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"Clerks" duo reunites for Astronomicon in Sterling Heights

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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If Brian O'Halloran had a dollar for every time he heard a variation of "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" — the signature line for his character in the cult hit movie "Clerks" — he'd be, well ...

"I'd be talking to you from my private jet," the actor and producer says by phone from his home in northeast Pennsylvania.

But the truth is that O'Halloran has no problem with having to hear the most famous line of his character, Dante Hicks, on a nonstop fan loop.

"I don't mind it at all," says O'Halloran, who will appear at next weekend's Astronomicon 3 in Sterling Heights. "I wear it with a badge. I probably will have it in my will to put that on my tombstone to give someone a chuckle when they visit.

"And I get away very lightly compared to some of my castmates, to be honest with you. Some of their (lines) are ... well, let's say a little harder to live with."

Like director-writer Kevin Smith and his castmates, O'Halloran had limited expectations for "Clerks" while they were making it on black-and-white film for less than $28,000, or when it was released during October 1994. Fighting off an initial NC-17 rating, it surprised the world as it went on to gross $3.2 million at the box office. It spawned a sequel in 2006 as well as live-action and animated TV series, comic books and "Shooting Clerks," a feature about the making of the original film.

A "Clerks III" is in the works as well, and its characters surfaced again in subsequent Smith films such as "Mallrats," "Chasing Amy," "Dogma" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back." Last year, meanwhile, "Clerks" was added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, an exclamation point on its classic status.

"Man, I was just hoping for a VHS copy to show friends or put on a reel for future auditions," says O'Halloran, 50, whose character was killed off in the original cut of "Clerks," an ending Smith changed due to negative feedback. "The first screening ... there were maybe 20 people in the audience, 12 of which were from the film. It didn't seem like it was going to sell — but fortunately it did.

"So to think it would go as far as it has is completely lightning in a bottle. If it came out a year earlier or a year later, no one would have seen it. Something about that ’93-’94 period, the rise of people like Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater, it felt like you could make and tell a story for very little (money) with unknowns and people would want to see it."

"Clerks" has also made O'Halloran, still busy acting on screen and stage, a fixture on the pop culture convention circuit, regularly signing autographs, taking photos and sharing "Clerks" memories with fans. "I get to meet fans who enjoy what I do," he says, "so it's heartwarming and validating, knowing I'm doing something right. And it's fun for me. I enjoy meeting some of the other guests as well, sometimes people I'm a fan of."

O'Halloran's appearance at Astronomicon will make a bit of history as well; It marks the first convention for his "Clerks" co-star Jeff Anderson, who played Randal Graves. O'Halloran, who appeared at the first Astronomicon in 2018, hopes to make it a good experience, though he accepts Anderson's reluctance to be part of the self-promotional fray.

"When 'Clerks II' came out Jeff and I did 23 cities over 26 days — morning shows, radio stations, video stores, CD stores, comic book stores, afternoon drive radio shows, then get on a plane for the next city that night. It was pretty taxing, and I remember after the third city Jeff started going, 'Hey man, do we really have to do these appearances?' I'm not sure if he had social phobia back then or what, but it clearly wasn't his thing.

"So we'll do whatever we need to do to get him in the door. I hope he likes it ’cause it would be great have Dante and Randal out there together. I know the fans would love it, and I think we could have a good time, too."

Astronomicon 3 takes place Feb. 7-9 at the Wyndham Garden, 34911 Van Dyke Road, Sterling Heights. Tickets are $10-$200. Call 586-979-1400 or visit astronomicon.com.

Web Site: www.astronomicon.com

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