In honor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's 20th anniversary, here are 22 things you may not have known about its seven-season run
Get ready to feel as old, ’90s kids: Buffy the Vampire Slayer premiered 20 years ago today.
The beloved series, which cemented Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s place in pop culture history, continues to serve as a favorite among fans with an affinity for high school dramas and regular vampire showdowns.
It’s hard to imagine a TV landscape without the benefit of the show’s landmark run — creator Joss Whedon and Gellar pushed a strong female lead into a world of supernatural creatures, which proved to be successful for ratings and a groundbreaking precedent for future shows.
In honor of the show’s milestone anniversary, we’re taking a trip back to the smoldering crater of Sunnydale to check in with the Scooby Gang for some facts you may not know about Buffy.
1. Whedon deliberately set out to subvert horror film tropes with Buffy
“I had seen a lot of horror movies, which I love very much, with blonde girls getting killed in dark alleys, and I just germinated this idea about how much I would like to see a blonde girl go into a dark alley, get attacked by a monster and then kill it,” he said. “And that was sorta the genesis for the movie, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
2. Ryan Reynolds turned down a role in the series
“I love that show and I loved Joss Whedon, the creator of the show, but my biggest concern was that I didn’t want to play a guy in high school,” Reynolds told the Toronto Star in 2008. “I had just come out of high school and it was f—— awful.”
3. Whedon and Gellar didn’t always get along
At one point, Gellar said she would quit Buffy if it ever left the WB. (It eventually did, moving to UPN.) “The fact is, she knew perfectly well that if we moved, she was going to move with us,” Whedon told EW in 2001. “There’ve been times that we didn’t get along,” he elaborated in 2003. “There have been times when we’ve palled around. But no matter what, she was the other half of Buffy. In seven years, she never let me down.”
4. Gellar was originally brought in for the role of Cordelia
“It took us a while to come around to Sarah being Buffy,” casting director Marcia Shulman said.
5. Anthony Stewart Head was the first person cast, period
“[Head] was the first person that got cast on the first day we started casting. He was just it,” Shulman said.
6. Alyson Hannigan recommended the band who wrote the show’s theme
Hannigan was listening to a Nerf Herder (their name is a Star Wars reference) CD on the set one day, when Whedon heard it and wound up approaching the band. “It seemed very far-fetched that we got it,” frontman Parry Gripp said in 2016.
7. ‘Buffy studies’ is its own field of academia
Slayage: The Online Journal of Buffy Studies is a quarterly journal that’s published essays on the themes of sociology, psychology, philosophy, theology and women’s studies w/r/t Buffy. Brunel University in London, even offers it as part of a Master’s degree in Cult Film & TV.
“We do go to another cemetery for much wider shots,” production designer Carey Meyer told the BBC in 2014, “but the majority of our cemetery stuff actually takes place in [a] little tiny parking lot.”
9. David Boreanaz and Gellar didn’t make love scenes with each other easy
“We would do horrible things to each other,” she said once. “Like eat tuna fish and pickle before we kissed. If he had to unbutton my shirt or my trousers I would pin them or sew them together to make it as hard as I could.”
10. Spike didn’t always have his English accent
Originally, Spike was envisioned as “kind of a Western character,” but once James Marsters nailed the English accent, he stuck with it, and fooled a lot of people, including producer-director David Solomon. “I was sure that he was from England, the whole time I was talking to him,” Solomon said.
11. And in the great Spike/Angel debate, Gellar says…
“ANGEL.” (In a 2014 Reddit AMA.)
12. Whedon and Gellar share the same favorite episode of the show
They both have other faves, but they agree that “The Body,” from the show’s fifth season, is one of its finest hours. A big piece of the show’s emotional impact comes from its complete lack of a background score, and it also provides us with one of Anya’s finest moments.
13. Elvis Costello name dropped the show in concert at one point
When the WB preempted the May 25, 1999 season finale of Buffy over concerns of its portrayal of high school violence, fans went nuts. Costello, apparently either a fan or connected to one, spoke to the controversy at a June 1999 concert in L.A., mentioning that God was searching in vain for “the lost Buffy.”
14.Whedon had an unusual nickname for Gellar
“We used to call [her] ‘Jimmy Stewart,’ ” he told EW in 2013, of the show’s propensity to put Buffy through seriously painful emotional situations. “We realized every time we turned the screws on Buffy, the show got better.”
15. ‘Once More with Feeling’ was a huge challenge for everyone
Despite becoming one of the show’s high points and a huge fan-favorite, Whedon called the episode “the hardest work I’ve ever done.” Gellar referred to it as “daunting” and “intimidating,” saying: “If I had my druthers, we would have gotten it about two years ago and been in classes for a year and a half, maybe six weeks of rehearsals? It’s not too much to ask, instead of four days.”
16. Whedon’s L.A. slang confused Gellar
Coming from New York, Gellar struggled with the occasional bits of Valley Girl slang Whedon wrote for Buffy. In fact, in her audition, she had to ask for clarification on the shorthand “sitch” for “situation.” “Talk about blowing a job instantly,” she said in 1998.
17. The Simpsons provided a bit of inspiration for one of the show’s most memorable monsters
Whedon and Gellar have also talked about their love for season four’s “Hush,” a largely dialogue-free episode featuring the spectacularly creepy “Gentlemen,” characters Whedon says came to him in a dream. When it came time to visualize them, “I was drawing on everything that had ever frightened me, basically,” he said in the DVD commentary for the episode. “Including the fellow from my dream, Nosferatu, Pinhead, Mr. Burns [from The Simpsons]. Anything that gave that creepy feel.”
18. He also had a literal recipe for Buffy
“Take one cup Sarah Connor from the first Terminator movie; one cup Ripley [from Alien]; three tablespoons of the younger sister in [the 1984 post-apocalyptic comedy] Night of the Comet; a few sprigs of A Little Princess — the book, not the movies; and a pinch of Jimmy Stewart for pain, because nobody does better pain,” he told EW in 2010. “Bake those up. Once it’s cool, add a little Rosalind Russell from His Girl Friday. All of this must be in a P.J.-Soles-in-Halloween crust. That’s very important.”
19. WB got a parting shot at the show’s switch to UPN in the final episode
Over a shot of Buffy’s tombstone — she had been killed in the show’s finale on the WB — the network superimposed the phrase: “Five great years. We thank you.” Whedon told the New York Times in 2001 that “The WB decided to pretend the series was ending,” a move he called “cheesy.” A WB spokesman plead ignorance, calling the move “a sincere expression of thanks.”
20. Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland watched Buffy while in prison
The late rocker apparently became a fan of the show while incarcerated for drug offenses, and when he got out, persuaded Gellar to star in the group’s video for “Sour Girl.”
21. The rest of the cast didn’t know the show was cancelled until Entertainment Weekly’s cover story on it
“The day that the Entertainment Weekly cover came out [“Buffy Quits,” March 7, 2003] — that was the day we all found out Buffy was over,” Hannigan told the magazine in 2013. “I was devastated. I was just very shocked.”
22. The show was basically shunned at the Emmys
Despite its huge following, audacious episode formats, and consistently great acting, Buffy only ever picked up two Emmys, both “technical” awards for outstanding makeup and music composition in 1998.