The actor believes the film's director didn't want him in the movie and it got to a point where he "wanted to fight that guy two or three different times" during production.
Freddie Prinze Jr. is the first to acknowledge "I Know What You Did Last Summer" is the film that really launched his career -- but he says he nearly walked off the project and left Hollywood altogether following issues on set.
The 1997 slasher was one of the actor's first films, in which he and costars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Jennifer Love Hewitt find themselves running in terror from a fisherman they accidentally ran over and left for dead "last summer." It turned Prinze Jr. into a teen idol and it's where he met his future wife and mother of his kids, Gellar.
While speaking with TooFab about his new horror movie podcast That Was Pretty Scary -- a show which launches with an in-depth episode devoted to IKWYDLS -- Prinze Jr. made it clear he was grateful for what he gained from doing the film, while also sharing why it was such a difficult experience for him.
For Freddie, now 47, watching the movie for his podcast was actually the first time he's ever seen it in full, sharing that he didn't even stay to see it at the premiere and took off to go bowling after walking the red carpet. "I don't want to see my face, I hate my face, I hate the way I look, I don't think I'm a good lookin' dude," he explained, adding that he also doesn't like the sound of his voice.
"It wasn't because it was a difficult job or because of the weird things that went on on that, the good things that went on on that, the bad things that went on on that. It's just one of those things," he clarified. As for some of those "weird" and "bad things" that allegedly went down on set, Prinze Jr. claimed a lot of it stemmed from one thing: he thought the director simply didn't want him in the movie.
"It's not that we weren't on the same page, I knew what the correct choices were for the Ray character. He wanted a different actor, a really good actor named Jeremy Sisto, who I know and I like and respect very very much," said Freddie, who said it was the studio and writer Kevin Williamson who pushed for Prinze Jr. instead. In the end, he said they won out over director Jim Gillespie.
"I'll give the man this, I think his name is Jim, he made no bones about it. There was no passive aggressiveness -- which I hate -- he was very direct in the fact that, 'I don't want you in this movie,'" said Freddie, laughing. "So when that's your first job and you hear those words, it just wrecks you, man. It just wrecks you."
While he and Gellar weren't dating yet and wouldn't start to for a few years, Prinze Jr. credited her and Phillippe with talking him off a ledge. Though he and Phillippe aren't close now, they built a bond pretty quickly while working out together to get in shape for the movie. That bond carried over once filming began, he says.
"So, when I did have those moments where the director was giving me psychotic notes, like 'Don't leave your mouth open. You look stupid when you do that' -- that was the exact note, word for word, I’ll never forget it -- and I'm like, I'm either gonna break down or I have to beat this guy's ass. Like those were the only two options in my head," he continued. "I remember Ryan came up to me and was like, 'Screw that guy, man. How many times did you audition for this movie?' and I go, 'Five times,' he goes, 'Yeah, you earned it. You didn't get offered the role, you earned it. There were less people every single time time you went and then it was just you. Remember what booked you this role. Screw his notes. Any note he gives you just say, 'Okay, and do what you want to do.' He was the first person to say that to me."
Freddie Prinze Jr. Says He Hasn't 'Received an Offer' for I Know What You Did Last Summer Sequel (Exclusive)View Story
He appreciated the guidance from both Phillippe and Gellar -- who had more experience under their belts thanks to years on soap operas before booking the horror movie -- but Prinze Jr. says his interactions with the director had a negative impact on him.
"It was very difficult waking up in the morning -- or in the afternoon, because we shot a lot of nights -- and go to work with the right attitude. Because I knew the moment we got on to set for rehearsal, I was either going to be Mr. Pay No Mind, which would be where he would give everyone notes before we shot anything or before we rehearsed, except me," said Freddie. "He made it a point to single me out every time, would bring the other actors together without me, and give them all notes. And I'm like, well was he just trying to do some method crap? I just don’t understand."
The actor claimed the director even confirmed his suspicions and flat out told him, "I don't want me in the movie." On his podcast, Freddie also said he "almost quit the movie" following a mishap that allegedly happened while filming a scene on a motorboat for the film's finale. He refers to it as not only a "near death experience," but a breaking point. Listen to the podcast below for the full story.
"I almost caught a flight and went home. I was done. I had enough. They had broken a ton of union stuff that they shouldn't have, like union rules. All kinds of things. And I just felt like yo, if I’m not wanted here, screw it," he told TooFab. "There's other things I can do. I dropped out of Le Cordon Bleu to make this movie. I'll go be a chef, that's what my mom wanted me to be anyways. I packed my bags that night. I was just gonna quit the business."
This time a producer stepped in and calmed him down, as Freddie decided to stick it out so as not to leave his costars and some of the other members of the crew up a creek without a movie.
"I wanted to fight that guy two or three different times. Once I felt was a legitimate reason, and the other two I was just pissed off, which, that's not right. I'm glad everybody talked me down," Freddie says now, before acknowledging the positives that also came from the film. "In hindsight, I'm not upset, because that movie launched my whole career. I wouldn't have any of the things I have without that movie, I wouldn't have my wife, I wouldn't have all the other movies I've done, I wouldn't have this podcast. We wouldn't be doing this interview. I'm here because of that struggle and because of that pain and it was those things."
"It was a struggle to finish work every day, I was in pain every single day on that movie. However, it prepared me for this business in a way -- it sounds weird to say this -- I'm forever grateful for Jim for being such an asshole because I've never met one like that since," he added. "I've been prepared for every lesser A-hole in the business. And I'm sure he's a hero in someone else's story. I'm sure he helped someone else out and they loved him. But for me, he took a lot of frustration out on me. He was a first time director, he didn't have a lot of time, he didn't have the budget he wanted, he didn't have the actor he wanted, and he didn't know how to deal with that frustration."
TooFab has reached out to Gillespie for comment. Back in 2017, for the movie's 20th anniversary, the director told DigitalSpy that he actually pushed for Freddie to be cast in the film. "Nobody wanted Freddie; they thought he was too soft, he wasn't muscular enough, so Freddie probably screen-tested four or five times," he said at the time. "He got to the point where he was saying, 'I'm done', and I really had to plead with him to stick with it because I wanted him. I thought he was going to be great with it. He went to the gym and worked out, changed his diet and his hair cut. I stuck to my guns and eventually they went, 'Yes'."
While Freddie says the experience "sucked" overall and he was "miserable" for most of it, he had the "exact opposite experience" working on the sequel, "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer." The 1998 sequel was directed by Danny Cannon, who Freddie said could be "tough to work for," but also "never demanded anything from anyone that he wouldn't demand for himself"
'I Know What You Did Last Summer' at 25 -- Inside Sarah Michelle Gellar's Iconic Chase Scene (Exclusive)View Story
Watching the original 1997 movie back for the first time since making it, Freddie said he could still see how some of the "challenges" on set affected his performance. "It was the hardest job that I've ever done," he added, "and I'm just glad I got it out of the way that early."
His wife also joined him for the screening, alongside his podcast cohost Jon Lee Brody, and she too hadn't watched it since the premiere. Though it was a "crazy cool experience," they probably won't be having any screenings for the whole family -- including kids Charlotte, 14, and Rocky, 9 -- anytime soon. "I don't want her to see her mom die, and that's the only reason I haven't shown it to her yet. My son is only nine but he doesn't get scared of anything. He could watch it tomorrow and be like, 'Mom, that is so cool when he killed you,'" said Prinze Jr.
"I Know What You Did Last Summer" is just one of the many horror movies he and Brody will tackle on their That Was Pretty Scary podcast, which also has episodes lined up for films like "Scream," "Chopping Mall" and "M3GAN" -- the latter of which he did allow his daughter to watch. He says the show is a celebration of the films they're covering, with "no trashing or bashing" allowed. Like his Wrestling with Freddie podcast, this is just another outlet for him to explore an area he loves and share it with others. While the "Last Summer" movies might be his only real films in the horror genre, he wishes that wasn't the case -- saying, "nobody would let me do that because they wanted me to be the sweet boy who struggled to fall in love for 96 minutes every time."
Fingers crossed he gets to dive back into the world of evil fishermen with a planned legacy sequel sometime soon -- though it's not exactly a done deal.
New episodes of That Was Pretty Scary drop Wednesdays on Wondery+, before releasing to the general public the following week.