Mallrats, which was released 20 years ago today, is the story of T.S. and Brodie, two heartbroken young men who spend an eventful day at the mall trying to win back their girlfriends. The film, which was writer-director Kevin Smith’s follow-up to the indie hit Clerks, was a critical and commercial failure back in 1995. But over time, Smith devotees and casual fans alike began to see the film from a new perspective—as if they were looking at a Magic Eye display—and reconsider its individual charms, eventually turning the film into a bona fide cult classic (and one that's about to get a sequel). Here are some facts about the movie to read at the cookie stand, which is definitely not part of the food court.
1. THE STUDIO SOLD IT AS A "SMART PORKY’S."
Universal was so confident in the film’s prospects that they referred to it as a more intelligent version of the classic 1981 high school movie and had plans for a Mallrats sequel before the original film was even released. They canceled those plans after Mallrats earned just over $2.1 million in theaters.
2. UNIVERSAL WANTED ETHAN HAWKE TO STAR.
In a 1994 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Smith explained that "The studio has given us a list of stars they think should be in the movie." At the top of that list was Ethan Hawke, who Smith called "the most overworked actor in America. I’d like to give him a rest.”
3. JENNY MCCARTHY AND JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT AUDITIONED.
Jenny McCarthy claimed that Smith "didn't even wait until I was out of the office to start laughing" about her audition. Love Hewitt tried as well, but didn’t make the cut. William Atherton was offered the role of Brandi’s father, Mr. Svenning; he opted to act in Bio-Dome instead.
4. PARKER POSEY INITIALLY HAD THE ROLE OF RENE.
Joey Lauren Adams had believed for one year that she was going to get the role of Rene, Brodie's girlfriend, until her agent informed her that her best friend, Parker Posey, had gotten the part. Awkwardly, Posey was standing right next to Adams when she got the news: "Tears streaming down my face, I hugged and congratulated her, as visions of arsenic danced in my head," said Adams. Eventually, Posey had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict, and Shannen Doherty got the part instead. Adams read for—and won—the part of Gwen.
5. BEN AFFLECK WANTED TO STAR IN THE MOVIE.
He settled for playing Shannon, despite not wanting to play another bad guy like he had in Dazed and Confused. "Part of me was like, 'God, am I going to be relegated to throwing people into their lockers for the rest of my career?,'" Affleck told Backstage.
6. JASON LEE WAS BETTER KNOWN AS A SKATEBOARDER, NOT AN ACTOR.
Jason Lee had been casually dabbling in acting while skateboarding, appearing in commercials and in small films before winning the part of Brodie. He decided to quit the sport after Mallrats.
7. SETH GREEN WAS USED BY THE STUDIO AS INSURANCE IN CASE JASON MEWES COULDN’T CUT IT.
Even though Jason Mewes had played Jay in Clerks, Gramercy Pictures (a Universal subsidiary) forced him to audition against Seth Green, then kept Green available just in case they found it necessary to replace Mewes during filming. The studio also wouldn't pay for Mewes' air travel, his hotel room, or for rehearsals. After studio heads witnessed his first day of work, they left satisfied with his performance.
8. IT WAS SHOT IN A MINNESOTA MALL.
Smith wanted to shoot the film in his home state of New Jersey, but Gramercy said no. Eden Prairie Center Mall in Eden Prairie, Minnesota ended up hosting the cast and crew. The state's big tax break and the fact that the mall was only operating at half capacity made it the right financial and practical choice.
9. A NEARLY 30-MINUTE OPENING SCENE AT A GOVERNOR’S BALL WAS CUT.
In the original version of the film, T.S. accidentally shot the Governor of New Jersey at a function hosted by Mr. Svenning, which helped explain Brandi’s father’s hatred of T.S. throughout the film. Preview audiences weren’t fans of the scene, so it was taken out of the theatrical cut. The scene became available for public consumption for the first time when it was added as an extra on the 10th anniversary DVD.
10. SMITH GAVE A SHOUT-OUT TO HIS HIGH SCHOOL.
11. THERE ARE CONFLICTING STORIES ON SMITH’S DIRECTING TECHNIQUES.
Throughout rehearsals, Smith gave line readings to the actors, speaking their lines so that they could simply repeat them with his tone and inflection, as well as physically demonstrating how an actor should move around at times. Joey Lauren Adams found it shocking. Conversely, Smith apparently relaxed when it came time to film. Michael Rooker (Mr. Svenning) remembered Smith playing on his Game Boy instead of giving his movie his full attention.
12. WILLAM CALLING SHANNEN DOHERTY "BRENDA" WASN’T IN THE SCRIPT.
Ethan Suplee (Willam) and Doherty (Rene) completed a take of the scene before Smith walked over to Suplee and whispered to him to call her Brenda (as in Brenda Walsh, Doherty’s character from Beverly Hills, 90210). Suplee said he believed at the time she didn’t know it was coming, then later heard she might have.
13. DOHERTY’S FANS ALMOST CAUSED A RIOT.
Doherty let her bodyguard take the night off and went on a shopping excursion to a different Minnesota mall with Joey Lauren Adams and the movie’s costume designer. A group of fans flocked to Urban Outfitters, forcing an employee to lock the store’s front doors. Some fans kept chasing Doherty and her two companions in the parking lot before they managed to escape in their car.
14. WALTER FLANAGAN REALLY DID HAVE A DOG.
Walter Flanagan played Fan Boy. He purchased a tiny puppy during filming, named it Brodie, and let it run around the closed mall and its empty parking lot, where she ran around so fast that she “looked like a little hockey puck.” That is where Jay’s comment that someone was running “faster than Walt Flanagan’s dog” came from. "It was such an inside joke, I guess Kevin just decided to keep it," Flanagan said.
15. A SCENE MEANT FOR MALLRATS WAS DEEMED "TOO RACY" BY THE STUDIO.
“The Jaws scene,” where the characters compare scars, was originally in the Mallrats script. Smith shot it for Chasing Amy instead.
16. ETHAN SUPLEE DIDN’T SEE THE SAILBOAT.
17. KEVIN SMITH APOLOGIZED FOR THE FILM.
He jokingly apologized for making Mallrats at the Independent Spirit Awards. On his office’s answering machine after the movie's poor showing in theaters, Lee recalled that Smith greeted callers by saying, “Hey, this is Kevin. We can't get to the phone right now. We're too busy licking our wounds.”
18. A SEQUEL IS GOING TO BE FILMED NEXT YEAR.
Mallbrats will be shot at the Exton Square Mall in Exton, Pennsylvania. All of the original cast is slated to return.