Saturday, July 15, 2006

An Interview with Actors Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson

This interview took place on or around July 15th, 2006 at a hotel in Seattle, to promote Kevin Smith's return to the View Askewniverse with Clerks II. It was posted on both the ComingSoon.net and View Askew message boards, but I'm reposting it here for the sake of preservation.

Tyler Foster: What, in the past, would you have said, not when Kevin brought you the script, but before, when fans would ask about a Clerks II?
Jeff Anderson: I wasn't a big fan of doing a sequel to Clerks, when Kevin came to me with it, we had lunch, I didn't want to do it. You know, Clerks is a weird movie, it's had a lot of odd things going for it, and somehow caught on, and it's not a movie that screams for a sequel, you know, and Kevin coming off Jersey Girl, I was curious what his intentions were, it didn't seem like a good move on his part. It was...the whole thing was kind of odd, I didn't immediately warm up to it.
Tyler Foster: Do you think maybe the existence of the cartoon maybe helped the fans feel that you could go back to this universe without doing injustice to the original film?
Jeff Anderson: I don't know, 'cause the cartoon is so different...
Brian O’Halloran: Separate worlds...
Jeff Anderson: ...it's like it's completely different, you're doing stuff in the cartoons that you could never do, you know, shoot live-action, so, it was, I think it was kind of a different animal.
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, it was something that had no effect time or storyline to the originals, and the other parts of that world, it was just something that reminded people of these characters, is pretty much about all. I mean, when he approached me to do it, you know, I was, being a working actor, wanted more work, I was like, "Yeah, sure," you know, just having faith in Kevin and his writing, that he'd be able to tackle it. When we were doing the cartoon, I remember he was telling me about some of the ideas, that some of the future episodes, if it had gone on, where he was drawing some of the ideas for the sequel from, which I thought was pretty funny.
Tyler Foster: Just as a curiosity, what exactly was it like audition for the infamous, apparently horrible live-action "Clerks" TV pilot?
Jeff Anderson: You know, that was really weird...that came about...I don't think any of us even knew about it.
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, I found out, I was actually meeting with different agents at the time, out in L.A., and I remember this one agent I was having a meeting with, I was interviewing with, said, "So you're going in for the "Clerks", you know, the Clerks TV sitcom, right?" And I thought she was kidding, like, "Ha ha, yeah, wouldn't that be appropriate," And this agent is, "No, there is," and she brought out the treatment, she's like, "Look." I'm like, "No, this is the first time I'm hearing about this." "Well, would you like me to send you in on this?" You know, trying to gain my business, so to speak, so I was like, "Yeah, sure, set it up." And I had called Kevin and Kevin didn't even hear about it at the time, either. And I had called Kevin, going, "Kevin, what's going on," he wasn't involved with it at all, because Disney owned Miramax, they had the rights to it, and Warner Brothers came and wanted to get the license to do it, and they were given the permission to do it, and that word got around this circle of us, and we were like, "Did you hear about this?" "No, I didn't hear about it," and they started sending us in, and we were like, late into the audition process.
Jeff Anderson: Yeah, when I went in there, it was again, it was already...my part was cast already, and it was a TV show, and I don't know what we were doing, some sort of publicity thing I was doing with a film crew, and they thought it would be funny to film me going in and auditioning for this, and I was like, "But my part's already taken." So I actually went in and auditioned for Dante, and I read the script and thought it was horrible, and I'm like, A, I'm not going to go here because it's horrible, but B, I'm going to audition as Dante? That's a little bizarre. And they were like, "It's going to be fun for TV." So, I went in and did the audition, but really had no interest in being part of it, and actually when I saw it afterward, it was a couple years later, I think Kevin got a copy of it, and it was like "Saved by the Bell: Clerks", it was just horrible.
Brian O’Halloran: It was the production value like that. That's just the thing, it's a television thing, if you're going to make a sitcom for Clerks, it's gotta be something like, on HBO...
Jeff Anderson: The Randal character, he worked in an ice cream parlor, it was an ice cream parlor attached to a convenience store.
Brian O’Halloran: And I remember Kevin just flipping out, going to the production company, going, "You can do anything you want, but you can't have Jay and Bob, the Jay and Bob characters," and he arranged it somehow so they couldn't do...they had no intention to, apparently, but yeah.
Jeff Anderson: Well, it was kind of funny when it came about, because Kevin didn't know about it, right, and then all of a sudden, he became the executive producer on it, and then when I was going to audition, I was literally walking onto the lot as Kevin and Scott were walking out, and I was like "So, you're both producing it?" and they went "No. We're out of here." And I was like, "Well, I'm going to go in and read for Dante for these TV guys and then I'm out of here too."
Tyler Foster: Do you think a new live-action show could be done following the events of Clerks II if Kevin was involved?
Brian O’Halloran: I don't know, I don't think so.
Jeff Anderson: I think pretty much the live-action Clerks stuff is over.
Brian O’Halloran: I mean, if there was any interest, I mean, if they threw boatloads of money, and even then it would be hard...it would have to be on a cable format, it just could never work on mainstream TV.
Tyler Foster: Will you return to the cartoon show?
Brian O’Halloran: Well, that's actually in the works. Not so much as a series, but as a direct-to-video unrated movie. I think Kevin has talked in other interviews about how he's working on that in, I think, 2008.
Jeff Anderson: That animated stuff was hard to believe we were paid to be there. We would be in there crackin' jokes, some of the stuff that was going on in some of those recordings...
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, it was just so much fun. Exactly, it was great just to meet some of these great guest stars that we had, they were just so hysterical. Michael McKean, he was a pisser to work with, Dana Gould, he's executive producer of "The Simpsons" now, he was funny as hell, you know, all those guys...it was just like, God, so much fun, I think he had a suggestion where we should do an episode where we're all just in our underwear, and record it that way, and that was like, "Well...okay...", but to think that we could do that...no one would ever know, just so funny.
Tyler Foster: Well, there's always the example of "Family Guy", and do you think if the cartoon movie was a big success and another channel offered, you'd be willing to do a new incarnation of the cartoon show?
Brian O’Halloran: I'm already reserving my seat at that microphone already, I've been crying about that cancellation ever since 2000. I mean, I was thinking, I'm set, this is the job where I can do other projects, and then just come down and lay down tracks, not even be in the city and lay down dialogue tracks. As a kid, I've always had a fantasy and a dream of working on cartoons, I've always been into voices, and stuff like that, that was my dream job...you'd just have to tell me when and where, and I'd do it.
Jeff Anderson: Yep. Animated, I'm there.
Tyler Foster: Do you think if the animated series had continued you still would have done Clerks II?
Brian O’Halloran: Hmm, that's a good question. I don't know if we'd have needed to do a Clerks II at that point.
Jeff Anderson: I think the animated series, the way it was, helped put it back in Kevin's mind, to do the movie was sort of back there, but, that's a good question, if it had kept going, maybe we wouldn't have come back to this. I think maybe he would have exercised some of the stuff that he wanted to tell in an animated fashion.
Tyler Foster: How much, if any, of the version of this film that turned into Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back made it into the finished film? Did you ever see a script for that version?
Jeff Anderson: I don't know, that wasn't...I very rarely keep up on any of this...
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, I don't think any of this came out of Jay and Bob at all, I mean, he had ideas, what if, he were ever to do a sequel, he had, I think just three elements, that eventually made it into the film, that he was like, I definitely want to do it, you know, I want this in it, I definitely want to have something like this in it, and I kinda want it to wind up where they're like this, and the rest was all done... 'Cause the idea came to actually do it after, when we were working on the ten year anniversary DVD, we went into the studio to put down the vocal tracks for the missing scene, which was the funeral scene, in which we animated similar to the style of the cartoon, and I guess after coming off an underperforming Jersey Girl, and hearing these characters, and reminding himself of a time when we just had a fun, fun time shooting a very funny script, he just wanted to do it again, and he came to us, "what do you think, do you want to a Clerks II," and then after we said yes, and Jeff saying, "Well, you know what, let me see a script first, and we'll see what happens," when he pounded that out, I think it was only within 30 days or 40 days that he pounded out Clerks II, and then us reading it, but I was like, "Wow, this is great," and so the elements from the other world and the other films, there wasn't much in it.
Tyler Foster: What, if any, was the one element you felt you had to preserve from the original Clerks?
Jeff Anderson: I don't know if there was a specific element...I mean, even when Kevin came to me, like, trying to sell me on the idea of doing it, even in my own mind, I didn't really know what it had to be, the sequel. That's why I couldn't figure out why he was so set, like "I know what it has to be." It didn't seem that obvious to me, and I wasn't quite sure what needed to happen in II, but I was sure it was something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it, so I was just curious to read it like that. And I think some of the stuff that helps it, the new one, is the emotional stuff that's in it, and I wouldn't have thought that that's what it needed. Like, if you had asked me, I would have said, "I don't know what it needs, but it can't be just us sitting behind the counter making fun of people again." I wouldn't know what it is that it needed, but I think the surprise thing, the thing that's going to catch people off guard is the emotional levels this time around as opposed to the first time, where it's similar that it's a day in the life, but there's stuff going on with these guys this time, so I think that's what was needed.
Brian O’Halloran: Exactly, I couldn't have...I wouldn't have been able to pin it. I mean, yeah, you're going to want to have one or two customers being shouted at, or whatever, because people love that, that type of shit, but yeah...he tackled it, I think, brilliantly.
Tyler Foster: Kevin has always said that if Clerks is his life at 20, then Clerks II is his life at 30...
Brian O’Halloran: Absolutely, I mean, all his films are that way. I mean, it's definitely...every one of his films is pretty much where he stands on life and what he's questioning about life at that moment, you know, religion in one sense, relationships with best friends and a lesbian thrown in, and Jersey Girl and Mallrats, I mean it's pretty much you can see it going on, so now he's in his 30s, and he felt like he could see where these guys would be, where their fears of where they're lacking are to be, I think it was something that he could totally pull from his heart, and get the best of each film and plop it into there.
Tyler Foster: Well, do you think you also needed to be where you are now to make this movie?
Brian O’Halloran: I think so, I mean, you know, if he wrote these characters as they were in their 50's, I think it would be hard for us to relate in a sense...it's helpful to be playing characters that you are age appropriate for, so you can play it identifying with their problems and their fears.
Tyler Foster: Was anything major cut out of the film?
Brian O’Halloran: Well, actually, there was this really funny one scene, which is a second half of the driving scene, coming back from the go-karts, which was Randal's, which was hysterical, which I'm kind of upset to see go, because it was just so hysterically funny.
Jeff Anderson: You're upset to see go?
Brian O’Halloran: Well, yeah, you had to memorize seven pages of dialogue.
Jeff Anderson: Seven pages, and he cut the scene out. You'll definitely see that as a deleted scene, and it's gonna be a deleted scene, and I hate to start hawking the DVD already, but that scene alone is worth the price of a DVD, it's a scene coming back from the go-kart track, whereby, I in a quite convincing fashion, I try and convince Dante how he could in fact impregnate his own mother through masturbation. It's a seven page scene in which I lay out every possible argument.
Brian O’Halloran: It's funny as hell, all during this drive. And then there's another scene with Wanda Sykes and this other stand-up comic by the name of Earthquake, who are two customers waiting for food, and there's a scene going on between me and Rosario while making the food, and then there's their little side conversation, where Kevin just said, you know, talk amongst yourselves, just make it look on camera like they're talking, and it was so funny that he immediately flipped the camera around and said, "Just go," for a full eleven-minute mag of film, and we just let them riff, and that was just so, so splitting, so I'm sure you'll have that customer rant on the DVD as well.
Tyler Foster: Did the Miramax/Weinstein split interrupt the film?
Brian O’Halloran: It delayed it, it delayed it by about a year and a half, I know that much, between that happening, and Kevin getting involved with and being cast in a film called Catch and Release, which comes in out in January, with Jennifer Garner, between that, the pushback that Miramax, with the Weinsteins leaving Miramax, and then also him being cast...year and a half. I remember I was putting things on hold for quite awhile, thinking, "oh yeah, we're going to do it this month," or "Oh, we're gonna do it in two months."
Jeff Anderson: That actually almost caused more trouble than anybody knew, because in that push time: my feet were cold. And Kevin got a few phone calls during all the time pushing it and pushing it, where I was just like, "You know...still not convinced. This isn't a good idea." We went to dinner a few times, he had to talk me off the ledge a few times.
Tyler Foster: And Jeff, your film is still scheduled to come out on DVD from them this year?
Jeff Anderson: Scheduled to come out on DVD by the Weinstein Company, should be out alongside Clerks II.
Tyler Foster: Well, the sequel is great, and it's pretty amazing how close you guys have stayed to the characters even after 10 years, watching Clerks and Clerks II, it's almost identical...
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, that carbonite really helps us out. We're well preserved that way, Kevin's like "Okay! Here you go, Bri!" "Ohh, what year is it?" "Ten years later. Boy, carbonite really fattened you up." "Well, what do you want me to do, it's edible."
Tyler Foster: And lastly, just another curiosity...how many members of the Hicks family do you think there are?
Brian O’Halloran: I don't know...they're very well inbred, that's for sure...the name alone, "a bunch of hicks..." I dunno, there's probably like 20 or 30 of them, take over a town...I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Mayor Hicks out there somewhere as well, the mayor of Leonardo.
Jeff Anderson: There's only one Graves.
Brian O’Halloran: Yeah, he killed everyone else.