While promoting her new film He’s All That, Rachael Leigh Cook recalls the time she missed out on a significant rom-com role because of Tobey Maguire. Rachael Leigh Cook is perhaps best known for her work on the 1999 rom-com. She’s All That, starring opposite Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard. She’s All That, directed by Robert Iscove, follows Zack (Prince Jr.), a popular high school jock, as he attempts to turn Laney (Cook), a nerdy outcast, into the school’s next prom queen.
He’s All That, a gender-flipped remake of the film starring Addison Rae and Tanner Buchanan, is due out on Netflix at the end of the month and features Cook as Rae’s character’s mom and Lillard as the school principal. She’s All That proved immensely popular in the late ‘90s and early 2000s and was part of a larger movement of films targeting teenage audiences that included films like 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Never Been Kissed, and Varsity Blues, among many others.
While on a press tour to promote He’s All That, Rachael Leigh Cook and Matthew Lillard spoke to TooFab about their experiences working on She’s All That and, in particular, how their lives changed after it was released. Following the success of She’s All That, Cook recalls being approached by Miramax, the formerly Harvey-Weinstein-owned studio behind the film, with a proposition for a new movie they were developing called Boys And Girls. The catch, according to Cook, was that Miramax would only make the movie with her if she were able to get Tobey Maguire to co-star. Otherwise, they would go with Prinze Jr. Recalling her meeting with Maguire, Cook said:
I met with Tobey Maguire and I said, ‘So, what do you think about the script?’ He said, ‘It’s not good. I don’t want to do it.’ And I was like, ‘Okay… so what do you want to eat?’ It was clear there was no convincing him.
Since Cook could not get Maguire on board, Miramax kept to their word and made Boys And Girls with Freddie Prinze Jr. Although She’s All That’s popularity led to more offers for leading roles for Cook, it doesn’t appear that Lillard was so lucky. Lillard jokingly added that he was never considered for leading roles in the ’90s and 2000s teen comedies because you had to be a “ten,” and he was “more like a four,” meaning he was more often relegated to supporting roles as the best friend or sidekick.
In hindsight, it’s probably for the best that Cook wasn’t able to convince Maguire to do Boys And Girls because when the film was released in 2000, it was a critical and financial failure. This incident, in many ways, reflects the trajectory of both actor’s careers for the following twenty years. Since She’s All That, Cook has appeared regularly in film and television shows, including starring roles in Hallmark TV movie romances. She most recently had something of a comeback with 2020’s Love, Guaranteed from Netflix. Maguire, of course, would rocket to superstardom in 2002 with Spider-Man but has since generally been attracted to more serious roles, mainly staying away from rom-coms altogether. He’s All That releases August 27th on Netflix.