Zack Siler may not take art, but he still got the girl. Rachael Leigh Cook, who played Laney Boggs on the 1999 film She’s All That, even thinks that the unlikely high school couple might still be together today.
“I think for most of us our first love was probably not our forever love. But maybe. When I think about it what made them great as a couple is really similar to what makes my husband [Daniel Gillies] and I great. And that is the deep differences in who they are,” Cook, 38, exclusively tells Us Weekly. “When somebody else in your life is very different from you you have everything to learn from them.”
The romantic comedy was released nearly two decades ago. Quick recap: Zack (Freddie Prinze Jr.) makes a bet with fellow jock Dean Sampson (Paul Walker) that he can turn Laney into the next prom queen. One of the first awkward exchanges they have? He taps around a hackeysack after watching her in a bizarre abstract performance.
“I remember that the original outfit was just the blue unitard and I said to our costume designer, ‘This will not do,’” Cook recalls about the skimpy outfit she had to wear. “So they very quickly got a style skirt to put around it!”
Zack did just about anything to win over Laney. He even had the soccer team clean her house while she got a makeover from his sister Mackenzie (Anna Paquin), which became the most iconic scene of the entire movie. Zack was left speechless when Laney walked down the stairs in a red dress — and ultimately fell into his arms.
“They didn’t spend a great deal or more time on that moment or scene than any other. I think the slow-mo made it seem a little bit more epic than it was,” Cook says, laughing. “I remember feeling that I wasn’t going to live up to anyone’s expectations of that moment, but that probably helped the character.”
She adds: “What I do remember about the dress is that there were two of them because we had that scene at the party afterwards where I have to hit the gravel. They made a double of it. And I remember that the double dress was smaller … It was real small — so I was pretty excited to get out of that thing.”
Zack, of course, ultimately lost the bet — but fell for Laney. When Laney finally found out that she was a “f—king bet” he admitted the truth while holding back tears.
“I remember Freddie shooting that scene. I think he really struggled with knowing that he was playing a character who he knew to be good at heart but is still the same person who did something like that. And I think that made it really difficult for him and made it really beautiful to watch,” Cook tells Us. “Working with Freddie is just a dream. He’s just one of the most kind-hearted people you could ever want to meet. He’s such a giving actor.”
Cook and Prinze Jr., now 41, reunited in September 2016, and shared a selfie of the outing on social media. “I had been wanting to contact him ever since Paul passed because it rocks you when someone — when you lose someone so young far too soon. And it made me realize that I couldn’t just count on the universe to put us in the same room again together at the rate that we were going at, which was well over a decade,” Cook reveals. “So I saw that we followed each other on Twitter and I messaged him and just said, ‘Hey! Let’s get coffee.’ And we did. And it was awesome. I think it’s a real gift being able to meet someone twice in a lifetime.”
Walker died suddenly in a car accident in November 2013. He was 40. “Paul is just — he was playing someone jealous and rash but that’s the last thing he ever was. He was this sort of gentle soul who looked like a movie star but never acted like an actor,” Cook says. “And working with him — there’s just nothing easier. When you look like Paul you can easily have an attitude or be a different kind of guy but he’s not ever. And I still don’t really understand that he’s gone.”
“It still strikes me as strange that he’s not with us. I don’t understand the universe that way,” she continues. “I remember exactly when it happened because my daughter had just been born so the sort of full circle nature of life was very apparent to me at that time and in those moments.”
For more, read the rest of her Q&A in our Now and Then series:
US: Can you believe it’s been 19 years since the premiere?
RLC: Oh my God! That’s crazy. In a lot of ways, yes. I moved to L.A. in about 1997 when I was 17 and it was one of my very first movies with a decent budget. No one expected it to be as popular as it was. I certainly didn’t think years ago while we were shooting that I would be talking to you about it right now. But I’m thrilled that I am. I’m thrilled that it made a lasting impression on people. I love that movie. I have nothing but fond memories from it.
US: What was your audition like?
RLC: The directors were there, a lot of producers. Miramax signed on sometime during the casting process. The movie was going to be made on a smaller level on the time that I got the script. But they had to approve me. I was on their radar from a small part I did in The House of Yes and also a movie called All I Wanna Do, I believe, with Kirsten Dunst and Gaby Hoffmann. I remember I wore a dirty old Art Institute of Chicago shirt that I had bought at a garage sale. I guess I didn’t blow it!
US: What was one of your favorite scenes?
RLC: It was one of the first scenes we shot, which is the scene with Elden Henson, who is my best friend. We are working at the falafel store and I say, ‘I kicked your ass in fourth grade and I’ll do it again.’ And he’s like twice my size. I remember thinking, ‘I just love this line so much and I hope I’m doing it justice.’
US: What was one of your favorite scenes with Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (Taylor Vaughan)?
RLC: Man, she’s just so good. It’s so much easier to just think of my favorite scenes of hers, which are the ones that she has with Matthew Lillard. My favorite one was probably when she spilled the drink on my dress. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s exactly the way I hoped she would do it when I read the script.’ Or when I got the role. She’s actually one of the nicest people you could ever want to meet. I’m lucky to run into her occasionally around town, roughly every four or five years. She’s doing great.
US: Where would Taylor be today?
RLC: Oh Lord, she’d probably be on air for Fox News. That girl will stop at nothing.
US: Does the song “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer every get old to you?
RLC: I bet “Kiss Me” gets old to Sixpence None the Richer so I’m not going to surprise anyone when I say yeah I think it does. It’s strange that it was a popular song before the movie. It’s one of those songs I always say it’s the song that I hear at Rite Aid or any drugstore for some reason. It’s sort of a drugstore song now. I always feel like it’s some sort of a sign from the universe that it’s a good day to reflect a little bit.
US: Do you have any memorabilia from the film?
RLC: I always keep time sheets that say when we are shooting that day. I don’t think I have the dress.
US: Who has the hackeysack?
RLC: I don’t know! But he better not let it drop if Freddie has it!