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Tucson Weekly Belle Of The Ball

Rachel Leigh Cook Steers One Critic Toward The Bright, Feel-Good Cinematic Light

By James DiGiovanna

FEBRUARY 1, 1999:  THIS WEEK MARKS the premiere of She's All That, which is significant in being the first teen film with the basic plot from Pretty In Pink, Can't Buy Me Love, etc., since the '80s ended. It's an homage to the John Cusak/Molly Ringwald era, made by people who grew up watching 80s' teen films, and it has all the charms and flaws of that genre. Basically, it's a somewhat less-sexist Pygmalion, with Freddie Prinze Jr. playing Zak, the popular kid who takes a bet to transform the dorkiest girl in the school into the prom queen. Hijinks, of course, ensue. We talked with Rachael Leigh Cook, who plays Laney, the aforementioned dorky girl, and got her opinion on teen films, skin care, and standing on your head while singing "Yankee Doodle."

TW: I read that you were originally offered the part of Zak, and you chose to play the part of Laney instead. Is that true?

RLC: Yeah, that's it. But the truth is, even with the salary, I couldn't really swing it for the sex-change operation in time for the movie. That kind of stood in my way. I think that's what really kept me from the part.

TW: Do you feel you have a lot in common with the character of Zak, though?

RLC: Well, um, he uh, has hair, and so do I. He's been to a soccer game, and so have I. Pretty much no.

TW: So it wasn't really working on that level for you...

RLC: No, not really.

TW: So when you were offered the part of Laney, were you thinking, "Someone with skin as good as mine ought to get a better part"?

RLC: Well, no one really has skin like that...that's the movies. No one looks like that. I've seen a lot of "movie stars" up close...nobody looks like they do. Anyway, they really mess me up in the beginning...I've got the glasses, and the eyebrow, you know, a whole lotta stuff going on. But the DP was still too kind to me. The director was yelling at him after he saw dailies. He's like, "We're not supposed to like her yet...You're hurtin' my film."

TW: You looked good all the way through. They always do this. They cast an attractive woman as the woman who's ugly and then becomes pretty....

RLC: They put her in glasses...

TW: Right, so that anyone with glasses is obviously hideous...

RLC: Oh, yeah, right.

TW: I have to admit...that irks me every time I see it.

RLC: Yeah, but to tell you the truth, that's not really part of the movie. It's not supposed to be that she's that unattractive, it's just supposed to be that she's kind of scary and "inaccessible," as they call her. She's staunchly anti-social, she wants no part of it, she's completely suspecting, she's screaming "conspiracy" at the slightest word spoken to her. It's more on a personal level than on a physical level that she's...sort of a challenge.

TW: Do you ever watch any of those '80s teen films like Say Anything....

RLC: Oh, all the time. And She's All That is a total '80s movie. I love '80s movies. I mean, everything from Breakfast Club to Some Kind of Wonderful, Say Anything...I think those were the best movies ever made.

TW: So if Gus Van Sant was going to do a shot-for-shot remake of Pretty in Pink, you'd be there?

RLC: I disagree with his whole shot-for-shot thing, but....

TW: I thought that was amazing because no one's ever done it before, and it's so unlike doing a movie. Because a movie is about plot and characters, and Van Sant's Psycho was all about surface effects.

RLC: Yeah, but doesn't that seem ridiculous? I mean, you and I could do that, with the right crew. It's no problem.

TW: I don't know, it seems like it took a lot of work.

RLC: They did the same thing. They went back in the archives, got the story boards, got the exact original script. It's...I have a friend who met with him and said to him, quite honestly, "Aren't you afraid people are going to say you're lazy?" And he said, "Well, if you want to know the truth, I am, and I just got all these Academy Award nominations, and they said, 'What do you want to do next, Gus?' And I said, this is what I want to do, and they can't say no."

TW: I thought that was interesting, because to me it was more like a conceptual art piece. It was...

RLC: ...A conceptual art piece of someone else's work.

TW: Exactly, yeah. Just like what Warhol used to do where he'd take a can of soup and put his name on it. Or like one of those extremely rule-bound experimental pieces from the '60s. I understand almost everyone else in the country hated the Psycho remake, so I guess I'm alone there.

RLC: Well, he'd be glad you're out there.

TW: Do you want to direct?

RLC: No.

TW: Not ever?

RLC: Why? Do you ever want to stand on your head and sing "Yankee Doodle"? It's like, "Maybe."

TW: So you might want to stand on your head and sing "Yankee Doodle"?

RLC: Well I've already done that.

TW: Anything else you'd like to say to people in the 37th largest city in the country?

RLC: It's a good movie. Don't take it at face value as being just some silly movie. It's a movie that you can actually just go and feel good, and just...it's just a good, solid little movie. It's worth it.

TW: You think it works on another level than the standard teen film?

RLC: Well, yeah. In the other teen films, a lot of people die. Nobody dies in this film. That's reason enough to go see it.

TW: That's true. For the past 10 years, you can't do a teen movie without someone killing people.

RLC: ...or cheerleaders, or just people getting decapitated. So go see this movie because no one dies in it.

TW: 'cause no one dies...I think that's a glowing endorsement. I'm going to put that down. That is a nice change of pace. And then the final question, of course: If Leonardo di Caprio offered you a million dollars...oh, never mind.

RLC: What?! And what does it have to do with him being Leonardo di Caprio? To (do) what? Eat a worm sandwich? I need to know the question now!

TW: Oh, I was just thinking of Indecent Proposal....

RLC: Never. He's too pretty. He's not my type.

TW: So if Leo calls, it's a "no".

RLC: Yeah. Tell him I'm washing my hair.

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