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7 Things You Didn't Know About "Josie And The Pussycats"

From Beyoncé's failed audition to the movie's biggest fan, Bono!

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1. The original pitch for the movie was out of this world.

Hanna-Barbera Productions

When Josie and the Pussycats' writer/directors were initially approached about the film, the first idea they landed on took a cue from the TV show's 16-episode arc from 1972. But Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont quickly found inspiration in what was happening all around them at the time — in the early 2000s.

"We thought about what was going on with music at the time, what we wanted to say — TRL was at its height — and that kind of became 'What if all this was a conspiracy?'" Elfont told BuzzFeed News.

"We were coming out of an era with Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth, bands that really encouraged dissent and individuality," Kaplan told BuzzFeed News. "It was like the music industry suddenly decided we need to course-correct and feed everybody what we want them to buy and promote corporate culture and not be like, 'Down with corporations.' It was kind of a reaction to that. We saw it happening."

2. Beyoncé and Maggie Gyllenhaal auditioned.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images, Donald Weber / Getty Images

When Kaplan and Elfont were searching for their three main stars in 2000, they looked at some of the biggest names of the time and a few rising stars who've gone on to superstardom. Beyoncé, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Aaliyah all auditioned to play Val, while Maggie Gyllenhaal and Zooey Deschanel went out for Josie. "We fell in love with [Zooey] because she came in with a little microphone, you know, the kind that you used to plug into those old-fashioned tape recorders and just a made up song," Elfont recalled. "We'd never seen her. We didn't know who she was. But we were like, she's amazing. Then the studio guy said we can't cast somebody no one has ever heard of."

Rachael Leigh Cook, hot off She's All That, landed the role of singer Josie because she felt like a grounding force for the group. "Rachael had a quality where you felt like there was just more going on; she's kind of a shy person naturally, but I think that balance is what drew us to her. It felt like there was a real person behind who was going to be this rock star," Elfont said. Kaplan remembered being immediately drawn to Rosario Dawson's "fun and effervescent" energy for bassist Val. Tara Reid, who played drummer Melody, didn't have to audition. "The studio was really, really excited about her after the American Pie movies," Elfont said.

3. Parker Posey struggled with her (iconic) role.

Universal Pictures / Via giphy.com

In a career of memorable performances, Parker Posey's malevolent but misunderstood Fiona may be one of her lesser-known. However, to fans of the film, Fiona is arguably one of Posey's most beloved roles. But according to Kaplan and Elfont, filming was a tough experience for the actor. "I think she had bought an apartment and was redoing the apartment ... [and] she took more than one opportunity to say, 'Well, this movie is paying for my apartment,'" Kaplan recalled.

"At the time, Parker was this indie queen. She had a lot of street cred, and I think any job she took because of the money ... she struggled with," Elfont added. "I don't know that she was thinking about the satire of it all, that it was a biting commentary. I think she thought, I'm selling out by doing this kids' movie. She would waver on set. She'd be like, 'Whaaat are we doing?' And other times she'd be like, 'This is fun! It's for kids!'"

Posey's saving grace ended up being costar and friend Alan Cumming, who played Fiona's minion, Wyatt Frame. "Alan got it. Alan is game for anything. When she saw how much fun he was having, she started to play off him, and that's when she was happiest in the movie," he said. "She is so unique and so one-of-a-kind. She was not the easiest, but it was so worth it because, again, there's nobody like her. She's always good. She's just so wonderfully Parker."

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4. None of the brands featured in the film paid for placement.

Universal

Because Josie and the Pussycats is a satire about consumerism, the directors went out of their way to ensure that almost every single scene featured at least one piece of product placement. Target, Ivory soap, Coke, Diesel, Ray-Ban, Apple, Ford, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, T.J.Maxx, Victoria's Secret, SoBe, McDonald's, Steve Madden, Puma, Bloomingdale's, Virgin Megastore, Kodak, Hostess, Motorola, Bugles, America Online, 7-Eleven, Frizz Ease, Converse, Hawaiian Tropic, Bebe, Visa, Revlon, American Express, Evian, Butterfinger, Pringles, Barneys New York, Nikon, Red Bull, Verizon, Sony, Adidas, Sega, Ford, Advil, Crest, Clearasil, and Tidy Cat are just some of the brands prominently shown throughout the film.

But despite what many of the film's critics assumed, none of those companies paid to be featured. "We didn't get money for it, and that was the big scandal, I guess, when the movie came out," Kaplan said — although she did add that brands like Steve Madden and Puma supplied the filmmakers with articles of clothing to outfit the cast. "A lot of the reviews called us hypocrites: 'They're taking money from these corporations to put them in the movie and they're doing exactly what they say people shouldn't do.'"

While they weren't lacking for brands, not all of them were on board with their products being satirized. "We were dying to do a Gap ad for the movie that was 'Everybody in Leopard,'" Elfont said, referencing the brand's memorably homogenized Everybody in Khakis, Everybody in Leather, and Everybody in Vests campaigns from the late '90s. "But then the Gap read the script and were like, 'Hell no!' There were certain companies that didn't want to play because they realized what we were doing, and others, like Target, were like, 'Who cares? We're so much bigger than that.'"

5. The film's music has major star power behind it.

Mondo

The film's soundtrack features eight original songs performed in the film by Josie and the Pussycats; in reality, Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo sang lead vocals on the beloved tracks. The album, which is executive produced by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, features songs written by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos, and Fountains of Wayne singer Adam Schlesinger, who wrote the main earworm from That Thing You Do!

The band's punk-pop sound was derived from thinking about what a female Blink 182 would sound like. "Other than the sheer pop music that was going on, there was a power punk thing happening with Green Day and Blink-182 — that power trio," Kaplan said. "We wanted that sound but from an all-female band. They could have been a pop band, but part of our choice was to say that rock seemed to be disappearing, so for us it was like, let's make it about a rock band that's trying to be turned into something else."

6. Selling the movie was tougher than expected.

Universal Pictures / Via pastposters.com

For a movie uniquely fixated on marketing, Kaplan and Elfont admit they should have thought more about how their film would be sold to audiences. "We were in this world where we were only focused on the movie and this world and the jokes we were laughing at on set, and then they showed us the marketing materials and it was like, 'Oh shit, they're going to sell this movie to 10-year-old girls,'" Elfont said.

"I don't know why we weren't thinking that based on the property, we kind of forgot that's who they were going to sell it to, but that's when that panic set in. They're not going to sell it to the people who are going to understand this movie, and the people they're selling it to aren't going to get it. And that's kind of what happened."

In April 2001, Josie and the Pussycats opened in seventh place with a disappointing $4.5 million and less than glowing reviews. The movie would go on to gross just $14 million domestically, less than half of its reported $39 million production budget. The critical drubbing and seeming audience rejection was a tough blow for Kaplan and Elfont, who truly felt they had made something special.

"It took us out of the movie industry," Kaplan said. "It made us super gun-shy to direct again — which cost us," Elfont added. "We said no to a lot of things that came our way because we didn't want to go through that again unless we really, really love it and know it's going to work. Then we never ended up directing another movie. We just let too much time go past."

7. But Josie and the Pussycats wouldn't die.

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

The year after the film was released, Kaplan and Elfont met perhaps the film's most famous and unexpected fan: U2 lead singer Bono. "Deb met Bono and Bono told her he loved the movie," Elfont said. "And he totally got it. That was within a year of it coming out, when we still thought people were going to get it and it would open people's eyes up to the music business."

Bono notwithstanding, it took until the rise of social media for the filmmakers to truly understand how many fans the movie had actually amassed over the years, culminating in a massive Josie and the Pussycats reunion concert planned by Mondo and Alamo Drafthouse for Sept. 26 in Los Angeles.

The common refrain from fans, both on Twitter and in real life, is that the movie was ahead of its time. "Hearing that is certainly better than no one getting it," Kaplan said with a laugh. "We keep saying, 'Gosh, it would be nice if we ever made something of its time as opposed to hearing 10 years later that it was ahead of its time.' I want to be on time! But it's always been gratifying when someone says, 'I totally got what you were doing.'"

Elfont added, "Until social media, we would always say, 'Well, at least Bono got it.'"

Jarett Wieselman is a senior entertainment editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. Wieselman writes about and reports on the television industry.

Contact Jarett Wieselman at jarett.wieselman@buzzfeed.com.

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