A key touchstone of the 1990s culture, the film “Clueless” has remained popular with audiences since it first hit theaters 25 years ago. But as a movie, “Clueless” has a fascinating history that may come as a surprise to even its most dedicated fans.
Here are just a few interesting facts about this one-of-a-kind movie, and why “Clueless” still matters today.
1. The Movie Was Heavily Researched Before Filming Commenced
Not content to make a typical high school film, director Amy Heckerling spent a great deal of time studying the behavior and speech patterns of high school students in Southern California before she started filming “Clueless.”
Her research undoubtedly gave the film its feeling of authenticity.
2. “Clueless” Contains Numerous References to a Famous Jane Austen Novel
While “Clueless” portrays a kind of “dumbed-down” version of American culture, it is actually rooted in high literature. In fact, much of the film derives its plot conflicts from Jane Austen’s high society novel “Emma.”
3. The Film Launched Paul Rudd’s Film Career
While the film was released 25 years ago, Paul Rudd actually doesn’t look all that different in the film than he does today. But the actor wasn’t known at all when the film was first released.
While he had played a part in the horror movie “Halloween 6,” “Clueless” was actually released before that film. This turn of events technically makes “Clueless” Rudd’s first movie.
4. The Film Solidified Alicia Silverstone’s Place in the 90s Culture Pantheon
Before “Clueless,” Alicia Silverstone was a symbol of the 90s MTV culture thanks to her appearance in videos by the band Aerosmith.
“Clueless” all but made her an icon of 90s style, and the film remains her best-known work.
5. In “Clueless,” Cher’s High School Principal Was an Actual Educator
The role of the high school principal in “Clueless” was given to director Amy Heckerling’s actual high school teacher Herb Hall. Having taught Heckerling well in debate classes, the director felt that Hall deserved a role in the film.
6. Reese Witherspoon Was Almost Cast as Cher
Early in the film’s production process, a young Reese Witherspoon tried out for the role in “Clueless” that Alicia Silverstone would eventually secure. Perhaps Witherspoon reprised her concept of Cher in “Legally Blonde.” After all, the characters certainly share similar mannerisms!
7. Ska Band The Mighty Mighty Bosstones Make an Appearance in the Film
The live band featured in “Clueless” is actually a very real band: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones made a huge impact on the ska music revival of the mid-1990s.
8. A Young Zach Braff Auditioned as Josh
A few years before his breakout role in the medical sitcom “Scrubs,” actor Zach Braff attempted to land the role that eventually went to Paul Rudd. Interestingly enough, Braff’s “Scrubs” costar Donald Faison did manage to snag a role in the film.
9. Stacey Dash Was Almost 30 When She Appeared in the Film
Even though she is playing a high school student in “Clueless,” actress Stacey Dash was almost in her 30s when filming started.
10. Brittany Murphy Sings the Mentos Commercial Theme Song in One Scene
In one scene, Brittany Murphy sings along to a commercial that is playing on her television set.
11. The Film’s Director Had Portrayed High School Life Before
Amy Heckerling certainly was ready to take on the drama and comedy of high school life by the time she helmed “Clueless.”
In the 1980s, Heckerling had directed the classic film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” She also directed “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” and “Look Who’s Talking.”
12. For a Brief Second, Ryan Reynolds Appears in “Clueless”
During the aforementioned scene wherein Brittany Murphy’s character sings along to a Mentos commercial, a young Ryan Reynolds appears onscreen as the actor in the commercial itself.
13. The Film References Other 90s Cultural Symbols
When “Clueless” was released, the “Ren and Stimpy” cartoon was a staple on channels like MTV due to its popularity with “Generation X” audiences.
The cartoon appears during a scene in the movie in which Cher is watching television.
14. The Film’s Director Appears in the Movie
In a wedding scene in the film itself, “Clueless” director Amy Heckerling makes a brief cameo appearance.
15. The Film’s Literary References Don’t Stop at Jane Austen
In one scene, the character of Christian is shown reading a book by Beat author William S. Burroughs.
16. A Genuine Dialogue Mistake Became a Key Scene in the Film
During a famous scene in which Cher attempts to pronounce the word “Haitians,” actress Alicia Silverstone genuinely stumbled over her pronunciation of the word. Director Amy Heckerling decided to keep the scene in the final cut. It created a genuine sense of naturalism within the scene.
17. Plaid Colors Were Heavily Used in the Film
True to its 90s heritage, “Clueless” features over 50 styles of plaid outfits.
18. The Film Was Shot on a Tight Schedule
A feat by Hollywood standards in those days, shooting for the film was finished in a little over a month.
19. The Clothing Budget Was Minimal
While “Clueless” presents its characters as being deeply fashion-conscious, great care was taken by the film’s producers and costume designers. They successfully portrayed Cher and her friends as wearing the kind of clothing teenagers would purchase from a shopping mall in the 1990s. Aside from a few items, most of the costumes in the film were not selected from big fashion houses.
20. The Golden Girls Referenced the Film
In a skit written for MTV, the three main actors from the hit sitcom “Golden Girls” portrayed Cher’s social circle in a hilarious send-up of the original film.
21. “Clueless” Was Originally Meant to be Produced as a Television Series
It’s hard to believe now, but “Clueless” was originally meant for television. The movie was actually adapted for the small screen after the film version became a breakout hit.
22. Paul Rudd References His Alma Mater in the Film
23. “Clueless” Features a Shakespeare Reference
In a scene where Heather talks to Cher, Heather references the line from “Hamlet” that reads, “To thine own self be true.” Cher correctly asserts that the line is spoken in “Hamlet” by the character of Polonius. However, this knowledge of dialogue in “Hamlet” is not due to Cher’s interest in Shakespeare. Having seen the Mel Gibson version of “Hamlet,” Cher simply remembers that Gibson did not speak the line.
24. “Clueless” Features a Major Location Goof
In a scene taking place in front of the Circus Liquor building, Cher tells another character that she is in Sun Valley. Circus Liquor is actually a familiar sight to residents of North Hollywood.
25. Cher’s Actual Last Name is Unclear in the Film
Although one character refers to Cher as Cher Horowitz, it is unclear what Cher’s real last name is. This is because other information in the film, such as her report card and mail, suggests that Cher’s last name is Hamilton.
The days of shopping at the mall and watching cable television might be well and gone for the most part. However, that era will always be alive and well in our imaginations, thanks to 90s movies like “Clueless.” There’s certainly more to this film than its portrayal of ditzy high school culture would have us believe. In fact, part of the fun of watching this movie 25 years on is learning about its fascinating history!