Ugh, as if! This movie might be over 20 years old, but it still feels like yesterday that we were breathlessly watching Alicia Silverstone learn to drive, deal with social cliques, and fall in love. Clueless was loosely based off of Emma by Jane Austen, but we bet we can surprise you with these fun facts!
In the opening scene, Cher gives a speech about immigration and mispronounces the word “Haitian”. In fact, Alicia Silverstone herself didn’t know how to properly pronounce the word. Director Amy Heckerling told crew to not correct her, finding it funnier like that.
Find out the parallels between Clueless and Emma, next!
Clueless follows ‘Emma’ pretty closely! For a handy guide, here are the characters:
- Cher is Emma
- Josh is Mr Knightley
- Tai is Harriet Smith
- Elton is Mr Elton
- Travis is Robert Martin
- Christian is possibly Frank Churchill
- Dionne is possibly Mrs Weston
In fact, Amy Heckerling said, “I remembered reading Emma in college and being struck at how much it reminded me of old TV shows like Gidget. There’s something so basic about it.”
How did the catchphrases come about?
Amy Heckerling studied real Beverly Hills High School kids to get an idea of how to create her characters! But the catchphrase ‘As if!’ actually came from the lesbian community at the time.
“Any outsider group is going to create their own language—whether it’s homosexual, black, prisoners, or cab drivers,” Heckerling explained. ” You just have to be willing to open your ears and listen.”
What was the project originally envisioned as?
Fox turned down the project, which was originally going to be called Clueless in California, or No Worries and was slated to be a TV show. They were worried that it wouldn’t be a hit. Paramount Pictures picked up the project and ran with it – a smart move, as it ended up being one of the most iconic movies of the 90’s!
How did Alicia Silverstone get the role?
Cher got her start thanks to Aerosmith! Well, Alicia Silverstone did. She appeared in their video for “Cryin'” as a blond ingenue with a distinctly valley-girl vibe. Amy Heckerling (the director)’s casting director had pitched Silverstone based on her performance in The Crush, but Heckerling wanted the girl from the Aerosmith video.
Fortunately for her, they were one and the same!
How did the movie help gay rights?
The movie, in its own subtle way, helped with gay rights, with the gay character of Christian, who Cher was initially interested in before realizing he was gay. In fact, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) thanked Amy Heckerling after the movie came out!
“I got a letter from GLAAD that was very happy,” Heckerling said. “[Christian] stood up to the bullies that could have possibly hurt Tai. They were glad to see he was doing something brave besides, you know, he’s my new shopping friend.”
The awesome speech Cher gave in debate class was originally two minutes, a full minute longer than you see in the movie. It was included in the theatrical trailer, and included a rant about “mismatched chairs which was totally icky” in her garden party analogy.
What did Paul Rudd think of Murray?
Paul Rudd tried out for all the roles he could! Even though he didn’t really get the script, that didn’t stop him from trying out for Christian, being fascinated by the concept of a non-stereotypical, cool gay character.
He also tried out for Murray, which went to Donald Faison. Funnily enough, he didn’t realize that Murray was going to be black, saying of Murray: “I thought he was kind of a funny hip-hop wannabe. I didn’t realize that the character was African-American.”
Which of the high-school kids had an actual kid?
Even though Josh (Paul Rudd) was meant to be a college kid, he was far from the oldest actor of the privileged Beverly Hills bunch. Stacey Dash, who played Dionne, was three years older than Rudd, at 27, and had a six year old son!
Meanwhile, Brittany Murphy (Tai) was actually a virgin who couldn’t drive! “It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 10 years since that movie. I really was a virgin who couldn’t drive. I was living in an apartment in the Valley with my mom—and I remember starting to see these huge billboards of us all over town. It was amazing!”
Who wanted to play Cher?
A lot of current A-Listers tried out for roles in this movie! Reese Witherspoon had tried out for the role of Cher, Zooey Deschanel auditioned for Amber, Terrence Howard went for the role of Murray, and Lauryn Hill almost played Dionne.
What did Alicia Silverstone have to do to get the role?
Alicia Silverstone didn’t have to audition at all! Amy Heckerling met her over lunch and the deal was sealed, likely because Heckerling was such a fan of Silverstone’s work in The Crush and in various Aerosmith videos.
The movie ended up launching her career, catapulting her from a cute video girl to a household name!
What happened to the amazing wardrobe from the movie?
Being that these were privileged California girls, many assumed that the costume budget was astronomical. In fact, even though everyone had diverse and full wardrobes, costume designer Mona May wanted everyone to look like authentic mall rats as opposed to high-fashion junkies.
The entire costume budget for the movie was $200,000 – not a lot when you consider all the characters and scenes they needed to be dressed for. Alicia Silverstone got to keep all her clothes, and donated most of them to charity.
Where can you see the director in the movie?
Amy Heckerling stuck herself into the movie! You probably had no idea, but at the very end, at Mr. Hall and Miss Geist’s wedding, she can be seen – as one of the non-teen bridesmaids fighting for the bouquet!
Which two actors kept meeting in other roles?
Alicia Silverstone and Jeremy Sisto keep on appearing together on-screen! Before Clueless, they starred in the thriller Hideaway, where he plays a devil-worshipping murderer stalking Silverstone. Years later, they appeared in the short-lived ABC comedy Suburgatory as love interests.
How long did the movie take?
The movie only took 40 days to shoot! Most movies usually require double that time.
Did you notice these subtle hints about Christian being gay in the movie?
There are subtle hints to Christian’s sexuality throughout the movie. He and Cher watch a few movies together – Some Like It Hot (1959) and Spartacus (1960). One of these movies deals with cross-dressing men, and the other features a famous scene where a Roman master tries to seduce his male servant.
When he calls Cher from the museum, the painting behind him is a scene of two men embracing – another subtle hint.
What did Alicia Silverstone think of the fashion in the movie?
Alicia Silverstone may have convinced us she was Cher, but in real life, the two were very different.
“I didn’t understand fashion at all,” Silverstone has said. “I had to do 60 changes … and I was so tired and I had to keep having fittings so I kind of hated them. I hated the clothes. I just didn’t get it.” Perhaps that’s why she donated all her clothes from the movie!
She was totally guilty of this next thing, too!
She also kept on irritating the makeup artists by not listening to their rules about her skin care, opting instead to just go to sleep at the end of a long day of filming without washing off her makeup.
“‘Well, you take her and you tell her [to take off her makeup],’” makeup director Alan Friedman recalls producers telling him. “I said, ‘No, no, I’m not her mother. You know, I gave her the — she has a set of stuff in her trailer and she has a set of stuff at home.’ ‘Then make her take everything off before you go home.’ All right, fine. So that lasted a day.”
Where did the inspiration for Cher & Josh come from?
Cher and Josh’s relationship was inspired by real-life events! Director Amy Heckerling’s grandparents were actually step-siblings that fell in love and married. “Totally not blood-related,” Heckerling explains in the book As If! The Oral History of Clueless, by Jen Chaney.
“When I was a kid all she did was complain about her stepmother to me … but her step brother, whom she later married, was always a protector. They were married. They knew each other from the time they were teenagers. They were so dependent on each other and so angry all the time with each other. Anyhow, that cracked me up. So it did not seem like a crazy thing to me [for Josh and Cher to be together].”
How did they film the “suck and blow” scene?
In the famous “suck and blow” scene, it was a bit difficult for the actors to successfully pass a credit card from mouth to mouth. Producers switched to a cardboard prop card, but that still kept dropping, so the actors used a lot of chapstick to help the card adhere better to their mouths! Except for Elton, of course.
What would “How to Speak Cluelessly” have taught you?
The movie launched its own language, in a way, introducing words like ‘Betty’, “Baldwin’, and ‘Monet’ to everyday conversation. Amy Heckerling had come up with most of the ideas herself, and as a promotional tool, the studio released a vocabulary booklet called “How to Speak Cluelessly”.
What would Alicia Silverstone do on-set?
Alicia Silverstone, like most teenagers in the world, loved sleeping, even falling asleep on-set! One funny example is in the drivers seat during her drivers test.
Ron Orbach, the actor who played the DMV tester said, “Alicia’s sitting in the driver’s seat. Again, eyes closed, looking like she’s sleeping or something, I couldn’t tell. But when action is called, her eyes open, she goes, and it’s basically spot-on: hits every line, every moment, perfectly. ‘Cut!’ And she goes back to sleep.”
Check out this really great reunion interview!
Finally, check out this cool interview from the cast, 20 years after the release!
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