Unlike his character Ray, Freddie Prinze Jr.‘s acting career almost didn’t survive the 1997 horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer.
In the premiere episode of his new podcast, That Was Pretty Scary, with co-host Jon Lee Brody, the 47-year-old actor watched the cult classic for the first time and reflected on making what ended up being his first leading role in a blockbuster film.
“It wasn’t the best experience for me,” Prinze Jr. admitted to Brody at the beginning of the episode.
Sharing that he auditioned five times for the part, the veteran star said that he was incredibly “nervous” to be taking on the role.
“I had no experience and I wasn’t the actor then that I am now. I was very green. I needed direction,” he said, adding that director Jim Gillespie did not seem to be willing to give it.
“Right away the director did not want me in this movie and made it clear all the time,” he continued. “I needed direction, and he was not trying to give it. I think it was his first big movie or maybe it was scheduling problems or maybe he just really, really wanted [Jeremy] Sisto. I found out that Sisto was his choice and the studio picked me.”
Prinze Jr. praised the Clueless star, noting, “For sure he was a better actor than me, 100 percent would have been the better acting choice. He was who the director wanted.”
As for the criticism and notes Prinze Jr. said he received on the film set, he claimed they were less than kind.
“A lot of the notes he was giving me was like, ‘You look dumb when you make that expression,'” he said. “Then I won’t make that expression for the rest of my life.”
Prinze Jr. also cited a situation where he was made to do a dangerous stunt that almost ended in injury. He said the next day he refused to do the scene without the proper stunt team in place.
“I was ready to kill this dude,” Prinze Jr. said of director Gillespie. “It was so scary. And it was my first real experience in the business on a big movie, being the lead of a movie… I was like, ‘Yo, if this is how it’s going to be, I can’t handle this.'”
Thankfully, two of Prinze Jr.’s co-stars — Ryan Phillippe and his future wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar — talked him down.
“I remember Ryan would come up to me — and we’re not friends. I’m not saying we’re enemies, but we never speak, ever,” Prinze Jr. recalled. “But he came up to me, saw I was just frustrated, getting angry and pissed off and I would bring everything inward. That’s just kind of the guy I am, actor I am. And he said, ‘Dude, you auditioned five frickin’ times for this. That’s why you got this job. Don’t let this guy psych you out. Just do what you did to book this job and screw what he says. And if he has a note that you hate or you don’t think you can do, do the take your way and as soon as it’s done say, ‘Thank you man, that was a good note. I think that was better.’ And he’s going to say, ‘Yeah,’ because he doesn’t know any better.'”
He added that Gellar, who he married in 2002, also offered words of wisdom.
“Sarah was the same way. She’s also, like Ryan, been in this business since she was a kid,” he said. “And she was like, ‘You need to trust yourself. Forget this guy. The producers like you, that’s what you need to worry about.'”
Noting that he’s since made his peace with the director, Prinze Jr. offered some theories as to why Gillespie came down hard on him.
“He was under a lot of pressure. He wanted as many things to go his way as possible to make it as easy as possible,” he said. “But I just wasn’t that choice.”
As for his thoughts on the film looking back, Prinze Jr. is definitely happy he took on the role.
“This movie changed my life, changed my family’s life, introduced me to the woman who became my best friend… and eventually became my wife,” he said of Gellar. “It was nuts.”
As for the sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Prince Jr. said that working with director Danny Cannon was “the complete opposite experience.”
“I loved every minute of that film,” he shared.
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