Elisa Donovan spoke with HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY about the 25th anniversary release of ‘Clueless’ and if she would consider doing a reboot of it all this time later!
As if! It’s hard to believe that the cult classic Clueless was released nearly 25 years ago! The Amy Heckerling-directed film made stars out of its young and vibrant cast including Alicia Silverstone, Breckin Meyer and the one and only Elisa Donovan who stole every scene she was in as the outrageously hilarious Amber.
The Long Island native, who went on to star on the television series of the award-winning flick, still has fond memories from it all this time later. In an EXCLUSIVE with HollywoodLife she chats about how “terrified” she was during the auditioning process, when she knew the film was going to be a hit, her favorite quote from the movie and so much more!
Does it shock you that Clueless was released 25 years ago this month?
I mean, yes. In one regard, yes. But this movie has meant so much to so many people that there is an anniversary every year. And honestly after maybe the 5th year we’ve had to do something every year. We’re very aware of the timing in a certain way just because of people wanting to revisit and talk about it.
How did you find yourself involved in this amazing project?
I decided to make the leap to move to LA in the summer of 1994 and two weeks after I got there I got a job on Blossom, the show with Joey Lawrence and Mayim Bialik. And they hired me for one episode and then just kept writing me into the show and in the middle of that I had the audition for Clueless.
And I started at the very bottom. I had to audition just for the casting director (Marcia Ross) first and then I had to go back again for her and one producer, then go back again for Amy (Heckerling) and several producers and go back again to Scott Rudin’s office at Paramount, which was the big test.
It was very terrifying. It was the first time I was on that lot and it was so iconic and I was terrified and thought I was going to get lost on the way to his office. I was very nervous.
Was Amber always the role you auditioned for or did they test you for another character as well? Because I know other big names like Reese Witherspoon and Leah Remini tried out for the film.
They might have had me read other characters but there wasn’t any other female character aside from Cher and Dionne, and they wanted a black actress for Dionne obviously, so they might have had me read some of Cher just to have me read more, but Amber was always the role that they wanted me to audition for.
Do you remember what the first cast read was like and did you feel the magic happening from the very beginning?
I remember the table read very clearly on one of the south stages at Paramount. I was, again, just so nervous, that I don’t think I knew whether or not it was going to be good. I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t screw it up. I don’t feel like at the table read that there was the magic but I definitely felt while we were shooting it that it was pretty great.
You can sense it, and I think at the time I didn’t understand that it was kind of everything. When you work on a set when everything is gelling from the writing to the actors to the direction to the lighting designer to the costumes, like everybody was operating at their highest level and that’s really rare when that happens.
But I knew for sure when we went to a test screening early on. I think it might have been the final cut but maybe it was almost final and Alicia (Silverstone), Donald (Faison), Justin (Walker), myself and Paul (Rudd) were invited by the studio to watch. We all sat in the back row and watched it with an audience and I remember looking at Alicia and I was like, “you are going to be a huge star.” Like, this movie is perfect. It was so funny and so relevant and so smart and so nice to look at and had a great message. This is going to be a success.
Do you have a favorite moment with your cast on set?
I mean I definitely remember when we shot the classroom scene and Alicia mispronounced Haitians. I looked at Amy thinking she was going to say cut and she just went, “Ugh this is amazing. We are leaving it in.” That was one of the first days that we shot too.
The whole thing was just really fun because we were all young so it was kind of new for everyone. It was just going to work with your friends. I remembered loving shooting the dance scene with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It was a super fun day.
You had so many memorable quotes from the movie. Which ones do people still approach you about to this day?
They always say, “The balls flying at my nose.” Or, “Whatever!” And, “She could be a farmer in those clothes!”
Does that ever annoy you though?
No! I really look at it like its nice to be apart of something that so many people have loved and have such a positive memory of. I mean it’s great, there’s no escape, so if it bugged me I’d be in real trouble.
You also did the television spinoff! How different was it compared to the movie?
Well for me it was very fun because Amber had a bigger role. So I had more to do and to be able to see her through all kinds of situations was really fun for me. The hard part of it was that they were trying to, you know, you can’t just put a film on television. And Amy is a film director so the first season she really wanted the episodes to be like films. Now you can do that because television has evolved but at that time we were on Friday night, that TGIF for very young kids, and it was kind of a hard balance.
We did it for three years and in the second two years we had different showrunners and it had a different energy, more of a kind of a sitcom-y energy but we still shot it like a film which means that we shot it with a single camera not with a live audience kind of show. We had a lot of great guest stars like Tim Conway and Henry Winkler and all sorts of amazing people. I loved it, I thought it was super fun.
Reboots and remakes have been extremely popular in Hollywood lately. If they did a modern version of Clueless, would you participate?
I think it’s difficult to redo it. I would certainly be apart of anything that Amy wanted to do, of course I would. I think it would be interesting to do, instead of a reboot, what are these characters like today. How are they as adults and parents. I would love to see what Amber is like as a parent!
What do you have to say to all your die-hard fans like me who still love Clueless all this time later?
I am honored, I’m thrilled, and I think that Amber would say to everyone today, “You need to call Christian Siriano and get your custom made mask and make sure you wear them in public and in any large group activity.”