The Original Idea For Clerks III Had The Quick Stop Destroyed By Hurricane Sandy

In our age of shared movie and TV universes, there are none quite like Kevin Smith's nearly 30-year-old "View Askewniverse." It's a DIY franchise where actors can play multiple roles, and the heroes are mostly foul-mouthed underachievers. The property can also vary wildly in its tone, from the sentimental and nostalgic later entries to the earlier films, which bring a harder edge to Smith's rude and crude approach to comedy.

Such is the case with "Clerks," the 1994 film that started it all. For as much as its lewd jokes and quotable punchlines stick in one's memory, it's easy to forget just how caustic the movie truly is. Smith's slice-of-life look at a day in the lives of two 20-something friends and store clerks was inspired by his own time working at a Quick Stop (the same one where he shot the film), and it shows. There's a realness to the movie's portrayal of its Gen-X leads' ennui with not just the state of the world but who they are. You can see why Smith initially had a far darker ending in mind than the one he went with.

Smith would return to the lives of Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) in 2006 with "Clerks II," a film that embodies the blend of raunch and heart that had only just begun to define his output as a director at that point. Now, with "Clerks III" on its way to hitting theaters, Smith is opening up about the darker vision he originally had in mind for the sequel — a movie that would've seen Dante and Randal's treasured Quick Stop destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The Clerks III that never was

The last time we saw Dante, he was checking in for another day at the Quick Stop (which he and Randal bought and re-opened at the end of "Clerks II") when he got caught up in a police raid on Jay and Silent Bob's drug operation next door in 2019's "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot." Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Smith revealed this was actually a revised take on the opening scene for his early "Clerks III" script draft:

"It opened on the evening of Hurricane Sandy. Dante and Randal were locked in a jail because the original version of 'Clerks III' was the opening of 'Jay and Silent Bob Reboot' where the cops come in and bust Jay and Silent Bob. All of them were arrested and there's an interrogation scene and somebody comes in and says, 'We gotta get 'em out and put them in cells because it's coming.' And [the guys] are like, 'What's coming?' 'They're calling it Sandy.' They were locked in a cell all night long and they get out in the morning to find that the Quick Stop was destroyed by a flood."

The loss of their former way of life hits Randal the hardest, causing him to have a nervous breakdown. In the hopes of aiding his recovery, he subsequently lines up for a screening of the film "Ranger Danger" at a nearby movie theater a year before it's due to open. Inspired by his example, what Smith described as a "weird movement" begins to form around Randal:

"A village sprouts up in the parking lot of the movie theater. Randal builds a lean-to version of Quick Stop, like a bodega-shanty version, and becomes the unofficial mayor of this town."

'It was a movie about dealing with grief'

It was Anderson who passed on this early version of "Clerks III," leading Smith to scrap the project rather than recast the role of Randal. Then, in 2018, Smith would suffer a nearly-fatal heart attack that prompted to him restart the script from scratch. Instead, in an example of art imitating life, the final version of "Clerks III" has Randal suffer a terrible heart attack of his own, spurring him to make a movie with his friends based on his life at the Quick Stop.

"It was a movie about dealing with grief," said Smith, explaining the idea behind the original "Clerks III" script. However, when push comes to shove, he's glad he never made it:

"It was so far-flung from 'Clerks.' Mercifully, we never made it. And then suddenly, I had the heart attack and was like, oh, that would be a good backbone for this movie."

Would the early iteration of "Clerks III" have been any good? It certainly sounds far more emotionally ambitious than anything Smith's directed this side of 2011's "Red State." It also sounds less like a modern Smith joint and more like a feature-length version of the running segment from "Forrest Gump" or perhaps even "Welcome to Marwen" (another Robert Zemeckis film) set in the "View Askewniverse." And while I would personally be interested in seeing Smith really challenge himself with material like that, I get the "Clerks" franchise has long since moved away from this kind of jagged emotional territory (for better or for worse).

"Clerks III" hits theaters on September 13, 2022.