What the Hell Happened to Rachel Leigh Cook?

Rachel Leigh Cook

Rachel Leigh Cook

Usually articles in the “What the Hell Happened” series start off with a brief paragraph intended to show what a big star the subject used to be.  This career high point will then typically be contrasted with either a corresponding low point of the subject’s current status.  But the rise and fall of Rachael Leigh Cook isn’t anywhere near that dramatic.  Aside from her one hit movie, she is probably best known for having smashed eggs with a frying pan in a long-running public service announcement.  Cook’s not so much a fallen starlet as a child actor who could have been a bigger star than she was.  All the same, we’ll still ask the question…

What the hell happened?

Rachel Leigh Cook - Milkbone Dog Buicuits

Rachel Leigh Cook – Milkbone Dog Buicuits

At the age of seven, Cook made her acting debut in a public service announcement for foster care.  At 10, she began doing print modeling.  She appeared in a national ad for Target and was pictured on the box of Milk-Bone dog biscuits.  It’s hard to say who is cuter; Cook or the puppy.

As a teenager, Cook began auditioning for movie roles.  She quickly made the transition from the pet aisle to the cineplex.

Rachael Leigh Cook - The Baby-Sitters Club - 1995

Rachael Leigh Cook – The Baby-Sitters Club – 1995

Cook made her acting debut in the big screen adaptation of Ann M. Martin’s series of novels, The Baby-Sitter’s Club.  The title tells you everything you need to know on this one.  A group of seven young girls form a babysitting club which leads to various adventures.  The plot for the movie was culled from three novels which weren’t actually written by the creator of the series.  In the movie, the girls decide to form a day camp for the kids they watch.

Critics were lukewarm on The Baby-Sitter’s Club and it tanked at the box office.  It opened the same weekend as Mortal Kombat which was the number one movie that week.  Way down the list, The Baby-Sitters Club opened in ninth place behind Apollo 13 which had been in theaters for two months by that point.  Over time, The Baby-Sitter’s Club has found an audience as fans of the books discovered the movie on home video.

A lot of the girls in The Baby-Sitters Club continued working.  But none of them went on to the heights that awaited Cook.

Rachael Leigh Cook - Tom and Huck - 1995

Rachael Leigh Cook – Tom and Huck – 1995

Later that year, Cook played Becky Thatcher in Disney’s adaptation of Mark Twain’s novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  The movie gave Huckleberry Finn equal billing with the title Tom and Huck.  Jonathan Taylor Thomas, was still in his teen heart-throb stage when he starred as Tom Sawyer.  Brad Renfro, hot off John Grisham’s The Client, played his friend Huck.

Stephen Sommers, who cowrote and coproduced this movie, had previously written and directed an adaptation of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for Disney two years prior.  The casts are completely different so there is no direct link beyond being from the same studio and Sommers’ involvement.

The Adventures of Huck Finn had done marginally well enough for Disney to let Sommers take another shot at Twain.  But Tom and Huck was a miss with critics and audiences.  It opened near the bottom of the top ten once again putting Cook in ninth place at the box office sandwiched between flops like Sudden Death and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

This was bad news for Thomas and Renfro, but for a newcomer like Cook, it was a victory to be cast in two major motion pictures.  Sure, it would have been nice if one of them had been a hit.  But her previous gig was co-starring with Snoopy on a box of dog treats.

Rachael Leigh Cook - Carpool - 1996

Rachael Leigh Cook – Carpool – 1996

The following year, Cook starred in the short film, 26 Summer Street which played at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.  She also appeared in a less-artsy comedy starring Tom Arnold and David Paymer.  In Carpool, Paymer played the kind of uptight dad who panics when his sick wife asks him to drive the kids to school.  Cook played  Paymer’s son’s dream-girl who also happens to ride in the carpool.  Tom Arnold, during the brief period in the nineties in which he was cast in lead roles, played a loveable loser who hijacks the car and takes Paymer and the kids hostage.

Carpool was directed by   Arthur Hiller.  Yes, the same guy who made The Out-of-Towners, Plaza Suite, Silver Streak and The In-Laws also directed a Tom Arnold vehicle.  By the mid-nineties, Hiller had fallen on hard times.

Critics weren’t kind to Carpool.  John Artl of The Seattle Times wrote “Watching a Tom Arnold movie is like getting trapped in a room with a barking dog for 90 minutes.”  Even Ty Burr, who gave Carpool a mixed review, called the movie “Hard to hate, but just about impossible to like.”

Unlike Cook’s previous movies, Carpool didn’t open at the bottom of the top ten.  It missed the top ten completely landing in 13th place behind Alaska which was in its second week of release.

Rachael Leigh Cook - Country Justice - 1997

Rachael Leigh Cook – Country Justice – 1997

1997 was a big year for Cook.  She started showing up in tons of TV movies.  The first of which was Country Justice (aka Family Rescue).  George C. Scott starred as a grandpa who has to take matters into his own hands when his granddaughter is raped.  Cook played the granddaughter who was raped by her mother’s boyfriend.  Former Brat Packer, Ally Sheedy, played the no good mom.

In true TV movie fashion, the boyfriend, played by Don Diamont, begins stalking Cook who is pregnant with his child.  The stress causes Cook to go into labor and she has a son.  Diamont sues for custody of the baby and wins, but Scott has had enough.  He kidnaps the baby and becomes a fugitive great grandpa.  Yes, it’s all as pulpy as it sounds.  And it’s damn near impossible to turn off once you get invested in it.

Rachael Leigh Cook - True Women - 1997

Rachael Leigh Cook – True Women – 1997

Next up was the CBS miniseries, True Women.  The series adapted the 1993 novel of the same name.  The story runs five decades covering events from the Texas Revolution through the Civil War and into the women’s suffrage movement.  The cast included Dana Delany, Annabeth Gish, Angelina Jolie, Tina Majorino, Michael York, Tony Todd, Powers Boothe, John Schneider and Charles S. Dutton.  Cook played Jolie’s character as a teen.  It was also the acting debut of Hilary and Haylie Duff who appeared in uncredited roles.


Rachael Leigh Cook - The House of Yes - 1997

Rachael Leigh Cook – The House of Yes – 1997

Cook continued playing the younger version of 20-something actresses in her lone theatrical film of the year.  The House of Yes starred Parker Posey as an unstable woman obsessed with Jackie Onassis.  Cook appears briefly as Posey’s character in flashbacks.  Tori Spelling, Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Geneviève Bujold costarred.

The movie was well-received at the Sundance film festival.  Overall, reviews were mixed to positive.  Despite decent reviews, The House of Yes never received a wide release.

Rachael Leigh Cook - The Eighteenth Angel - 1997

Rachael Leigh Cook – The Eighteenth Angel – 1997

Rounding out a busy year, Cook popped up the made-for-cable movie, The Defenders: Payback.  The movie featured E. G. Marshall reprising his role from the courtroom drama that aired in the late sixties.

She also played a model who may actually be the anti-Christ in the Omen rip-off The Eighteenth Angel.

Cook’s name appeared in a lot of credits, but unless you were the kind of person who watched a lot of made-for TV movies in the late-nineties, you may not have noticed her.  But odds are good that if you turned on a TV around that time, you probably saw Cook smashing up a kitchen with a frying pan in an anti-drugs public service announcement.

Any questions?

The spot was an update of the long running “This is your brain on drugs” PSA which had been running since 1987.  Originally, the new spot was supposed to feature a male teen wielding the frying pan.  But the director thought it would be more effective with a female spokesperson.  Cook was reportedly enthusiastic about the job because she thought it was for a good cause.

Thirty years later, this PSA is still one of the things Cook is best-known for.  Cook revisited the ad in 2017 with a new political spin.

Rachael Leigh Cook - The Outer Limits - 1998

Rachael Leigh Cook – The Outer Limits – 1998

As enduring as the egg-smashing public service announcement turned out to be, Cook was still an unknown.  Maybe her face was familiar, but most audiences couldn’t put a name to it.  The last 90’s were filled with the kind of roles young actresses take while they are paying their dues.  She appeared in an episode of the sci-fi anthology show, The Outer Limits, played an uptight hall monitor in the coming-of-age drama, All I Wanna Do and portrayed a teenage Holly Hunter in the dramedy, Living Out Loud.  Cook continued building her indie cred with little movies like The Naked Man which starred  Michael Rapaport as a violent chiropractor and The Hi-Line in which Cook plays a girl who discovers a family secret.

Rachael Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr - She's All That - 1999

Rachael Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr – She’s All That – 1999

In 1999, audiences finally learned the name of that cute, angry girl they had watched smashing eggs on their TV sets for the last couple of years.  Rachel Leigh Cook and Freddie Prinze Jr. costarred in the teen romcom She’s All That and it made them both famous.  For the last several years, most movies aimed at the high school crowd were sly horror movies with casts cobbled together from TV shows on the WB.  She’s All That was the first movie in a while to go back to the John Hughes playbook right down to an ugly-duckling metamorphosis worthy of Molly Ringwald.  Just a few months later, Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger would cater to the same audience with 10 Things I Hate About You.

Critics were dismissive of the update on Pygmalion.  But the target audience of teenage girls who wanted to believe that with the right make-over, they could date Freddie Prinze Jr. weren’t concerned about the movie’s tired cliches.  It was all new to them anyway.  They showed up in droves making She’s All That a hit at the box office.  The movie grossed over one-and-a-half times its budget in its opening weekend alone.  It held on pretty well too with six weeks in the top ten.  That was enough to make She’s All That the 38th highest grossing movie of 1999 which may not sound all that impressive, but for a low-budget teen movie released in January, it’s a win.

Rachael Leigh Cook - Dawson's Creek - 1999

Rachael Leigh Cook – Dawson’s Creek – 1999

Audiences were also getting to know Cook on the small screen.  A month after She’s All That opened, while it was still hanging out in the box office top ten, Cook appeared in several episodes of the WB drama, Dawson’s Creek.

Cook’s character on the show was an actress who played a character based on Katie Holmes’ character in a movie directed by Dawson.  Holmes’ character resents the actress portraying her after she poses nude for an art class.  Enrollment in high school art classes tripled the day after that episode aired, I bet.

Opportunities like She’s All That don’t come around very often.  Most actresses, if they are lucky enough to star in a Hollywood movie, wait their entire career for a movie that connects the way She’s All That did.  But that’s only part of the trick.  If you want to be a movie star, they key is to follow up your star-making role with another hit movie that reminds audiences what they liked about you in the first place.  Adding to the difficulty level, Cook’s big break came at a time when there were a lot of big teen movies.

In addition to She’s All That and 10 Things, 1999 also saw the release of American Pie which unleashed potential competitors like Mena Suvari and Tara Reid.  Additionally, every actress on a youth-oriented TV show like Dawson’s Creek or Felicity was trying to break into movies.  The years that followed would usher in a glut of teen movies not seen since the heyday of the Brat Pack.  Just as those young actors learned in the 80’s, teenage audiences are a fickle lot.  Each new class brings along a new batch of high school crushes.  If an actress like Cook makes the transition to adult roles too soon, she runs the risk of alienating her fan base.  Wait too long and you will be typecast as a teen dream girl.

It’s a difficult balancing act and as we’re about to see, Cook didn’t quite pull it off.

Rachel Leigh Cook and Sylvester Stallone – Get Carter – 2000

One of the problems with following up on a star-making role is that movies take a while to make.  Odds are, your next movie in theaters will be something you agreed to do before you were famous.  You can bet Cook wouldn’t have agreed to a three-episode appearance on Dawson’s Creek after She’s All That.  And she may not have signed on the dotted line for the American remake of the 1971 thriller, Get Carter either.

The original British crime drama starred Michael Caine as a London gangster who returns home to investigate the circumstances of his brother’s “accidental” death.  The American remake stuck to the plot of the original movie and retained Caine for a supporting role, but recast the lead with Sylvester Stallone.  The former Rocky had been desperately trying to reinvent himself as a dramatic actor now that his days as an action star were dwindling, but the Get Carter remake didn’t do him (or anyone else) any favors.

If Get Carter had been any good, it might have offered Cook a chance to branch out beyond teen romances.  Instead, it was panned by critics and flopped at the box office.  After a third-place opening, the remake sank like a stone grossing less than half of its bloated budget.  That was worse news for Stallone than it was for Cook, but if she was ever going to capitalize on She’s All That she needed to do it soon.

Rachel Leigh Cook – Antitrust – 2001

In 2001, Cook had several opportunities to strike while the iron was still relatively hot.  Unfortunately, none of these movies connected with audiences.  She started off a busy year with a supporting role in the tech thriller, Antitrust.  Ryan Phillippe, who by 2001 was well on his way to becoming “the other guy in I Know What You Did Last Summer“, starred as a gifted programmer who goes to work for a shady company run by a Bill-Gates-stand-in played by Tim Robbins.  Antitrust opened in an abysmal 12th place at the box office.

Josh Hartnett – Blow Dry – 2000

Next up, Cook appeared in the British comedy, Blow Dry.  The movie starred Natasha Richardson and Alan Rickman as a couple of divorcees who enter a hairdressing competition.  The movie’s marketing focused heavily on Josh Hartnett who played the couple’s son.  Bill Nigh portrayed the defending champion and Cook played his daughter and a love interest for Hartnett.  Blow Dry received a limited release in the US which didn’t amount to much.  The idea was to recreate the success of writer Simon Beaufoy’s earlier movie, The Full Monty.  But Blow Dry was a Half Monty at best.  Maybe a Quarter Monty.

Rachael Leigh Cook – Josie and the Pussycats – 2001

If Cook was looking to enhance her star power, her best chance was with the musical comedy, Josie and the Pussycats.  The movie was based on the Archie comic book about a girl group that performs pop songs while wearing cat ears.  The characters had previously appeared in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.  Cook starred as Josie with Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson as her band-mates.  Alan Cumming and Parker Posey played villainous record label executives who try to exploit the girls.

Josie came out just as the bubblegum pop movement that started with acts like Britney Spears and NSYNC was losing steam.  The movie actually satirized the music scene of the time including an extended cameo by Total Request Live host Carson Daly playing himself, but the movie was marketed more like the American version of the Spice Girls than the clever parody it actually was.

Reviews were mixed, but the box office results were decisive.  Josie and the Pussycats bombed.  It opened in 7th place and grossed less than half of its budget.  Over the years, it has developed a small cult following on video.  But at the time, Josie was seen as evidence that Cook couldn’t carry a movie.

Rachael Leigh Cook – Texas Rangers – 2001

Cook appeared in a couple other movies that year that very few people actually saw.  The Western Texas Rangers was written by John Milius who had intended to direct it himself.  When the movie was picked up by the Weinstein Brothers, Milius was replaced as director.  The cast included then-hot young actors like James Van Der Beek, Ashton Kutcher and Dylan McDermott.  After the movie was completed, it sat on a shelf before ultimately being dumped in theaters with no support.

Rounding out 2001, Cook also appeared in the thriller Tangled which had nothing to do with Rapunzel.

Frequently, people will say of an actor, “they were never interested in being a movie star”.  I usually find this to be disingenuous.  If you don’t want to be a movie star, it’s pretty easy to avoid giving the appearance of someone trying to be a movie star.  Just don’t star in movies.  If Cook didn’t have any interest in movie stardom, she probably wouldn’t have taken leading roles in movies like She’s All That or even Josie and the Pussycats.

Having said that, Cook’s career choices are not those of a mainstream Hollywood actress.  Her interests were clearly in the indie scene.  Even after She’s All That when Cook could have (and arguably should have) been landing leading roles in rom-coms, she was making quirky comedies.  So I’m somewhat open to the argument that Cook wasn’t all that interested in being a big A-list movie star.

You may remember Cook as being a bigger star than her filmography would suggest.  That’s likely because the actress was all over the place post She’s All That.  Audiences may have missed most of Cook’s movies, but she was unavoidable on magazine covers.  In 2000, Cook appeared in music videos for New Found Glory and Daniel Powter.

Rachael Leigh Cook – 29 Palms – 2002

Post Pussycats, Cook settled in to an indie movie niche.  In 2002, she appeared as part of an ensemble cast in the Tarantino-esque crime drama, 29 Palms.  The movie followed a bag of money from one eccentric character to the next.  This is the kind of movie where none of the characters have actual names.  Cook played The Waitress, Jeremy Davies was The Drifter and Chris O’Donnell was The Sidekick, wait that’s not right.  I’m sorry, O’Donnell played The Hitman.

Rachael Leigh Cook – Scorched – 2003

By 2003, Cook seems to have embraced the art house oeuvre.  She appeared in several indies like Bookies with Nick Stakl and Lukas Haas and 11:14 with Henry Thomas and Hilary Swank.

Cook also appeared in the infamous caper comedy Scorched which starred Alicia Silverstone and Woody Harrelson as disgruntled bank employees who independently decide to rob their place of employment on the same night.  John Cleese costarred as a local millionaire who has wronged both Harrelson and Cook.

Scorched was filmed two years prior.  When it was finally released, it played in a dozen theaters for three days and grossed roughly eight thousand dollars which is probably less than they spend on craft services.  Even in the realm of little independent movies where box office isn’t everything, earning back less than 1% of your production costs is a problem.

In 2004, Cook married actor Daniel Gillies who is probably best known for The Vampire Diaries and its spin-off The Originals.  According to Cook, the couple got engaged after dating only five months and were married just a couple of months after the engagement.  We often see actresses put their careers on hold to raise a family.  But Cook and Gillies didn’t have children until 2013.  Cook told People Magazine “There was just so much more both of us wanted to do. We wanted to travel and accomplish a lot more in our professional lives.”

Rachael Leigh Cook – Nancy Drew – 2007

What Cook did in her professional life was mostly television.  She appeared in the 2005 mini-series Into the West and had a recurring role on Las Vegas.  She also did voice work for Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts video games.

In 2007, Cook returned to mainstream movies with a supporting role in an adaptation of Nancy Drew.  Emma Roberts starred as the famous girl detective.  Most of Cook’s other movies went direct-to-video.  On TV, Cook has had recurring roles on shows like Titan Maximum and Psych.  She costarred with Eric McCormack  on the cable series, Perception.

So, what the hell happened?

Today, Cook and her husband have two young children.  Both are still working actors although you are unlikely to have seen much of anything Cook has done recently unless you watch a lot of TV movies.  After the surprise success of She’s All That, Cook had a brief window in which to cement her status as a movie star.  If that was a goal, it didn’t seem like she put a lot of effort into it.  Instead, Cook spent her time making quirky (and usually poorly reviewed) independent movies.

Cook’s window of opportunity was narrow and it came at a time when there was a lot of competition for parts.  The success of youth-oriented movies in 1999 minted several potential young stars who were all fighting for the same roles.  Then the studios flooded the market with copycat movies that turned audiences off completely killing the market and the hopes of many would-be movie stars.

But Cook largely sidestepped the pitfalls of being a teen movie queen.  She went the indie route instead and it seems like it suits her just fine.

What The Hell Happened Directory




Posted on July 12, 2017, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Before I even read a word, I was actually wondering what the hell had actually happened to this series!


    • It’s back!

      You’ll notice the format has changed. I have spent a lot of time considering some criticism I have received about the length of the articles. I couldn’t deny there was some validity to some of the complaints I was getting. Really, for the last couple of years, I’ve been tinkering with ideas of what I think WTHH should be. This article’s been in the works for a long while, so I expect future articles to continue to evolve. I hope you guys like the new approach. My plan is to keep new articles coming at a regular pace.


      • jeffthewildman

        Shorter approach works for subjects like Rachael Leigh Cook, since her moment as an It Girl was so brief.

        A few days ago I was contemplating a WTHH article on Skeet Ulrich after re-watching Scream for the first time in a few years.


        • He plays Jughead’s dad on Riverdale. Good show. You should check it out if you’re not watching. The more abbreviated approach would also work well for Skeet, I would think. I’d be interested to read whatever you come up with on that one. Skeet. It’s just fun to say.

          I have a few subjects lined up which will probably result in longer articles. RLC really only had She’s All That. Josie and the Pussycats was an indie that got a wider release than it probably should have. After those two, she’s best known for a PSA. We’ll see how the articles turn out for other subjects. I’m still tinkering.


        • jeffthewildman

          Agreed that this format works well for him and other subjects. It largely depends on how long their moment in the a-list was.


        • I suppose part of the hype behind Rachael Leigh Cook was that she was seen as potentially the second coming (or heir apparent) of Winona Ryder (before of course, all of Winona Ryder’s own issues like the shop lifting incident came into play). As a matter of fact, her character’s name in “She’s All That”, Laney Boggs is a combination of Kim Boggs (Winona’s character’s name in “Edward Scissorhands”) and Lelaina “Laney” Pierce (Winona’s character’s name in “Reality Bites”).


        • I don’t know how much this exactly reflects on Rachael Leigh Cook per se, but “She’s All That” is arguably one of those youth oriented movies from back in the day that in hindsight, hasn’t aged particularly well:

          While She’s All That (1999) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1999) were massive successes in their day, ask yourself: how many times have you gone back and watched them as an adult? That’s what we thought. Illustrious and long-lived cinematic careers are not made by ugly duckling stories and teen slasher flicks. Prinze seemed to be typecast as the popular guy or the local hunk. Either he never chose to or never got the chance to experiment with indies, dramas, or smaller roles that could have expanded his horizons and catalyzed more prestigious opportunities.


      • I like the shorter format. It gets right to the point. (Even though we all know I can spend hours reading the comments.)

        Are Corey Feldman, C. Thomas Howell, and Andrew McCarthy on your shortlist of future subjects?


      • I like the whole “one page in a shot” approach (I’m lazy and don’t like clicking numbers all the time; I’m half-kidding). In general though, I haven’t minded whatever format was out there when it came to the articles; it’s all just fine for me.


      • Have missed this series! And I was hoping you’d get to RLC. I’ve watched both Josie and She’s All That in the past few years, and while Josie is pretty flawed, it’s still quite entertaining. I humbly disagree with Terrence that She’s All That holds up worse than its contemporaries. I think it’s a great movie of its time and I have indeed watched it as an adult. Actually, I was 28 when it came out, so I’ve only watched it as an adult. 🙂 The dad in the movie is particularly hilarious.

        RLC’s lack of a further career is regrettable, but I think you (Lebeau) nailed the cause at the end. It also seems that 9/11 was the changing of an era of movies as well, when 90s fun, optimistic froth was no longer viable any more. It’s kinda hard to think of a blockbuster movie that RLC ought to have been in. Just as it is for other actresses I like: What did Kirsten Dunst really miss out on after the Spider-Man movies? I’m drawing a blank.

        Anyhow, thanks for these new WTHH’s!


  2. Ah, the long-awaited “WTHH to RLC” article. Good job, and nice to see the return of our signature series here. While she never became a big star, RLC also was never reduced to, say, advertising cat litter or anything like that, and my sense (from reading her Twitter page, etc.) is that she is both happy and grounded, unlike some others in her cohort of actresses. And of course she remains my perma-crush. 🙂


    • I get the sense that Cook is very pleased with the way her life and career have progressed. And why shouldn’t she be? From all appearances, she has a happy, healthy family. I would imagine they are financially comfortable and then some. While she may not have been a top tier movie star, she’s enjoyed a great level of success than the vast majority of actresses. And looking at her choices, it doesn’t seem like topping the A-List was ever a goal for her. It may not make for the juiciest article in the series, but I think Cook’s career is worth celebrating.


      • Rachael Leigh Cook On Never Being Satisfied With Career

        Adam has hailed her as one of the most admirable and down to earth women working in Hollywood and he’s even called her “an angel” when her name has come up on previous episodes of The Movie Crypt, so the boys (and “Arwen”) are delighted to finally sit down with the wonderful soul that is actress Rachael Leigh Cook (SHE’S ALL THAT, PERCEPTION, JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS). Listen as they discuss Rachael’s career from child model to break-out film and television star, how Rachael has navigated her career and chosen her roles, what things Rachael will and will not do in a movie, why she passed up the chance to play “Rogue” in X-MEN, gender equality in the entertainment business, what it’s like to wear pajamas to a party that’s not a pajama party, the importance of self-image as a young woman working in the limelight, how Rachael has remained so grounded in a world of make believe, and how she and her husband (actor Daniel Gillies from THE ORIGINALS, VAMPIRE DIARIES and so much more) have been able to succeed in not only their marriage but also in raising their new daughter while both juggling extremely difficult career schedules. Of course you get the usual segments as well (“Viewer Mail” and “5 Minute Movie”) but by the last few minutes of the episode we guarantee that you too will be a lifelong fan of Rachael’s when you hear what exactly it is that Adam has to thank her for.


    • Why Hollywood won’t cast Rachael Leigh Cook anymore

      Back in the early 2000s, Rachael Leigh Cook was poised for greatness. First making her screen debut in a terrifying, but memorable anti-drug PSA, and starring shortly thereafter in She’s All That, a.k.a. the cutest pre-Y2K teen comedy on earth. It should have been smooth sailing to stardom from there. But instead of taking her rightful place on the A-list, Cook just kind of… disappeared. Why did she drop off the radar? Looking back at her career, it all starts to make sense.

      She’s still trapped in the ’90s

      Rachael Leigh Cook’s big break came in 1999, when she starred in the intsa-classic teen comedy (and loose My Fair Lady remake) She’s All That. Unfortunately, she also never broke free of her status as a ’90s “It Girl.” Nearly 20 years after She’s All That, it’s still arguably the role she’s most famous for — and most recognizable, too, because she doesn’t seem to have aged at all since then. Cook is approaching 40, but on camera, she still reads as a teeny-tiny teenager. That’s great news if you want to be a skincare spokesmodel, but it’s almost definitely holding her back from booking the kind of grownup roles her peers have transitioned into.

      She can’t live down the falafel hat

      Also, the problem with being remembered largely for that classic teen rom-com you made at the age of 20? Your top YouTube result will forever be a clip of you wearing an unflattering falafel hat and berating Freddie Prinze, Jr. about his “dork outreach program.” Even though Rachael Leigh Cook totally has the range to play a variety of roles beyond the prickly ugly-duckling art student, you really have to go hunting for evidence thereof.

      She’s not great at going dark

      Despite that one memorable turn as a spokesgirl against the horrors of heroin, Rachael Leigh Cook never really managed to nail the kind of gritty roles that would have established her as a serious presence in Hollywood. In 2004, after making a handful of low-budget indies and formulaic thrillers that never found an audience, she pivoted to take on darker, different kind of role in the movie Stateside, playing a schizophrenic pop star.

      It could have been an attention-getting move that proved her range as an actress, but alas, Cook’s performance was off-key and couldn’t transcend the film’s poorly-written script or slightly ludicrous premise (in her defense she was badly hobbled by lines that one reviewer described as “ridiculous.”) Critics panned Stateside, decrying the emotionally flat acting and total lack of chemistry between its romantic leads — and Rachael Leigh Cook, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, didn’t make any further efforts to branch out into edgier fare.

      Her post-breakout movies were box office bombs

      Nothing saps a promising star’s momentum like a terrible movie, and Rachael Leigh Cook sadly had a spate of them. Although she stayed incredibly busy after She’s All That, appearing in a total of nine projects over the next two years, virtually none of them performed as hoped.

      Get Carter, a promising ensemble drama, made only $19 million against a $63 million budget; Josie and the Pussycats couldn’t even earn back its modest budget of $22 million and was viciously panned by critics — Roger Ebert gave the movie one half of one star, saying, “Josie and the Pussycats are not dumber than the Spice Girls, but they’re as dumb as the Spice Girls, which is dumb enough.” Without the ability to draw crowds at the box office, Cook’s clout in Hollywood began to fade.

      One word: Antitrust

      This 2001 corporate techno-thriller didn’t just put a big dent in Rachael Leigh Cook’s Hollywood cachet when it bombed at the box office — it seems to have cursed the nascent careers of basically everyone in it. The top-billed stars of the film, which included Cook’s fellow ’90s cool kids Ryan Philippe and Claire Forlani, all saw their star power take a serious nosedive after Antitrust hit theaters with a resounding thud — The film holds a ghastly twenty-four percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the headline explicitly mentions bad acting as one of its many missteps. Oof.

      Only Tim Robbins, who was already an Oscar-nominated A-lister when he played the movie’s white-collar villain, managed to emerge from the wreckage of Antitrust without any apparent damage to his career. For the film’s younger and less-established stars, there would be no such recovery.

      Her movies never make it to theaters

      It’s not unusual for even the most well-heeled actors to star in a direct-to-video flop or two, but Rachael Leigh Cook has had astonishingly bad luck on that front even by D-list standards: a full dozen of her projects (nearly every feature film she’s made over the past 10 years) never found their way to the big screen at all. That’s bad news for Cook’s movies, but it’s not great for her career, either. Without the glitzy premieres and media appearances that go hand-in-hand with a theatrical release, it’s difficult for an actress to stay on the radar of the casting agents, directors, and other industry folks who might help her find more work.

      Her primetime TV career was short-lived

      Like many actors who couldn’t quite find their footing in in feature films, Rachael Leigh Cook’s next big move in 2012 was to reinvent herself on prime time TV — in this case playing the role of an FBI agent on TNT’s quirky crime drama, Perception. It was a smart choice for Cook, and a great chance to get back on Hollywood’s radar in a role totally unlike the one that made her famous. Unfortunately, the series never scored the kind of ratings it needed and was cancelled after three seasons.

      She flies way under the radar on social media

      Even without the power of a Hollywood PR machine behind her, if she wanted to, Rachael Leigh Cook could probably relaunch her career single-handedly simply by leveraging the nostalgia of her now-adult fans into a total social media renaissance. But Cook clearly isn’t all that interested in building her brand, or maintaining a celebrity-grade presence online. A peek at her Twitter account reveals she has a mere 100,000 followers, which is downright shocking. As a point of comparison, fellow ’90s It-Girl Jennifer Love Hewitt — whose career has been even more troubled than Cook’s as of late — boasts close to a million followers on Twitter.

      So even when she’s got content that’s perfectly poised to go viral — like this squee-worthy reunion with her fellow Babysitters Club cast members back in 2015 — it just doesn’t get that much attention. And most of the time, RLC uses her social media just like a regular person: for vacation pics, activism, and pie-related boasts.

      She’s super-focused on being a wife and mom

      Women’s careers tend to take a hit when they stop working to have a baby, and that’s as true in Hollywood as it is anywhere else. In Rachael Leigh Cook’s case, she gave birth to two kiddos in short order while working on Perception (daughter Charlotte was born in 2013, and her son, Theodore, in 2015), and all signs point to her making motherhood her first priority.

      The actress relocated with her family to Atlanta, Georgia, where her husband Daniel Gillies is often busy shooting vampire drama The Originals — and where Cook has thrown herself into domestic pursuits, charity work, and dog rescuing. Needless to say, settling so far from Hollywood makes it difficult for Cook to audition for new roles; but more importantly, it speaks to a shift in her priorities. For her part, the actress seems perfectly content to not be in the thick of Tinseltown.

      But it’s not too late for her to make a comeback

      Starting in 2016, Rachael Leigh Cook made an unusual pivot, signing on to star in two separate projects produced by The Hallmark Channel. And while feel-good TV movies have a bad rap as the place where Hollywood careers go to die, for Cook, it sounds like making a couple of less-serious films was a first step toward rediscovering what kind of actress she really wants to be. In a 2016 interview, she admitted, “My desire to be cool is constantly pitted against my actual taste. I tend toward the sunnier side although I desperately want to do no budget edgy things.”

      In other words, if Cook stops trying to make herself fit the mold of an edgy indie actress and just starts making the kind of movies she likes — feel-good, fluffy comedies with more heart than grit — there should be no shortage of roles for her. Add to that the fact that Hollywood is all about nostalgia projects these days and she’s perfectly poised for a comeback in She’s STILL All That (we can dream, right?).


      • What Happened To Rachael Leigh Cook – News & Updates

        You know her from the 1995 hit “The Baby-Sitters Club”, Rachael Leigh Cook has had a long career filled with a variety of roles, both live action and animated. She gained national attention with the infamous 1998 anti-drug PSAs “This is your Brain on Drugs” but what has Rachael Leigh Cook been up to these days?

        Rachael Leigh Cook’s Early Life

        Born on October 4th 1979 in Minneapolis Minnesota to JoAnn, a cooking instructor, and Thomas Cook, a travel agent wait no, a social worker and former stand-up comedian. She began her career early, appearing in foster care adverts at the age of seven and doing print ads by ten.

        She began auditioning for acting roles at age fourteen and made her feature film debut in August 1995’s “The Baby-Sitters Club”, based on the novel of the same name. A well received film, it had the unfortunate honor of opening against “Mortal Kombat”, at the time the most successful video game to film adaptation.

        Three months later she was back in cinemas with a role in the Jonathan Taylor Thomas vehicle “Tom and Huck”. The film currently has a “Rotten” rating on, so less said. She filled the following few years with independent films and made-for-TV movies. Next reaching the national consciousness with the “This is your brain on drugs” PSAs. In these memorable advertisements she walked through a kitchen with a frying pan smashing stuff in an attempt to send a powerful message on the negatives of heroin use.

        Rachel Leigh Cook’s Mainstream Success

        The 1999 sleeper hit “She’s All That” would be her break out role. An adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, another one, it would become her most financially successful film to date. Starring opposite Freddie Prince Jr, her on-screen transformation from Hollywood homely to Hollywood hottie won her many fans and several award nominations. She had a recurring role on “Dawson’s Creek” in the same year.

        For a time she was something of a hot commodity in Hollywood, starring alongside Elijah Wood in the well received “The Bumblebee Flies Anyway”. She also landed a role in the Sylvester Stallone’s “Get Carter”, playing a troubled teen, and as a frontier girl in 2001’s “Texas Rangers”. Later in 2001 she landed the lead role in the live action “Josie and the Pussycats”, which flopped.

        She founded her own production company in 2001 called “Ben’s Sister Productions” named for her brother and aspiring film-maker Ben Cook. It would produce two films, 2001’s Tangled, not to be confused with the later Disney flick, and 2002’s 29 Psalms. She also appeared in the cult WB Kids animated show “Batman: Beyond”, called “Batman of the Future” internationally. She played Chelsea Cunningham on several of the series episodes and would reprise the role in the critically acclaimed film “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker”.

        After the commercial flop that was “Josie and the Pussycats” Rachael Leigh Cook returned to the indie film scene, appearing in a wide variety of roles, before taking a step back from the spotlight to spend more time with her family. Rachael Leigh Cook married actor Daniel Gillies in August 2004.

        Returning in 2007 for a big screen adaptation of “Nancy Drew”. She also played the female lead in the sports drama “The Final Season” and had a supporting role in “Blonde Ambition” starring Luke Wilson. Rachael Leigh Cook was selected by the Obama Administration in 2011 as a Champion of Change for Arts Education. She began awarding scholarships to people aged between fourteen and nineteen to help pay for career classes and mentoring programs in 2012.

        She began appearing in video games with 2005’s “Yakuza” and took on the role of “Final Fantasy VII’s” Tifa Lockhart for the “Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children” film as well as her numerous appearances in other games. A self confessed nerd she has had a role in the “Star Wars: The Old Republic” massively multiplayer rpg series, playing Jaesa Willsaam in three of the currently released expansions.

        She has appeared numerous times in Seth Green’s “Robot Chicken” series, including a parody of her own famous PSAs, this time using the frying pan to go on a rampage. As well as lending her voice to a variety of female pop-culture icons. She continues to appear to this day. After a recurring role on “Psych” she joined the main cast of the short lived Adult Swim Show “Titan Maximum”, a pastiche of the Super Robot genre of anime.

        What’s Rachel Leigh Cook Doing Now?

        In 2012 she signed on to do the TNT crime drama series “Perception” opposite Eric McCormack. Yet another crime series where the protagonist uses a mental disorder to solve crimes, the show was a modest success. It was cancelled in 2015 after three seasons.

        She joined the rest of her former cast mates in November for a Babysitters Club reunion. Appearing together in Texas for the twenty year anniversary of the film for a night of answering questions and nostalgia.

        This year she appeared as herself on the T.V. series “Horrified” where stars relate their worst experiences in the industry. She gave birth to her second child in April 2015 and is focusing on her family for the time being. With her heavy involvement in indie films, and her appearances in cult comedy shows we can expect more from her in the coming year.

        Expect to see Rachel Leigh Cook in an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a modern twist on the classic Shakespeare Play of the same name. Depending on Square-Enix’s release schedule we might also see her in the remake of Final Fantasy VII, seen as she is the English voice actor for Tifa Lockhart, a key player in the game.


      • I think Roger Ebert was wrong about “Josie and the Pussycats” and I think Rotten Tomatoes is wrong about both “Antitrust” & pasta.


        • I’m guessing that “Josie and the Pussycats” bombed because it wasn’t marketed properly. It was a movie that was based on a property (the Archie comic book as well as the Hanna-Barbara animated series from the 1970s) that most of its target audience was probably not that familiar with. More specifically, they marketed it directly to the people they made fun of and not to the non-mainstream music fans. In other words, it was hard to assume that it was really meant to be a tongue in cheek satire of the then music industry and consumerism. In hindsight, however, the movie perhaps hasn’t aged particularly well, as it more or less served as an example of pre-9/11 teen pop culture. It didn’t help that it came out the same week that “Spy Kids”, “Along Came a Spider”, and “Bridget Jones’s Diary”.


        • I guess, once one takes those factors into consideration, Josie & her gals probably didn’t stand a chance, even if the film was marketed better. Still, what a way to give the film no chance; I’m sure many early attendees for the film were baffled.


  3. First off, having recently discovered this site and started working my way through this series–I’m going through the old posts instead of alphabetically and have done twenty or so–I must say I don’t mind the format or the length. Your work on this series taps into one of the internet’s virtues: showing us all of the weird, crazy and often inexplicable crap entertainers worked their way through on the way to success, while also reminding us of all the good stuff they’ve done.

    This article proves the point that you learn a lot about people with these comprehensive pieces–I had no idea Cook was a part of those drug spots. However, I hope you don’t streamline these articles too much. I mean, you drop COUNTRY JUSTICE on us but no youtube clip? I can understand skipping clips/trailers for movies/shows that are incredibly well-known, but COUNTRY JUSTICE is exactly the kind of thing that warrants a clip. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the Helen Hunt post, ’cause THE MIRACLE OF KATHY MILLER and DESPERATE LIVES were life-altering.

    Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed these so far and look forward to the rest and more. Would also like to mention that I wrote-in Sarah Michelle Gellar in the poll for upcoming entries. Maybe it’s because I’m an original millenial and don’t think embracing family life can be the biggest reason for her career the last fifteen years. Actually, if there’s a drawback to this series, it’s one of those pop culture things that makes me feel really freakin’ old(at 35).


    • Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. Country Justice was freaking bananas. I remember being glued to the set when it aired. There should be a clip in the Ally Sheedy article since Sheedy played Cook’s drugged out mom.

      One option I have been considering is putting some of that supplemental material in a companion article. I haven’t worked out what that would look like yet. I do feel like the longer articles provide something you don’t see very often in typical career retrospectives. Through the pictures and clips, you can actually see the subject aging. And as you say, you get a deep dive into all the stuff you didn’t even know existed. I’m still kicking around some ideas for how to balance two opposing objectives.

      Since you asked, here’s Country Justice:

      Watch it in its entirety before it gets pulled down!


    • ‘Perception’ reignites Rachael Leigh Cook’s career

      Rachael Leigh Cook was chatting in a hotel lobby about her supporting role as a tough-as-nails FBI agent in TNT’s new drama “Perception” when she heard that Wilson Phillips was singing in an adjacent ballroom.

      “Let’s go!” she said, dashing over without hesitation.

      The Minneapolis native’s appreciation for the 1990s pop trio is telling — and not just because “Hold On” was a mega-hit during her impressionable tween years. Like the musical group, Cook has gone from being a marquee name to a Trivial Pursuit answer. The talent is still there; the rabid attention is not, a fact that she referenced when the paparazzi just outside the hotel went wild as a contemporary starlet stopped to pose for pictures.

      “That was the worst part of it,” Cook said, her expressive brown eyes seeming to grow as big as her 5-foot-2 frame. “That time never felt real to me when it was happening. By the time you realize it, it’s over. That it didn’t continue didn’t feel weird at all.”

      Cook, 32, didn’t altogether disappear. In addition to getting married in 2004 to actor Daniel Gillies (“The Vampire Diaries”), she paid the bills by guest-starring on established TV dramas (“Psych,” “The Ghost Whisperer”) and lending her voice to a variety of characters on Comedy Central’s “Robot Chicken.” She also shot a couple of sitcom pilots that failed to get picked up.

      But she’s nowhere near the level of fame she rose to a little more than a decade ago. She was still in high school when she taped an anti-drug commercial, featuring the pixie-ish actress tearing apart a kitchen with only a frying pan and Schwarzenegger-like determination. When asked what she now thinks about that spot, she joked: “Do you do heroin? No? You’re welcome.”

      That ad was followed by lead performances in 1999’s “She’s All That” and 2001’s “Josie and the Pussycats,” not to mention a yearlong fling with People magazine’s future choice for Sexiest Man Alive, Ryan Reynolds.

      But Cook quickly decided she didn’t want to be the next Julia Roberts. She preferred to follow the path of her “Pussycats” co-star Parker Posey, an actress who continually straddles the line between commercial and independent film.

      For a while, Cook was banging out four movies a year, joking that she preferred working on a small-budget projects, if only because the terrible catering service helped keep her weight in check. But when indies took a financial hit, Cook discovered that studios considered her as dated as Carole Lombard.

      “You’re not really on their radar anymore,” said Cook, whose last studio film was 2007’s “Nancy Drew.” “I can step outside of myself and sort of see why people think I disappeared for 10 years. I did, by their perception, and I’m totally fine with that.”

      Despite being eager to work more, Cook told her agent there was one genre she had no interest in: procedurals.

      “I didn’t want to get chased by a serial killer in the woods,” she said. “I didn’t want to say ‘Freeze!’ or ‘Stat’ or ‘Your Honor.’ That’s just not where I thought my happiness would be.”

      But she surprised herself by signing up for “Perception,” a series about neurology professor Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack), who helps the FBI solve a new crime every week, at least when he’s not hallucinating characters and paranoid scenarios, much in the way Russell Crowe did in “A Beautiful Mind.”

      “I realized after a while that I was looking at it the wrong way,” Cook said. “You can’t judge a character by his or her job. You have to approach everything as a character piece.”

      In “Perception,” she’s Kate Moretti, an FBI agent who’s demoted because she cares too much about her cases. Oh, and she also has a daredevil streak that compels her to leap two stories off a fire escape to pounce on a fleeing suspect.

      “We saw a lot of terrific actresses that were believable as cops, but we were looking for that one thing that made them odd, and what Rachael brought into the room was a sense of humor,” said McCormack, best known for his Emmy-winning role on “Will & Grace.” “She reminded me of Jodie Foster in ‘Silence of the Lambs.’ You look at her and go, ‘Wait a minute. She’s going to come in here and bust this big guy?’ But she does it in a surprising way, and it was having those odds stacked against her that I loved.”


      • Interview With Actress Rachael Leigh Cook, “Summer Love”

        Sweet cherubs in the world of entertainment often grow up and regrettably rebel or perchance run with a dubious crowd. Thankfully, Rachael Leigh Cook was exempted from that experience, although she has been an actress since she was a tender youth. In light of her upcoming Hallmark film Summer Love this weekend, Rachael agreed to set aside some time and respond to some fan questions regarding her career, her upcoming premiere, and her future aspirations.


      • She’s All That

        With her big, dark eyes and her precociously self-possessed way of making even dumb dialogue sound smart, Cook comes across like a young Winona Ryder. Good for her, because it means she’s destined for better movies than this unconvincing high school romantic comedy, in which she plays a brainy dork who blooms into a potential prom queen when the class president (Prinze) starts courting her on a bet.

        ”I feel just like Julia Roberts in ”Pretty Woman”–except for the whole hooker thing,” she says, summing up the movie’s somewhat snide take on the Cinderella/Pygmalion themes. That line also highlights the tinny artificiality of a feel-good fantasy that became a theatrical hit by playing all the right music and speaking all the right slang. But it has almost no feel for real teen emotions.


  4. Yep, Rachael Leigh Cook, the angry frying pan girl (I think her rage was great and convincing), and I liked that more subdued spot too (her rage was in her tone). I really liked her in “Josie and the Pussycats” and “Antitrust” (Do we antitrust her? Is Tim Robbins Bill Gates?) and both those films the most out of anything I’ve seen her in. I’ve honestly only seen bits and pieces of “She’s All That” (yet I’ve seen “Drive Me Crazy”; go figure, but I mostly know “She’s All that” from the Sixpence None The richer song “Kiss Me” that was played throughout that year), but I’ve seen “11:14” (thought it was good), “The Bumblebee Flies Away” (liked), 2003’s “Tempo” ( thought it was something to watch), while the remake of “Get Carter” didn’t really do it for me.


    • Fan Rant: Career Killing Crushes

      Last night I finished watching a new straight-to-video comedy called Falling Up. It was pretty mediocre, but I watched it mainly because it had a good cast: Annette O’Toole, Mimi Rogers, Joe Pantoliano and Snoop Dogg. OK. I didn’t watch it for them, entirely, but because of Rachael Leigh Cook. I have had a movie crush on Rachael for years and this will be the fourth straight-to-video movie I have endured just for another glimpse of those amazing eyes. But the question is: why is she in all these straight-to-video movies? If my adoration for her has endured, why has her career not done the same thing? But the scariest thing of all is that Rachael is not the only movie crush of mine that has seen a marked dip in her career. Are my affections somehow cursed? Am I a career killer?

      Rachael first made a splash as the young Jackie O in The House of Yes (1997), and then starred in a genuine hit, She’s All That (1999), as the nerdy girl who gets the question: “do you really need to wear those glasses?” Following that was a flurry of five major films in two years, all of which landed with a giant, collective thud. There was Sylvester Stallone’s remake of Get Carter, the lame comedy Blow Dry, and the tepid Western Texas Rangers. The paranoid thriller Antitrust may well qualify as a guilty pleasure, at least, and Josie and the Pussycats is definitely a guilty pleasure. I loved that film; I loved the punk/pop music and its cheerful parody of the music business. But of course, everyone else hated it.


      • What ever happened to Rachael Leigh Cook?

        What ever happened to Rachael Leigh Cook?

        By AARON PECK, FILM.COM Updated 10:00 pm, Tuesday, November 30, 2010

        When I was in high school I had a huge crush on Rachael Leigh Cook. I’m talking about a crush that made me watch She’s All That an unhealthy number of times. The movie was just awful, but somehow looking at Rachael (I came to know her on a first-name basis) made everything better.

        Rachael was one of the first girls in Hollywood to go through that transformation of losing a ponytail and glasses and all of a sudden she was attractive. Man, weren’t high school movies the greatest?

        After She’s All That Rachael quickly began rising up in the ranks of young Hollywood stars. She starred in Get Carter with Sylvester Stallone and then in Josie and the Pussycats with my other high school crush Tara Reid (before the constantly drunken stupor).

        It really looked like Rachael was heading places, and as an adoring fan I was happy to see her in any movie, no matter how bad it was. Sadly, it seemed like she wasn’t able to coast on her girl-next-door looks for long. She starred in a string of low-budget, unheard-of movies after Josie and the Pussycats. The girl who had taken Hollywood (and my heart) by storm was slowly fading into obscurity.

        She took a wild turn — possibly to reinvent herself — and starred in a little-known movie called 11:14. Traveling the road of many forgotten actresses, Rachael took on the role of Cheri. She had a pretty graphic sex scene in the movie where (I’m not making this up) she and a fella have sex in a graveyard. At one point, her partner’s head is crushed by a falling gravestone. No, the film wasn’t a massive hit.

        After another string of bad or otherwise unpopular movies, Rachael has finally landed a recurring role as Abigail Lytar on the hit show Psych. She apparently has two movies coming out in the next few years, one called Broken Kingdom and the other called Vampire, neither of which look to be project that will launch her back into stardom. Could it be that Rachael will forever be known as the super-cute yet nerdy girl in She’s All That?


        • What Happened to Rachel Leigh Cook?

          Ok, so I decided to do a kind of “Celebrity Disappearing Acts” article, and I have decided to focus on the incredibly talented Rachel Leigh Cook. Cook was a pretty big hotshot during the late 90’s, appearing in a handful of popular films, and being hyped like crazy by the media, being declared the 26th sexiest woman of 2002 by Stuff magazine. Yet, for some reason, she managed to completely drop out of the public eye around 2002-ish, despite the name she had managed to create for herself, and the talent she had displayed.

          Where You Might Remember Her From
          Rachel Leigh Cook is pretty much known as being one of the biggest bad-asses of the 90’s. She is one of the only people (besides Amanda Stepto) able to successfully pull off the “bad-ass pop-punk chick with a heart of gold” archetype that Avril Lavigne so desperately wishes she could be. Her characters were usually cynical, yet oddly lovable types, whose bad side you really want to avoid lest she kick your ass or destroy your kitchen.

          Cook first became well known through this Anti-Drug PSA, where she destroyed a kitchen and struck fear into the hearts of heroin-users and egg-lovers everywhere. I actually think it may be one of the big reasons why so many 90’s youth have grown into vegans. Her ability to be so terrifyingly kick-ass is one of the reasons why it is odd that she faded out of prominence so fast.

          After the PSA, Cook starred in She’s All That which practically invented the pretty girl+glasses= hideous, undatable freak formula that has been used in more or less every bad teen comedy (and a Taylor Swift video) since. This formula allows Hollywood to avoid hiring unattractive women by simply putting glasses on attractive women, and having everyone treat her like she’s ugly until she removes said glasses: works every time! Needless to say, She’s All That was extremely successful, and helped define the generation.

          Cook’s final high-profile film was Josie and the Pussycats. Despite lukewarm critical reaction, the film did make tons of money, and was a financial success (and, in my opinion, incredibly awesome), and managed to keep Cook in the spotlight. Josie also starred Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson, who went on to have huge careers, so the film was clearly a pretty good career move.

          Nevertheless, after Josie and the Pussycats, and a guest appearance on Dawson’s Creek around the same time, Rachel Leigh Cook more or less disappeared from the limelight. Although she continued acting, she no longer appeared in big-name movies, and the media had pretty much abandoned her. In one short year, Cook managed to vanish from the radars.

          Where is She Now?
          Voice acting. Anybody who has played the games in the FFVII compilation (or watched Advent Children) has heard her voice recently, as she was Tifa. She has also voiced many episodes of Robot Chicken. Why she has made the shift from live-action idol to voice actress is odd, yet it is quite exciting to see one of my favorite actresses from the 90’s being slowly absorbed into the video game geek culture: it allows for an overlap of my two favorite worlds, which I very much enjoy. Overall, Cook’s present status is very positive (we’ll just ignore the fact that she was in Nancy Drew), however it is still interesting to question what happened to the rising star that was so big during the 90’s.

          Anyway, there was an example of what this column would be like. Any feedback is appreciated. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Do you want to come over and watch Josie and the Pussycats with me? I want to know!


  5. Hi Lebeau, I like it this way, no need to click many times


  6. Blockbuster Buster: Josie and the Pussycats (2001)


    • If I recall, the movie was pretty much marketed to the 10-13 year-old crowd, but the humor was actually more aimed toward adults. Ultimately ff it wasn’t marketed as a “chick flick” for 10-13 year-olds, it might have done better.


      • I recall that it was marketed pretty poorly; I caught it on cable after it premiered and was surprised about how smart it was (it was nothing like the animated “Josie and The Pussycats”, which I also thought was good). I liked the film so much I brought Josie ears for my fiance at the time.



      The overwhelmingly memorable part of this film is the soundtrack. Which I am a proud owner and the thing I definitely remember the most and keeps this film more on my mind then it probably normally would. I can admit it is a guilty pleasure of mine. As I watched it twice in theaters and own the DVD.

      This film has the honor of having he most product placements in a single film. Which I believe was it’s initial aim. As it helps the movies plot to speak of how everything is sold and nothing is quite pure. Though it is sold that way. It also might have helped with the films budget. Which is strange as the film looks expensive but feels more small scale.

      The film also feels more designed and planned rather than normal. As every part of it even down to the casting feels meant to appeal to every demographic it can.

      As since it is based off of a cartoon series. It can only have so much depth. Though the film tries to keep that spirit. It also seems like it was meant to maybe start it’s own Riverdale universe that would eventually include Archie and the gang from the popular comic books. (Decades before the television show would come along)

      As the characters and the film really stay kind of wholesome even when it ventures into cynicism.

      The film offers a comedic tour de force from Alan Cumming as the bands new corporate manager. Who is acts more like a dangerous spy and Parker Posey as the label owner and the film’s main villain.

      The rest of the cast are put through their motions and do into the material. It feels somewhat tapped by it also. As the performers were relatively new and not showbiz veterans. Which also helps their performances. As it makes them seem more innocent and overshadowed by all the over the top action and characters surrounding them.

      As each has a certain character type to play but never really gets deeper than that for them. It has the craziness and energy of the movie HUDSON HAWK. But a little. For cohesive and structured. Though the same cartoonish craziness

      I respect the film as it was obviously targeted to pre-teen and teenage girls. By having all the things and trends they liked at the time it also having a positive uplifting message that they can do anything they want to including become a rock star. Including having a romance thrown in. Plus it skewered the music scene of the town with boy bands and girl groups ruling the charts. More pop music than you knew what to do with. Which is where the film runs into one of it’s obvious weaknesses. As from the beginning you can tell it’s meant to be. The problem is Rachael Leigh Cook and Gabriel Mann have no chemistry together. So you are never pining for them to get together.

      The film appears to want to have it’s cake and eat it to. As while it is meant to appeal more to a teenage female audience. As well as fans of the comic book. It is written smartly as a satire and commentary if he commercialization of music and trends at the time. That seems was meant more to appeal to parents and critics in the audience. To kind of show it was not only in on the joke but playing dumb and actually smart. Which comes up again and again throughout the film as the film seems to be having fun with trying this subliminal message of satire but also making it so blatant and overblown. As if to play to the cheap seats.

      The film feels rushed also. Like it was more a big money casualty that had a release date lined up before a finished script. Allowing the filmmakers to do whatever they wanted and whatever they had to do. As long as it came In on time and appealed to all audiences.

      This unfortunately was the last film directed by the co-screenwriters of the film. Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont. Though both have gone onto screenwriting careers as collaborators. They previously had made another of my and plenty of other people my ages guilty pleasure CAN’T HARDLY WAIT. This film was in the same mood as that film onto skewed more a younger audience.

      Though Missi Pyle can be hilarious this early role for her playing Alexandra the co-manager of the band. She should be funnier. As it seems like maybe her role was more cut down or given less to do then she should. As at times she is hilarious but most of the time she is left nor to the background.

      Tara Reid plays her character like Amelia intelligent Chrissy Snow from THREE’S COMPANY. This was Rachael Leigh Cook’s starring follow up to SHE’S ALL THAT

      It’s a shame as she is a talented actress but whole her stardom came at the right time for her career it seems to come at the wrong time for Hollywood. As it seems the roles would be mostly supporting love interests or romantic comedies. Which already had older actresses playing younger and didn’t need actresses who looked like teenagers playing their actual age. Plus she was getting too old to play those roles.

      Though this would be one of the first bigger roles in a studio film for Rosario Dawson. Though it would also be the start of her playing more supporting best friend/girlfriend type roles that were usually relegated to the background yet somewhat vital to either the character or story. Which gave her enough training as now she seems to be more of a character actress. Though a recognizable star herself.

      Of course most of the films cast and characters are young and attractive and all the other characters who are not are treated as villains. So that the films feels authentically to the youth watching the film. Watching it now might bring you back to your own fandom of music artists and groups at that age. Though it doesn’t go that deep. As the plot more has Josie and the pussycats being more like spokes-models with their music which is in it’s own way manufactured.

      Again the soundtrack is great with vocals for most of noise and the pussycats songs handled by singer Kay Hanley of the band Letters to Cleo. Who also was gestured heavily in the film 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU and it’s soundtrack(another winner) the films songs which are mostly power pop were actually co-written and co-produced by Lisa Loeb. Which might be another reason I am truly a fan of this film and it’s soundtrack.

      It has many memorable cute scenes and luckily is light on quirky and more goes for laughs. Even though at times seems to bite off more than it can chew. a little off rhythm at times. That seems more to be amusing itself rather than the Audience. Though it might have come along too soon. Even though it was in the middle or beginning. Of the time it was spoofing. It just seems like the films went over the heads of it’s intended audience and older audience members that it might have appealed to would never go as it looked too simple and stupid to them.

      Though if made today with the same script would have. When thought of as inventive satire of yesteryear and it’s fads.

      The film is better than most people give it credit for. Trust me it’s not necessarily great or even that good. It is more just fun for what it is There is barely anything objectionable so it is fine for kids and family viewing. With the speed of the film and the camerawork being flashy and quick along with the editing. Kids should love it.

      Grade: C+


  7. Rachael Leigh Cook on ‘Summer in the Vineyard’ and ‘She’s All That’

    In the new Hallmark movie “Summer in the Vineyard,” Rachael Leigh Cook tells TODAY, she plays a winemaker who’s gotten together with the son of her family’s rival. She also talks about being directed by her own husband in an independent movie and the continuing appeal of her film “She’s All That” after 18 years.


  8. Dear Hollywood: Being Unattractive Is Not Brave

    You’re more likely to see someone who looks like me in a movie than a woman of color, trans woman or disabled woman since I still have all those levels of privilege, but plain or unattractive women are not given the chance to be trans-formative on screen unless it’s a cloying Ugly Ducking romance (and even then the plain Janes are still played by Rachael Leigh Cook). Patriarchy s*** on us all, but there’s something especially galling about the catch-22 situation it creates for women in Hollywood: We only want the beautiful ones, but we won’t take them seriously until they go ugly.


    • 10 Blatantly Sexist Movie Moments You Probably Never Noticed

      She€™s All That

      ShesAllThat A bunch of good-looking guys make a bet over a girl. So dreamy, to be subjected to a game where some dudebro will end up making money off how well he changed you. And let€™s not forget that resident dreamboat Zack Siler doesn€™t even like the objectified Laney Boggs all that much until after his sister makes her hot. You know, by chopping her split ends and taking off her glasses, which is such a game changer that even Laney€™s brother teeters over the edge into incestuous thoughts (come on, we all saw that look on his face). And then there€™s Zack, all slack-jawed and dewy-eyed when he catches Laney in that little red dress, and suddenly he€™s the reformed good guy who dates girls for their enthusiastic involvement in the performing arts. Riiiight. Maybe instead of making over Laney€™s physicality, they should have made over Zack€™s personality a little more convincingly. I feel like there€™s a joke here about M. Night Shyamalan€™s infamous plot twists, but I just can€™t put my finger on it.


  9. Terrence, you wrote, “as it more or less served as an example of pre-9/11 teen pop culture.” Yes, I made a similar comment before I read this. There really is a stark dividing line. I prefer the left side of that timeline, but that’s just me…


  10. Why Rachael Leigh Cook Got Dropped by Hollywood


  11. I can’t believe I missed this until now!

    I was born in September 1981 so I think I was exactly the right age to have a huge crush on Rachael Leigh Cook when ‘She’s all That’ came out, and I certainly still had it when ‘Josie and the Pussycats’ was in cinemas. I still think she’s awesome, but honestly I’ve noticed that her fans tend to be a pretty loyal bunch even if there aren’t many of us.

    ‘Josie and the Pussycats’ is a guilty pleasure of me, though honestly I don’t feel very guilty about it. I’m still confused why Ebert hated it so much; even the people who don’t particularly like it tend to cite something funny or likable (the soundtrack for instance.) Ebert just outright loathed it.

    Liked by 1 person

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