22 Facts About Clueless On Its 25th Anniversary

Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, and Stacey Dash star in Clueless (1995).
Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, and Stacey Dash star in Clueless (1995).
Paramount Pictures

With loads of sass and style, Clueless won the hearts of a generation and became one of the most beloved coming-of-age comedies of all time. But even if you're a total Betty or Baldwin, you probably don't know all the juicy details behind Clueless, which arrived in theaters on July 19, 1995.

1. Clueless is modern-day Jane Austen.

Writer-director Amy Heckerling found her inspiration for Cher's bumbling journey of love from Austen's classic 1815 novel Emma. "I remembered reading Emma in college and being struck at how much it reminded me of old TV shows like Gidget," Heckerling recounted to Entertainment Weekly. "There's something so basic about it."

2. Clueless director Amy Heckerling studied real Beverly Hills high schoolers.

Heckerling wanted to spin her combination of Emma and Gidget in the setting of a Beverly Hills high school, which she envisioned as a "hyper-pastel fantasy place." To create the movie's totally quotable dialogue, Heckerling sat in on classes to get a feel for how teens in the '90s talked. But Cher's classic "As if!" actually came from the lesbian community. "Any outsider group is going to create their own language—whether it's homosexual, black, prisoners, or cab drivers," Heckerling explained. " You just have to be willing to open your ears and listen."

3. The "Haitians" mispronunciation in Clueless was all Alicia Silverstone.

You know how Cher rallies for America opening its borders to the Haiti-ans? The script read "Haitians" and Silverstone made an honest mistake. But before producers could rush in and correct her, Heckerling demanded they let her go. "I had to stop them," she remembers. "It was much funnier the way she said it. That was Cher."

4. Reese Witherspoon could have played Cher Horowitz in Clueless.

Witherspoon already had a few film roles to her credit with The Man in The Moon, A Far Off Place, and Jack The Bear. Silverstone only had the Lolita-like horror movie The Crush on her feature filmography. But with no pressure from the studio to cast stars, Heckerling had the freedom to pick the ingénue whom she felt had "that Marilyn Monroe thing" that captured "a vague notion in my head of Cher as a pretty, sweet blonde, who, in spite of being the American ideal, people still really like."

5. Sarah Michelle Gellar was offered the role of Cher Horowitz in Clueless.

But the eventual Buffy The Vampire Slayer star had to turn it down because of scheduling conflicts with All My Children, on which she appeared from 1993 to 1995, playing Kendall Hart Lang.

6. Alicia Silverstone has Aerosmith to thank for her role in Clueless.

Heckerling's casting director first pitched Silverstone for Cher based on her performance in The Crush. But Heckerling wanted that fascinating blonde girl from the music video for Aerosmith's "Cryin." Lucky for Silverstone, she was one and the same. She went on to do two more Aerosmith videos, "Amazing" and "Crazy."

7. Clueless launched Alicia Silverstone's film career.

Yes, she was on the rise with her role in The Crush and her growing fame from the Aerosmith videos. But it was Clueless and its evolving cult status that made Silverstone a household name.

8. Paul Rudd wanted to play Christian ... or Murray.

Getty Images

Though he was ultimately cast to play Cher's brainy stepbrother Josh, Rudd had initially wanted to portray Christian. He was intrigued by a Hollywood script having a "cool gay kid" character. When that didn't pan out, he asked to audition for Murray, a role that ultimately went to Donald Faison. Rudd told Entertainment Weekly, "I thought he was kind of a funny hip-hop wannabe. I didn't realize that the character was African-American."

9. Jeremy Renner could have been the object of Cher's affection.

Renner auditioned for the roles of both Christian and Josh, but lost out to Justin Walker and Paul Rudd, respectively.

10. Lots of major stars auditioned for Clueless.

With so many characters to cast and not much of a budget to brag about, the casting calls spread throughout young (and then unknown) Hollywood. Terrence Howard and Lauryn Hill read for Murray and Dionne, respectively. Owen Wilson tried out for Travis. Leah Remini auditioned for Tai, while Zooey Deschanel went out for both Amber and Cher.

11. Brittany Murphy was actually the virgin who couldn't drive.

Looking back on Clueless and its legacy, the late Murphy recalled, "It's hard for me to believe it's been 10 years since that movie. I really was a virgin who couldn't drive. I was living in an apartment in the Valley with my mom—and I remember starting to see these huge billboards of us all over town. It was amazing!”

12. Clueless's suck and blow scene required some movie magic.

While "Suck and Blow" might have seemed like a fun and sexy party game, it was in fact a pain to shoot. Turns out the cast wasn't up to sucking or blowing well enough to make the game work with an actual credit card. So a prop card made of cardboard was brought in. When that failed, generous amounts of ChapStick were applied to the cast's lips to make the card stick. Less sexy now, huh?

13. The Golden Girls paid tribute.

At the 1996 MTV Movie Awards, Clueless was spoofed by Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White of The Golden Girls. It was a fitting tribute where these hilarious ladies metaphorically passed the torch to a new batch of sharp comedic performers.

14. Cher is clueless to the many hints that Christian is gay.

Aside from his total lack of interest in making out with Cher, Christian's identity as a "friend of Dorothy" is tipped throughout with various clues. For instance, on movie night he suggests Some Like It Hot and Spartacus, the former being a movie about men cross-dressing, which arguably ends with the creation of a gay coupling. The latter includes a scene where Laurence Olivier's character attempts to seduce Tony Curtis's. Christian is also spotted reading Junkie by William S. Burroughs, an acclaimed and gay American writer. Lastly, Cher's chances of romance with Christian are spelled out in his intro, where a headline posted on a board next to him reads, "On The Road To Nowhere." Way harsh.

15. Amy Heckerling has a Clueless cameo.

Blink and you'll miss her, but Clueless's writer-director wedged herself into the final scene at the wedding of Mr. Hall and Miss Geist. She's one of the non-teen bridesmaids battling Cher for the bouquet.

16. Clueless is part of an unofficial trilogy.

Heckerling is well known for her forays into coming-of-age stories: The first was her directorial debut, the beloved 1982 comedy Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Clueless came in 1995 was followed up with the Jason Biggs-fronted Loser in 2000, Each comedy not only centered on teens, but also aimed to capture the adolescent zeitgeist of their eras in a way that made them accessible and cool to all ages. Obviously, some worked better than others.

17. Jeremy Sisto tried to kill Alicia Silverstone (in a movie).

That's right. Just before production got going on Clueless, Sisto (who played Elton) and Silverstone co-starred in Hideaway, a thriller in which Sisto plays a devil-worshipping killer stalking Silverstone's character. Sisto would later go on to audition for Titanic. Of course, we all know he lost out to Leonardo DiCaprio, but his screen test has survived:

18. Suburgatory featured a Clueless reunion.

From 2011 to 2014, Sisto co-starred in the sitcom Suburgatory, where he had a chance to reconnect with a pair of Clueless cast members. Heckerling helmed an episode of the series, titled "Victor Ha." And in 2012, Silverstone had a four-episode arc as Eden, an ex-girlfriend of Sisto's character.

19. Amy Heckerling and Alicia Silverstone re-teamed for a vampire comedy.

In 2012, Heckerling and Silverstone brought a reunion of their own to theaters with Vamps, a rom-com about two sexy vampire ladies with love troubles. Unfortunately, the film did not do well. It flopped at the box office, pulling in just $3,361, and its reviews were mixed.

20. Clueless's Mr. Hall was based on two real teachers.

To play the debate teacher Mr. Hall, Wallace Shawn pulled from his own experience, having been a professional teacher before he went into acting full-time. But Shawn's character got his name from Herb Hall, the actual debate teacher of a Beverly Hills high school at the time. The real Hall was a friend of Heckerling's, and got to appear in Clueless as the school principal.

21. Clueless was originally pitched as a TV series.

No, it wasn't the TV-spinoff of the popular movie. Back in the early '90s, 20th Century Fox was shopping for a sitcom about cool teenagers (no nerds). So Heckerling pitched them No Worries, which she had conceived with eventual Clueless producer/Miss Geist, Twink Caplan. But Fox feared no one would care about a show with so many girls, so Heckerling went back to the drawing board, reshaping her characters into a feature screenplay with early drafts called I Was A Teenage Teenager and Clueless in California.

22. Clueless eventually returned to TV.

Getty Images

One year after the film opened, the Clueless TV show was resurrected. Rachel Blanchard stepped in for Silverstone as Cher, while Elisa Donovan, Donald Faison, and Stacey Dash reprised their roles as Amber, Murray and Dionne, respectively. The series ran for three seasons, wrapping in 1999.

Amazon's Best Cyber Monday Deals on Tablets, Wireless Headphones, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Cyber Monday has arrived, and with it comes some amazing deals. This sale is the one to watch if you are looking to get low prices on the latest Echo Dot, Fire Tablet, video games, Instant Pots, or 4K TVs. Even if you already took advantage of sales during Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday still has plenty to offer, especially on Amazon. We've compiled some the best deals out there on tech, computers, and kitchen appliances so you don't have to waste your time browsing.

Computers and tablets

Amazon

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Beats/Amazon

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Sony

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home and Kitchen

Ninja/Amazon

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10 Surprising Facts About Richard Pryor

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Richard Pryor, who was born on December 1, 1940, is considered by many to be the greatest stand-up comedian of all time. Jerry Seinfeld referred to him as “the Picasso of our profession.” Chris Rock has called him comedy’s Rosa Parks. Yet the indelible mark Pryor made on the world of comedy only tells part of his story.

Like his career in the spotlight, Pryor’s world offstage was also highly compelling and full of shocking turns. He’s one of those people whose real life was so off-the-wall at times that it becomes tough to separate fact from fiction. Here are just a few stories about the brilliant and chaotic life of the great Richard Pryor.

1. Richard Pryor had a tragic childhood.

Richard Pryor had a tragic early life, experiencing things that no child should have to endure: Born to a prostitute named Gertrude on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois, Pryor’s father was a notoriously violent pimp named LeRoy Pryor. For much of his childhood, Pryor was raised in the actual brothel where his mother worked, which was owned by his own no-nonsense grandmother, Marie Carter. With his mother periodically dropping out of his life for long stretches, it was Marie who served as Pryor’s central guardian and caretaker.

In 2015, The New Yorker published an article to mark the 10th anniversary of Pryor’s passing, which offered further details on his turbulent early life, noting:

Pryor said that one of the reasons he adored movies as a boy was that you were never in doubt as to why the women in them were screaming. As for the sounds that Richard heard in the middle of the night in his room on the top floor of one of Marie’s businesses, he had no idea what was happening to those girls. A number of times, he saw his mother, Gertrude, one of the women in Marie’s employ, nearly beaten to death by his father. Gertrude left when Richard was five. He later registered no resentment over this. “At least Gertrude didn’t flush me down the toilet,” he said. (This was not a joke. As a child, Pryor opened a shoebox and found a dead baby inside.)

2. Richard Pryor walked away from a successful career.

Early in his career Pryor found success by modeling his comedy largely on the work on Bill Cosby, which led to many comparisons being drawn between the two—a fact that Cosby reportedly grew to dislike.

There are conflicting tales of just how Pryor made the 180-degree change in style that led to him becoming a comedic legend. One of the most well traveled tales, and one that Pryor himself confirmed on more than one occasion, states that Pryor was performing his clean-cut act in Las Vegas one night when he looked out into the audience and saw Dean Martin among the crowd. If you believe the story, seeing the legendarily cool Rat Packer’s face made Pryor question what exactly he was doing and caused him to abruptly leave the stage mid-performance. Around this time Pryor moved to the San Francisco Bay area, dropped out of the comedy limelight for several years, and later reemerged with the more pointed, in-your-face style that made him an icon.

3. Richard Pryor won an Emmy for writing.

Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Pryor in Tomlin's 1973 TV special, Lily.CBS Television, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Though Pryor was better known for his work in front of the camera than behind it, the only Emmy he ever won was for writing. In 1974, Pryor won the Emmy for Best Writing in Comedy for Lily, a comedy special starring Lily Tomlin (in which he also appeared). He earned a total of four nominations throughout his career, two of them as an actor and the other two as a writer.

4. Richard Pryor made Lorne Michaels quit Saturday Night Live.

Back in 1975, Saturday Night Live was brand new, so at the time the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels, wasn’t yet a powerful TV icon. Therefore, when Michaels stuck his neck out and demanded the right to have Pryor on as a guest host, he was really risking a lot. It took Michaels handing in a fake resignation to convince NBC executives to allow the famously foulmouthed comic to appear. Michaels himself had to implement a secret five-second delay for that night’s episode to be sure that any off-the-cuff, unscripted choice language didn’t make its way out over the airwaves. The delay was kept from Pryor who, upon later finding out, confirmed that he would have refused to do the show had he known about it

The episode, the seventh one of SNL’s premiere season, contained one of the most memorable and edgy sketches ever to appear on the show: (the NSFW) Word Association. Chevy Chase and Pryor’s personal writer, Paul Mooney, have each claimed to have written the sketch.

5. Richard Pryor lost the starring role in Blazing Saddles.

Pryor and Gene Wilder made four films together (Silver Streak; Stir Crazy; See No Evil, Hear No Evil; and Another You), but there could have been at least one more. Pryor was one of the credited writers on Mel Brooks’s classic Blazing Saddles and the plan for a time was that he would also co-star in the film, playing Sheriff Bart alongside Wilder as the Waco Kid. In the clip above, Wilder explained how Pryor’s infamous drug use caused him to end up in a remote city and subsequently lose the starring role to Cleavon Little.

6. It wasn’t a drug mishap that caused Richard Pryor to set himself on fire.

One of the most retold stories about Pryor centers around the incident on June 9, 1980 where he set himself on fire and took off running down a Los Angeles street fully engulfed in flames. Though he wasn’t expected to survive the episode, he eventually pulled through and spent the next six weeks recuperating in the hospital. At the time it was often reported that the cause of the accident was Pryor freebasing cocaine. Pryor later admitted that in a drug-fueled psychosis he had actually attempted to kill himself by dousing his body in 151-proof rum and setting himself ablaze. A friend of Pryor’s at the time has gone on record as saying that the idea for the act likely came about that evening after the two of them watched footage of Thích Quảng Đức, the Vietnamese monk who famously burned himself to death in 1963 as an act of protest.

7. Richard Pryor was married seven times.

Pryor was married seven times—to five different women. In the 2013 documentary Omit the Logic, a friend of Pryor’s—who served as the best man at one of his weddings—recounts how Pryor showed up at his hotel room door just a few hours after marrying Jennifer Lee, insisting that he already wanted a divorce. Pryor would get divorced from Lee the next year, only to remarry her 19 years later; the two were still together when Pryor passed away in 2005.

8. Richard Pryor had a soft spot for animals.

In 1986 Pryor was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a central nervous system disease that ultimately left him confined to a wheelchair. Pryor was such an avid supporter of animal rights, however, that he actively spoke out against animal testing of any kind—even when that testing meant getting closer to a cure for his own condition. The biography on RichardPryor.com provides more insight into this part of his private life:

He's been honored by PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, for saving baby elephants in Botswana targeted for circuses. In 2000, as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was preparing to open at Madison Square Garden, Pryor gave the Big Top's first African-American ringmaster, Jonathan Lee Iverson, something to think about when he wrote him a letter in which he stated: “While I am hardly one to complain about a young African American making an honest living, I urge you to ask yourself just how honorable it is to preside over the abuse and suffering of animals."

9. Richard Pryor won the first Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Beginning in 1998, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts began awarding its annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which "recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain." Pryor was chosen as their very first recipient. In the more than 20 years since, he has been joined by an illustrious group of comedy legends, including Carl Reiner, Bob Newhart, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Carol Burnett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Dave Chappelle.

10. Despite his deteriorating health, Richard Pryor never stopped performing.

Even while MS continued to rob him of his mobility, Pryor’s comedic mind continued cranking. Throughout the early 1990s Pryor would often show up at Los Angeles’s famous standup club The Comedy Store to take to the stage in his wheelchair. In the above clip from The Joe Rogan Experience, a few comics discuss what it was like to watch the all-time great perform in his diminished state.

This story has been updated for 2020.