The Clerks Ending We're Glad Didn't Happen

"Clerks" is a one-of-a-kind cult gem, a rude and raw low-budget comedy about a couple of clerks at a local convenience store. Director Kevin Smith made his debut feature by maxing out his credit cards and filming after closing the very store in which he worked, and it paid off — "Clerks" launched Smith's career and an entire "View Askewniverse" of movies, comic books, and a short-lived ABC cartoon series. 

What many fans don't know is that "Clerks" once had a very different ending, but Smith was convinced to cut it by his mentors, Bob Hawk and John Pierson. If Smith had kept his original, incredibly bleak ending, it's extremely unlikely we would be getting a "Clerks 3" in the next year or so. Honestly, his career might not have taken off at all.

A Deadly End for Dante

In "Clerks", Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) is called in to work on his day off. He goes in and has a terrible day, encountering all kinds of bizarre situations and people. Whenever he gets fed up, he exclaims, "I wasn't supposed to even be here today!" like a kind of catchphrase. While anyone who's ever worked a shift at a dead-end job can certainly sympathize, Smith's original ending to the sardonic comedy took things a step too far. In the cut ending, a robber comes in after Dante's friend Randal (Jeff Anderson) leaves for the night. The robber shoots and kills Dante in a hold-up, and the final shot lingers on Dante's corpse. The credits roll, though no music plays over them. 

Smith tweeted about the original ending in January 2021, sharing pages from the original shooting script that showed the interaction between Dante and the robber. He jokingly referred to the first cut of "Clerks" as being his "Snyder Cut," linking to a clip of the original ending

While the ending is certainly shocking, it's a real bummer after spending the previous 90 minutes laughing. Smith wisely took the advice of his mentors and changed the ending to one that let Dante live to complain another day. It's a good thing, too, because without Hicks, there couldn't really be a "Clerks 2" or "Clerks 3". 

Smith claimed over the years that he had a few reasons for the downer ending. The first was that it was an ironic play on Hicks' "not supposed to be here today" declaration. The second was in homage to "The Empire Strikes Back," which is referenced within "Clerks" as ending "on such a down note." The third? Smith told Rolling Stone in 2014 that he just didn't know how to end the movie. 

Smith's Other (Sorta) Secret Ending

"Clerks" isn't the only Kevin Smith movie that originally had a different ending. His career-shifting 2014 siege drama "Red State" also had a very different ending planned, but budgets got in the way. "Red State" was shot for about $4 million, and his bonkers original ending would have pushed that budget to nearly $15 million according to Smith's estimations. 

In "Red State," tensions rise between a cult hunkered down in a compound and the ATF agents trying to get inside in a siege similar to the real-life situation in Waco, Texas in 1993. In the film's original ending, the cult's prophecies about an impending rapture come true, complete with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, exploding heads, and angels blasting their horns from on high. It sounds absolutely buckwild and seems more tonally consistent with his Catholic comedy "Dogma" than the rest of "Red State," so it's no surprise the extremely expensive idea was left behind. 

Smith's next film, "Clerks 3," should hit theaters sometime in 2022. Here's hoping Dante survives this one, too.