Tusk comes out this weekend, which likely means that at this very moment Kevin Smith is probably engaged in a flame war with no less than 30 different internet trolls. It also means that the opportunity is ripe to look at some of his earlier films. You know, the ones that reek of New Jersey and feature a foul-mouthed stoner and guy in a trench coat hanging out with a bunch of townies. Kevin Smith’s movies have a reputation for being just as polarizing with the public as they are the critics — if you want to really split people into opposing sides at a party, ask them who enjoys Kevin Smith movies. Personally, I love the Viewaskew universe movies. Yes, I realize the characters all sound a bit like Kevin Smith and he’s notorious for running his mouth about the industry, but I have fond teenage memories of Mallrats and Chasing Amy and my local mall and dammit, I’m entitled to my nostalgia!
With Tusk rolling out into theaters, I thought it would be fun to look at the similarities between Smith and an actual walrus — I kid, I kid. Here’s some trivia on the movies that make up Jay and Silent Bob’s Viewaskew world.
1. The letters in Clerks’ title are all from different magazine fonts and snack foods. Smith took the lettering from several different magazines and convenience store snacks to make the Clerks poster title. The C is from Cosmopolitan Magazine, the L is from Life Magazine, the E is from Rolling Stone, the R is from Ruffles chips, the K is from Clark candy bars, and the S is from Goobers candy.
2. Smith had to shoot Clerks during the store’s closed hours. At the time, Smith was working in the Quick Stop convenience store that Clerks was filmed. The store was open between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., leaving Smith the 11 to 4 a.m. slot to film the interior scenes. The reason the movie was shot in black and white is partly because it was cheaper and the lighting provided by the fluorescent Quick Stop lighting looked better on film.
3. The movie was made on credit cards and comic books. Movies don’t get more low-budget than Clerks, as the financial backing for the movie was made up almost entirely of maxed out credit cards. To scrape together the rest of the $27,000 for the movie, Smith sold his comic book collection, cashed in on an insurance settlement, and borrowed $3,000 from family and friends. The gamble paid off when the movie later pulled in $3 million at the box office.
4. OJ’s defense team secured the movie an R-rating. The MPAA originally slapped Clerks with an NC-17 rating because of language and lewdness — a woman screwing a dead guy in the bathroom apparently doesn’t go over well with the censors. Miramax brought in Alan Dershowitz of O.J. Simpson’s defense team to secure the movie an R-rating without any cuts.
5. Quick Stop and RST Video are still around. The convenience store is located at 58 Leonard Ave., Leonardo, NJ.The “RST” in RST Video stands for “Rajiv, Sarla, and Tarlochen,” the family names of the store’s owners.
6. Kevin Smith originally cast himself as Randal. One of the reasons that Randal has some of the best lines is that Smith wrote the part for himself. He figured that if the movie failed and he went into crippling debt he could at least point to himself in the lead role and give himself credit for writing, directing, and starring in a movie.
7. Brodie’s shirt in Mallrats is sort of a tribute. The face on Broadie’s shirt isn’t just one person, but three. It’s a fusion of three of the actors who also auditioned for Jason Lee’s role but did not get the part. One of those actors to audition for the part and get turned down was Steve Zahn.
8. Jay was almost replaced by Seth Green. Before Smith started work on Mallrats, Universal wanted him to replace Jason Mewes with somebody else, preferably Seth Green. Smith refused, but did agree to audition other actors such as Breckin Meyer to satisfy the studio before bringing Jason Mewes back on board. The studio reportedly kept Seth Green on call as backup in case Mewes needed to be replaced at the last-minute.
9. The studio wanted an SNL guy to be in Mallrats. Universal wanted somebody from SNL‘s 1995 power cast to be in Mallrats and was pushing for Adam Sandler, Mike Meyers, or Chris Farley to play the role of Brodie. They also felt that Ethan Hawke would make for a better TS than Jeremy London.
10. Chasing Amy was originally going to be another Clueless. Smith’s first conception of Chasing Amy had a much more deliberate teen comedy feel as Smith wanted something that felt in the same vein as Clueless. The film was going to be set in a New Jersey high school with Mallrats’ frustrated Magic Eye admirer Ethan Suplee as one of the leads. When Mallrats bombed in theaters however, Smith scrapped the original Chasing Amy premise.
11. Chasing Amy’s budget was downsized because of Smith’s casting. Kevin Smith likes to have his friends in his movies, which can sometimes irritate the studio. For Chasing Amy, Smith insisted on having Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and then-girlfriend Joey Lauren Adams in the movie while Miramax wanted bigger stars. The studio agreed, but Smith had to make Chasing Amy on 1/24th the budget of Mallrats.
“And so I had a meeting with [Miramax head] Harvey [Weinstein] where I basically lowballed it and said, ‘Look, man, we’ll go off and make this movie with our cast for two hundred grand, and if you guys want it when we’re done, fine. If not, we can take it to someone else.’ And he was completely sold.”
12. Alan Rickman signing on for Dogma gave Jason Mewes’ work ethic a kick in the ass. Smith approached Alan Rickman about doing Dogma after hearing that the actor was a fan of Chasing Amy. Rickman agreed to do the film after asking if the wings would be real or CGI and that Smith stick to the script. Rickman joining the cast was enough to inspire Jason Mewes to straighten up and memorized his lines before rehearsals even began out of fear of angering Rickman.
13. Kevin Smith joined one of the Dogma protest groups. Catholic groups around the country gathered to publicly protest Dogma, and Smith joined one of the New Jersey protests using the alias of his friend Bryan Johnson.
14. The bandage on George Carlin’s ring finger was used to hide his wedding band. Carlin had recently lost his wife and didn’t want to remove his wedding ring, so he wore a Band-Aid on his ring finger to hide it.
15. Seth Green almost played Jay for a second time in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. There were talks of bringing Seth Green on to play Jay in the movie-within-the-movie that Jay and Bob are trying to stop. This of course was going to be an inside Joke as Green nearly replaced Jason Mewes on Smith’s second movie, Mallrats.
16. Heather Graham failed to see the romantic appeal of Jay. Heather Graham was offered Shannon Elizabeth’s role, but supposedly passed on it because she couldn’t wrap her head around how anybody could fall in love with Jay.
17. Kevin Smith tried to wrangle Quentin Tarantino in for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Chasing Amy was supposedly Tarantino’s favorite movie of 1997, which could be one of the reasons that Smith wanted the director to make a cameo appearance in Jay and Silent Bob as himself directing the “Bluntman and Chronic” movie. Smith had also propositioned Tarantino buddy Robert Rodriguez to direct Dogma, but after reading the script he passed because he felt the scope of the movie was too ambitious.
18. Smith was only going to do Clerks II if Jason Mewes could stay clean. Smith revealed that one of the conditions for doing the Clerks sequel was that Mewes had to get off drugs. He had promised Mewes that if he was able to get and stay clean he would let him play Jay in at least one more movie.
19. Smith’s childhood home is the home of Randal in Clerks II. When Dante picks up Randal to head off to work at the beginning of the movie, the home that Randal walks out of is Smith’s New Jersey childhood home at 21 Jackson Street.
20. Jay’s Silence of the Lambs dance was something he’d regularly do to annoy the director. Jason Mewes had been showing hi mangina long before Clerks II rolled around and regularly did the dance in front of Smith. Eventually, Smith decided the world needed to see it as well and had Mewes do it as a random goof in the movie.