BIOGRAPHY OF BRYAN JOHNSON OF VIEW ASKEW
by Dane Youssef
This man has made his way into film by complete nepotism and some might say sheer dumb luck. Johnson has attached his trailer to Smith's oversized backside. Working full-time at Kevin Smith's famed comic book store "Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash" and having walk-on parts with fellow Smith friend Walt Flanagan, Johnson is living proof that it pays to know people in high places.
Tall, lanky, stocky and goateed, Bryan Johnson is best known to ViewAskew fans for his role as the uptight, loud-mouthed co-owner of the "Comic Toast" store Steve-Dave Pulasi. This character first appeared in Kevin Smith's widely-panned sophmore effort "Mallrats" which has since become a cult fave. Like all of Smith's character's, the character of Steve-Dave has become recurring so Johnson has had other bit roles since then.
Johnson met friends and future ViewAskew Walt Flanagan, Jason Mewes and yes Smith as well at a recreation center in Red Bank, New Jersey. The four were huge comic book fans and spent an awful lot of time together even after they eventually quit hanging out at the Rec. Johnson has always had a twisted sense of humor and has been a huge fan of offbeat movies. Although no one probably could have guessed how that would have fallen into place so perfectly later on down the road...
Johnson and Smith worked together at the Quick Stop and RST Video years ago, back before Smith had made "Clerks." Johnson was the only then friend of Smith's that did not appear in the film because the two actually had a falling out.
Johnson had to cover for Smith at the store one day. He had a date and didn't want to blow it off. Smith actually came back late and Johnson had left and put up a sign in the store saying it had been contaminated by the bubonic plauge. Someone saw the sign and belived it and called the police. The manager found out and Johnson was fired. Smith was upset but decided he would wait for Johnson to call him and Johnson thought the same. The two did not talk for some time.
After "Clerks" got picked up, Smith called Johnson and the two finally buried the hatchet. Smith cast Johnson in his next film, the disasterous "Mallrats." Along with fellow friend and non-actor actor Walt Flanagan as a couple of angry comic book geeks.
After it was over, Johnson and Flanagan continued to play the characters as a running joke in Smith's films.
It was the View Askew logo that actually launched Johnson into filmmaking and would give him his first break behind the camera.
The logo of the ViewAskew company is a large fat hairy clown with a 5 o' clock shadow in women's lingere--a drawing that was done by Walt Flanagan as he worked at a T-shirt print store where labels were put on shirts. Smith loved the drawing and asked for it before it became just another shirt design. It was even fully animated and became the opening promo for Smith's first full-length feature "Clerks."
One night after the distribution of "Clerks' finally hit, Johnson, Smith and Flanagan were all standing around outside the Quick Stop talking about the clown and what the guy's story would be. Kevin said he wanted to write and direct a movie about the whole thing. Johnson was interested and since it didn't seem like Smith's usual cup of tea, Johnson asked Smith if he would mind if he took a stab at writing the script. Smith told him to go ahead and give it a shot.
Johnson spent about 28 days writing the script. After "Mallrats" was wrapped up, Johnson showed Smith the finished script. Smith loved it and told him that soon they were gonna film it. Smith had planned to direct, but with "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma" and even the executive producing of "Good Will Hunting," there was suddenly too much on Smith's plate. So Johnson decided to get behind the camera and direct as well.
The story was something like this: A children's party clown was ekeing out a meger and small living. One day, he decides to broaden his base by appearing as a gag stripper. Appearing at a bachelor parties and pretending to be the entertainment before the real stripper arrives. Giving the groom a good scare and then taking off.
His first gig is a scam as he is gang-raped by a family of mentally-ill inbred rapists who film the whole thing. Losing his will to live, he saves a little fan and her mother from certain death and becomes a flavor of the month on sensationalistic tabloid TV-shows. A TV exec is moved by the story and finds him endearing and offers him his own TV show. All is looking up... until the rapists see him and blackmail him with the rape tape.
Since Johnson had never been to film school and his film experience consisted mostly of "renting movies," he turned to buddy Smith for inspiration.
The movie was certainly a film with a unique and original edge. But many found it to be too violent, dark and mixed for most tastes. It had big trouble finding a festival to play at until it was picked up by the Torono Film Festival. Out of 200 people sitting in the audience, a fourth of the audience walked out when the movie turned on a dime into a horror-drama (with the clown getting raped). Lions Gate Entertainment (which picked up the dropped Smith film "Dogma") agrred to pick up "Vulgar" and about two years later, "Vulgar" was released on Home Video and DVD.
Many people checked out and rented "Vulgar" because of the connection to Kevin Smith. And because of that, many were disapointed. Even horrified. Johnson's mixture of campy-clown comedy and horrific drama was an acquired taste and a far, far, far and away cry from the Jay & Silent Bob and dick and ass jokes that Smith cranks out on a daily basis. Some got into the movie because of the Smith conncection and were pleasantly surprised and amazed. But most were repulsed and disgusted beyond words.
The critical reviews of "Vulgar" were not much better. It was mostly panned and people remarked that Johnson should have stuck as Smith's friend and never should have given him a shot at filmmaking.
Many complained about the film's verbose dialouge. The characters appeared to be speaking "Kevin Smith-ese." The dialouge was attacked as "Mock-Kevin Smith," a very poor man's Kevin Smith" and "Smith-esuqe." Many also complained that Johnson was emulating Smith's directorial style--he is often called one the most inept directors in Hollywood--usually by himself.
But there were some who were downright enthralled by the film and Smith himself loved it and does so to this very day. Johnson's foot was in the door.
At this time, he is now continuing working at "Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash" as well as two scripts for ViewAskew.
If nothing else, "Vulgar" proves that Johnson is a filmmaker with a very twisted sense of humor and style... and really something to say.
Good luck, Bry..