On March 31, 1999, the high school rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You hit theaters, and grossed a modest $53.4 million worldwide. It was the American film debut of Heath Ledger, and also helped to launch the career of Julia Stiles. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You pits two sisters, Kat and Bianca, against each other as they romance high school boys. Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) isn’t allowed to date until Kat (Stiles) does, so Joey Donner (Andrew Keegan) pays Patrick Verona (Ledger) to take Kat on a date and to the prom. At first she despises him, but then they fall in love. Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith wrote the script and went on to pen Legally Blonde and The House Bunny. TV director Gil Junger helmed it, and rock band Letters for Cleo contributed some songs. Here are 10 non-odious facts about the iconic late ’90s teen flick.
1. SCREENWRITER KAREN MCCULLAH’S HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND INSPIRED THE TITLE.
During a Q&A with the screenwriters, Karen McCullah revealed where the title came from. “The title is based on a diary entry I made in high school,” she explained. “I had a boyfriend named Anthony that I was frequently unhappy with. I made a list called Things I Hate About Anthony. When Kirsten [Smith] and I decided to write this, I went through all of my high school diaries to bone up on the angsty memories, and when I told her about that list, she was like, ‘That’s our title.’”
It turns out her ex-boyfriend likes the movie. “Anthony is very proud of that fact,” McCullah said. “We’re still friends today. And every now and then I’ll get a random phone call in the middle of night: ‘My nephew doesn’t believe that this title is about me. Tell him.’ On the phone, I’m like, ‘Yes, I hated Anthony in high school.’”
2. DIRECTOR GIL JUNGER INITIALLY TURNED DOWN THE GIG, AS HE WASN’T INTERESTED IN MAKING A “TYPICAL HIGH SCHOOL MOVIE.”
When Gil Junger’s agent gave him the script for a teen version of The Taming of the Shrew, “I said ‘absolutely not,’” Junger admitted in the film’s production notes. “I had no interest in doing a typical high school film. I wanted to do a romantic love story. But, at the urging of my agent, I read the script. I loved it. The depth of it surprised me. It really is a romantic love story. The plot is beautifully interwoven and the humor works because it comes from the characters.”
3. HEATH LEDGER PLAYED PATRICK WITH A BIT OF AN “EDGE.”
Patrick Verona was Heath Ledger’s first Hollywood role. “There was initial concern over Heath’s Australian accent, but I said, ‘Why? It makes him more interesting, mysterious and sexy,’” Junger said. The character of Patrick is based on The Taming of the Shrew’s Petruchio. “I’m using bits and pieces of Richard Burton’s portrayal of that character in perhaps the best known The Taming of the Shrew film, but my Patrick has also got a Jack Nicholson edge to him with his cheekiness and his smiles,” Ledger explained.
4. DAVID KRUMHOLTZ ATTRIBUTES THE FILM’S SUCCESS TO THE CAST’S GENUINE CHEMISTRY.
David Krumholtz, who plays Michael in the film, wrote a piece for Vulture explaining why he thought the movie worked so well. He stated the entire cast became fast friends. “Joseph Gordon-Levitt turned me on to Phish, and I turned him on to Wu-Tang,” the actor wrote. “Gabrielle Union had us in stitches, Julia Stiles brought her own brand of SoHo-bred artistic intellectualism (at only 17, mind you), Larisa Oleynik’s laughter filled the room, and we marveled at the tonedness of Andrew Keegan’s muscles (a great sport!).”
Filming began without Ledger, and the cast worried how his presence would change the dynamic. “This was a concern that was remedied a few days later, when he arrived and we found yet another comrade in sensibility. The group, with Heath, only got stronger. Before I knew it, the cast was experiencing what I’ve since found to be all too rare: a unified chemistry throughout the ensemble, without a single bad apple in the bunch. We all agreed that we were having the best summer of our lives.”
5. JULIA STILES CRIED REAL TEARS WHILE READING HER POEM.
At the end of the film, in a classroom, Kat reads a poem listing all of the things she hates about Patrick, and starts crying when she reveals she doesn’t hate him, “Not even a little bit, not even at all.” She told Cosmopolitan those tears weren’t “intentional.” “On some level I knew that I was supposed to be somewhat emotional, because when we did the table read I remember I just said the poem, and I could have been reciting the phone book,” Stiles said. “But [when it came to filming] I never expected that I was going to start crying. I don't know why I did, whether it connected to something going on at the time, or if I was just overwhelmed by the whole experience of making my first big movie.”
6. ANDREW KEEGAN DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DRAW GENITALS.
In one scene of the movie, Krumholtz’s character approaches Keegan’s and convinces him to pay Patrick to date Kat. As he’s explaining the deal, Joey randomly takes a marker and draws a picture of a penis on his face. “I remember having to teach Andrew Keegan how to draw a proper d*ck on my face, which was a little strange to have to do,” Krumholtz told The Huffington Post.
7. THE HELICOPTER SHOT TERRIFIED LETTERS TO CLEO.
The band appears as themselves a couple of times in the film, including a scene on a rooftop, where they sing their Cheap Trick cover, “I Want You to Want Me.” Lead singer Kay Hanley told Popdose that the experience scared the band. They had to perform the song on a patch of roof the size of Hanley’s kitchen, and on a windy day.
“So they told us, ‘This is a helicopter shot, and it costs $500,000 every time the helicopter has to take off, so don’t f*ck this up!’” Hanley recalled. “As we started playing we saw the helicopter appear, off in the distance. It’s hard to say how far away it was at first, because we were so high up in the air. But then all of a sudden the helicopter does this dive bomb directly toward us! Is the helicopter out of control? Is it supposed to be coming at us like this? And I’m thinking, ‘Don’t f*ck up, keep singing the song, don’t f*ck up, it costs 500 grand every time the copter takes off.’ It was unbelievably scary—but it turned out to be such an amazing shot.”
8. THE MOVIE WAS SPUN-OFF INTO A SHORT-LIVED TV SHOW.
During the 2009-2010 TV season, 21 episodes of a 10 Things I Hate About You TV show aired on ABC Family. Junger directed the pilot, but Carter Covington created the show. Instead of focusing too much on the plot of the movie, Covington decided to make the show about two sisters. “I love the movie and I think a lot of people loved the movie,” Covington told The Futon Critic. “I know there can be a lot of backlash when you try to turn a hit movie into a television show, but I’d always wanted to do a show about siblings. I think the sibling dynamic is incredibly ripe for comedy.”
9. JUNGER WROTE AND DIRECTED A QUASI-SEQUEL, BUT IT’S NOT FINISHED.
Between 2012 and 2013, Junger wrote and directed 10 Things I Hate About Life, an unofficial sequel to the original. “It is the story of two relatable, ordinary people with normal jobs and normal desires whose seemingly great lives have become unmanageable,” he told Variety in 2012 about the plot. “Two people who go to the same place at the same time to end it … Their chance meeting is so awkward, so raw, and so funny, they postpone their intentions and go their separate ways.”
Hayley Atwell was attached at one point, but Evan Rachel Wood eventually won the female lead. In 2014, though, the producers sued Wood for more than $30 million because she dropped out of the incomplete film. She stated the film shut down production in 2013, and the producers weren’t able to pay her a salary.
10. JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT THINKS THE MOVIE IS BETTER THAN CITIZEN KANE.
In 1999, the actor went on The Daily Show to promote the film. But what was supposed to be a routine interview turned a bit wacky. When Jon Stewart asked him about the movie, Gordon-Levitt became hyperbolic. “It’s the best movie of all time. It’s going to dethrone Citizen Kane,” he said. “There’s a girl called Julia Stiles,” he continued. “She’s the best actress ever. Anybody in this movie—top eight best actors of all time.”