“Mallrats” is far from the most star-studded or acclaimed film to ever shoot in Minnesota, but it can still boast its fair share of fans nearly 25 years after the production took over Eden Prairie Center. Interest in Kevin Smith’s follow-up to the indie sensation “Clerks” remains so high that several cast members will be signing memorabilia and posing for pictures during the inaugural edition of GalaxyCon Minneapolis this weekend, sharing a bill with veterans from “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who.”
Pretty impressive for a raunchy comedy that features little more than two video game bums (Jason Lee and Jeremy London) trying to win back their girlfriends (Shannen Doherty and Claire Forlani) during a long day at a mall.
Smith originally had intended to shoot in New Jersey, but Minnesota’s tax incentives were too tempting to pass up. Smith recruited his then soon-to-be girlfriend Joey Lauren Adams, future Oscar winner Ben Affleck and “Cliffhanger” veteran Michael Rooker to join him for two months of shooting in 1995 in the Twin Cities suburbs, where the hijinks didn’t end when the cameras went dark.
Brian O’Halloran, “Clerks” star who plays a game show contestant trying to win the affections of Forlani’s character: We were coming off a film that was made for $28,000, most of which was on credit cards or borrowed money. So the “Mallrats” budget might as well have been $400 million. When I first got to the shopping center, each department had a storefront. Shannen had her own store and then a lounge next door. I remember leaving wardrobe, grabbing my costume off the rack and heading to my dressing room when I heard, “Where are you going?” This girl ran up to me, grabbed my clothes and said, “You don’t touch your costume. I do that. Do you want me to lose my job?”
Adams: The whole audition process was a bit of a nightmare. At one point, I was told I had the part, then I didn’t have the part and it was going to Parker Posey, which was kind of awkward because she was staying with me at the time. I think Parker backed out because she got “Party Girl,” so I was cast at the last minute. Kevin and I became best friends. I was willing to give him crap. He would tell me on set that I was coming across like my character from “Dazed and Confused,” and I would kid him that at least Rick [Linklater] was a real director.
Terry Hempleman, local theater actor who portrayed a police officer: It seemed like a pretty loose ship. I do remember some people thinking the director seemed really young. Kevin would be operating a yo-yo while the action was going on.
Crist Ballas, makeup artist: I was doing measurements for a Batman helmet when Kevin came up to me and said, “You got a cool beard cut. Do you mind if I steal that style?” A couple years later, people would accuse me of copying Kevin, but it was actually the other way around.
Early in the film, Silent Bob (Smith) keeps crashing into dressing rooms while Gwen (Adams) is changing clothes. Later on, the boys seek advice from a topless psychic (Priscilla Barnes) who leads them to believe that her powers lie in a third nipple that’s actually fake.
Adams: Kevin actually took umbrage at the idea that I had to remove my top, but he was making a movie for a studio that was counting how many jokes there were per page and whether or not they had their [boob] shot. At the time, you didn’t think about a future where you could screen grab those shots and put them on the internet.
Ballas: Priscilla was pretty unfazed. During the shoot, I told them how the prosthetic nipple was made out of gelatin, that it had a little cherry flavoring in it. So at the end of the scene, they had her eat it. Michael Rooker thought that was the coolest thing he had ever seen.
Rooker, who plays Forlani’s uptight dad: I was totally impressed. It was so much fun. It seems back then you could get away with anything. Comedy is comedy. If you worry about all that PC stuff, you’re going to grow old a lot faster.
O’Halloran: As much as people want to wince at some of the stuff from that era, hindsight is 20/20. Now that we’ve become woke and more mindful of people’s feelings, movies have adjusted. We’ve grown with the times.
Other than Doherty, who had just left “Beverly Hills 90210,” and Rooker, who had already done “Days of Thunder” and “Tombstone,” the cast didn’t have familiar faces.
Hempleman: I remember talking to this young guy, who looked kind of familiar, but I wasn’t a big movie buff so I didn’t know his name. He was talking to me about this screenplay he was trying to get produced. It was Ben Affleck and the script was for “Good Will Hunting.”
Ballas: I remember meeting Stan Lee, who has a couple scenes playing himself. That was before the big superhero boom, so he was loving that people were into his comic books. He kept saying how much he respected Kevin. I think they had a bromance.
O’Halloran: It was Jason Lee’s first movie. He was this world-renowned skateboarder, and he kept wanting to skate across that mall, but it was in his contract that he couldn’t do it. They were worried he might break a bone. Shannen and I didn’t interact much. She had a personal bodyguard in those days. But we did share an ashtray once.
Rooker: I thought I was too young to play the dad. We tried graying my hair, but it turned out orange. So I ended up shaving my head and came to set with toilet paper all over my head from the nicks. We became a real family. You didn’t have a lot of time to do anything but hang out at the hotel. We spent a lot of time in the hot tub there.
O’Halloran: It was too cold to do much outdoors stuff, but one night we went to First Avenue to see some band called the Goo Goo Dolls. I remember thinking that with a name like that they’ll never make it.
“Mallrats” didn’t make it, either, at least not at first, grossing a little more than $2 million in its initial release. But the movie gained such an audience through home video that Smith is considering a sequel.
Adams: I remember leaving to go shoot “Bio-Dome” with Pauly Shore. Kevin drove me to the airport and kept telling me I shouldn’t do it because “Mallrats” was going to be this huge hit, and I wouldn’t want “Bio-Dome” to be my next film. But I had been through all that with “Dazed and Confused.” Everyone in that movie thought they were going to be big stars right away, but it took a while for it to get a cult following. Same with “Mallrats.”
Hempleman: There was a whole other plotline involving Elizabeth Ashley that just got edited out. I think that was really smart. They realized that the movie should just focus on comedy and fun. I don’t want to sell it short. “Saturday Night Fever” is iconic because it captures a particular time and place in our culture. Maybe “Mallrats” does the same thing.