conducted on June 24, 1998
"They call her Trish the Dish." So said Jason Lee as Brodie in Mallrats.
You laughed and found yourselves intrigued if not entirely captivated by Renee
Humphrey's performance as "Little Tricia Jones," the 15-year-old high school
senior and author of Bore-gasm: A Study of the Nineties' Male Sexual Prowess.
Bore-gasm, of course, being a non-fictional opus based on her own personal
The character was undeniably among the most amusing of the many amusing
characters to appear in Kevin Smith's films and Renee's performance was a
shining, deliberately hilarious one at that. In the following interview, she
tells us what it was like to play Tricia and her many other sexually ambitious
characters, among other things. Many other things, actually.
MM: How did you come to play Tricia in Mallrats?
MM: Are you asked about Ben Affleck every other day now?
RH: No. Nobody seems to remember that he . . . invaded me.
RH: Well, I auditioned for it, like everybody. Kevin and I had also been at
Sundance. I didn't meet him, but I had a movie called Fun at Sundance the same
year Kevin had Clerks there. I guess he had seen it. And I obviously had seen
Clerks, so I auditioned and we were fast friends.
MM: How did you hear about the auditions?
RH: Just regularly, through my agent.
MM: What was your audition like?
RH: Hmm . . . What was the audition like? Well, God, it's going back very far
here. [Laughs] Um, I remember the final audition. They had everybody come and
read and sort of sent some people home and kept other people. I remember I was
waiting for a long time. I have a mouth on me--like it doesn't stop even when
it should sometimes. I walked into the room finally to read and they were all
apologizing. They said, "Oh, we're so sorry to make you wait." And I said,
"Oh, what's five hours?!" [Both laugh] I think right there Kevin decided that
maybe we'd get along.
MM: He definitely has a thing for sarcasm.
RH: Yes. So, you know, I read for them and then he left the room. Then he came
back in and they said, "We'll see you in Minnesota. You got the job." That was
nice, to tell right away.
MM: Was it at all unnerving to play Tricia, this young sex expert?
RH: [Laughs] Not really. No. I've played a lot of sexually driven characters
in my life. So it was actually kind of fun to play one who, no matter how
warped it might be, was taking control of that. Of the sexuality of young
girls that we all seem to want. [Both laugh] Or something like that! So, no,
it was fun. It was a lot of fun. Plus, because she was so scientific about it,
I just kind of felt that way myself.
MM: Also, most of the characters were sort of being made fun of, but she's
almost put on a pedestal, as being the more intelligent one.
RH: Right. Right. Which I love. Which is great. [Laughs]
MM: Not so much now, but until Chasing Amy there were some critics who spoke
negatively about the way Kevin wrote female characters. Did you have any
opinion of that upon reading the Mallrats script and having seen Clerks?
RH: No. Male, female, Kevin's just being funny. That's how I always saw it.
No, I never even heard that. I didn't realize that people said that.
MM: I didn't either, actually, until Chasing Amy came out. I spoke with Ben
Affleck and he brought that up, something to the effect that some critics used
to bash Kevin for the way he wrote females but that they were seeing less of
that with Chasing Amy.
RH: Because she was gay? She must be strong--she's gay! [Both laugh]
MM: I don't know. Maybe because she had more development and so forth. But,
obviously, he'd only made two films prior to that, so it's not as though he'd
made a dozen where the male characters were in the spotlight.
RH: Yeah. And a lot of times he's writing his point of view, which happens to
be male, which I think is fine.
MM: A lot of footage, including entire scenes, was cut from Mallrats prior to
the theatrical release. Did any of it include you?
RH: There were scenes that were cut?
MM: There was an assassination attempt in the opening . . .
RH: Right, right, right. There was that and there was a scene that I had shot
with Sven, the security guard, at the book signing in the end. I really didn't
get along with him very well. And we were supposed to be lovers at the end. A
kind of gag. There was this last scene where I was supposed to flirt with him
and I just couldn't do it. [Laughs] How unprofessional I was, but I was 20 at
the time! [Laughs] So whether that was the reason he cut it or whether it just
didn't fit into the movie, I'm not sure, but I know that didn't end up in
MM: There's talk of a special edition laserdisc to this day.
RH: Oh really?
MM: Perhaps it will appear as one of the bonus scenes.
RH: I don't know . . .
MM: You hope not!
RH: I won't hold my breath!
MM: Did your affiliation with Mallrats seem to cause you any setbacks when it
vanished from theatres so quickly?
RH: No. You know, everybody had predicted that it was going to be a hit, so
that certainly would have set my career forward more quickly, had that
happened, but that . . . No. And, you know, isn't it crazy--it was just ahead
of its time. Look at all these high school movies out now.
MM: Yeah. I think some dimwits felt obliged to make negative comments about it
for a couple years, but then Chasing Amy came out and they decided Kevin Smith
was cool again. Something crazy like that.
RH: People are stupid.
MM: But have you noticed any attitude change from people since Chasing Amy
came out? The attitude of people you encounter in the business? Were there
people who cringed when you mentioned Mallrats that don't anymore?
RH: No, they still cringe if you say you were in Mallrats. [Laughs] And they
say Kevin Smith's cool! [Laughs] But the other people, there are so many who
have seen it like, you know, 90 times. But that's always been the case. From
the very beginning, right when it went to the video store, it seemed to get
this cult following--I usually call it cult just because it's a smaller
following--so there's always been those two dynamics. One group of people all
around who love it and then there's the people in the business. But the people
in the business forget fairly quickly, you know.
MM: Their attention spans are so short.
RH: [Laughs] Not that I'm here to bash anybody, but . . . [Laughs] I'm really
not, but yeah. So, now everybody knows that Kevin's cool. Good.
MM: When Kevin held Vulgarthon, Mallrats seemed to get the best response from
the audience in the theatre I was in. With Clerks, as Kevin said when I spoke
to him about the event, so many people have seen it so many times that it's
just not funny anymore. It's enjoyable, but you don't really bust a gut
laughing. But with Mallrats, people seem to have seen it fewer times. Also,
many didn't see it in the theatre with a big group of people and were seeing
it in that setting for the first time. I think it's enjoyed more sitting
around with a bunch of people than if you watch it at home by yourself.
RH: Absolutely. By yourself, it's kind of like, should I be laughing at this?
[Laughs] But when everybody bursts out you know it's OK.
MM: Did you become friends with anybody on the set?
RH: Oh yeah. I became friends with most of them. Most everybody. I see people.
I see Ethan a lot. And I see Kevin whenever he's in town. And Jason Mewes and
Jason Lee and I did another movie up in Canada.
MM: Drawing Flies.
RH: Right. So, I got to know them fairly well. I'm pretty much friends with
everybody. It's a small town here.
MM: Are you asked about Ben Affleck every other day now?
RH: No. Nobody seems to remember that he . . . invaded me. [Both laugh] Not
MM: Did you have the vaguest notion at the time that he'd become this big
quote unquote star?
RH: Nah. I mean, he always played it like he was, kind of. I really liked his
performance in Chasing Amy, so at the premiere I remember thinking this is
probably going to do a lot of good. For all of them. And it did it. But, no,
the Good Will Hunting thing, that's just amazing. And Kevin had a lot to do
with helping them get that to Miramax, too.
MM: How did you become involved with Drawing Flies?
RH: There was this guy Malcolm Ingram, who was writing for Film Threat, and he
was on the set of Mallrats the whole time. One day I noticed that he was the
only one who laughed when I made a joke. So, I thought, hmm, I like this guy.
And we became friends. He had this script and he asked me to do it.
MM: Carmen Lee spoke a little bit about the horrors of filming that movie at
Vulgarthon. Are there any horrific moments that come to mind for you?
RH: Oh God, yeah. One night, I think I was the last person to fall asleep. It
was five in the morning and suddenly I feel something dripping on my stomach,
but I'm not sure what is going on, really, because I'm asleep. And I look up
and the ceiling is pouring water down onto my bed, onto me. That's not a
common thing for me to wake up to! [Both laugh] My alarm goes off for some
reason--I hadn't set it--and then I tried to turn my light on and the bulb
burnt out. I run to the hallway and I see the walls are just covered in water.
Like sheets of water are streaming down the walls. I tried to wake up Malcolm
and he thinks I'm on drugs or something. He's like, "Shut up. Go back to
sleep." I don't know if he said shut up, but . . . I realized he's passed out,
he's not going to believe me. So I go to Martin, who seemed to be the most
responsible of the clan. I knew he would wake up. I go, "Martin, the house is
exploding--there's water everywhere!" And there's equipment all over the
place. Some pipe had broken. Finally, everybody woke up and the next day we
went to go brush our teeth and wash our faces at McDonalds. It was so funny
walking in, all scroungy. There's a couple old ladies in the McDonalds
bathroom and they stare at us as we wash our faces and brush our teeth. It was
MM: I remember Carmen saying something about not wanting to step foot in a
RH: She did? [Laughs] That's a shame. That's funny.
MM: What was it like to go from Mallrats, which had an excessive budget for
the sort of movie it was, to an ultra-low budget film like Drawing Flies?
RH: I've done so many films of varying budgets that it doesn't really phase me
either way. Your troubles are different, that's all.
MM: You don't have water leaks, I'd guess, on Mallrats.
RH: Right. You don't.
MM: At least not that big.
RH: Not that big. But you have room service bills.
MM: Malcolm's making a new film. I don't recall the title, but I understand
Denise Richards has been cast and it's about a bunch of people racing across
the Canadian border to warn some people that a pot farm is about to be busted.
Something to that effect. Will you be in it?
RH: Well, you know what, he wrote a part for me but then I'm not quite sure
what happened. No, I haven't talked to him in a while.
RH: Oh, that's OK. I'm just holding back, saying anything bad, but, you know
what, actually, I don't have anything bad to say, really. He's got his movie
to make and if he wants to do it that way then he should.
MM: How frequently are you recognized in public at this point?
RH: Oh, not that often. Every now and then.
MM: Is there a certain film or films you're most recognized from?
RH: For Fun and then Mallrats. I seem to have a lot of foreign people that
keep sending me letters. From all over the world now, because of the state of
the world media, but that more than people in this country. Some guy in
Amsterdam is trying to put a website together for me. I'm going to get him in
touch with the guy in Malaysia who's got every one of my movies on laserdisc
and see what they can come up with.
MM: All actors and actresses accumulate quote unquote die-hard fans who'll see
anything they're in, regardless of how big or small their role or what it's
about and so forth. In your case, it reaches another extreme because there are
obsessive Kevin Smith fans who'll see anything anyone from his films does. How
does that impact you?
RH: Good. I want people to see what I do, so that I can keep doing it, so for
whatever the reason.
MM: Is it at all freaky to be part of something that people obsess over so
RH: No. I mean, if you break it down enough, you could find reasons to be
freaked out about it, but if you get involved in this business you have to
know that's part of it.
MM: You gave a very strong performance in Fun. How did you approach that
RH: First of all, I was pretty young. I was like 18, playing a 15 year old. I
knew girls with similar predicaments. I just sort of combined all of the
people that I had known who have had difficult childhoods or abusive lives so
far. I somehow connected with her. And she was very intelligent and I wanted
to explore that, too, how a young girl who's so smart and so fucked deals with
MM: Was that a disturbing film to make?
RH: Yeah. Yeah, it was. Again, I was so young. Not that things don't resonate
when you're young, but they don't quite as much, it seems to me. It was
disturbing but also so quick. I mean, we shot it in seven days. I didn't have
time to be disturbed because I had to know all my lines. I had to know where I
was coming from. And I had to be in her skin.
MM: I heard a rumor that the director sped up the color scenes in the editing
process to make the characters appear more manic. Is that true?
RH: Only in the sped up part. There's a whole montage sequence that is clearly
sped up. I don't believe that's true except in that section. I don't think so.
I seem to remember it as what we did. Unless it's so slight . . . I don't
actually know that much about how film works.
MM: You had a scene with Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress. Were you
nervous about that?
RH: I was a little nervous. They were so cool though. They kind of alleviated
most of the stress, Denzel and Carl Franklin, the director. It was fun. I was
more nervous with French Kiss. Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. To see them all
staring at me. I was like, "What am I doing here?! I'm only 19! I can't handle
MM: You did those relatively close together, didn't you?
RH: One in February of '94 and the other was in October.
MM: And The Cure was around that point, right?
RH: Yeah, that summer.
MM: How long were you on the set of that one?
RH: The Cure? Oh, a week.
MM: You worked with Brad Renfro in that. Were you shocked to hear that he'd
been arrested recently?
RH: I'm shocked right now! I didn't know! What happened?
MM: He was arrested for alleged cocaine and marijuana possession.
RH: You know what though, they throw a kid from wherever he was from--not a
very culturally sophisticated place, as I recall--into Hollywood land at age
12--what do you expect? No, I'm not shocked at all. I'm saddened, because I
think he's really cool, but, um, it seems to be the way it goes.
MM: Yeah. There are always stories. But I guess in that case there was an
RH: That's too bad. I mean, fortunately, he's a kid and it will all get
erased. But the arrest, whatever, it's just too bad that's going on in his
MM: There's a film you did that played a festival or two last year called
Lover Girl. I haven't heard much about it apart from the fact that you're in
it along with Sandra Bernhard, Kristy Swanson and Tara Subkoff. And that it
has something to do with a massage parlor. What's the basic plot?
RH: Well, in keeping in theme with my career, it's a group of prostitutes.
[Both laugh] Massage parlor girls that . . . To me, the idea was trying to
comment on this sort of exploitation movies. B exploitation films. It's a
story where the young girl comes looking for her sister and ends up working as
a hooker. Basically, without any exploitation. Whether or not that was
successful is a choice people can make for themselves.
MM: It played at the Toronto Film Festival, right?
MM: How did that go?
RH: I heard it went well. I was not there.
MM: According to Internet Movie Database, it's now playing in Portugal.
MM: Yeah. Are there any plans for release here?
RH: I saw Tara the other day and she said she thought it was going to be on
MM: Allison Anders was an executive producer, correct?
MM: Was she present on the set?
RH: No, she was not.
MM: Was it more of a financing sort of thing?
RH: She was there after it was made. I saw it when it went to the L.A.
Independent Film Festival. She was there to introduce and everything. She
seemed to be very pleased with it.
MM: Do you have any other films in the can awaiting release?
RH: I'm doing something right now called Sex Monster.
MM: Sex Monster?
RH: Just to keep it going. [Both laugh] It's with Mariel Hemmingway, Kevin
Pollack, Stephen Baldwin and this guy Mike Binder, who wrote it and is
directing and staring in it. He did Indian Summer and Crossing the Bridge and
Blankman. It's a comedy. Very, very, very funny. At least the crew is rolling
every day. I play an airhead bisexual hairstylist who falls in love with
Mariel Hemmingway. The concept is basically a married couple, Mike and Mariel,
and Mike is obsessed with the idea of having a threesome. She doesn't really
want to, but finally she says OK and they decide on me to be the one to be
with them. And she discovers that she really likes girls and starts sleeping
with every one she can. That's the basic story. I'm having a really, really
good time. I've played a lot of smart girls, and a lot of girls where it
really didn't matter if they were smart or stupid, but this girl is
particularly stupid and it's a lot of fun for me.
MM: Does the film have a distributor yet or will it go the festival route
RH: You know, I'm not sure. I know it's kind of like a love project for Mike
and he didn't want to get into making distribution deals or whatever before
he's got it in the can. I'm pretty sure that there is not a deal, but I don't
know if he plans to have it go to festivals or not.
MM: Anything lined up for after Sex Monster?
RH: Nope. Not yet.
MM: Looking at scripts and so forth?
RH: Yeah. I've got some cool things in the oven. If that's the right
expression. I'm not sure.
MM: Do you find that you get a lot of these promiscuous character scripts
because of the roles you've done?
RH: You know what? No. I just get hired for them. I have not been typed. It
seems to me, that I've played so many different kinds of people that I really
don't get one particular kind of role sent to me. I just seem to get hired for
sort of strange nymphomaniacs. [Laughs] And I don't really want to look into
that. I'll just keep working. No, I've played sweet girls, too. Just not as
many. I think I enjoy characters that are extreme in some capacity and extreme
sexuality seems to go with that.
MM: I remember reading an interview where an actress said the best characters
to play are drug addicts because you get to show the most range.
RH: I think that's entirely dependent on the writing. You can write a wholly
three dimensional character who never leaves his house and see all sides of
the person, whether they're on drugs or not. Sure, drugs help that just
because then the people are very unstable, but I certainly don't think that as
a rule, that drug addicts have more range.
MM: Are you proudest of certain films on your resume or certain scenes that
were really difficult to pull off?
RH: I'm just proud I'm still alive. [Laughs] I don't know how to answer that,
really. I'm just proud to, like, still be doing this. As far as different
works, time will tell. I'll be proud when I have a body of work and a place in
the world that I've been reaching for. Then I'll think about stuff like that.
Right now, I don't really know.
MM: Who, if any, are your favorite actresses? Is there anyone who really
RH: I dig Gena Rowlands a lot. I really like the young actresses right now. I
like Christina Ricci and I like Natalie Portman. Who else do I like? I'm
surprised that I gave you three. I usually can never answer the favorite
question, but right now those are who pop to mind.
MM: When did you decide you wanted to be an actress?
RH: I started doing theatre in Northern California when I was six years old. I
asked my mom to get me an agent when I was eight. So, kind of in the very
MM: Wow. And did you actually get an agent when you were eight?
RH: I did. I got an agency called Top Models. We didn't stay there for very
long. Then we went and got an agency in the city. In the San Francisco area,
it's mostly print work and commercials. That's what I did.
MM: What was your first film role?
MM: With C. Thomas Howell, right?
MM: I saw that one years ago. Vaguely remember it.
RH: Yeah. It's a classic.
MM: How do you kill time on movie sets?
RH: I read. I play cards. And I write poems if someone pisses me off. [Both
laugh] So I don't have to make a scene.
MM: Any desire to write screenplays?
RH: I have dabbled in them. Perhaps one day. I work closely with a lot of
writers, helping them with characters and stuff. I have written something on
my own, but . . . Yeah, maybe one day. Maybe a novel.
MM: What are you reading right now?
RH: I am right now reading Lolita and Dylan Thomas--that's poetry.
MM: Are there any particular directors whom you'd really like to work with?
RH: Milos Forman. So much. That would be great. Who else? Well, Kubrick, of
MM: That would be a major time commitment!
RH: [Laughs] Yeah. For the last 10 years of my life! Who else? Steven
Soderbergh. I didn't see Out of Sight. I just really like sex, lies and
videotape. I'm sure there's many others. Scorsese. The geniuses, that's who I
want to work with. I don't know if all these people fall into that category,
but most of them do.
MM: Is there a certain sort of role you're looking for? A dream part?
RH: No, I have a few. I have one project I've been trying to get made for a
long time that is the closest it's come to that for me in a while. It's an
emotional film. It's marketable. It's maybe more cerebral, I don't know. It's
suspenseful. It just doesn't seem to be getting financed.They've had a lot of
things fall through, but I've been with it for a long time and one of these
days I'm going to get it made. So, I actually have that character in my lap
right now. Is there another thing? Not really. I sing and dance. I grew up in
musical theatre. I'd love to have to open that up inside me again. I'd love to
do something where I have to sing and dance.
MM: Perhaps Woody Allen will do another musical.
RH: Yeah, but I'd rather be like a lounge singer. And then do another movie
about being a jazz dancer or something. A ballet dancer and have a body
double, because I'm not much of a ballerina anymore.
MM: Did you take ballet as a child?
MM: The horror genre is obviously doing extremely well again. Would you do a
RH: I hate the horror genre, personally. And it's for like silly reasons,
maybe. I'm afraid of those things and I don't want to put it out into the
universe because I think that, you know, mutilation is bad. [Laughs] So, no, I
don't really want to do that.
MM: Gus Van Sant's remaking Psycho--
RH: --That's a little different. I mean, if Gus Van Sant called me up and said
he wanted me to play a part in that, I would be lying if I told you I would
say no. But Psycho was a really good movie--what's he going to do better?
MM: If you could play any character in a remake of any film, is there a
certain character you'd really like to do?
RH: Francis. Jessica Lange did Francis. Francis Farmer. That's the one that
pops in my head. Or Gena Rowlands character in Opening Night. Those two would
be pretty cool.
MM: What do you think about this current trend where filmmakers are recruiting
young actresses from TV shows?
RH: You know, whatever. [Laughs] I think it's a sort of empty, mindless trend
that will continue on its empty, mindless way. I am not a big fan of
television at all. I think it's responsible for the homogenization of the
universe and I find that upsetting. But, you know, it's there and if people
are doing it there's obviously a demand for them. Good for them.
MM: You did a made-for-TV movie in 1995, right? Fighting for My Daughter?
RH: It just played again, which was strange. Two weeks ago.
MM: What was that experience like?
RH: It was interesting. The girl was entering blindly into a very dark world.
I moved out of my house when I was 16 and I was sort of proud of the fact that
I never went anywhere blindly. I always knew what was going on, which, of
course, wasn't the case, but I was convinced that it was. At that time, to
play a character who's sort of leaving home and entering this world totally
blindly and not trying to pretend like she knew any better was kind of
difficult for me. To sort of give up the loose hold I had on my strength at
the time. It was an emotional thing.
MM: Have you done any other television?
RH: I've done episodic. I did an Afterschool Special. I did The Wonder Years.
I did In The Heat of the Night. The Commish. Empty Nest. Yeah, I've done my
share. Just really realized that it wasn't . . . Apart from my views on
television as a whole, the work wasn't enjoyable. I like making films for some
MM: There's more of a permanency.
RH: Right. And less of a permanency in your life, because you go however many
weeks and then it's over. But the feeling is just different, for me.
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