‘It’s Not a Schooner; It’s a Sailboat.’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Mallrats’
Kevin Smith’s follow-up to his name-making debut almost ruined him, but the 1995 box-office dud would acquire cult status and put a bunch of its actors on the map. The still underappreciated Gen X comedy Mallrats serves as a hilarious snapshot of a now almost nonexistent subculture lurking in a now almost nonexistent suburban consumer oasis. So grab some Orange Julius, avoid chocolate-covered pretzels and explore some non-monosyllabic facts about the movie that taught us to respect escalators...
Jason Lee’s Breakout Film
Mallrats would be the skater-turned-actor’s first major film. Lee would continue collaborating with Smith on a string of other titles — many involving Jay and Silent Bob.
On Casting Lee
Smith let Lee audition because Giovanni Ribisi’s mother, Hollywood talent manager Gay Ribisi, asked the casting director to give her daughter’s boyfriend (Lee) a chance. “So they brought Jason in, and he had a bag of Burger King with him; he was in the midst of eating a Whopper,” Smith told The Hollywood Reporter. “So he’s digging into his Whopper, and I go, ‘Okay, so we think you’re it. You’re going to be Brodie.’ He stops eating momentarily, looks up with the widest eyes possible, and goes, ‘Yeah?’ and then instantly, he goes back into his Whopper as if I wasn’t there. That Whopper was just the most important thing in the world to him.”
Reese Witherspoon Wanted to Audition But Pissed Smith Off
“We’d been looking forward to Reese, but it never went past the meet and greet,” Smith told Yahoo! on the film’s 25th-anniversary interview. “So Reese Witherspoon is talking about Clerks, and she goes, ‘Oh, I was also in a convenience store movie, S.F.W. It’s the same thing.’ That really fucking turned me off where I was like, ‘S.F.W. is not — that’s not Clerks. Like, what? Like, you know — and that was kind of the deal breaker for us.”
Smith Didn’t Know Who Ben Affleck Was
“Jim Jacks, our producer, comes to me, and goes, ‘Ben Affleck’s coming in today,’” Smith said in the same interview. “I was like, ‘Who’s that?’ And he’s like, ‘He’s O’Bannion in Dazed and Confused.’ I was like, oh, shit, the asshole with the paddle and shit. He came in, of course, reading for T.S., and I was like, ‘I don’t think he’s T.S., but I like him. I think he could be Shannon Hamilton.’ Ben, right away, was just like, ‘Oh man, I gotta play the bully…’ He’s like, ‘You know, man, I just want to do good work in this business, but everyone sees me as a bully. And now I’m a guy who just wants to have butt sex.’”
A Box Office Dud
While the 1995 movie failed at the box office — released on October 20th, it went up against Get Shorty and Now and Then — it became a home video cult classic.
A Career Killer?
Smith thought the box-office bomb signaled the end of his career. “I remember I flew out to Los Angeles from New Jersey for the premiere,” he has remembered, “and when I landed in L.A., there was a radio station, I think it was KROQ, and the DJ was between songs and said, ‘Hey, what are you up to this weekend? I saw a movie that’s coming out called Mallrats. Boy, it was terrible.’ I was like, ‘Oh, my God. Well, hopefully, that’s just a one-off.’ Then I went to the opening night back in Jersey; it was something like an 8 p.m. show, half sold. The next morning, I spoke to Jim Jacks, our producer, to talk about box office numbers. I was like, ‘Alright, man, how did it do?’ He goes, ‘We did $400,000.’ I asked, ‘On what screen?’ and he goes, ‘That was all the screens. I don’t know if we’re going to make a million for the weekend.’ And that was it.”
The Origin of ‘Snootchie Bootchies’
What would become Jay’s signature catchphrase was first dropped in Mallrats. Listen below as Smith explains how Jason Mewes came up with his go-to line as a young teen and turned it into his own language.
Jumping From ‘Clerks to ‘Mallrats’
“Before Mallrats, I’d only made Clerks, and that never played on more than 50 screens,” Smith told Forbes. “It had a real arthouse release, but it made $3 million, so everyone was happy. Mallrats was a movie that we spent $6.1 million to make, and it opened to $1 million. It grossed just over $2 million. I was like, ‘Do I owe Universal Pictures $4 million? Because I don’t have that.’ I didn’t know the rules of the business whatsoever.”
The Link Between ‘Mallrats’ and ‘Almost Famous’
In Mallrats, Lee’s character Brodie Bruce shares the story of a plane almost crashing and the doomed passengers using their final living moments to masturbate wildly. Of course, the plane lands safely, setting up a punchline for Brodie.
Lee would later star in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, which features a scene where confessions are spilled because everyone thinks they’re about to die in a plane crash. Smith said he and Crowe actually discussed the coincidence years later.
“At one point, when I was dating Joey (Lauren) Adams, she was auditioning for Almost Famous, and she had mentioned that we were dating,” Smith told to the Hollywood Reporter. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, would you give him my info?’ and then Cameron and I would email back and forth. I didn’t see it in the sides that Joey was auditioning with, but I was telling him, like, ‘My God, these sides are fantastic.’ But when I saw the movie, I hit him up to be like, ‘Oh my God, dude! The plane!’ And he goes, ‘Yeah! My Silent Bob finally talks!’ because that’s where the drummer (John Fedevich’s Ed Vallencourt), who’d been quiet the whole time, finally speaks. And I was like, Um, yes, but the whole ‘Let’s say things or do things as the plane is about to crash, and then the plane doesn’t crash at all’ thing was in Mallrats! And he goes, ‘Was it?’ So I guess great minds thought alike, but one did not inform the other.”
How Marvel Helped the Movie
During the Yahoo! interview, Smith revealed how Stan Lee’s MCU cameos brought Mallrats back into the pop-culture conversation. “We got this incredibly lucky break with the explosion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because suddenly, a Stan Lee cameo became de rigueur for every one of those movies that made almost half a million to $1 billion,” Smith explained. “And anyone who had movie trivia was like, ‘Oh, he was in Mallrats,’ like, ‘Stan Lee was in — he did that cameo thing in Mallrats.’”
Almost a Different Jay
While it’s hard to imagine any one other than Jason Mewes playing Jay, the actor was hardly a sure thing. During an oral history of the Jay and Silent Bob phenomenon, Mewes said that he had to audition because the studio was forking out the cash and wanted to make sure they cast the right guy. “I did want him very badly, of course,” Smith explained. “Jay had to play Jay, but the studio was like, ‘He’s your friend. This is a funny role. It could go to a real actor.’ And so they made us audition a bunch of people, and I still felt like he’s the guy. They had him audition against other Jays. Seth Green was one of them. I wanted Jay for Jay, but the studio liked Seth Green and also (the guy he) does Robot Chicken with, Breckin Meyer. Breckin went on to be in Clueless and stuff. There were two guys that they were like, ‘These are the dudes that we want to play Jay.’” Mewes, however, blew everyone away, and that is how Silent Bob got his Jay.
Smith Likes the Theatrical Cut
The studio wanted a bigger opening to the movie, so an extended cut was produced, even though Smith wasn’t feeling it. “Any movie called Mallrats that takes 30 minutes to get to the mall is not functioning properly,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. Smith added that the whole Governor’s Ball plot, where it’s explained why Svenning hates T.S. was a mistake. “I still prefer the theatrical cut; it makes more sense to me,” he admitted.
The Movie’s Cameo in ‘Captain Marvel’
“A high water mark of my vocation was Stan reading the Mallrats script in Captain Marvel,” Smith told Yahoo!. “Number one, the movie made over $1 billion, which means more people saw the word Mallrats in Captain Marvel than have ever seen Mallrats collectively maybe since the movie came out. Um, number two, that matters to me. You know, suddenly, in that moment, I was like, wow. Back in ’95, I shined and put a spotlight on him. In 2019, he returned the fucking favor.”
In his Forbes interview, Smith recalled how the terrible theatrical performance turned his film into a punchline. “Making the movie, I thought it might have a life; we even thought it would have a sequel,” he shared. “I was ready to go, and then Mallrats came out, and everything stopped. Nobody talked about it anymore. There was no talk of a sequel. They shunted it very quickly to home video before we can even do like a fat laserdisc release and stuff. It was ignominious. Then, for 10 years, it was the punchline of most of my jokes. I’d be like, ‘Well, what do I know? I made Mallrats!’ I was the whipping boy that year after being the flavor of the month, or even flavor of the year, with Clerks. I was a cautionary tale like, ‘This is what happens when you give those Sundance kids money.’ It was hard.”
Of course, given the film’s cult status, Smith got the last laugh.
Smith Did End Up Writing a Sequel
“Yeah. Twilight of the Mallrats,” Smith answered when Rolling Stone asked him if he was working on a sequel in 2022. “It’s been written for so fucking long. And it’s beautiful, if I do say so myself. Very heartfelt but also very multi-generational. Falls somewhere between Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and Clerks III in terms of how it deals with characters, legacy characters we all know and love. But it also deals with Brodie Bruce’s daughter, Banner Bruce. It’s primarily their story together and about how our culture that we knew as children is completely gone — dead mall, shit like that. So I absolutely love it. And I think anybody who likes Mallrats would love it as well.”
Smith and Lee read some of the script on a SModcast episode. You can listen to it here.