Dante and Randal Grow Up (Sorta)

We join the Clerks for tea and expletives

Clerks II

Multiple locations

It's been a long day of junketing, and Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson are ready for a drink. They stretch their limbs, slump into their seats at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton and get ready to throw back a....hot one? The men carefully make their Celestial Seasonings selections and stir in lumps of sugar. "Yep," says Anderson, "the Clerks are actually old women."

O'Halloran and Anderson are better known as Dante and Randal, the titular muses of Kevin Smith's debut, Clerks. It was 1994 when they first frittered life away at the Quick Stop and bawdily debated the merits of Return of the Jedi. Now, twelve years later, they're promoting Clerks II and are just as obscene as back in the day. Among the flying expletives, Anderson smirks, "This is the craziest tea party I've ever seen!"

Clerks II finds the thirtysomething Dante and Randal clerking at Mooby's, a fast-food restaurant first seen in Smith's Dogma. When asked if that's where they envisioned their characters' futures, O'Halloran sighs, "Absolutely not. I thought they'd be way ahead of the game by now."

Anderson's view is starker. "I never wondered what they'd be doing. When Kevin came to me with the idea of a sequel, I didn't want to do it. I worked for AT&T and went to architecture school."

So how was he coerced? "It was a weird position. I was the only person who didn't want to do it, and it was live or die unless Kevin replaced me with Anthony Michael Hall," Anderson says, chuckling. "I was more protective than Kevin. I just didn't want to mess with it. But if he believed in it, I knew I should believe in it. Then I read the script, and in retrospect, I know I made the right decision."

The die-hard Clerks fans — whom O'Halloran describes as "two steps away from Nikes and Kool-Aid" — are Anderson's biggest concern. "No matter how big or small it opens, it doesn't matter so long as the original Clerks fans are happy, so long as the tone of the letters doesn't change."

Not that selling the sequel is a concern. While Clerks II cost 20,000 percent more than the $28,000 original, the modest budget of $5 million has already made its money back in overseas-conventions sales.

The upgrade afforded the movie advantages, such as the casting of Rosario Dawson. While Anderson admits that acting with an A-lister intimidated him into memorizing the entire script before day one, O'Halloran — who shares intimate scenes with Dawson — merely blushes and says, "I'm glad he chose Rosario. What can I say?"

Without missing a beat, Anderson lobbies back, "This movie's a bigger fantasy flick than Lord of the Rings."

O'Halloran also shares extensive make-out scenes with Smith's wife, Jennifer. "It was like, 'Hey, do me a favor, do a couple of scenes where you're making out with my wife while I film it.' That scene took the most takes, and it was all up to Kevin. I'm telling you, he's got a weird voyeuristic thing."

Such voyeurism is evident in the valiant return of Jay and Silent Bob, including a scene where the former "tucks it back." According to Anderson, it was a moment of improv: "I always say that within ten minutes of meeting Jason Mewes, you will see his junk." Despite the pubic presence and inclusion of a donkey show, Clerks II flew under the MPAA radar. "Kevin went into filming thinking it would be NC-17, but when he turned it in, it went through as R."

So will this be the Clerks' last brush with fetishism?

While O'Halloran is not discounting the possibility of Grumpier Old Clerks, Anderson feels differently. "There will not be a Clerks III," he says. "We're getting sick of each other."

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