'Halloween' Meets 'Jaws': 15 Facts About Making 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'

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I Know What You Did Last Summer

Columbia Pictures

Back in the days of yore (a.ka. the ‘90s) slasher horror was having a revival, with screenwriter Kevin Williamson right at the center of it. Not only did Williamson pen Wes Craven’s iconic meta slasher Scream, but soon after he churned out the sequel, as well as a screenplay adaptation of the novel, I Know What You Did Last Summer. The movie — featuring a beefy Freddie Prinze Jr. and a villain who looks like the metal version of Fish Sticks guy — managed to take the number one Box Office spot for three weeks in a row. 

Yeah, we were hard-up for decent scary movies back then, and while this slasher about four friends running over some psychopath one drunken night could’ve done with a sprinkle of comedy, perhaps, it’s still a pretty fun watch — even if it's just to yell Jennifer Love Hewitt’s famous line that a fan came up with. That kid should’ve gotten all the money.

The Inspiration: Halloween Meets Jaws

Columbia Pictures

Director Jim Gillespie took his inspiration from watching horrors set in small towns with not too much gore involved. "Halloween is my favorite horror film because I remember it so clearly,” Gillespie told Digital Spy. “I'm not really scared by horror films, but I do remember one of the few times ever was when Michael Myers just keeps on getting up. I remember saying, ‘If he gets up one more time, I'm out of here!’ I rewatched that film because it's (set in) a small town. It's not a gory film. I like the mood of it. I didn't want to rip it off, but the feel of it was something I took from.”

“And Jaws, funnily enough, is a film I watched as well because it's set in a seaside town and I wanted the feel of that. So there's lots of stuff that nods to Jaws — Fourth of July parades, all those things. We amped it up with a Croaker Festival. Gary Wissner designed these big fish buggies, fish hats. We got a load of local school bands to do the march for the festival. We went to town on all that! I wanted the waterfront to have a New England feel, and Jaws was that.”

Alternate Universe: Casting Reese Witherspoon In I Know What You Did Last Summer

Columbia Pictures

Gillespie said that they originally offered the main role of Julie to Reese Witherspoon, but she turned down the project. She did, however, recommend Ryan Phillippe for the movie. When Jennifer Love Hewitt came in for the part, Gillespie immediately knew that she was the right actress to play Julie.

Freddie Prinze Jr. Was Considered “Too Soft” For The Movie

Columbia Pictures

Apparently the actor wasn’t beefy enough for the studio. “Nobody wanted Freddie,” Gillespie revealed. “They thought he was too soft, he wasn't muscular enough, so Freddie probably screen-tested four or five times. He got to the point where he was saying, ‘I’m done,’ and I really had to plead with him to stick with it because I wanted him. I thought he was going to be great with it. He went to the gym and worked out, changed his diet and his hair cut. I stuck to my guns and eventually they went, ‘Yes.’”

The Other Ending

In the original draft, Julie and Ray are still together and she’s typing him a message online (Ray is now in New York). An email pops up in her inbox, she reads it, and according to the script “COMPLETELY FREAKS OUT. Her face turning a ghostly white as the life is sucked from it. On the screen, a single sentence: ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer.’” Gillespie ended up filming the ending, but didn’t like it one bit, and was relieved when nobody else liked it, either.

The Studio Thought That Sarah Michelle Gellar Was Too “Jewish Princess”

Columbia Pictures

Both Gillespie and writer Kevin Williamson had to fight the studio to cast Michelle Gellar. “There were loads of people we looked at who were just too old,” Glilespie said. “Hilary Swank tested for it, who was great, but she wasn't right for the role. We ended up in North Carolina, a matter of two weeks out from shooting, and we still hadn't cast Helen."

"I got it down to three girls. I had seen some of Buffy; they'd shot the pilot. Kevin liked the idea of her, which was good. So she flew down to Wilmington and to me, Sarah was it. She was absolutely it. She was fantastic. The studio didn't want her, even after the screen test! They went, ‘Nah.’ They thought she had a Jewish princess, Valley Girl feel to her. I went, ‘Rubbish, she's good! Look at the screen test again.’ I went, ‘Right, it's your choice, but know that we think she's the best choice.’ Kevin backed me up on it. It was a fight for two of them!”

Freddie Prinze Jr. Bought Everyone Beer During Production

Columbia Pictures

Back when they were filming the movie, Prinze Jr. was the only cast member of the core group old enough to legally buy beer, which made him the designated “beer guy” while they were shooting in North Carolina.

A Different Slasher Approach: Less Blood!

Director Gillespie didn’t set out to make a gory, bloodsoaked movie about young people getting gutted. In fact, the studio had to push him to include some actual splatter. “We had fights over the blood in the film,” Gillespie remembered. “I went back and reshot when Helen's sister (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras) gets her throat cut — there's a splash of blood on the glass. I initially had shot that without any blood at all. I'd cut the sequence and it worked, everything was exactly as it is, but they wanted this (splatter), to see her throat get ripped out. I said, ‘I’m not shooting that.’ So the most I would give in to was the blood from behind splattering the window. We did that as a pick-up; we reshot that towards the end of the shoot and that was my, ‘OK, I’m done with the blood.’”

Off-Screen Shenanigans

Columbia Pictures

Ryan Phillippe once told Yahoo Entertainment about that time he and Sarah Michelle Gellar thought they were going to get fired: “One night Sarah Michelle and I decided to take my rental car on the beach. We ended up getting stuck in a sand dune and having to call a tow truck in the middle of the night — all in fear of the producers finding out and we’d be fired!” 

The Book Author Did Not Like The Movie

Columbia Pictures

Lois Duncon — who wrote the young adult novel back in 1973 — did not care for the many changes the movie made, especially the added slasher element. Being a mother of a murdered child (her daughter’s 1989 murder has led to a serial killer suspect being indicted earlier this year), Duncon bemoaned the use of violence simply for the thrill of it: “I don't find violent death something to squeal and giggle about.”

Original Draft: That Time Barry Almost OD’d

Columbia Pictures

In Kevin Williamson’s third draft of the film, there was a scene in which Julie outed Barry for almost dying in Boston after swallowing “an entire pharmacy” and ending up getting his stomach pumped. Barry brushed it off as an accident, causing Julie to say, “Oh, Barry, you pretend to be so on top of it. But you’re just as f—ked up as the rest of us.”

The Set Was Used To Shoot The Pilot For Dawson’s Creek

While production of the slasher film was on the way, writer Kevin Williamson was also starting to shoot his pilot for what would become one of the biggest ‘90s TV shows. Gillespie said that the docks in IKWYDLS were used to film all the dockside scenes in the Dawson’s Creek pilot.

The Marketing Lawsuit

Columbia Pictures

When Sony’s movie marketing materials dropped, it included a line that stated “from the creator of Scream” — of course, referring to screenwriter Kevin Williamson. Miramax owned Scream, and didn’t care for Sony’s name dropping of their big hit, so they sued the company, leading to Sony dropping the line. 

Jennifer Love Hewitt Said That Filming The Movie Was Pretty Scary At Times

Columbia Pictures

In an interview with Huffington Post, Love Hewitt admitted there were scenes that totally freaked her out: "So, three o'clock in the morning, you're running in fog in the middle of North Carolina from a guy that you barely know, with a hook on his hand.”  The actress said there were nights after filming where she struggled to fall asleep. 

Mike Flanagan Has Written A Script For A Remake

Mflana1 / Wikimedia Commons

Over the years there have been lots of talk about remaking the ‘90s other big slasher hit, and it turns out Doctor Sleep’s Mike Flanagan has written a script (along with Jeff Howard) for such a remake. Flanagan told Bloody Disgusting back in 2017: “I don’t have any updates on (the movie). I haven’t heard anything in quite a while. Our involvement ended at the script stage, which we delivered and were happy with, but I’m not sure what’s happening now. I was never attached to direct – Jeff and I were only responsible for the script. It’s a great property and it is in terrific hands with (producer) Neal Moritz, so I really hope it gets made.“

The Most Famous Line Came From A Fan

Julie spinning around and yelling, “What are you waiting for?” at the sky was arguably the most cringing and also the most memorable line in the movie (and slasher movie history). And it was all thanks to a fan who won a competition and got to visit the set during production. Love Hewitt told US Weekly during a press tour: “That scene was actually directed by a kid who won a contest to come on and create a moment for the movie … he was like I want her to stand in the street and turn around and just scream ‘What are you waiting for, huh?’ I was literally like, ‘Are you kidding me right now? This is what I’m gonna do? OK. This was a great idea.’”

Love Hewitt also said that if they ever wanted to do another sequel, Halloween H20 style, she knows exactly who she’d want to play: “I’m gonna be the creepy old lady who’s still turning around in the street screaming into the air and the kids are gonna hit me. That’s gonna be my part in the next movie!”

Thumbnail: Columbia Pictures

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