Alicia Silverstone, Amy Heckerling Talk ‘Vamps’ & ‘Clueless’ Memories
Alicia Silverstone and Amy Heckerling tell Marlow Stern about reuniting for the new comedy ‘Vamps.’
It’s been 17 years since the release of Clueless, that paragon of ’90s awesomeness boasting deliciously tacky outfits, a deluge of quotable lines, and Paul Rudd in a goatee. The film, now regarded as a classic, made an immediate Gen X icon of its star, Alicia Silverstone, and cemented filmmaker Amy Heckerling’s (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) status as the mouthpiece for not one but two decades of teens.
Now, for the first time since that generational touchstone, Silverstone and Heckerling have reunited. Vamps, written and directed by Heckerling, stars Silverstone as Goody, a 19th-century vampire-socialite living in Manhattan with her best pal (Krysten Ritter of ABC’s Don’t Trust the B----- in Apartment 23). If their maker—or “stem” (Sigourney Weaver)—is killed, they must revert back to their human ages. So when their stem begins wreaking havoc on the denizens of Manhattan, the cold-blooded duo is faced with a tough decision: justice or everlasting beauty.
Silverstone and Heckerling opened up to The Daily Beast about their long-awaited reunion for Vamps, their thoughts on Clueless’s strong legacy, and the Facebook/Twitter generation of teens.
Why did it take you two so long to hook up again?
Amy: I had been writing it for many months and Alicia was in my head for one of the characters, but once there’s money and producers, I’m not above having to get approval to cast. Alicia and I have stayed in touch over the years, and I took one of the producers to see her play Time Stands Still. When Alicia came on, I just thought it lit up. All of a sudden, there was conflict, humor, and fun. I always wanted to work with Alicia, but it takes time and the right project.
Alicia, did it seem like déjà vu being directed by Amy?
Alicia: I don’t know if it was déjà vu as much as this amazing, shorthand warmth. She’s so clever, and I felt completely safe and that I could trust her. When we were doing fittings for the movie, Amy has such an impeccable sense of style and is so hands-on—she literally will take a shirt off her back and put it on me. She and Mona May [costume designer] work so well together; they worked together on Clueless as well.
I know you’re a vegan. What was it like to film that scene where you drink the blood out of a rat with a straw?
Alicia: It was gross more because of the technical aspect of it. The rat is made of this weird, fake stuff, so you have this strange texture of hair, and the blood was this red food dye that tasted so awful! The scene was so funny, though.
There’s an iPad Mini reference in here, which is pretty prescient.
Amy: With electronics, they just get smaller and smaller. I kept saying, “Why can’t they make a device this size?” Not a computer that I have to schlep around all day or a phone that’s too tiny, and of course, a few years later they come out with exactly what I’d been asking for!
Alicia’s character in the film does go on a mini-rant about modern communication. What do you like about modern communication and what are you nostalgic for?
Amy: Well, I like being able to tape things and then having them home waiting for you, but just dealing with the Time Warner Cable people will drive you insane.
Alicia: [Laughs] I’m nostalgic for the TV Guide. I remember sitting on the couch as a little girl and circling all the shows you were going to watch. I am very slow to technology, though. I was just anti-computer and didn’t want to become a part of it. I think I thought that it was some weird, alien thing that took you away from connecting with each other. But a friend from Italy kept saying to me, “I can’t talk to you! Why don’t you email me?” And then I finally got on email … in 2002.
Why do you think the whole vampire craze came about a few years back with Twilight and True Blood?
Alicia: I’ve never seen True Blood, to be honest, but I imagine they’re not trying to do Nosferatu or Let the Right One In. While this is a flat-out comedy, I think it’s more in the traditional vein of vampire.
Amy: It certainly had a big bubble and … have we now moved on to zombies? You would say it’s an aging population that doesn’t want to get any older and face death, but it’s not the older people that are responding to the vampire stuff. For me, I was dealing with the idea of what it’s like not to have to grow up.
This was really one of the first vampire films I’ve seen to tackle how female vampires could be preoccupied with not being able to see their own reflection. But we do live in the “oversharing” generation with Facebook, etc. How do you feel about kids these days?
Amy: I’m private so I really don’t want people to know I’m not at my house so they can rob it.
Alicia: I don’t have a personal Facebook page, and for the last five years when I’m working with younger people, I’ll ask them about their Facebook—they really love this Facebook thing—and Twitter. I use Twitter to recommend things, like vegan ice cream instead of icky ice cream, so it’s a forum for me to be an activist. But this girl I used to work with would have the weirdest pictures of herself up on her Facebook page, along with details of where they were going and what they were doing. My brain couldn’t really understand how that works!
There’s a fun Republican Convention dig at Alicia’s Kentucky Derby-ish outfit in the film. And your Clueless co-star, Stacey Dash, recently came under fire for endorsing Mitt Romney for president. How did you feel about the backlash?
Amy: Unfortunately, if you’re going to say anything that’s in your head you’re going to get some kickback. She’s allowed to have her opinion, whether or not we agree with it. I’m not going to say who I’m coming out for—I want people who are Republicans and Democrats to see my movie. Is it anybody’s business? I don’t think people should really go around talking about [politics] unless it’s your field, and other people shouldn’t go around and say nasty things.
Clueless is such a classic. Apparently there was a lot of trouble getting the project off the ground?
Amy: When I was first working on it at Fox, they gave me a lot of grief. “[Josh] can’t be her brother!” I said, “He’s not her brother! [Cher’s] father was married to his mother for a few years.” They mentioned “a certain other movie director” and said, “No, you can’t have any stuff like that in there.” To tell you the truth, in the old Jewish shtetls, if your husband died, sometimes they’d have you marry the brother, and my grandparents were actually stepbrother and stepsister. In tight little communities, where you’re not supposed to leave women and children hanging, it’s the responsibility of people to get together and care for children. They’re not related at all and continued to fight like brother and sister into their 90s.
People identify so strongly with the characters in Clueless and the casting. Were there any casting choices that almost went a different way?
Amy: I was happy with every single person. But Dan Hedaya [Cher’s father], at one point, producers asked me who I wanted to be the father and I’d say, “I want somebody who’s usually playing a hitman,” and the first thought that came into my head is Harvey Keitel. But they said, “That’s too expensive,” blah blah.
Did any of the young stars in Clueless date during filming?
Alicia: I’m not saying anything! [Laughs] There may have been some things that happened here and there, but I don’t know!
It’s really a ‘90s classic and holds up so well. You can always pick it up on TV and watch it for however long. What’s your take on its legacy?
Amy: As I schlep through my days getting mad at myself for not writing, I’ll go to the grocery store and use my credit card, and people will be quoting things. I walk around feeling like just this average loser, but then people have this thing that they like, and it’s very bizarre! I wanted to show women in a funny way and do something that had a good heart.
Alicia: Two older people were standing in front of the theater giggling the other day and approached me and said, “We’re such huge fans of yours. We loved you in Clueless!” It was really strange and amazing. But it’s great that older people love it and that it’s being passed on to younger people. It’s just a delightful, heartwarming movie, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. It’s a very special thing that Amy made. I love that it’s a modern classic.
What was it like to be thrust immediately into the spotlight after Clueless? Was it a little much for someone so young?
Alicia: It was insane. It was never what I intended. I wasn’t trying to be famous when I was a little girl, I just wanted to be an actress ’cause I saw plays a lot and my dad took me to the theater. I didn’t even know what a studio film was versus an independent film, so it was very overwhelming. But it’s my journey and it’s what happened to me. Really good things came from being a part of Clueless, and also the harder part and the life lessons. I’m kind of introverted to begin with, and I’m just a regular person who cares a lot about my relationships, personal life, and making this world a better place before my career.
Amy: Alicia was a very, very young girl at that age, and she had photographers following her every move and studios giving her big deals with a lot of responsibility. Nobody that age should have to suddenly be thrust in that.
Alicia: Now what I want to do in my life is get as little responsibility as possible. [Laughs] But I have a child, and that’s the most beautiful and fulfilling thing in the world.