There is no doubt that 10 Things I Hate About You has become one of the most iconic teen films in history, and as of March 31, 2019 the film turns 20 years old.
In honor of the movie’s 20th anniversary, The New York Times spoke to the cast and crew about the film’s legacy and the legacy of its breakout star, a young Heath Ledger, who would go on to extreme stardom before his untimely death at the age of 28 in January 2008.
Julia Stiles, who starred as angsty teen Kat Stratford, said she immediately knew she wanted to be a part of the movie because of the script. “I remember thinking [the screenplay] was so cool and I just loved the heart of Kat so much. I was dying to get the role. I had been reading “The Taming of the Shrew” in school, and it was the first time I had read a romantic comedy [script] that captured teenage angst in such a clever way,” she said.
Meanwhile Marcia Ross revealed which other stars were up for the lead roles and why it came down to Ledger and Stiles. “We screen-tested Josh Hartnett, Eliza Dushku, Heath and Julia. But Julia and Heath just had the best chemistry together. I loved Katie Holmes. She was about to get “Dawson’s Creek,” and we had to make a decision really fast. The other person I loved was Kate Hudson. But her mom [Goldie Hawn] didn’t like the script for her, so she passed.”
As for casting Heath Ledger, Gil Junger didn’t need much persuasion. “Health walked in [for his audition] and I thought to myself, ‘If this guy can read, I’m going to cast him.’ There was an energy to him, a sexuality that was palpable. When Heath was done, literally, with the first page, I said, ‘OK, you can put down the script. You’re doing great. I want to improv a little with you.’ I just wanted to see how fast his mind would adapt, comedically. After 35 seconds, I said, ‘OK. Fantastic.’ But I could tell he was nervous that he blew it, because the audition was so quick, and I said, ‘No, no. you’re a very talented guy and I appreciate you coming in.’”
Junger added that without a doubt Ledger was the guy they wanted. “The instant the door closed, I turned to the women in the room and said, ‘Ladies, I have never wanted to sleep with a man. But if I had to sleep with a man, that would be the man. Please cast him immediately.’”
Stiles also lovingly remembered her on-screen love interest helping her with that iconic table dancing scene. “I hadn’t ever really been drunk before in real life. I mean, I was 17, so I remember Heath — because he was older — giving me tips on what being drunk looks and feels like,” the actress revealed.
Meanwhile David Krumholtz who played Michael, revealed that he was very close to Ledger when they were filming and the pair became close again shortly before Ledger’s death. “It always makes me swallow hard when I know that something I say about Heath is going to be put out there. My clique was Heath and his lovely assistant and best friend, Trevor [DiCarlo]. I loved Heath. As I get older, and as the movie takes on greater relevance with new audiences, it’s harder to wrap my head around the idea that Heath passed on the way he did. I would’ve very much loved him to be part of this article, to feel appreciated for his work in the film, because he worked really hard on 10 Things I Hate About You,” Krumholtz told the publication.
He continued, “Toward the end of his life I reunited with him, at a time when we were both quite vulnerable and trying to recover from some stuff that was haunting us. I had an opportunity to tell Heath how much I loved him and to sort of try to help Heath. He had become so famous, and his life had become so crazy, that in the moment when I could’ve said something, I didn’t, even though I thought it. It’s a big regret I have. To fans, he’s a movie star that died. To me, he was flesh and bone, soulful, sweet, and I know for a fact he was in recovery prior to his death. He was trying to get healthy.
I just want people to know there was a suffering individual there, who couldn’t have been a lovelier human being. I prefer to remember Heath as a 20-year-old kid doing his first American lead with a big giant Cheshire grin smile on his face, taking charge as the leader of the group like any good ensemble leader should.”