Cult classic “Clerks” confirmed for third film
By Zoe Hicks
“I’m not even supposed to be here today,” convenience store clerk Dante Hicks first grumbled to his coworker Randal Graves 20 years ago this month, finding solidarity with anyone and everyone who had ever worked a thankless retail job, when writer-director Kevin Smith’s classic slacker comedy “Clerks” was released in Oct. 1994. It was a labor of love, shot in black-and-white by night in the convenience store Smith worked in by day. Filmed on a meager $27,575 budget procured by selling off his comic book collection and maxing out multiple credit cards, “Clerks” went on to not only make more than a 10,000 percent profit but to define a generation. With its quirky cast of relatable losers stuck in dead-end jobs or living deadbeat lives, Smith fused humor with truth to create a timeless movie not just about retail, but about being in one’s twenties and trapped, complete with plenty of dick and fart jokes.
The success of “Clerks” led to a series of related films set within the same universe, the View Askewniverse, so named for Smith’s View Askew Productions, and tied together by “Clerks” supporting characters, and fan favorites, Jay and Silent Bob. But despite “Clerks” leads Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson making occasional cameos, generally in other roles, Dante and Randal did not get another chance to show off their exceptionally poor customer service in their own film for over ten years until “Clerks II” debuted in 2006. The sequel, which provided entirely new and thoroughly disgusting ways for them to torment patrons, as ten years later they no longer worked at the Quick Stop, but instead a fast food chain called Mooby’s. The sequel received an eight minute standing ovation at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. It was lauded for keeping the humor of the original film alive if not lacking some of the depth. Fans were left hungering for more, and though a third “Clerks” installment was teased, no plans for any View Askew films at all were made until 2012.
The planned “Clerks III” underwent an evolution of sorts, originally conceived as breaking the mold and being produced as a Broadway play. It was later set to be crowd-funded and Smith’s final film, though ultimately all these plans were abandoned. Despite the success of the franchise, financial backing still proved to be an issue, and The Weinstein Company who had assisted with “Clerks II,” rejected the film for having too high a budget. Though the first film may not have needed more than $30,000 for its budget, the third one’s is set at $6,000,000. Still, plans for “Clerks III” carried on, though they were put on hiatus as Smith focused on other projects.
The most recent of these side projects was “Tusk¸” a horror-comedy starring Justin Long as the host of a podcast who falls victim to a sadistic walrus-obsessed man played by Michael Parks. The film was poorly received, and yet Kevin Smith gives it credit as the reason “Clerks III” was finally given funding.
“A year and change ago I was desperately trying to get ‘Clerks III’ made for the 20th anniversary and that desperation — I must have reeked of it because I couldn’t fucking find money and shit,” he said on Sept. 26 during his regular podcast, Hollywood Babble-on. “But it was ‘Tusk,’ people going ‘Holy fuck, what else do you have?’ and I was like ‘Clerks III’ and they’re like ‘done.’ So, everybody that’s like, ‘He failed, he failed,’ I’m like ‘Thank you, I failed into doing ‘Clerks III.’”
So while the reaction to “Tusk” is unfortunate, there is a saving grace. Despite the negative reception, an action-adventure “Tusk” spin-off called “Yoga Hosers” is already in production, set to star Johnny Depp as well as both Depp and Smith’s daughters, Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith. For Smith fans it seems this can be counted as a win, with two new movies greenlighted, one of which being a long-awaited follow-up to the one that started it all. Although no concrete details or time frame have been released yet in regards to “Clerks III,” a 2016 release date has been speculated. None of Smith’s recent films, including “Red State” and “Cop Out” have been well received, so perhaps going back to his filmmaking roots will provide a refreshing reprieve and spark a new curve upwards in his career. Possibly, he should simply listen to his own advice, or rather that of Holden McNeil’s grandmother in Smith’s 1997 film “Chasing Amy.” “It all goes back to something my grandmother told me when I was a kid, ‘Holden,’ she said, ‘the big bucks are in dick and fart jokes.’ She was a church goer.”