Spoilers ahead (albeit a very minor detail) about a scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens that may have paid tribute to the 1994 black and white classic Clerks….
Anyone who has ever watched Kevin Smith’s original Jersey trilogy — Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy — knows the writer and director is a huge Star Wars fan and quotes the films throughout his own work.
One of the most memorable scenes comes in Smith’s first film Clerks, released in 1994, where the two lead characters have a conversation about Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the Death Star. The argument stems from the idea that since Stormtroopers wouldn’t be capable of doing something as trivial as installing a toilet that the Empire would be forced to hire outside contractors to do the job.
Those same contractors were then killed in the line of fire after the Rebels blew the Death Star up at the end of the movie. Civilians caught in the crossfire of an intergalactic civil war, if you will.
Well whether or not it was written into the movie as a specific tribute to that scene, Star Wars: The Force Awakens addresses that very concern with a conversation held between Finn (John Boyega) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Again, fair warning SPOILERS lie ahead if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
“Finn, who we know from the trailer is a Stormtrooper who doesn’t want to be a Stormtrooper anymore. At one point in the movie, though, he references his past duties as a Stormtrooper,” Smith talked about on his Hollywood Babble-On podcast this week. “Somebody asks him ‘wait, what did you do when you were here?’ and he says ‘I was in sanitation’, which is funny in the movie but somebody pointed it out to me on Twitter.
“In Clerks, Dante and Randal had the Death Star contractors conversation and Randal says how they had to hire independent contractors to finish it because he’s like ‘do you think the average Stormtrooper knows how to install a toilet mane? All they know are killing and white uniforms. So technically when that guy said sanitation, that was a shout out to Clerks.”
It’s unknown if this reference was in direct relation to Clerks, but it certainly seems likely. Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams is friends with Smith and actually invited him onto the set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens while the movie was shooting in England in 2014. Considering how hard it was for anyone to visit that set, Abrams obviously thought a lot of Smith and his long time devotion to the Star Wars saga.
Smith was so overwhelmed by the moment that when he saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, he cried a little bit knowing that his favorite film series of all time paid tribute to something he wrote and directed the same way he referenced Star Wars in nearly all of his work over the years.
“I rolled a tear in the movie theater,” Smith said. “I’ve spent my whole professional career quoting Star Wars and referencing Star Wars and for one moment, Star Wars reference me back. That was kind of fucking sweet.”
It was a nice connection to one of Star Wars‘ most famous fans and a tribute to one of the best pop culture conversations about the original trilogy. As sweet as the comment was in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s not likely Rian Johnson, the director behind Star Wars: Episode VIII will follow suit and name one of his characters Hung Solo but then again you never know.