of God descending from heaven.”
As Smith had suspected, the actor found he had an instant affinity for Elias. “Elias basically likes three things: ‘Lord of the Rings,’ Transformers and Jesus,” he explains. “He’s been really isolated and sheltered and he’s yearning for attention but, it also turns out he’s kind of warped. I felt that the more crazy and hostile my character would become, the funnier it would be in contrast to Randal’s more cool demeanor. I guess I’d say their relationship is some kind of twisted incarnation of love and affection.”
Joining the main cast is a line-up of diverse Mooby’s customers who have various over-the-counter encounters with Dante and Randal. These include long-time Kevin Smith collaborator Jason Lee, now the star of the hit sitcom “My Name Is Earl,” who plays Lance, the Izod-sporting internet millionaire. “Jason Lee plays a pretty pivotal role in the flick because he’s the one dude who really gets to Dante and Randal,” says Smith. “He’s the guy who’s actually made something of his life while they haven’t done anything. This isn’t’ the Banky or the Brodie Jason Lee – he makes it a pretty sinister scene.”
Meanwhile, Kevin Weisman of “Alias” makes an appearance as the ultimate “Lord of the Rings” geek; and popular stand-up comics Wanda Sykes and Earthquake play a husband and wife who face a dilemma when they hear the outrageous comments of the employees.
“I loved the script but it’s just a little part, so I also figured no one could say ‘that Wanda Sykes screwed up the whole movie,’” laughs Sykes. “Plus any time two comics get to hang out together it’s good. The hardest part was just not laughing through the takes.”
Finally, also returning to the streets of New Jersey are two other characters first born in CLERKS who went on to become pop culture icons of their own: the taciturn, trench-coated drug dealer Silent Bob, played by Kevin Smith himself, and his inseparable, hetero partner Jay, played by the inimitable Jason Mewes.
For Mewes, “Clerks II” was an entirely new and literally sobering experience – his first film with Smith since he went through an extensive odyssey to overcome a severe drug addiction. (Mewes recently celebrated his third year of being clean and sober.) Smith had tried for years to help Mewes kick his dangerous habits to no avail. “The heartbreaking part, is that every time I would finish a film, I would go into the editing room and he would go right back into the drug world. But, what’s so wonderful, is that this was the first film in a long time where I didn’t have to clean him up before or after,” Smith says.
He continues: “And, because he was so much more clear-headed he was that much more funny. There’s just something a lot funnier about a dude who’s fully present. Mewes was fantastic. He was not only a lot more focused but, he became a real cheerleader for the film because it was so important to him.”
The Passion of Kevin Smith
With no Quick Stop to return to, Kevin Smith and his team faced the task of creating an entirely new minimumwage milieu – moving from convenience store counters straight to the plastic pleasures of the fast food world. “As it turns out, creating a fully-functioning fast food restaurant on screen isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do,” notes Mosier. “We realized we had to completely create the Mooby’s brand from scratch – from the menu to the mascots.”
The task of bringing Mooby’s to life from graphics created by Kevin Smith and his long-time artist collaborator Scott Purcell fell to production designer Robert “Raftface” Holtzman, who has previously worked with Kevin Smith on such films as “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” Although Holtzman didn’t work on the original “Clerks” he couldn’t resist the joy of working on this new chapter. “I thought ‘Clerks II’ was one of the funniest, tightest scripts I’d ever read and I knew it was going to be a lot of fun to do, especially when it came to making the world Kevin had created in the screenplay work on screen,” he says.
After searching the nation for a location in which to build Mooby’s, Smith and Holtzman finally secured an abandoned Burger King building in Buena Park, California, right near the Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park. It wasn’t easy to come by. “The real business to get into in this country is apparently fast food because it was a daunting task to find a closed-down fast food restaurant. They almost don’t exist,” notes Smith. “Luckily, this one was in an ideal location that looked a lot like New Jersey to me.”
Using the basic “fast food architecture” as a template, Hotzman then forged each of the Mooby’s elements – from the giant fiber-glass cow on the rooftop to the cheesy playground in the parking lot. Ultimately, the production would spend some 20 days, most of the shoot, in the restaurant.
Working closely with Smith and Holtzman was director of photography David Klein, who shot the original CLERKS and returned for a second dose. Klein had his work cut out for him as Smith threw a dizzyingly extensive 360-degree steadi-cam shot at him in the scene when Randal confronts Dante behind Mooby’s.
Another memorable sequence brought cast and crew to a local Go-Kart track, where Dante and Randal have an emergency race session in the middle of the workday accompanied by a Burt Bacharach love song – a moment that seems to sum up the ineffable yearnings and inseparable friendship of their characters. Smith says of the sequence: “To me it represents a pining for lost youth. I think everyone has that one thing that really takes them back – it isn’t necessarily Go-Karts, maybe it’s a pick-up basketball game – that really helps clear your mind.”
For Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson, the Go-Karts were instant bliss. “There is something about those Go-Karts,” admits O’Halloran. “Even between takes, I couldn’t get off of mine. I was having such a great time, I could have done that sequence forever.”
Adds Anderson: “When I got home that day, I didn’t even have a voice left over because I was laughing so hard watching Brian whipping around all day. Man that was fun. I guess it truly is the little things in life.”
While shooting in Buena Park, the entire production took up residence at a modest Days Inn across the street from the Mooby’s location, which only added to the spirit of joyous adventure. “We wound up taking the whole top floor and using the rooms instead of having trailers,” Smith explains. “It created this wonderful kind of camp mentality, this sort of ‘let’s put on a show’ attitude and the film became hands down my favorite filmmaking experience yet. We were like one unit rooting for the flick and it was heaven. For a lot of us, this movie really was the sum total of 12 years of experience – and it makes for a real nice bookend to the first ‘Clerks.’”
Clerks II (2006)
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Starring: Brian O’Halleron, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Trevo Fehrman, Jennifer Schwalbach, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Sarah Ault, Ethan Suplee, Jake Richardson, Ben Affleck
Screenplay by: Kevin Smith
Production Design by: Robert Holtzman
Cinematography by: David Klein
Film Editing by: Kevin Smith
Costume Design by: Roseanne Fiedler
Set Decoration by: Susan Lynch
Art Direction byB Marc Fisichella
Music by: James L. Venable
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive sexual and crude content including aberrant sexuality, strong language and some drug material.
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: July 21, 2006