Kevin Smith loves to talk. He also loves to swear. And when you land on the sweet spot where Kevin Smith gets to talk about swearing, especially in his classic films, that’s where the best stories come from. The Clerks and Chasing Amy writer-director is reminiscing these days about Mallrats, his lewd and funny hangout comedy that actually turns 25 years old this year. (WHAT?!) Looking back over the making of the movie on behalf of an oral history for EW, Smith rattles off a few stories you might have heard before. Shannen Doherty helped get the movie made by agreeing to star in it. Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder before he took a chance to Brody in the movie. But this one, about Ben Affleck, as new to me and really worth a share.
Ben Affleck appears in Mallrats as Shannon, the manager of Fashionable Male who hates Brody (Lee) and TS (Jeremy London). He’s basically a bully who gets his comeuppance in the end. But Affleck almost got shut out of the chance to even audition for Mallrats because of all of the F-bombs he dropped in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. The way that Kevin Smith tells it:
I remember Jim Jacks, the producer, said, ‘There’s a guy coming in today and I don’t want him in the movie.’ I said, ‘Who is it?’ And he goes, ‘Ben Affleck. He was in Dazed and Confused and he's got a real potty mouth.’ He goes, ‘There were a lot of ‘f---s’ and curses in that script already and then Ben threw in like hundreds more.’ So, I said, ‘Well, there’s a lot of cursing in our script.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, and if you bring this guy in, he’ll keep adding more curses, so I don’t want him in the movie, he's got a potty mouth.’
For real, who even calls it that? I know this was 25 years ago, but it makes Mallrats sound like a 1940s talkie. As it turns out, though, Ben Affleck had an ace up his sleeve. The day that he was coming in to audition for Mallrats, the trades reported that Affleck and Matt Damon had sold their screenplay, Good Will Hunting. Smith actually asked Affleck why he was auditioning, given the fact he just sold a screenplay. Affleck said that he still wanted to act, so he read for the role of TS.
But right away I was like, well, I know he played a bully in Dazed and Confused but he would be great as Shannon. And then Jacks was like, ‘Come on, man! He’s going to potty the movie up!’ I was like, ‘Too late, Jim,’ and Ben joined our party.
It’s crazy, the types of conversations that go on behind the scenes of some of our favorite films. Kevin Smith fans love to hate Ben Affleck’s character in Mallrats. But if he doesn’t play Shannon, Affleck also doesn’t move on to Chasing Amy, which helped the industry accept Ben as a leading man. There’s a very good chance that Affleck makes it, regardless. Good Will Hunting blew up in 1997. But these little bits of trivia help us realize what might have been, if a “potty mouth” kept Ben Affleck out of Mallrats.