Who loved the stoner-go-lucky 1994 movie, Clerks? Kevin Smith’s debut, it became a cult classic with bored suburban kids everywhere who identified with the soul-crushing drudgery of working in a store. These days, Kevin Smith is well known for many projects, and some of the characters we meet in Clerks got their own follow-up movies!
Read on for the stories behind the movie, some great photos, and a video at the end you can’t miss!
This movie was Kevin Smith’s first. In fact, he had no money to finance it, and had to sell some of his beloved comics to scrape the necessary cash together. Fortunately, he was able to buy them back as he got more successful.
Why were the shutters down the whole movie?
Kevin Smith actually worked at the convenience store! He would clock in at 6 am and finish at 11 pm, then shoot straight all night. They did this for 21 nights! Then, the super-dedicated Smith would take a quick 1-2 hour nap before returning to work.
This is the reason why the shutters are down in the movie – they couldn’t afford to light the set like the way daytime light would look, and worked the closed shutters into the plot.
Which famous Italian author inspired the movie?
The movie is loosely based on Italian writer Dante Alighieri’s classic, “The Divine Comedy.” Like the book, which discusses Dante’s descent into Hell and subsequent journey of his soul to meeting God, the movie has nine parts, symbolizing the circles of Hell. The main character, Dante Hicks, is named for Dante.
Who was Kevin Smith going to play initially?
Randal gets some of the best lines. This is because Kevin Smith originally wrote the part for himself. Jeff Anderson, who had auditioned for the role of Jay, took the part of Randal, mainly because Smith didn’t feel comfortable with that many lines, opting to play Silent Bob, who breaks his silence only at the very end of the movie.
Why was the movie shot in black and white?
There’s a reason the movie is in black and white! Clerks was shot on an incredibly tight budget – around $27,000 – and shooting in color would have required additional post-production work (resolving color temperatures, etc) that Smith frankly couldn’t afford. Shooting in black and white solved that issue.
Why was Jay always drunk?
Jay was written for Kevin Smith’s friend, Jason Mewes. Mewes’s personality was larger than life, and Smith wanted to capture that on camera as Jay. However, Mewes was super camera shy! Smith had to coach him for several months in order to loosen up, and he would often get drunk before filming.
In fact, for the scene where he and Silent Bob dance, he was too shy to do it in front of crew members, so they trained the camera on him, went into the RST Video Store, and let him dance by himself.
What inspired the Chewlie’s Gum representative’s anti-smoking rant?
Kevin Smith was a staunch nonsmoker at the time of filming, which inspired the Chewlie’s Gum part. He eventually became a two pack a day smoker.
Speaking of the gum rep, how did they create that blackened lung?
Speaking of Chewlie’s Gum, the “lung” that the rep threw on the counter wasn’t actually a diseased lung. It was a piece of calf’s liver that they dragged around the parking lot and extinguished cigarettes in to make it look more battered and blackened than it was.
Where can you see Kevin Smith’s family in the movie?
The movie was totally a collaborative effort. Friends and family took minor roles – for example, Kevin Smith’s mother is the woman sorting through the milk cartons looking for the one with the best expiration date, and his sister is the customer who shares information about her job artificially inseminating chickens.
In the credits, the boom operator is credited as “Whoever Grabbed The Stick”.
Who did Kevin Smith write the movie as a vehicle for?
The movie was originally created for Kevin Smith’s high school comedy troupe. He wrote the script with one of the members, Ernest O’Donnell, in mind (as Dante) and him as Randall.
However, he found that O’Donnell wasn’t taking the role seriously enough, and Smith realized he had too much on his plate as both actor and director. He ended up recruiting members of a local theater to fill the other roles. O’Donnell still made it into the movie, as the fitness-obsessed customer, Rick Derris.
How did they get the cat to poop on demand?
One great moment in filming is where Kevin Smith got the cat to defecate on demand. In one scene, a litterbox is on the counter, and a cat nonchalantly sits in it, does its business, and leaves, all in front of a customer.
Smith planned it by hiding the litter box from the cat for a day. Knowing that the cat would race to the litter box to relieve itself as soon as it was out, he put the box out and filmed the cat rushing to take care of business. He joked that this is why Clerks didn’t have the Humane Society’s “no animals were harmed …” seal of approval.
How did this low-budget production make it to the big time?
No one came to the premiere! Kevin Smith got the film a showing at the 1993 Independent Feature Film Market, a small organization that shows independent films. However, aside from cast and crew, few people showed up to watch the movie.
Smith was crestfallen, but one important person was there – Bob Hawk, an independent film consultant who served on the advisory selection committee of the Sundance Film Festival. He loved the film and helped it get selected for Sundance.
How much did the movie eventually make in theaters?
The film was eventually taken on by Miramax and grossed $3 million in theaters, despite it only playing at about 50 theaters nationwide! It won many awards, including the “Award of the Youth” and the “Mercedes-Benz Award” at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.
It tied with Fresh for the “Filmmakers Trophy” at the Sundance Film Festival, and has been voted the 16th greatest comedy film of all time.
Wait, Dante almost died?
Originally, Dante died at the end of the movie. We’re used to the ending where he simply locks the store up and goes home (which left room for Clerks II and Clerks III).
However, the original script called for him getting shot by a robber as he’s counting the cash from the day. The thief then takes the money and leaves, and is followed by Silent Bob coming in, seeing nobody (as Dante is dead, behind the counter) and stealing a pack of cigarettes.
Viewers hated that ending, and it was changed for the scene of him finally being able to go home.
Why didn’t the CEO of Miramax like the film initially?
Harvey Weinstein, CEO of Miramax, didn’t like the film at first. He watched ten minutes of it and dismissed it – some speculate because he was a heavy smoker and didn’t like the Chewlies rep. Younger Miramax staffers liked it, and convinced Weinstein to attend the Sundance premier. After seeing the enthusiastic response it got there, he decided to take the movie on.
Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier (who produced it) recount their meeting: “We sit down and he’s just like, ‘Boy, that’s a f*cking good movie. We’re going to take that movie, we’re going to put it in a f*cking multiplex, put a f*cking soundtrack on it, and f*cking kids are gonna come see it. And me and Scott were just like, ‘F*ckin’ A, man.'”
Next time you’re in New Jersey, go visit the Quick Stop!
You can still visit the Quick Stop! Located in Leonardo, New Jersey, fans have been known to stop by and take photos outside posing as Jay and Silent Bob. Kevin Smith memorabilia can be found inside. However, RST Video has gone the way of Blockbuster and is no more.
Why did the film initially get such a harsh rating, and how did the studio change that?
The film was originally awarded the restrictive NC-17 rating by the MPAA, despite not containing any sex or violence. The reason for the rating was due to the explicit dialogue.
Miramax hired seasoned lawyer Alan Dershowitz to appeal the decision, and the rating was changed to a simple ‘R’. As many theaters in America don’t screen NC-17 films, this move likely saved the movie from obscurity.
Dante’s beard changed over the course of the day!
Ever notice that Dante’s beard changes length during the movie? It’s meant to be a day in the life, but there were some continuity issues stemming from the fact that Kevin Smith had asked Brian O’Halloran, who played Dante, to shave his beard.
After seeing what he looked like without the beard, Smith asked O’Halloran to grow it back, just a few days before filming began.
What came next for Kevin Smith?
Clerks definitely launched Kevin Smith’s career. After that movie, he went on to create “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” and “Clerks II.”
These movies are all intricately connected, with many of the characters overlapping. This is called the “View Askewniverse” and also includes comic books, short films, and an animated TV series.
What cost more than the entire production costs?
The movie was incredibly low budget, as discussed. The soundtrack – particularly obtaining rights to the music played – was the most expensive part! In fact, this movie is one of the only where the fees for obtaining rights to the music surpassed the cost of production!
Will we ever see Clerks 3?
Kevin Smith has hinted at a Clerks III for years, saying that the script was ready and they were ready to start shooting as far back as 2013. However, fans will need to hold their breath a bit longer – Smith is first directing Mallrats 2.
In a 2015 interview, he said: “We were talking about initially shooting Clerks III this summer and then we were going to get to Mallrats in the beginning of 2016. And then it jumped into 2015, where we were going to shoot Clerks and then hopefully ‘Mallrats’ before the end of the year. But now, based on a f—ing mall that we all dig that will be going away, the priority has become Mallrats. So the next f—ing movie I’m making is Mallrats 2.“
Why did Silent Bob break his silence?
The reason why Silent Bob speaks at the end of the movie is because Jason Mewes kept on screwing up his lines! He was originally supposed to be giving Dante advice, but couldn’t get his lines right.
Since production costs were so tight, Kevin Smith stepped in and said the lines. He was originally annoyed, but fans loved it, and so he worked it into each of his movies – Silent Bob speaks once in each film.
Our favorite scene is next!
Finally, check this scene out. I think it’s the best in the movie – what about you?
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