Proving that she's no airhead, Elle Woods scored a near-perfect 179 on the LSAT, got into Harvard Law School, and changed the game in the process. Thanks to Reese Witherspoon and company, Legally Blonde—which was released 15 years ago today—was one of the first surprise critical and financial hits of the 21st century. Here are some facts about the movie that should interest you, even if you don’t know a Vanderbilt.
1. ELLE WAS NAMED AFTER THE MAGAZINE.
The film was based on the book of the same name by Amanda Brown, who spent her time at Stanford Law School reading copies of Elle and writing a bunch of letters back home, detailing the classmates to whom she didn’t relate. Brown later made a manuscript based on those letters and sent it to an agent, who was initially drawn to it because it was the only manuscript in the slush pile written on pink paper.
2. THE "OVESTER" LINE CAME FROM REAL LIFE.
Brown attended a meeting for The Women of Stanford Law, where she heard a woman say she spent three years at Stanford trying to change “semester” to “ovester.” Brown laughed ... but she was the only one.
3. THE TOILET PAPER VOTE WAS REAL, TOO.
Elle’s sorority group voting against the switch from Charmin to generic came from co-screenwriter Karen McCullah Lutz’s time as a sorority sister at James Madison University. Lutz offered her sisters activity points for stealing TP from the administration building.
4. CHLOË SEVIGNY TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF VIVIAN.
Selma Blair played Warner Huntington III’s law school girlfriend after Sevigny opted to take a part in a movie that filmed in Paris instead.
5. THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED MARGOT HELPED THE ACTRESS WHO PLAYED SERENA GET THE PART.
Alanna Ubach stressed to Jessica Cauffiel—who was already cast as Margot—that she really needed the part, so Cauffiel told her to copy her movements during their screen test together and pretend that they hadn’t planned it together beforehand.
6. REESE WITHERSPOON STUDIED SORORITY BEHAVIOR TO PREPARE FOR HER ROLE.
7. STANFORD DIDN’T ALLOW FOR THEIR NAME TO BE USED IN THE MOVIE, BUT WAS THE STAND-IN FOR HARVARD LAW SCHOOL.
In Amanda Brown’s book, Elle attended USC before going to Stanford Law. Though neither USC nor Stanford would allow for their university to be associated with the movie, USC did allow shooting to take place on campus. UCLA declined the chance to replace USC as Elle's undergrad college, but also allowed filming on campus. (Elle went to the fictitious CULA in the movie.) Harvard has the opposite policies of Stanford, allowing usage of their name, but cited their long-standing rule of not permitting any commercial filming there to producers.
8. IT WAS ROBERT LUKETIC’S FIRST TIME DIRECTING A FEATURE FILM.
The Australian was “terrified” the night before day one of shooting, and couldn’t sleep. He got the job thanks to his short film Titsiana Booberini, which was about a mustached check-out girl who discovers hair remover.
9. MATTHEW DAVIS HAD A BIG CRUSH ON REESE WITHERSPOON.
The actor playing Warner had a thing for Witherspoon—whom he ruthlessly dumps in the movie—since he was 15 years old, and was such a “bumbling idiot” that producers had to make sure he was feeling okay on set. When he told the married Witherspoon his feelings for her, she professionally told him he was sweet for saying so and that they should get back to work.
10. DAVIS BASED WARNER HUNTINGTON III ON A FORMER PRESIDENT.
11. THE BACKGROUND ACTORS DURING THE OPENING CREDITS WERE REAL CALTECH FRAT BROTHERS CONDUCTING AN INITIATION RITE.
A mother explained to the Los Angeles Times that she spotted her son in a bathing suit covered with shortening and oil in the movie. Her son was involved in the game “Grease Frosh,” where two teams have a race to determine who can carry a freshman from one end of a field to another faster, while covered in grease. On that specific filmed contest, the team that wore absorbent pirate and clown costumes won.
12. THE ENDING WAS CHANGED BECAUSE OF TEST AUDIENCES.
Initially, the movie ended with Witherspoon and Luke Wilson kissing on the courthouse steps, then cutting to Elle Woods and Vivian forming a “Blonde Legal Defense Club.” Test audiences were too invested in what happened to Elle’s life to like that conclusion.
13. PARTS OF THE GRADUATION SCENE WERE SHOT IN LONDON, WITH WIGS.
To address test audience feedback on the ending, a graduation scene was added, set two years later. Because Witherspoon was in England working on her next project, parts of the scene were shot at Dulwich College in London, while some of the other actors were filmed back in California. Witherspoon was wearing a wig because she changed her hair for her role in The Importance of Being Earnest, as was Luke Wilson, who had shaved his head by then for The Royal Tenenbaums.
14. THERE WERE BROADWAY AND WEST END MUSICALS BASED ON THE MOVIE.
There was also a 2007 reality series on MTV to find the next actress to play Elle Woods for the Broadway show (MTV even aired an entire performance). Its London West End production lasted for three years after winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical.
15. A LEGALLY BLONDE PRODUCTION GOT AN OHIO DRAMA TEACHER FIRED IN 2012.
After the news got national attention, Loveland High School went ahead and allowed the musical to continue as planned.