Freddie Prinze Jr. on Why He “Almost Quit” ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer,’ Director’s “Psychotic Notes”
Freddie Prinze Jr. says that he struggled and “was in pain” on the set of horror favorite I Know What You Did Last Summer because of how the movie’s director treated him.
The actor opened up about his time shooting the film in a recent interview with TooFab, which was tied to the actor’s new horror podcast, That Was Pretty Scary. In the podcast, which is co-hosted by the actor and Jon Lee Brody, Prinze Jr. said he “almost quit the movie” and acting altogether after he had a near-death experience while filming a finale scene on a motorboat. The actor alleged that people working on the film had “broken a ton of union stuff that they shouldn’t have” and was ready to take the next flight out since he was already “not wanted” there — a claim he elaborates on in the interview.
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Prinze Jr. said that while his casting was supported by writer Kevin Williamson and the movie’s studio, the 1997 film’s director, Jim Gillespie, allegedly wasn’t a fan — in part because he wanted another major ’90s actor to play Ray Bronson, the love interest to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character.
“It’s not that we weren’t on the same page, I knew what the correct choices were for the Ray character. He wanted a different actor, a really good actor named Jeremy Sisto, who I know and I like and respect very, very much,” Prinze Jr. said, adding that Gillespie “made no bones about” his feelings. “There was no passive aggressiveness — which I hate — he was very direct in the fact that, ‘I don’t want you in this movie.'”
While Prinze Jr. said he had the writer and studio on his side, in a 2017 interview with the Scottish director, Gillespie told Digital Spy that “nobody” wanted the actor because “they thought he was too soft, he wasn’t muscular enough, so Freddie probably screen-tested four or five times.”
“He got to the point where he was saying, ‘I’m done’, and I really had to plead with him to stick with it because I wanted him,” Gillespie added. “I thought he was going to be great with it. He went to the gym and worked out, changed his diet and his hair cut. I stuck to my guns and eventually, they went, ‘Yes.'”
Though Gillespie has previously stated he wanted Prinze Jr., the actor said his treatment at the hands of the director in one of his first major film roles wrecked him, going so far as to call Gillespie “an asshole” who singled him out, leaving him “in pain” and making it a “struggle to finish work” every day. “I wanted to fight that guy two or three different times. Once I felt was a legitimate reason, and the other two I was just pissed off, which, that’s not right,” Prinze Jr. acknowledged. “I’m glad everybody talked me down.”
Prinze Jr. alleged when he would come to set for rehearsal, the director “would bring the other actors together without me, and give them all notes.” Prinze Jr. also alleged that Gillespie gave him “psychotic notes, like ‘Don’t leave your mouth open. You look stupid when you do that’ — that was the exact note, word for word, I’ll never forget it — and I’m like, I’m either gonna break down or I have to beat this guy’s ass.”
To help him navigate what was happening, he turned to his co-stars — Ryan Phillippe and now-wife Sarah Michelle Gellar — to keep him professional and manage his emotions, which ran high over the alleged nitpicking.
“Ryan came up to me and was like, ‘Screw that guy, man. How many times did you audition for this movie?’ and I go, ‘Five times,’ he goes, ‘Yeah, you earned it. You didn’t get offered the role, you earned it,'” Prinze Jr. recalled. “He was the first person to say that to me.”
The actor ultimately chalked up his treatment, in part, to filming conditions. “I’m sure he’s a hero in someone else’s story. I’m sure he helped someone else out and they loved him. But for me, he took a lot of frustration out on me,” Prinze Jr. said. “He was a first-time director; he didn’t have a lot of time; he didn’t have the budget he wanted; he didn’t have the actor he wanted, and he didn’t know how to deal with that frustration.”
While the experience was trying, Prinze Jr. said it prepared him to deal with other personalities in Hollywood and opened up a world of opportunities. “That movie launched my whole career. I wouldn’t have any of the things I have without that movie. I wouldn’t have my wife. I wouldn’t have all the other movies I’ve done. I wouldn’t have this podcast,” he added.
Prinze Jr. also shared with the outlet that he has not received a formal offer to return to the franchise for a new sequel when it was announced last month. (At the time, he and Hewitt were reportedly already attached to star.) He also questioned whether he would actually return to the series.
“I have been offered nothing, nothing. They just said that to get people excited. I haven’t spoken to anyone at their company, my agents haven’t received an offer from them whatsoever,” he said. “I had a conversation with the director a few days after they announced that, just to be like, ‘Yo, what the hell? Why are they saying I’m going to be in a movie I’m probably not going to be in?’ And she said, ‘Let me pitch you the idea.’ So she’s spoken to me about the idea, but I haven’t said yes, I haven’t received an offer.”