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Rachael Leigh Cook feels deeply grateful for She’s All That, her 1999 teen classic and modern-day twist on Pygmalion about a pair of jocks (Freddie Prinze Jr. and Paul Walker) who wager over making an awkward girl (Cook) popular.
“It provided me all of the opportunities, for the most part, that I’ve had since,” Cook tells us during a recent virtual interview promoting her latest film, the YA horror story Spirit Halloween: The Movie (watch above). “So I will never have anything but positive feelings about that movie.”
That’s not to say Cook, a now 43-year-old mother of two, can’t recognize its shortcomings, especially when viewed through a contemporary lens.
“I tried to watch it again recently with my oldest, who’s 9, and I felt a little appropriately concerned about some of the messaging,” she says. “There’s some really conspicuous body-shaming comments and things like that that just wouldn’t fly in the movies today.”
The film’s outdatedness is part of the reason Cook signed up for He’s All That, Netflix's 2021 gender-flipped version of the story, playing a mother to Addison Rae’s teen wagerer.
“It was important to sort of change that narrative,” Cook says.
As we talked She’s All That and He’s All That, Cook’s 9-year-old daughter Charlotte — the one who just saw her mom’s most famous role for the first time — crashed our interview and gave us her take on the 1999 favorite.
“It was good,” Charlotte declares, giving it a 9 out of 10.
“You can’t just go giving everything 10s,” Cook deadpans later about her daughter’s assessment. “It’s like, where’s the bar?... I’ll take the 9. I’ll take it.”
One of the roles that She’s All That led to for Cook was 2001’s Josie and the Pussycats — a much-hyped live-action spin on the popular comic book and animated series that banded her with Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid.
The musical comedy was an infamous box office flop, though, even if it ultimately became something of a cult classic.
“It got its due well after the fact,” Cook says. “We all felt great about the script and the movie that we made, and wow, did it face-plant. I think it was just marketed a little bit off. I think it was marketed to a much younger audience, and I think grown-ups or people in their early-twenties thought it was a kids movie. I will never know where exactly we put a foot wrong with that. But I’m so proud of that movie. I love that movie.”
Cook says she was deeply affected by the film’s misfiring at the time.
“You definitely bear the brunt of financial box office failure. That translates very directly into what roles you can get next,” she says. “But you know what, if that’s the price you pay, boohoo. I’m not complaining. I can’t think of a bigger waste of time than feeling sorry for me. I just feel lucky that I got to make that movie.”
— Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick
Spirit Halloween: The Movie is now on video on demand.
Watch Cook talk about Spirit Halloween: