The late 1990s saw a resurgence of teen romantic comedies, like 10 Things I Hate About You, Can’t Hardly Wait, and 1999’s She’s All That. The movie opened Super Bowl weekend and was the number one movie at the box office. It went on to gross $103,166,989 worldwide and even today still ranks as the ninth highest-grossing teen romance film (the films in the Twilight series occupy the top five spots on that list).
Freddie Prinze Jr. starred as Zack, a high schooler who makes a bet with Dean (Paul Walker) that he will groom the nerdy Laney (Rachael Leigh Cook) into a prom queen. A modern adaptation of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, the film launched Prinze’s leading man career, and also featured early performances from Kieran Culkin, Gabrielle Union, Usher, and rapper Lil’ Kim. The soundtrack played an important part in the movie, too: Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me” and Fatboy Slim’s “The Rockafeller Skank” propelled She’s All That into iconic territory. Here are 12 surprising facts about the movie to celebrate its 20th anniversary.
1. M. Night Shyamalan did an uncredited rewrite of the script.
In 2013, M. Night Shyamalan told Movies.com that he “ghost-wrote the movie,” though the credit solely went to R. Lee Fleming Jr., who stated Shyamalan lied about writing the script. But former Miramax employee Jack Lechner confirmed Shyamalan’s involvement. “He did a solid rewrite,” Lechner told Entertainment Weekly. “He made it deeper, made the characters richer. I can see how Fleming would say it’s his movie, and I can see why M. Night would say it’s his movie. They’re both right.”
One of Shyamalan’s contributions to the rewrite was the ending graduation scene. “He came up with an idea of when he was in high school, somebody streaked across their campus at graduation, which I thought was fun but I didn’t know quite how to do that given the constraints of our rating and also the time that I had to do it,” She’s All That director Robert Iscove told Cosmopolitan. “That’s why I did the graduation with Freddie just getting up and tossing the soccer ball to her.”
2. Personality was the most important thing the filmmakers were looking for in casting Laney.
Besides Rachael Leigh Cook, the producers considered Leelee Sobieski, Mena Suvari, and Jordana Brewster for Laney. “She had to be beautiful, self-deprecating, funny, withdrawn, and all that,” Iscove told The Daily Beast about the role. Yet looks weren’t the only thing that mattered. “Times have changed a lot in Hollywood, but back when we did the movie, it was very much the Hollywood standard [to cast] a beautiful girl,” Iscove told Cosmopolitan. “It was going to be our Clark Kent moment. You’re never going to get the ugly duckling to really transform … certainly [not] back then. [So] it was more the quality of the actor that we wanted to go for, someone who could have the range from being very standoffish and cerebral and in her head, and then open up and be warmer and interact with the people and be more than, ‘How beautiful.’”
3. The film was released on the anniversary of Freddie Prinze’s death.
Prinze’s famous actor-comedian dad, Freddie Prinze, committed suicide on January 28, 1977 (he was pulled off life support the next day), when Prinze Jr. was just 10 months old. The movie came out on January 29, 1999—22 years after the tragedy. Because of the anniversary, Prinze wasn’t feeling up to attending the premiere.
“I had crazy visions like something bad was going to happen. But I got there and everyone seemed to enjoy it,” he told The Daily Beast. “I’ve only seen the film once and it was in that weird frame of mind, so I’ve never really gotten the opportunity to properly appreciate it.”
4. It helped make “Kiss Me” a worldwide hit.
Sixpence None the Richer recorded the song “Kiss Me” in 1997 for their eponymous album and released it as an official single in 1998. When the song was used in the film, it peaked at number two on the Billboard charts and remained in the top 10 for 16 straight weeks. In 1999, the song was ubiquitous; it also appeared on Dawson’s Creek a couple of times. As lead singer Leigh Nash told Pop Entertainment, a man from Columbia Records came to a showcase they did in L.A. and heard them play “Kiss Me.” “He knew it was the single and I imagine had heard it before, but he thought it would be perfect for a summer movie. Actually, it wasn’t a summer movie, it came out in the end of January, I think. But, he was right. It definitely was a hit with the young folks.”
5. Kieran Culkin didn’t know why he was wearing hearing aids.
Kieran Culkin’s character, Simon, wore hearing aids in the movie, which seemed arbitrary to the actor. “It’s one of those movies that always seems to be on—and I only know that because friends are always telling me, and then they’ll ask, ‘Why did you have hearing aids?’ and I’ll be like, ‘I don’t f***ing know!’” he told The Daily Beast.
6. The “Hoover” scene was added to appeal to young male moviegoers.
Two bullies try to mess with Simon (Culkin) by putting pubic hairs on a piece of pizza, but Zack intervenes and forces the guys to “hoover” their own creation. Though the pubic hairs were made of corn stalks, the studio bosses wanted to keep the PG-13 rating. “There were hours of conversations about, ‘Well, how many corn stalks do we put on the pizza? Has he torn out all of his pubes, or only a couple of pubes?’ But now it’s one of those great, groan-worthy moments,” Iscove told The Daily Beast.
Iscove explained to Cosmo that the scene was intended to cater to men, who don’t typically like going to see romantic comedies. “So in order for them not to veto it, a certain amount of hot girls and a certain amount of gross-out [were necessary], which is why Laney starts at the beginning hocking the loogie, which is a little bit disgusting—but guys are immediately with her and with the movie. And the pube stuff keeps them going so that they can get to the romance later on. We were careful to tread that line.”
7. Prinze and Dulé Hill tap danced together.
Dulé Hill wasn’t allowed to tap dance during the prom scene, but he would tap dance on set. “When we were shooting the volleyball sequence at the beach, I heard him sliding and tapping his feet on the wood, and I said, ‘Are you tap dancing?’ And he said, ‘I’m a hoofer, man.’ And that’s how we bonded,” Prinze Jr. told The Daily Beast. “We started going to this dance studio in Hollywood and we’d tap dance. We did it all the time. Eventually, I turned a room in my house into a tap dance studio and we’d put on rap music, tap dance, and drink scotch until like 4 in the morning.” The two friends reunited on Hill’s show Psych in 2010 when Prinze made a guest appearance.
8. Jodi Lynn O’Keefe had a major crush on Paul Walker.
In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe admitted she had a crush on Paul Walker. “I was like, ‘What is that beautiful human being?’ I think we all felt that way, like, we all walked onto the set and it was like, ‘Who is this Adonis?’ He was a doll baby, that’s what I called him. He was just one of the sweetest men I’d ever met. It’s terrible when anyone passes too soon. I remember it knocked the breath out of me. I felt really heartbroken for his daughter, because that was what we talked about the most when we were at work, we talked about his daughter, and it just felt so tragic and wrong, so early in his life.”
9. Prinze trained with a professional Hacky sack player.
In one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Prinze performs hacky sack at a performance art show, in front of Laney. “I can’t hacky sack like the way you saw that sequence cut together—I have five, six reps in me tops,” Prinze told The Daily Beast. “I had to have an earpiece in my ear that kept this weird, modern art, crappy beat in my head, and do the hacky sack, and even if it fell, I had to continue the sequence: ‘Never let it drop … don’t let it drop … sooner or later, it has to drop.’ To prepare for the scene, the producers brought in a world-class hacky sack player to help Prinze keep the rhythm going, “and in five minutes he had me going from six in a row to 12 in a row,” Prinze said.
10. Lil’ Kim was the most extravagant cast member.
When they filmed the movie, the rapper was already famous—but Iscove didn’t realize it until near the end of the shoot. “I thought, ‘Thank God I didn’t know about this before,’ because I only knew her as this sweet young thing that she was presenting in the film,” he told The Daily Beast. Prinze was aware of her status, though. “This movie cost us $6 million to make,” Prinze told The Daily Beast. “It was not a big budget film. Lil’ Kim showed up in a stretch limousine to the set and was wearing almost our budget in diamond earrings, rings, necklaces, sunglasses, high-heeled shoes with diamonds on top. I remember thinking, ‘This girl’s got like $3.5 million on her right now!’ And that’s how she came to the set every day. I remember thinking, ‘I wish I had some rap talent!’”
11. A remake could be happening.
For several years, there’s been talk of a She’s All That remake. In April 2015, The Wrap reported that Tonya Lewis Lee (Spike Lee’s wife) had plans on producing a remake, with Kenny Leon directing. But Iscove doesn’t think a remake makes sense.
“It’s so quintessential ’90s, so hopefully if they’re going to do it, they’re going to make it whatever a 2016 version is,” he told Cosmopolitan (in 2015). “But if you’re going to do that, why not just do Pygmalion in high school, why do She’s All That? She’s All That was of the time. It’s like, I could remake Pretty in Pink or Sixteen Candles, but unless I’m going to use it of that period and of that time with those people, why call it Pretty in Pink? It’s not going to be Molly Ringwald. She’s All That is not going to be Freddie and Rachael. I wish them well. I hope they make it a contemporary version.”
Because the film was based on Pygmalion, Cook looks at the idea of a remake a different way, though.
I dunno, SAT was Pygmalion so I’d say we are fair game for a remake
— Rachael Leigh Cook (@RachaelLCook) January 8, 2018
“I think that [a remake] would be neat,” Cook told International Business Times in 2018. “I think it would be a heck of a lot easier than being spoofed, which has already happened to us.” (That spoof she’s referring to, of course, is 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie, which skewered She’s All That and a handful of other beloved teen films.)
An earlier version of this article ran in 2016.