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A lot has happened in the world since 1994, when former video store and convenience store clerk Kevin Smith’s breakout film, Clerks, busted onto the indie scene and rewrote the rules of what makes a hit movie, including shooting in black and white while using no-name actors and minimal locations — namely a New Jersey convenience store run by Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and its neighboring video rental store run by Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson). Remarkably, all these years later, Smith (despite a heart scare) and his Clerks franchise are still alive and well, with Lionsgate’s Clerks III debuting this week.
With Dante and Randal all grown up, you’d think they’d have left the Quick Stop convenience store behind, but aside from RST Video turning into a weed store run by Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (an ironically taciturn Smith), the two lifelong clerks are still seemingly stuck in their ways. That is until Randal has himself a heart attack (an example of Smith’s real-life informing his art), and rethinks his entire life. So what does he decide to do about it? Make a black-and-white indie movie, of course.
While perhaps none of that sounds, particularly genre, Smith tells SYFY WIRE there are plenty of reasons why the SYFY audience will enjoy Clerks III.
“Well, SYFY fans love dreaming to some degree, and this a movie about dreamers who are like, ‘Ooh, let’s make a movie.’ SYFY fans love movies, [the characters in Clerks are] also movie fans, so I guess there’s that crossover… the Venn diagram, I could see working,” he says.
Granted, at this point in Smith’s career, it’s hard for him to do anything that doesn’t at least pique the interests of genre fans near and far.
“Over the course of the last nearly 30 years that I’ve been doing the job, aside from just making movies, I have worked very hard to make myself a pop culture fixture. So as a guy who does Fatman Beyond every week and is a pop culture commentator, I could see a world where even though this movie is not sci-fi at all – there’s not one inch of space in the movie… particularly when it comes to dialogue – I could see where the SYFY audience might be like, ‘Oh, it’s him, the guy in the hat? Let’s see what he has to say. Is he f***ing up He-Man this week? No, alright, we’ll let him go.’”
Of course, there’s also a ton of Star Wars chatter in all of the Clerks films, and … SPOILER WARNING! … this one’s no different.
“It’s true, we got a lot of Star Wars talk in this movie," says Smith. "Even back as far as 1994, I would say, if there had been a SYFY WIRE back then, that would have gotten us some coverage, where they’re like, ‘This strange little black and white movie talks about Star Wars an awful lot.’"
This may not sound all that groundbreaking to today's audiences, but back then, there was a serious dearth in Darth content.
"[It] is something that if you did today, it’s like, it ain’t no thing. There are people that literally make a living making Star Wars jokes and s***. But back then, when we made the first movie, we were talking about Star Wars at a time when people had kind of forgotten about it, it was right before the nostalgia wave kicked in," he says. "So when we did it in the movie, I remember doing the press back in 1994, and that was one of the big things they all wanted to talk about.
"First they were like, ‘So you worked in that store? And how much did the movie cost?’ But eventually, they would get to Star Wars, because so many of them were Star Wars fans, and it was pre-internet and they hadn’t had a chance to talk Star Wars with people in a long f***ing time. So yeah, the Star Wars connection also puts me into the SYFY orbit, if you will… and that’s a total dad joke.”
Yes, Smith has come a long way both personally and professionally since 1994. But perhaps that's why he keeps mining these characters for more material.
“Why do I keep milking them? I think, is the question. Well, look, when you’ve got a cow that keeps giving milk, keep going. I shouldn’t say that as a vegan,” Smith (dad) jokes. “Honestly, I figured out early on, I guess as far back as 2006 'cause that’s when we made Clerks II, that I could use Dante and Randall as the best possible versions of myself. Just like when I made Clerks, that was me at my most pure, right? And then everything after that is me plus the business, me plus a career, me plus, ‘Here’s millions of dollars to make pretend, we’ll watch!’
"So when I get back to Dante and Randall, it’s almost like getting back to that place before I became an entertainer and stuff like that, as the young earnest filmmaker who just wanted to be a director. And I think because of that, the movies are better. Arguably people like Clerks because it's a breath of fresh air and s*** like that, and even if you don’t like it people respect it. But in terms of Clerks II and Clerks III, I can’t speak for others, but they’re two of my favorite films I’ve ever made. And I think it’s because they inspire me, those two characters. I mean, Dante and Randall are who I would’ve been if Clerks didn’t work out: I’d still be at that store.”
Lionsgate in partnership with Fathom Events will be releasing Clerks III exclusively in theaters from Sept. 13 through Sept. 18.
Suddenly in the mood for some Kevin Smith stories? Kevin Smith: Silent but Deadly is now streaming on Peacock!