Jason Mewes*

  Scott Mosier*

  Renée Humphrey*

  Bryan Johnson

  Vincent Pereira
    by Mike McCarthy*
    by Jesse Ray Boehm
    by Nolan Reese

  Brian O'Halloran*

  Ethan Suplee
    by Mike McCarthy*
    20 questions with Ethan

  Brian Lynch
    by Jesse Ray Boehm
    by Jesse Ray Boehm

  Big Helium Dog
     Brian Lynch
     Kevin Crimmins
     Vincent Pereira
     Bill Woods
     Brian Quinn
     Lorene Scafaria

* denotes feature interviews by writer Mike McCarthy

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© 1998
View Askew Productions

conducted on December 23, 1998

Perhaps you've seen him on television's Boy Meets World.

Or perhaps you've seen him in the more recent film American History X.

Regardless, those who've seen him in Kevin Smith's Mallrats and Chasing Amy are bound to wonder about actor Ethan Suplee.

True, his parts in Kevin's films thus far have been supporting roles, yet... his Willam may in fact be the most memorable character in Mallrats. (SAILBOAT!)

In the following Interview Askew, Suplee recalls, among other things, the Mallrats auditioning process, his thoughts on popularity and his many upcoming films.

MM: This one begs to be asked: in reality, was it a sailboat and were you able to see it?

ES: I did not see it. And I don't really have a problem seeing those things. I didn't want to see that one.

MM: I wondered if they hadn't put something there that sort of looked like a sailboat but not quite to help you get in character.

ES: I think in fact it was a real one of a sailboat.

MM: Let's start with the beginning. Where were you born?

ES: I was born in Manhattan on West 12th. My parents were kind of hippies and they did a home birth.

MM: Did you grow up in Manhattan?

ES: We moved out to L.A. when I was a year old and then we lived in Vermont as well. I've lived in L.A. most of my life. The first few years I was in Vermont quite a bit, but I don't think I ever spent years and years there.

MM: Any brothers or sisters?

ES: Yeah. I have one younger sister. She's 20.

MM: As far as your venture into acting goes, did you start with school plays and so forth?

ES: Yeah. It was school plays and then my friend--his name is Giovanni Ribisi--he's doing really well right now--he was in this acting class outside of school. He pretty much demanded that I go to this acting class. So I did.

MM: How old were you at that point?

ES: I was 16.

MM: Did the class inspire you to want to act career-wise? Where were you at?

ES: When I went to the class, I had graduated from high school and I wasn't really doing anything. I didn't have a job. I wasn't really allowed to work at that point--15, 16 [years old]. When I started going to the class, I wasn't actually allowed in Vanni's class. He was in the advanced class, because he had been doing it since he was like five or six years old. At that point, I was definitely interested in pursuing that as a job.

MM: How long was it before your first role came along?

ES: I was in school for about a year and the acting teacher did not promote me, so I finally stopped going to the acting class. That's when I started working, as soon as I left. I guess I was like 17 years old. My first job was Boy Meets World, the TV show.

MM: Were you a re-occurring character or were you on every week?

ES: I was re-occurring.

MM: How had you come across that role?

ES: I just auditioned for it. Vanni's mother was managing me. One day I had like three auditions at three different studios. I was all frazzled and the first was Boy Meets World. They wanted me to come back and I had two other auditions. I was actually thinking about not going back for the second audition there. Thank God I did.

MM: From there, you just started to pursue film roles as well?

ES: Yeah.

MM: Do you recall your Mallrats audition?

ES: I do. Initially, we met with Don Phillips and we didn't actually audition for him. We just sat down and talked with him. I guess he, judging by our personality, would say whether we got to come back and actually audition or not. I got to come back and audition and Kevin and Scott were in there. I read it once and Kevin actually applauded. I mean, he wasn't like enthusiastically clapping his hands or anything, but he was definitely clapping his hands. I walked out and I thought, well, that's cool, he applauded. That's pretty nice. And then I went back and read for them again and it was the same type of situation. Then there was something called The Pizza Party where the five first choices for each role all came together one day and auditioned over and over again. People were told they could go home and people were told they could stay. If you were there at the end of the day, you got the part, basically. Me and Jason Lee actually drove to this audition together. There were like five Brodies, five T.S.es, all this crazy amount of people there. And there was nobody there to play Willam. They announced that I was the only guy there to play him. I was cool with that, but I still had to sit around all day and read again even though there was nobody there to play my part.

MM: Had you met Jason Lee at the earlier auditions?

ES: Um, no, I'd known Jason for a few years at that point. He was going out with Marissa Ribisi, who's Vanni's sister. And Gay, Vanni's mom, was managing Jason and managing me.

MM: The vibe I've got from talking to people is that the Mallrats auditioning process was a bit longer than normally tends to be the case.

ES: Definitely. Definitely. From the time I initially read to the time they actually said you have the part--it was not just a couple of days and they made up their mind. I don't know how many other people read for the part, but it definitely took them a while to say you have the part.

MM: Of the different people auditioning who weren't cast, do you know if any of them have actually gone on to do anything?

ES: Jennifer Love Hewitt was at the final day of auditions. I can't remember the girl's names, but she was auditioning for the girl who was writing the book.

MM: Renee Humphrey's character.

ES: Trish! And the girl from Sliders was there--I forget her name.

MM: And Jenny McCarthy's still supposedly whining about her audition.

ES: I really don't remember seeing her. That's how little of an effect she had on me at the time.

MM: At Vulgarthon, Kevin said something like there were three people in the room and she says there were 28 of them or something.

ES: On the final day, there were a lot more than three people in the room. I don't think there were 28, but there was Kevin and Scott, the cameraman, Don Phillips, the casting director--then a whole table of people, from Gramercy, I guess.

MM: This one begs to be asked: in reality, was it a sailboat and were you able to see it?

ES: I did not see it. And I don't really have a problem seeing those things. I didn't want to see that one.

MM: I wondered if they hadn't put something there that sort of looked like a sailboat but not quite to help you get in character.

ES: I think in fact it was a real one of a sailboat.

MM: What do people say when they spot you in public at this point? Are they like, "Aren't you that guy from Kevin Smith's movies?" Or do they know your name?

ES: What's the most typical one? I think mostly it comes from Boy Meets World. Little kids recognizing me from the show. But I've definitely gotten a couple of Mallrats. Not many Chasing Amy, but people recognize me sometimes from Mallrats.

MM: Ever inside a mall?

ES: [Laughs] I don't know. Not that I can remember with Mallrats. Definitely with Boy Meets World.

MM: What level of popularity would you like to achieve? I mean, there's obviously different levels. You've got people who are plastered all over magazines--

ES: --I don't want to be anything like that at all. That seems to be a lot more trouble than it's worth. I'd like to just work--steadily work--and do parts that I enjoy doing. I definitely don't want to achieve some kind of rock star status.

MM: You play a character named Frankie Fanelli in Vulgar. What can you say about that role?

ES: [Laughs] That was an interesting part. That was basically just the darkest, most disturbed character I think I've ever had to touch upon. Imagine the worst things you could do to somebody and then this character would want to do that to people.

MM: How much of what he does is shown on screen? Does it live up to the film's title or is much of it simply suggested?

ES: There are quite vulgar moments in the film. There are some things we shot that I'm happy are not in the film. I remember some things I did, at least, that I don't remember being in the movie. I only saw a really, really rough copy of it. It's possible that it's changed by now, but from what I saw, there is loads and loads of vulgarness. I think we went vulgar when shooting it and then they pulled back a bit in editing it. I won't give anything away.

MM: What have you heard about the plans for the film?

ES: I haven't really heard anything. I haven't talked to Bryan Johnson in quite some time.

MM: You were also in A Better Place and Drawing Flies. Any particular memories from those sets? I've heard horror stories about Drawing Flies.

ES: Drawing Flies was miserable. On A Better Place, I stayed at Kevin's house and it was great that way. He had a nice condo and all kinds of laserdiscs and lots of comics and toys and videogames to keep us distracted. On Drawing Flies, I wasn't supposed to be in it. I just went up there to visit people and the living arrangements were really miserable.

MM: Renee mentioned pipes bursting in the middle of the night.

ES: Oh God, it was horrible. It was like they just took a warehouse and tried to--for absolutely no money--convert it into living quarters for like 15, 16 people. One bathroom.

MM: How much time did you end up spending on that set?

ES: I was up there for about a week.

MM: Do you make an appearance in Big Helium Dog?

ES: I'm not in that. That's the first one since Mallrats that I'm not in. I was in Paris for two months and I came back to L.A. for like two days and then I went straight to Jersey to do Vulgar and then Big Helium Dog shot right after that. I wanted to do it, but I had to get back to L.A. I had been away for so long.

MM: You play The Golgothan in Dogma. What was that experience like?

ES: I actually haven't done that. There were a few scenes for The Golgothan, but I guess in shooting the movie a lot of his stuff got cut out, so there's nothing really there.

MM: I didn't realize. Having read an early draft of the script, I'd been wondering if they'd stuck you inside a suit or what.

ES: Because it's all just a puppet, basically--a big puppet--I would come back in post-production and do the voice over. I could've been in the suit, but that would've been pretty miserable.

MM: So, did you visit the Dogma set at all?

ES: I didn't. I was working for most of their shoot and I didn't make it out there.

MM: There have been rumors about a Clerks sequel and an Ultimate Jersey Movie, prompting most people at this point to speculate that they're one in the same. If such a thing happens, would you reprise Willam?

ES: Yeah, I think that would be the funnier one to reprise. I think it would be cool if me and Mosier were both in the movie doing our different versions of Willam. I don't know how likely that is. But definitely it would be the Mallrats one.

MM: Here's an odd one: which character from a Kevin Smith film would you say you most identify with in real life?

ES: Any character? Um . . . I don't know. It's a great question. My favorite character is Brodie--and Banky. Those characters are my favorites. And Loki, I guess, in Dogma. The wiseasses. I enjoy them the most. But I don't think I'm as quick-witted as them.

MM: You played Seth in American History X. Given the subject matter, I've wondered if there were a lot of heated conversations on the set?

ES: Not really. Me and Edward Furlong, a couple of times, just sat kind of void of all emotions after scenes. Just like, "Wow, what are we doing? This is psychotic, what we're saying." Because we improv-ed a lot. A lot of it wasn't in the movie, but there were times when we would just sit there and be having conversations for five minutes straight that were just ridiculous. Afterwards, when you have a few minutes off while they're loading film or whatever, it was kind of like a "where's this coming from?" type of thing. But it wasn't really topic on the set because everybody's got something to do, for the most part.

MM: Did you do any research before you went to the set?

ES: Yeah. The production office had a lot of videos for me. Tony Kaye [the director] had actually been going down to Orange County, which is a pretty gross area of California where there are a lot of skinheads. He had been talking to these guys and videotaping them. He gave me a guy's phone number. A guy who's like the head of some skinhead gang. I never actually called him, but I watched a lot of videotape and I read parts of Mein Kampf and there was a book on skinheads.

MM: Many of the sentiments verbalized by Ed Norton's character, Derek, are things I suspect a lot of young white males are inclined to think, in terms of reverse discrimination and so forth. Were there any moments when you thought, "Shit, I've thought that way at one point in my life, thank heavens I didn't end up like this guy"?

ES: On the set, I wasn't thinking about that kind of thing. I'm not like a crazy method actor or anything, but I was trying as much as possible to just [pretend] that kind of thing was just the right kind of thing, you know what I mean? When I watched the movie, he makes some strong arguments and he makes them quite well. The whole thing about illegal aliens coming in and working for less money and taking another man's job, that kind of thing. He definitely, definitely has a strong argument. I don't agree with what he's saying, or any of those actions, but I definitely think that at some point he seems to be sane in his rationale on how he's come to feel that way.

MM: Psychologically, was American History X your most difficult film to date?

ES: American History X? Um . . . Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. That character, yeah.

MM: Your character and Fairuza Balk's characters are possibly the scariest when the movie is over because you leave the theatre without seeing them experience an arch of change. They're still out there.

ES: In an earlier draft of the script, I actually get killed at the end. I think now they have it that I was just beaten up. But, yeah, I'm lost in that movie. I don't get saved at all. I don't find the truth.

MM: You mentioned that Tony Kaye had been videotaping real life skinheads. I recall hearing that he wanted to insert some of that footage into the movie somehow at one point. Did you think that was an interesting idea?

ES: I think anything Tony Kaye would've done would've been interesting, definitely. And worth seeing. I think at one point he also wanted to interview me and some other people as our characters and do something with that, too. I don't know if that's ever gonna happen. I don't know if it would've worked, really, or stayed in. But it would've definitely been interesting.

MM: It's no secret that he didn't see eye to eye with Ed Norton. Did that cause you a lot of personal stress on the set?

ES: It wasn't so much on the set. Most of that happened afterwards. The set was pretty much stress free. All that disagreement all came in post- production.

MM: So you were spared?

ES: Yeah.

MM: Kaye has spoken negatively about the cut of the film that was released. What are your thoughts on it?

ES: I think it's good and I think Tony Kaye thinks it's good. But I think there's definitely room for improvement. But I think that with anything there's room for improvement. Anything can be improved. Could he have improved it? Probably. I don't know how long it would have taken or what he would've had to do to do that. I can't just look at it and say, "Well, if you did this and that it would've been a better movie." I just don't think in terms like that.

MM: It's interesting because here was a guy whom we'd never heard of as a director here, yet I remember being blown away by how amazing the droplets of water looked coming out of the shower in the scene where Ed Norton gets raped.

ES: Tony Kaye is great with that kind of stuff. Up until American History X, he had only done commercials. But his commercials are fucking phenomenal. They look like little movies. The ones I saw that were just unbelievably awesome were all European, overseas commercials. I couldn't say, "Oh, have you seen this one?" There was one commercial he did where you see--it's a black and white commercial--and there's a guy asleep and then these hands come in and wake the guy up. This guy is just a fucking slob. He goes around and he's trashing the house. These hands are following him around, cleaning everything. And these hands bring him his coffee and they bring him toast. You get the feeling that it's his wife or something. It's his girlfriend, right? Then at the end you see that it's another guy. But the guy is definitely playing the female role in the relationship. You see it's another guy, they kiss, he goes off, gets in his car, and goes to work--I assume. Then it says Guinness Beer. It's a beer commercial! But, watching it, it's fucking great, you know? It's so random and off the wall. Visually, it's just an amazing commercial.

MM: I think what's happened is that Norton has already proven his talent here, having done so many films already, whereas Tony Kaye is a newcomer to feature films and so the press is having a field day painting him as an absolute egotistical moron.

ES: Right. I don't think that's what he is at all. But, yeah.

MM: You're in an upcoming film entitled Takedown, which I'm told is about a computer hacker who gets busted.

ES: It's about Kevin Mitnick, who is and has been in prison for three years now, I think, and he was never charged with any crime. Never put on trial. Never convicted of anything. Apparently, he was hacking into, I don't know, some government [files]. I don't know about hacking, so I can't really say, but he was hacking into something. They eventually caught him and they just took him off to jail. Federal prison.

MM: And he's a young guy, right?

ES: Yeah. I don't think he's very old.

MM: Who's your character in the film?

ES: I don't have a huge part in this movie. I play a guy at the phone company who helps them catch Kevin. They come to me and say trace his calls and then I take them out with a van that has equipment they can triangulate his calls with.

MM: How is he portrayed in the film? Is he the bad guy? The good guy?

ES: In the first draft of the script he was portrayed as a psychotic guy trying to get information on the government. Then there were protests and people calling Miramax, saying that's not the situation, that's not the case. The last draft of the script that we were actually shooting, at the end it says, "Kevin Mitnick has been in prison for three years now with no trial. He's never been charged with any crime." And then, instead of saying "the end," it says "free Kevin"or something. So, it went from him being portrayed as the bad guy to some kind of political figure.

MM: I understand you've others in the can. Let's go down the list, starting with Tyrone.

ES: Tyrone, I think they're taking to festivals. I don't know which festivals it will be at. It's like a buddy picture. It's a couple of guys driving across the country and they get to a small town and they hit a guy. The guy turns out to be a drug smuggler. The cops were gonna let them go, but then the cops find out that they have weed on them and it's a no tolerance county. So they're taken and put in jail with the friends of the guy they just killed. The cops are pissed at them for the weed and this guy's friends are pissed at them because they just killed their friend. They get released from jail but they're told not to leave the town for a while. The cops are gonna search their car, try to see if they have any other drugs. Basically, just a lot of kooky shit happens in the town.

MM: Next on my list is Dante's View.

ES: Dante's View is about a small town and I guess a girl is trying to escape. She committed some crime, so she's on the run and she winds up in our town. Basically, it's a similar thing where she just goes around the town and crazy shit happens.

MM: Who's your character?

ES: The hotel she's staying at, my mom runs the hotel, so I'm like just around to do odd jobs and stuff.

MM: Next is Desert Blue.

ES: Um, Desert Blue is about another small town. [Both laugh] There's some kind of toxic spill and they shut the town down. Basically, it's like kids trying to find out what happened, being caught trapped in this tiny little town.

MM: That brings us to Don's Plum.

ES: Don's Plum is an interesting story. That started out by a bunch of friends who would be bored some nights and make little video skits and stuff when we had nothing better to do. Eventually, somebody said, "What if we had a script?" That way, we'd already know what we were gonna do. It wouldn't be like you want to do another little video and you have no idea what to do. So, my friends wrote a script and it was god awful, so nobody agreed to do it. Well, we would've done it, but they wrote the script and then they started getting money together to make it an actual short film, instead of just like a video fuck around project at a house. And nobody would do it because it was actually turning into something legitimate. And then they said, "Well, what if we just did an improvised short?" And people agreed to do that. And then it was shot, always under the guidelines that it would be a short film. But they had all kinds of extra footage and they went and started cutting a feature. So, the people in it who get paid a lot of money to do movies were like, "You can't just go and make a movie out of this that's gonna be released in theatres. That wasn't the agreement." And now there's a big lawsuit going on.

MM: I think I heard something about that. Is Tobey Maguire in it?

ES: Yeah, Tobey's in it.

[NOTE: According to Internet Movie Database, the film also stars Amber Benson, Scott Bloom, Kevin Connelly, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jenny Lewis, Marissa Ribisi, Jeremy Sisto and Meadow Sisto.]

MM: What did you play in it?

ES: I play a bum in the movie, but I don't think it should come out. I hope it doesn't.

MM: So, it's like an 8mm camcorder sort of thing?

ES: No. It was shot on 16mm and it's not very good. But I suppose it could play in theatres. I hope it doesn't because it's just so wrong. The whole thing is just wrong.

MM: Is it something SAG can help stop?

ES: Yeah. They had shady dealings with SAG, terrible dealings with their actors, just keeping people in the dark about what they were doing. I like to think that the truth and the just way will prevail, so, you know, I've got my cards in honesty and integrity.

MM: I was wondering if there are qualities that you see your generation of actors having that differ from those of others. You used to hear a lot more about drug abuse and big egos 10 years ago than you do now. The younger actors I've met seem more level-headed and down to earth.

ES: As far as big egos, there are definitely guys out there that just think God only knows what about themselves. But the drugs are kind of like taboo, at least among me and my friends and the people I've worked with. I've seen drugs, but it's always been like, "Jesus, look what this guy's doing." Egos seem to be a lot more frequent. I've been to loads of parties that were just crazy--whatever you would call Hollywood parties--and it's not like piles of cocaine on the tables and chicks naked, running around. But my favorite period for actors is the 70s. I think so many great movies were made in the 70s. The 90s just seem to be a confused decade. Nobody knows, really, what's going on.

MM: On a different note, if you could only make three more movies before you die, whom would you like to direct them?

ES: Geez, I'd definitely like to work with Kevin again. And this guy Marc Schwam, a director I worked with. And Tony Kaye.

MM: Have you and Kevin spoken about you playing a leading role in an upcoming film?

ES: Well, originally I was gonna be one of the leads in Chasing Amy when he was writing the first draft. It was gonna be set in high school and I would be one of the leads. So, that's the only time we ever really talked about that.

MM: Do you have any interest in writing or directing?

ES: Not in directing. At all. That just seems to be like way too much. Writing, yeah. Me and my friend Scott Bloom just finished the first rough draft of a script. It's taken us three years to do, but we finally got a first draft. And we'll see whatever happens with that.

MM: Does Scott hope to direct it? Or do you guys just want to sell it?

ES: We just want to sell it. We don't want to be in it or have anything much to do with it after it's sold. Maybe produce, make sure they stick to the script or whatever.

MM: Is there anything you can say about the plot?

ES: Not really. I can't really talk about it.

MM: Let me just ask you this: is it a small, independent-minded story or is it high concept?

ES: High concept. Big. A lot of action. Blockbuster.

MM: I'd like to ask you about your favorite books and such, just to give folks a bit more insight about you.

ES: Right.

MM: So, what are your favorite books?

ES: A Confederacy of Dunces. Definitely.

MM: I believe that's one I have on a bookshelf that I can't get to right now. That's the one where the author committed suicide after he wrote it, right?

ES: Yeah. Get to it, man. Get that book! You've gotta read it.

MM: Any other favorite books?

ES: I really like The Catcher in the Rye a lot. The Beach.

MM: That was excellent.

ES: Yeah. Great book.

MM: I'm looking forward to the movie.

ES: I actually read the script to that.

MM: How does it compare to the book?

ES: It's different, but it's really good. Really good. Vincent--The Cleanest Cat in the Entire Operation--gave me The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings by Marquis De Sade. I like that book a lot.

MM: How about movies? You mentioned the 70s, but are there any that stick out as absolute favorites?

ES: My favorite movie is Once Upon A Time in America. And then The Godfather one and two are real close after that. And I actually prefer The Godfather two to Godfather one. I'm kind of alone there.

MM: Actually, I'd side with you on that. The first one, the first 45 minutes just kind of drag.

ES: Yeah. I completely agree with you.

MM: What about television shows? Are there any series you follow?

ES: Nope. Nothing at all. I like Seinfeld when I see it and The Gary Shandling Show, but nothing that I watch religiously. I actually hate watching television.

MM: Have you done any since Boy Meets World?

ES: No. No.

MM: If you were offered a guest role on NYPD Blue or ER, would you do something like that?

ES: Probably. On one of those shows.

MM: Who are your favorite musicians?

ES: David Bowie's my favorite musician. I love him above all, but I'm really into rap a lot right now. Hip hop. I like the Wu Tang Clan a lot. I really like the East Coast stuff. That's probably cliche for me to even say that, but they're just so different from the crap they pump out here. Or the shit they do down in the South.

Ethan welcomes mail from his fans.

Write to:

Ethan Suplee
c/o David Brownstein & Kris Schmidt
Writers & Artists Agency
924 Westwood Blvd.
Suite 900
Westwood, CA 90024

Interviews Askew