Watch: "10 Things I Hate About You" With Heath Ledger: E! News Rewind
We hate the way we don't hate this touching story—not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.
It's been more than 20 years since Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles set the bar for an entire generation's dream high school romance with the 1999 hit rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You. Much of course has happened in the many years since. The film turned the on-screen pair into breakout stars and successful Hollywood careers for both ensued.
Tragically, Ledger's was cut short when he died in 2008, sending shockwaves through the industry and all who adored the young actor lost too soon. Still, his impact remains all these years later, including for Stiles. During an appearance on the People in the '90s podcast, the actress recalled one of the most beloved scenes of the film—when she recites that poem—and how Ledger's actions in that scene still stand out to her today.
"I remember Heath Ledger was so gracious about the whole thing," she said. "I appreciate this so much more now having worked more."
As she explained, "He wasn't trying to compete with me. He stood back and he was like, this is your scene."
While Stiles teared up during the powerful monologue, "When they did his reaction shot, he didn't well up," she pointed out. "He didn't go, OK, now I have to do something with my side of the camera.'"
Of course, his performance as rebel Patrick was equally applaudable. "He had his amazing moments in the movie, too," Stiles acknowledged. "But he was confident enough even just starting out to be like, I'm handing over the stage to you, and I learned way later in life that doesn't always happen."
Now that she has piqued our nostalgia, here are 20 more secrets from the movie below. Spoiler alert: You won't be just whelmed with these details.
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As Kat and Patrick were falling for each other onscreen, according to some of their co-stars on the DVD commentary, Julia Stiles and Heather Ledger became an item off-screen—the only thing that can make a choice movie romance even better, as with the star-crossed couples in The Notebook or Twilight.
Moreover, Heath was Julia's first onscreen kiss.
"He was so nice. He was such a force; he was—even at that age—a very, very powerful, lovely human being," Stiles remembered her late costar to Us Weekly in 2014, calling the experience of working with him "amazing."
Opening up a little more to Australia's ABC in 2016, Stiles said, "Heath and I did not keep in touch after filming ended, but when I heard about his death, I was incredibly sad, I was very shocked. He was such a force, such a vibrant person, right at the really exciting time of his life."
Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesFirst Time's the Charm
The screenplay was the work of first-time movie scribes Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz, who went on to write Legally Blonde, Ella Enchanted, She's the Man, The Ugly Truth and The House Bunny.
"We knew we wanted to write a teen movie and when Clueless came out, we thought Amy Heckerling was a genius for contemporizing a classic [Jane Austen's Emma], so we decided to try that as well," McCullah told The Script Lab in 2015. "We chose Taming of the Shrew and figured out which story lines we wanted to keep and update and how we'd go about it and then outlined all the characters and the story while we sat on a beach in Mexico."
They were long-distance writing partners and would send pages back and forth via express mailing service Airborne.
It's easy to see where the empowered Kat got her modern-day spirit—and the entire movie got its fresh, witty and whip-smart vibe.
McCullah described their work to BuzzFeed News as "badass and full of mirth."
"I think our legacy is just these fearless, funny female characters who are sort of radical by their confidence," Smith said. "They're changing the world even though they don't really know that they're doing it."
"We did get a note that said, 'Why is she so angry?'" Smith recalled. Added McCullah, "they didn't understand that sometimes as a teenage girl you're just angry at all the bulls–t you have to put up with."
Moviestore Collection/ShutterstockWhat's in a Name
McCullah and Smith, hearing that Disney's Touchstone Pictures wanted to make a teen romance, stat, raced to finish their rewrite to hopefully beat out the other script the studio had purchased—called School Slut.
Somehow, that one didn't end up getting made. By Disney.
The title of the winning 10 Things I Hate About You, meanwhile, was inspired by an actual list McCullah made about a high school boyfriend.
"The title is based on a diary entry I made in high school," she said in a sit-down with UCTV. "I had a boyfriend named Anthony that I was frequently unhappy with. I made a list called Things I Hate About Anthony. When Kirsten 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.'"
Moreover, "Anthony is very proud of that fact," McCullah added. "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.'"