We’re Totally Buggin’ About These “Clueless” Secrets
When Clueless hit theaters in July 1995, critics didn’t expect it to be one of the greatest teen movies of all time. On the surface, it appears to be just another dim-witted comedy but it doesn’t take to long to realize it’s much more nuanced than it looks.
Clueless became a mega-hit and certified itself as a ’90s cult classic. Even though you might have watched the movie on repeat as a teen, read on for some Clueless facts that will make you, well, less clueless.
It’s Based On A Jane Austen Novel
Clueless isn’t just a made-up teen movie. The writer and director, Amy Heckerling, actually loosely based it off of author Jane Austen’s 1918 classic Emma. English lit majors might recognize the similarities between the two. Both Cher Horowitz and Emma are socialites who enjoy matchmaking and have a widowed father.
Other characters in the film connect with the book. Tai is supposed to be Harriet while Josh is supposed to be Mr. Knightly.
It Was Supposed To Be A TV Show
Heckerling’s first success was writing and directing another teen cult classic, Fast Times At Ridgemont High. She felt like she could never top the success of it so she decided in the ’90s to start developing a television series instead.
In 1993, Heckerling came up with a series called No Worries. It was going to be about the life of a group of popular kids in a California high school, with the main character being an optimistic girl. Sound familiar? The networks never picked it up so Heckerling took the concept and reworked it into Clueless.
The Guys Were Supposed To Be The Focus
It was 20th Century Fox who eventually gave Heckerling the go-ahead to make Clueless but they had one little problem. The studio wanted the male characters to be the focus of the film. They thought that there wouldn’t be a big enough audience for a film where the three main leads were women.
Heckerling hated the idea and stood her ground to keep Cher as the main character. Eventually, she convinced Paramount Pictures to make the movie instead with her original vision.
There Were A Lot Of Big Names In Line For The Film
Clueless was the big break for many unknown actors and actresses like Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd, but there were some big names up for the spot. Angelina Jolie auditioned to play Cher but was deemed “too mature” and Reese Witherspoon auditioned but just missed out.
Sarah Michelle Gellar was going to play Amber until her schedule conflicted with shooting, and Ben Affleck auditioned to play Josh. Even Dave Chappelle tried out for the cast.
Alicia Silverstone Didn’t Even Want The Role
Considering there was such stiff competition to be in the film, it’s surprising to hear that Alicia Silverstone didn’t actually want to take the lead role at first. She thought the character Cher was just a “materialistic, annoying little [expletive]” who wasn’t worth playing.
In fact, Silverstone didn’t even audition for the role. She had a lunch meeting with Heckerling because the director “wanted the girl from those Aerosmith videos.” We’re glad she took the role because we can’t imagine anyone else playing Cher.
Heckerling Created A New Language For The Film
Many ultra-fans of Clueless end up picking up some of the best quotes and dialogue. Terms like “Betty” and “Baldwin” were said frequently throughout the film and completely invented by Heckerling. In fact, the cast didn’t have a clue what the words meant when they first read the script.
If you’re interested in learning exactly what all the slang means, the studio released a booklet of terminology called “How To Speak Cluelessly.” It was originally just to promote the film but now it’s a fan favorite.
They Didn’t Skimp When It Came To The Costuming
Not only is Clueless remembered for its slang but also for the incredible fashion. Mona May was the costume designer for the film and it was her first job. She included 53 different kinds of plaid over the course of the film and Cher wears seven of them herself.
Cher’s costumes have gone on to fame too. Her white dress and the sheer jacket was so popular that in 2010, Calvin Klein reissued the dress for sale.
The Cast Added Their Own Ad-Libs
The cast contributed to some of the best lines in the film as well. That scene where Cher mispronounces the word “Haitians” as “Haiti-ans” was a complete mistake by Alicia Silverstone. Heckerling had to fight the producers to keep it in because she felt the innocent mistake was “So Cher.”
Donald Faison, who played Murray, also ad-libbed the phrase “keeping it real” which quickly became real ’90s lingo and Brittany Murphy (Tai) improvised the “rolling with the homies” dance.
Paul Rudd Tried To Play Murray
Yes, you read that right. Paul Rudd auditioned for the role of the African-American boyfriend of Dionne. In Rudd’s defense, he didn’t know the character was written to be African-American. Rudd originally auditioned to play Christian but when that didn’t work out, he asked to read lines for Murray.
Rudd said he thought Murray “was kind of a funny hip-hop wannabe.” Of course, we know that Rudd ended up playing Josh and the role of Murray rightfully went to Donald Faison.
The Movie Eventually Returned To Television
Heckerling envisioned Clueless to be a television show at first, and eventually, it actually happened. Inspired by the movie, Clueless the television series premiered on ABC in 1996. The show followed the continuing adventures of Cher, Dionne, Amber, and the rest of the cast.
Stacey Dash, Elisa Donovan, Donald Faison, and many other cast members reprised their roles but Alicia Silverstone was unable to because she has signed a developmental deal with Columbia Tri-Star. Instead, actress Rachel Blanchard took over the role of Cher.
It Inspired A Musical
More than two decades after Clueless was released on film, a jukebox musical made its way to Off-Broadway. The musical was entirely based on the movie and Heckerling gave it her blessing. The jukebox musical featured some of the best songs of the ’90s like “No Scrubs” by TLC and “Torn” by Natalie Imbruglia.
Clueless, The Musical opened to mixed reviews. While many critics considered it a “lightweight” narrative, the songs, costumes, and choreography were highly praised.
And Now There’s A Possible Reunion
Die-hard Clueless fans have been brewing with excitement again after the original stars of the film, (Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, and Breckin Meyer) all came together for a panel at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.
The four answered fan questions about what it was like making the film and how their lives changed from it. Most importantly though, Silverstone admitted that if Heckerling wanted to do a sequel to the film then she’d sign on.
Beverly Hills High Schoolers Were Studied For The Film
When Heckerling envisioned the high school that Cher and her friends would attend, she wanted to create a “hyper-pastel fantasy place.” Of course, she still wanted to make it realistic so Heckerling actually sat in on classes at Beverly Hills High School to get a good sense of what 17-year-olds were like.
Sitting in on the classes not only helped Heckerling create a high school experience but some of Cher’s catchphrases are from students. The classic “As if!” came from the young LGTB+ community at the high school.
One Famous Restaurant Refused To Be In The Movie
The original script for Clueless included a scene where Cher and her friends dine at California Pizza Kitchen. The restaurant was considering allowing access because of the promotional value but when they read the script, they quickly denied it.
Apparently, the characters were going to spend the scene joking about how California Pizza Kitchen’s breadsticks resemble a certain male body part. The restaurant didn’t want the negative press so they told the movie to go elsewhere.
Heckling Made Sure Everyone Was Age Appropriate
We’re used to older actors playing teenagers (like the time a 29-year-old played Hannah Montana’s older brother) but that’s not the case with Clueless. Heckerling made sure all the actors cast were in their late teens or early twenties to make the film feel like an authentic teen movie.
Well, with one exception. Stacey Dash, who played Dionne, was 27 years old at the time of casting. Fortunately, she nailed the audition so Heckerling overlooked her age. In fact, Dash was older than Paul Rudd, whose character played a college student.
Breckin Meyer Did His Own Skateboard Stunts
Breckin Meyer who played Tai’s love interest Travis was a perfect actor for the role because he was also a skateboarder. He enjoyed skateboarding so much that he did all his own riding in the film. While it added to the realism it also took a turn for the worse and Meyer got injured during a scene.
When rehearsing the skate competition sequence, Meyer landed on his wrong foot while attempting the half-pipe. He was taken to the hospital and couldn’t walk for the rest of filming. That’s why Meyer is sitting in so many scenes.
Mrs. Geist Was A Producer On The Film
Twink Caplan was the actress who played the shy, quiet English teacher, Mrs. Geist, and actually served as a producer on the film. Caplan became an executive producer after she became close friends with Heckerling after being cast in the television series Fast Times, based on Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
Caplan was brought on to play Mrs. Geist when Heckerling didn’t want to cast anyone else. The two are such good friends in real life that Heckerling actually made a cameo appearance in the film as Mrs. Geist’s maid of honor.
The Golden Girls Spoofed Clueless
There’s no doubt that Clueless was instantly iconic when it was released in 1995, but if you needed more proof then remember the time The Golden Girls cast spoofed the film. The parody aired during the 1996 MTV Movie Awards and was the best thing to ever grace our screens.
Betty White starred as Dionne, Rue McClanahan was Tai, and Estelle Getty was none other than Cher Horowitz. And yes, Betty and Estelle walked down hallways shouting “As if!”
The Valley Party Was Inspired By Real Life
Like much of the film, Heckerling drew on real-life experiences to write the script. When it came to the part in the Valley it was all based on an impromptu party that Heckerling attended.
It was at this real-life house party that Heckerling witnessed the game “Suck and Blow.” She said she had never even heard of it but when she saw it being played in real life, she realized it would be the perfect addition to make Cher feel uncomfortable.
Brittany Murphy Was Dealing With Tragedy At The Time
The late actress Brittany Murphy, who played Tai, was the youngest actress on the set. At the time, she was only 17 so it was required that she have a guardian on set with her at all times. Her mother Sharon accompanied her but none of the cast knew that at the time that Sharon was dealing with breast cancer.
Heckerling later said that seeing Murphy act while knowing her mom was dealing with tragedy proved that she was a “total pro.”