Kevin Smith stars in 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
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WARNING: This article contains full spoilers for Clerks III.
After almost 40 years of cinema, Kevin Smith’s Clerks series has been brought to a resounding end. He launched his cinematic “View Askew” universe with the first movie back in 1994, and has now rounded off the trilogy with – you guessed it – a tremendously dark ending filled with glimmers of hope defiantly shining through. Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran returned as Randal Graves and Dante Hicks (respectively) in roles that have followed them through decades. And for their final outing, they returned to the original locations of Clerks – but this wasn’t enough for Smith.
In an exclusive chat with Express.co.uk, O’Halloran gushed over the original Clerks customers returning their final cameos.
“We were able to shoot in the original neighbourhood,” he said. “And thank God we did, because we had easy access to all these people who we worked with back in ’92.”
Clerks was originally shot and edited on a shoestring budget in 1992, with a lot of the project funded by Smith himself. Clerks III even references the monochromatic look of the movie which covered up the lack of set and design work.
Anderson couldn’t help but smile while talking about his first foray into acting (and, as it would turn out, one of his very few). He pointed out that a lot of the punters who entered the convenience store in the movie’s final scenes of Clerks III were the same people from the first movie. “That was the wildest and craziest thing to see, these people come back,” he smiled. “And I said this before, these people who were in Clerks – they were [real] customers who came into the store – they weren’t actors! But when they came in and acted they were all like professional actors.”
The most jarring moment for Anderson came when the cameras had stopped rolling, however. While taking a breather outside, he struck up a conversation with a young woman in her early 30s. As it turned out: “She was actually the eight-year-old girl who I sold cigarettes to [in Clerks]!”
Anderson was talking about Frances Cresci, who IMDB credits as “Little Smoking Girl” in Clerks, the reason behind Dante getting fined for selling cigarettes to a minor – even though it was Randal. “She’s now in her thirties!” Anderson guffawed. “It totally made me feel old.”
This interaction was poignant, however, as Clerks III is about the ever-ticking clock of mortality. Throughout Clerks III, both Dante and Randal had life-altering heart attacks, one of which essentially proved fatal.
But did this source material make the actors aware of their own mortality? Anderson grinned his Randal grin and said: “Every day I get out of bed I’m reminded that I’m getting older… I did not need a movie to tell me that!”
On the flip side, O’Halloran admitted that his life experiences actually helped him to translate the film’s more dramatic scenes from page to screen.
In one of the final moments of Dante’s life, he delivered a powerful, vicious monologue aimed at Randal. In another emotionally charged moment, Dante wept at the grave of his wife, Becky (Rosario Dawson), who died under tragic circumstances while pregnant with their child.
These scenes may not have been possible for a 25-year-old O’Halloran. He revealed: “The process of getting there, I refer to loss in my own life. And disappointment in other things … so I tapped into that. It’s amazing having incredible people to have these scenes across. [For example,] it’s very easy to fall in love with Rosario Dawson’s character; it’s very easy to realise the loss of never having that life knowing that there was a child on the way, and just the emotional toll that would have on someone after all these years.”
The real-life aspect of the film’s final scenes added weight to O’Halloran’s performance, as well. When Dante furiously ranted at Randal about his life, O’Halloran looked at Anderson as inspiration. It was the end of an era between these two actors who had been working alongside one another for four decades. “I’ve been looking at Jeff as this character for years! Knowing in my head that this might be the last conversation [between the characters] added to the intensity and the furore that was this relationship for all these years.”
But, before the film became a gorgeous love letter and final chapter to the Clerks universe, director and writer Kevin Smith couldn’t put the script together.
Anderson recalled that it took a few attempts before the band were convinced to get back together again for one last time. He said: “Interestingly enough the idea of Clerks III came up – or the first email or message from it – was that [Smith] wanted to do a Broadway show! To which I replied: ‘Man, you’ve been smoking too much weed!'”
Anderson let Smith know right away “that was not going to happen,” before adding that “it just wasn’t right” for the final Clerks story. With one script denied, Smith went back to his laptop and started again. When he eventually produced another script, Anderson was one of the first to look at it – again.
“At some point, the script was sent over to me and I read it,” he said. “And the original script of Clerks III was sort of a weird script… it was very dark, it didn’t, sort of, fit in the Clerks world. And that got shelved for a few years.”
Eventually, Anderson and Smith crossed paths serendipitously at a fan signing. There, Smith “pitched a new idea” to Anderson, and he admitted it “sounded much better”. “It was much more fitting to Clerks,” he added.
With all said and done in the Clerks world, Anderson and O’Halloran seemed happy with what they had achieved.
“I think it is a great way that Kevin has put a bow on this View Askew, Dante, Randal scenario,” O’Halloran said. “Although… knowing him, in literally nine or ten months he’ll probably have a way to make Clerks 4. And to be honest with you, if it’s clever enough, why not?”
Odd. Considering how final Clerks III has been pitched and talked about, it seemed as if the actors were done with the series once and for all. Would they make a comeback in the future? O’Halloran said: “Unless Randal has found the book of the Necronomicon and has decided to become a warlock and raise an army of the dead, of which I would be one of those participants, sure. I’m in.”
Anderson chuckled: “I would consider it if Randal could come in and hand the keys to Elias and that would be it – I would be all for that!” Considering Anderson later told me that he was “not pursuing acting” this isn’t much of a surprise.
O’Halloran was quick to add that they have talked about “maybe rebooting the Clerks cartoon series”. The original Clerks: The Animated Series enjoyed one six-episode season in 2000. But with a renewed interest, O’Halloran excitedly talked about “filling in the gaps of time” within the three-movie series.
“I think the fans would enjoy that,” he smiled, gratefully. “We would totally do that.”
Clerks III is available on digital today and Blu-ray and DVD December 25, 2022.
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