Slash Film

Based on Lois Duncan’s 1973 novel, Jim Gillespie’s 1997 thriller “I Know What You Did Last Summer” was one of the first major players in the brief post-“Scream” slasher revival. In terms of its structure, aesthetics, and dialogue, “Summer” bore more than a passing resemblance to Wes Craven’s film from the year previous; it helped that both films were written by star screenwriter Kevin Williamson. 

“Summer” is about a quartet of friends from a small fishing village who are enjoying their last summer together before leaving to go to college. While driving along the beach, they accidentally run over a vagrant. Rather than tell anyone, they drag their victim to the water, intending to throw him in. The vagrant isn’t yet dead and begins to fight back. In a panic, they thwack him on the head and drop him in the water anyway. One year later, wracked by guilt and no longer speaking, the four friends are reunited by the appearance of a mysterious note bearing the film’s title. Thereafter, a mysterious figure in a rain slicker begins killing off people they know.

The four friends were played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze, Jr. 

Prinze had the most harrowing audition process of the four. The film’s entire audition process was laid out in a making-of documentary on the DVD release. Melissa Joan Hart initially turned down Julie, the Hewitt role. Reese Witherspoon was also offered Julie, and also turned it down, but suggested that her boyfriend at the time, Phillippe, be considered. Prinze, however, had to screen test multiple times and bulk up at the gym to get the part. In a recent interview with Toofab, the actor revealed that filming also sucked, and nearly forced him out of acting altogether.

Prinze Vs. Gillespie: Requiem

Gillespie talked about casting Prinze in a 2017 interview with Digital Spy, saying that producers thought he was “too soft” to play the part. Gillespie recalled in that interview that he was fine with Prinze, but also knew that the actor had to work out a lot and get a new haircut in order to play the role of Ray. Prinze remembers it differently, thinking that Gillespie actually didn’t want him on set, and the producers were the ones pushing for him. Indeed, Prinze even remembers the actor that he felt Gillespie wanted instead of him. He said: 

“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 also explained that Williamson also liked him. Gillespie, he said, was the resistant one. Indeed, Prinze recalls being told — to his face and in no uncertain terms — that he was not the director’s first choice. 

“I’ll give the man this … he made no bones about it. There was no passive aggressiveness — which I hate — he was very direct in the fact that, ‘I don’t want you in this movie.’ […] So when that’s your first job and you hear those words, it just wrecks you, man. It just wrecks you.”

Because of the casting resentments, according to Prinze, his relationship with Gillespie was laced with animosity from the start. This led to curt, angry direction that dug unduly hard into the young actor’s self-esteem. It seems that constantly being told that you’re a bad actor doesn’t bolster confidence.

The Power Of Phillippe

Prinze was badgered so often, he began to lose it, feeling that his only way out was to either have a nervous breakdown, or start being violent. He said:

“… I did have those moments where the director was giving me 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. Like those were the only two options in my head.”

While Gillepsie wasn’t pleased to have him there, his fellow castmates had his back. Indeed, Ryan Phillippe — who was offered his role and didn’t have to audition — was able to say just the right thing to Prinze, reminding him that he worked his butt off for the movie, and that his instincts were going to be better than his director’s. Phillippe’s words of encouragement not only helped Prinze get through the shoot, but ultimately kept him close to his chosen craft.

“I remember 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. There were less people every single time you went, and then it was just you. Remember what booked you this role. Screw his notes. Any note he gives you just say, ‘Okay, and do what you want to do.’ He was the first person to say that to me.”

The Prinze Magic

Prinze was mistreated a lot and was rarely given notes. The actor recalls the rehearsal process and being given the cold shoulder to such a degree that he assumed Gillespie was forcing him into some bizarre acting training. 

“I knew the moment we got on to set for rehearsal, I was … going to be Mr. Pay No Mind, which would be where he would give everyone notes before we shot anything or before we rehearsed, except me. […] He made it a point to single me out every time, would bring the other actors together without me, and give them all notes. And I’m like, well was he just trying to do some method crap? I just don’t understand.”

Despite the experience, Prinze would be cast in the 1998 sequel, “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,” only this time directed by Danny Cannon. Presumably, that shoot went a lot more smoothly. Prinze’s profile immediately rose, and he went on to be one of the more visible young actors of the late ’90s and early ’00s, appearing in notable romcom films like “She’s All That,” “Down to You,” “Boys and Girls,” and “Summer Catch.” He also notably played Freddie in the two high-profile, live-action “Scooby-Doo” movies, a pair of films that are highly celebrated by those of a very specific age. 

In recent years, Prinze, now 47, has been working as an announcer and commentator in the world of professional wrestling, appearing on “WWE Rivals” and “AEW Dynamite.” As Phillippe said, he worked hard to get where he is. 

Read this next: The Saddest Character Deaths In Horror History

The post I Know What You Did Last Summer Pushed Freddie Prinze Jr. to His Breaking Point appeared first on /Film.

/Film – I Know What You Did Last Summer Pushed Freddie Prinze Jr. To His Breaking Point
Author: Witney Seibold
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March 17, 2023

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