With Clerks III set to start shooting next month, we look at some of the previously mooted film projects on Kevin Smith’s dance card.

Like so many filmmakers after they announce they’re retiring, Kevin Smith remains a busy man. Whether it’s dabbling in the ‘View Askewniverse that began with Clerks and is about to continue with Clerks III, or (in his words) “chasing whimsy” with a string of surreal horror-comedies, he doesn’t seem to be making any fewer projects. He certainly seems happier making them, mind.

And yet, we’re now more than a decade on from when Smith took his brilliantly nasty indie religious horror Red State to the Sundance Film Festival. After the premiere, he hijacked his own distribution auction by announcing he would release and market the film himself via his podcast empire, then make one final movie and retire from directing. We’ve covered that story on a previous episode of the Film Stories podcast, which you can hear below:

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However, since announcing his retirement, he’s been busier than ever, starting a ‘True North’ trilogy of horror-comedy curios with Tusk and Yoga Hosers (we’ll come back to that) and revived the View Askewniverse with Jay And Silent Bob Reboot. On the TV side of things, Smith has directed numerous episodes of DC shows Supergirl and The Flash, and he’s the creator of this week’s new He-Man Netflix series, Masters Of The Universe: Revelation.

2021 will also see his comedy-horror anthology movie Killroy Was Here, (itself born out of a mooted Krampus horror film called Anti-Claus) released as a non-fungible token (don’t ask us). Plus, we’ve just learned that he’s finally about to start shooting the third Clerks film for Lionsgate.

Read more: Clerks III is finally shooting next month

However, since announcing his retirement, he’s been busier than ever, starting a “True North” trilogy of horror-comedy curios with Tusk and Yoga Hosers (we’ll come back to that) and revived the View Askewniverse with Jay And Silent Bob Reboot. On the TV side of things, Smith has directed numerous episodes of DC shows Supergirl and The Flash, and he’s the creator of this week’s new He-Man Netflix series, Masters Of The Universe: Revelation.

2021 will also see his comedy-horror anthology movie Killroy Was Here, (itself born out of a mooted Krampus horror film called Anti-Claus) released as a non-fungible token (nope, we don’t get it either). Plus, we’ve just learned that he’s finally about to start shooting the third Clerks film for Lionsgate.

And yet, in this hyper-productive period of his career, there are still a bunch of scripts he’s written with the intention of making. For brevity’s sake, we’re sticking with stuff from the 2010s and 2020s, and won’t get into the movies Smith was once attached to that later got made by other filmmakers, like Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, The Green Hornet, or the currently filming Fletch reboot.

Heck, we wouldn’t know where to begin covering the now-legendary fiasco that was Superman Lives, but there’s a much-watched YouTube video covering Smith’s ordeal writing that one and a whole 2015 documentary about the doomed project, titled The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?

No, these are the film projects that have seen him striving to make films that only he would make. Some of these may still happen, some are probably in a drawer, but most have come closer than you would think to getting made…

 

Hit Somebody

When Smith took the stage at Sundance, the audience had already seen the caption in the end credits of Red State – ‘Almost this entire cast will return in HIT SOMEBODY, coming over the boards in 2012.’ Named after a 2002 Warren Zevon song about a ice-hockey player famous for fighting, this coming-of-age comedy-drama would have followed Canadian player Buddy McCracken as he discovers his gift for violence in the rink and makes a career of it.

Smith’s Cop Out star Seann William Scott was eager to make a hockey film and was circling the lead role, but Jay Baruchel’s Goon came along before Smith’s script was complete, and he went on to star in that 2011 film and its 2015 sequel instead. And so, as promised, most of the Red State cast were down for roles in Hit Somebody, with Nicholas Braun (later Cousin Greg in HBO’s Succession) as the lead, and another former Smith collaborator, the late, great Alan Rickman, reportedly agreed to narrate the film.

Development went on and different financiers came and went, and the project became two films (subtitled Home and Away) and, as Smith started developing more TV projects, even evolved into a miniseries. Filming on the series was set for late 2015, but this didn’t come to pass.

As of 2021, Smith has released readings of his first two scripts from the miniseries version on his SModcast podcast, but he’s also made and released several more films ahead of his intended big finish.

 

Moose Jaws

Likewise, the weird Canada-set True North trilogy came from podcast conversations between Smith and Scott Mosier. Tusk was born from a discussion of a Gumtree UK ad for a lodger who would dress in a walrus costume for their landlord, (later revealed to be a hoax by Brighton prankster Chris Parkinson) while its more self-indulgent spin-off, Yoga Hosers, was loosely inspired by a passing Canadian reference from Mosier.

Notably, both of these Smith films are connected by Johnny Depp as Guy LaPointe, a French-Canadian detective played exactly like a Mortdecai-era Depp would play a French-Canadian detective, and their daughters Lily Rose-Depp and Harley Quinn Smith as sarcastic shop clerks (it’ll never catch on!). All three are supposed to return in Moose Jaws, the intended trilogy-closer.

As you can see from the poster mock-up above, Smith has made no bones about it – this will be Jaws, but with a moose, in Canada. Another detail we’ve gleaned is that an earlier draft would have married the True North trilogy to the View Askewniverse by having Jay and Silent Bob appear, with the latter meeting his end at the teeth and antlers of the titular monster.

However, as of June 2020, Smith says he’s removed the duo from the newest draft to avoid distracting from the killer-animal-movie homage. As with Hit Somebody, planned filming dates have been and gone for this one, but it still seems to be on the director’s plate.

 

Helena Handbag

Also known as Holy Christ and ChristZilla at different points, Helena Handbag is more directly based on a SModcast fancy. In the 2008 episode, Smith and Mosier pitch a biblical apocalypse movie in which Jesus Christ returns to Earth “not as a lamb, but as a lion”, or more specifically, as a kaiju-sized rampaging destroyer, prompting mankind to appeal to the forces of Hell for support.

Smith previously considered making a Dogma sequel after religion moved up the news agenda again with the election of President George W. Bush and the events of September 11th 2001, but this was, again, a more whimsical proposition. He started writing the script for Helena Handbag in December 2013 and speculated that recent SModcast guest Russell Brand might play Jesus.

Of course, there are inevitable budget concerns when making a Godzilla movie but with Russell Brand as an enormous Christ. Smith later wrote the idea into a Book Of Mormon-style stage musical, but this project, along with Dogma II, seems to be dead, as of his appearance at the 2017 New York Comic Con, where he said: ‘I am sure as shit not going near any religious movies at this point.’ Incidentally, Brand played a version of God who appears to Nicolas Cage in the 2016 comedy Army Of One.

 

Plastic Man

With the Superman Lives debacle long done and dusted, Smith has directed on DC’s Arrow-verse shows and also hosted various fan events and TV specials. At the aforementioned NYCC in 2017, he also revealed that he’d pitched and written two drafts of an animated Plastic Man movie for Warner Bros Home Entertainment’s animated DC Universe.

Originally introduced in 1941, Plastic Man is Patrick O’Brien, a safe-cracker who is exposed to a mysterious liquid while helping with a robbery and gains stretching powers. A live-action version has been in development since the mid-1990s, when the Wachowskis were reportedly among those who took a pass on the script, and a new, female-centred take was announced by DC in 2018.

However, the animated DCU has been going separately from the big-screen exploits of Batman, Superman, et al, since 2007, so there’s every chance this one is still in the works. This might be more of a writing job than a directing one, but with a steady stream of animated DC movies being released each year, don’t be surprised if Smith’s take comes back around.

 

Twilight Of The Mallrats

Onto the Askewniverse projects, then, and one of two planned sequels that wound up dovetailing into 2019’s Jay And Silent Bob Reboot. While Mallrats was a box-office bomb on its original release, it developed a cult following on home video and as a result of its place in the Askewniverse. Written in 2015, Smith’s sequel had the tongue-in-cheek working title of Mallrats 2: Die Hard In A Mall and would have seen Jason Lee’s geek-turned-comic-book-store-owner Brodie Bruce and assorted returning characters battling nerds who take over a comic-book convention at the mall.

At one point, the Mallrats sequel jumped ahead of Hit Somebody, Moose Jaws, and – yes – Clerks III, due to the availability of a location. Smith found a suitable empty mall that was slated for demolition, which would enable them to blow up the location for real in the third act.

This one hit a stumbling block when it, like Hit Somebody, became a miniseries. With Smith counting on a green-light from TV networks or streamers, no green-light was forthcoming. Instead, Jay And Silent Bob Reboot brought back Brodie and used some of the Comic Con terrorist elements of Smith’s original script, and he’s more recently started writing a new film version, currently titled Twilight Of The Mallrats, which is on the docket for after Clerks III

 

The original Clerks III

 

In the background of all of this, Clerks III has been in one stage of development or another since 2012. When it looked as though Hit Somebody was going to TV instead, Smith warmed to the idea of making a threequel in time for the 20th anniversary of the original film in 2014. As he tweeted around that time, Clerks III was set to replace Hit Somebody as his final feature, just as soon as Jeff Anderson agreed to return as Randal Graves.

The trouble is, Anderson was reportedly a holdout on Clerks II and he seemed similarly sceptical about the prospect of a third film on the DVD commentary track for the sequel. Beyond script approval, he was also unhappy about an ongoing audit of The Weinstein Company over Clerks II residuals for the cast and crew, at a point where it seemed as though producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein would have to sign off on the third film too.

With a script on hand, the anniversary came and went without the film being green-lit, at TWC or anywhere else. Smith briefly considered crowdfunding but decided not to lean on fans to finance the film. In the end, Tusk helped to secure financing for Clerks III, but then Yoga Hosers and the Mallrats location came along and pushed the film back further. Finally, in 2017, Smith confirmed that “one of the four leads opted out of the flick” and the film was cancelled.

However, a couple of years later, Smith hosted a benefit for New Jersey’s First Avenue Playhouse, where auditions for the first Clerks were held many years before and put on a live reading of the unproduced Clerks III script. Dated 2015, this eighth draft of the script was read by Smith, Brian O’Halloran, and other stars of the original film at the event in July 2019.

This reading must have lit a fire under Smith, because later that month at the San Diego Comic Con, he announced he was working on a new, happier draft of the film, having felt the old version was something of a “downer”. The new script reportedly goes back to an idea that was originally planned as a movie version of the short-lived Clerks: The Animated Series, in which Dante and Randal made a film about their own lives at the convenience store.

In October the same year, Smith confirmed that Anderson was on board with the new script and Clerks III was a-go. With this week’s announcement, the film is good to go, probably arriving on our screens a little closer to the 30th anniversary than the 20th, but with the returning cast from Clerks and Clerks II coming back. And on the plus side, the Weinstein brothers will be absolutely nowhere near it.

Kevin Smith talks a lot about a lot of stuff, but he’s always most energised about whatever new project has popped into his head. There’s no other way you build a dance card like this, but retirement has rarely if ever come up in the years since that fateful Red State premiere. Maybe Smith will bow out with Hit Somebody after all, but it looks as though he’s still got many more films in him before we get there…

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