Clueless director Amy Heckerling celebrates the film's 25th anniversary and opens up about the "wonderful atmosphere" on set

By Kara Warner
July 20, 2020 02:52 PM
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It's hard to believe it's already been 25 years since Clueless became instantly iconic upon first hitting theaters.

The hit teen rom-com about a group of wealthy Beverly Hills-dwelling high schoolers, and loosely based on Jane Austen's Emma, arrived in theaters July 19, 1995 and launched iconic catch phrases like "As if!" and "Whatever!" into the lexicon, as well as the careers of several of its stars like Alicia Silverstone, Donald Faison, Paul Rudd and the late Brittany Murphy.

To celebrate the film's anniversary, PEOPLE caught up with writer/director Amy Heckerling, who shared a few of her favorite memories making the film and which cast members she still keeps in touch with today.

What do you remember most about the first day of filming?

Amy Heckerling: Well, it was the scene in the classroom where they're debating about the “Haiti-ans.” But Alicia was doing the scene and she just was pretty adorable and she had such confidence and she was very intense about her father's birthday and how the world could solve problems if they did things like her. And then she said “the Haiti-ans.” And if the take was done, the script woman and all of these other people start to move towards her to correct her. And I had to run interference and make sure nobody got to her. I said, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Do not say anything to the actress. I don't want her to know that that's wrong." I just wanted her to have that happy, confident feeling that she was an expert when she said it. And there's a difference between what you think and what you act. And I didn't want her to know that there was any incorrectness going on.

Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and Stacey Dash in Clueless

Did you ever have a sense while making it that there was something special about this one?

Heckerling: Oh, no. One thing that was pleasant was that it was such wonderful people. But it wasn't like, "Boy, we're working on something really important. This will be the best Star Wars, ever." No, you're just hoping that the performances are coming out right and that you can have enough shots to have a certain pace, that it's got a good enough look to be cinematic. The usual stuff that you think about. But one thing about it was I was always happy doing it. I just liked everybody in it. And the DP [director of photography Bill Pope] was brilliant. And the art department and Steve Jordan, the production designer. And Mona May, the costume designer, one of the most fun things is working with her. So, working with the crew and working with all those actors who I love all of them. I mean, usually there's somebody that's making you crazy. There wasn't. There wasn't one person on this that was a nasty, self-centered, crazy-making person. They were all fun. And they seem to really have fun together.

Do you have a favorite day filming or a favorite sequence?

Heckerling: Well, when you're doing something with a lot of extras, like the dance scene, or the party in the Valley, that's kind of tense because you have so many things you have to get to, and you have to reset every time, and that all takes longer, so you're always tense about making sure you got everything you needed and that you're utilizing the location and the amount of people as best you can. So, those make me crazy. I mean, not crazy, but ultimately, oh yeah, finally a party. Yay. And there was a scene where Cher (Silverstone) and Josh (Paul Rudd) were on the stairs when the first kiss. And that's very tense because it feels like there's a lot of weight on it. It's kind of a moment that you hope people are waiting for. And you want to make sure that it's satisfying. And you're going, "What else could have been done? How could it have been done differently?" And you can't be on it forever.

Clueless
Everett Collection

The soundtrack was also crazy popular, do you have any specific memories tied to the songs when you hear them?

Heckerling: There was one song that I really loved, but I was given it after I had already committed to using a different song. I felt kind of bad because that became huge. [No Doubt's] "Just a Girl." And you do hear it, it's in the soundtrack. I think it's on the soundtrack. You hear it in the background and in different scenes. But it's not the opening credits scene, because we had already made a commitment [to use The Muffs' cover of "Kids in America"]. The music supervisor [told me], "This is going to be a big hit." But what can I do? I'm glad "Kids in America" is the [opening] song.

Of the cast members, who would you say you either bump into most frequently or kind of interact with most frequently?

Heckerling: I’m in New York, but I have a texting relationship with Alicia. And I love her, she's just so sweet. And she's so committed to so many good causes. And the way the world was reacting to her and what she could have turned into and what she is, it's just completely opposite.

The [entire cast] was wonderful. And they all seem to really like each other and have fun together. And it was just a very wonderful atmosphere to be in.

Is there any one thing that you really want people to know about it or about you, about the film or you or the cast for right now?

Heckerling: I just want them to know that it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty.

Clueless arrives on Blu-ray and as a limited edition Steelbook July 21.