Clerks II | Brian O’Halloran & Jeff Anderson

Warning: This interview is intended for those readers who have already seen Clerks II, as it gives away plot points and things that are best left unknown if you plan on seeing the film. So, if you haven't already seen it yet, go away.

 

Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson are the types of guys that fans of their films assume are just like the characters they play. While both have done other work (O'Halloran gets more roles in the theater than film, and Anderson is working on a career as an independent writer/director-The Weinstein Company is planning on releasing his debut, Now We Know, direct to DVD, around the same time Clerks II comes out on the home video market), the majority of the population knows them as Dante and Randal, respectively, from 1994's Clerks and this year's sequel. Of course, the assumption that they are like their characters is surely wrong, but to the film critic who spends just an hour in a room with them, they seem like real-life versions of generation-defining slackers.

For one thing, they are obviously very comfortable around each other, and despite being in the middle of a 12-city, 16-day press tour (and I can personally vouch for the fact that they spent pretty much their whole time in St. Louis doing interviews), they never stop making fun-of each other, Smith, the other filmmakers, and the inarticulate film reviewer asking questions. To interview the two of them face-to-face at the same time is akin to trying to get a straight answer to a serious question out of a smartass who is older and more intelligent than you; they nitpick your wording, your character, or the question itself until you get flustered and are no longer capable of speaking like an educated human being. (Example: I wanted to know how it felt to shoulder a great deal of the movie industry's summer blockbuster comedy hopes, when the original Clerks was so low-stakes. I began my question with, "Now that your jobs are done, for the most part…"-meaning that there was no longer anything that they could personally do to make the film itself better-and was interrupted by O'Halloran, who jokingly extrapolated my statement as meaning their careers were over. He let the ruse go on long enough for me to lose my train of thought entirely.)

By nature, though, this smartass tendency makes them both a better and more interesting interview than I'm accustomed to (no matter who you're interviewing, the question-and-answer period tends to be fairly dry and littered with what sound like stock answers, whereas with the Clerks, it's actually sort of like hanging out with your friends), as well as a more problematic one. While the interview itself was fun, I'm left here doing my best to recreate the act of interviewing them for you, rather than going the normal route of merely serving as a vehicle to convey their thoughts about the movie. But, as O'Halloran said upon first sitting down (we were still waiting on Anderson to come out of his room), "Relax, guys, take it easy; it ain't high pressure here." I can only hope that your expectations for this piece are as low as O'Halloran's were for the interview as a whole.

The interview took place between the two Clerks, myself, and five other local film critics in the 18th floor lobby of the Ritz, a strange place to interview people who play such fictionally crass characters as Dante and Randal. To further confuse what is already an unnatural setting, O'Halloran and Anderson were drinking tea from little teacups on saucers, a daintier act I cannot imagine. My first question to O'Halloran (which was something like the tenth one he fielded from the group of film critics) was as follows: "In the credits, Kevin [Smith] thanks Rosario [Dawson] for creating a character that believably is willing to fuck Dante. Did you have anything to do with that? Did you create a character that Rosario would fuck?" Apparently, O'Halloran had never sat through the credits himself, as he didn't seem aware of thanks (if you're curious, it's near the end of the credit scroll, where Smith thanks his parents, his actors, God, etc., as he has done thus far on all of his films). Once that was straightened out, my question elicited the following response: "What paper are you from, sir? I didn't know Hustler was allowed, but that's cool; that's all right… I'm sure security's getting called right now: ‘We have a fuck alert! Fuck alert!'" At this point, Anderson chimed in, still imitating the Ritz's security, "That's the craziest tea party we've ever seen… They keep saying the f-word." I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point during the interview (perhaps even before the incident just described), an older, bourgeois white woman sauntered in and took a seat on a nearby couch. I couldn't help but wonder what the old woman thought of us. (She was still present later, when another, very loud-voiced reporter asked how the two felt about saying the phrase "ass to mouth" about a thousand goddamn times in one short scene. O'Halloran's response to this question, if you're curious, was first "You're saying more than it was said in the movie, sir," to which Anderson added, "That scene didn't get weird and uncomfortable until just now.") The interloper got her revenge, though, as somewhere near the end of the interview she got a phone call on her cell phone and talked loudly on it, making a few minutes of my recording of the interview completely useless.

As one might expect, asking how it feels to say "ass to mouth" a whole lot was not a fluke. When dealing with the topics that Smith tackles in his films, one has to wonder how his actors, especially the uninitiated, feel to be speaking as dirtily as has ever been recorded on film, and questions regarding this topic came up a lot. After the first time the issue arose, though, Anderson gave a definitive answer: "You know what, I learned a lesson in Clerks I: to never ask Kevin to sidestep something. In Clerks I, there's the scene where I'm ordering the videos, and they were actually written down on a piece of paper. I knew at some point my mother was going to have to see Clerks, so I was like, ‘You know, Kevin, is it really necessary to go through all of these titles? We get the joke after three or four," and he said, ‘All right, give me the paper back.' We were setting up the scene, and Kevin steps back in front of the camera and said, ‘Ready to go? Ready? Action!' And he hands me the paper back and it has five more titles on it. I learned early on never to ask Kevin not to do something… I knew in this one there was a donkey show and I wasn't really involved with it-unless I opened my mouth."

To add to the feel of just killing time with your friends, a disproportionate amount of the interview was spent asking and answering questions about what it was like for O'Halloran to have to make out with Smith's wife, repeatedly, with Smith watching (and filming) the whole time (not to mention his answer to my previous question re: Dawson, whom O'Halloran expressed great pleasure in being cast opposite). "It's kind of nerve-wracking… You kind of have to make sure that nothing goes wrong, because one slip and next thing you know I'm fired and in walks Seth Green to take my place." A few questions down the line, this one in reference to the number of takes it took to get down the scene with Wanda Sykes and Earthquake, Anderson brings it back up: "Oddly enough, the scene that took the most takes-you might want to look into this-is him [points at O'Halloran] kissing Kevin's wife." O'Halloran replied, "That was all Kevin's choice; I'm telling you, he's got some weird, voyeuristic thing going on there… They told me they kept bumping the camera, and the camera kept moving." To which Anderson retorted, "I kept bumping the camera."

Then there was the gossip about what it was like working with the various girls on the production (don't forget that Anderson wound up marrying Lisa Spoonauer, Clerks' Caitlin Bree, whom he first met on the set of that film; they're now divorced), which didn't end with the girls. We also had a good time talking about Jason Mewes' predilection toward being naked in front of strangers. "He just comes out of his room naked," said Anderson. "I've always maintained that within two minutes of meeting Jay you will see his junk."

Another thing is that, in real life, the two have many of the same mannerisms that they do in the film. For example, when saying something he perceives as funny, Anderson widens his eyes as he speaks, just as Randal does in the film. Both men's speaking rhythms and vocabularies are roughly the same as in the film, and one can guess from their regular-guy look in the pictures that they don't go through much in the way of makeup or costuming. There are a lot of die-hard Kevin Smith fans out there, and surely, to use the parlance of Smith, it would make their dick hard to get to interview their heroes, Dante and Randal. Thanks to the laid-back approach that O'Halloran and Anderson take to being interviewed, the realization of this dream would be as least as satisfying as Smith's follow-up to his breakout film has proven to be. But don't think that O'Halloran and Anderson would go any easier on the fans than they did on the lot of us; when asked about the Smith's rabid fan base, O'Halloran remarked, "They're terrific fans and we're glad to have them… But to be honest with you, they're two steps away from the Nikes and the Kool-Aid."

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