If we asked you if you remembered the 1995 classic high school comedy Clueless, we’re pretty sure you’d say, in typical Valley speak: “Totally!” What if we asked if you remembered the three-season sitcom based on the movie? You might say, “As if!” Either way, it was a brilliant modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, featuring Alicia Silverstone in her breakout role, a young Brittany Murphy, and an early look at Paul Rudd.
But what if the movie got caught in development hell in the mid-90s and was put on the backburner until today? In our latest alternate universe exercise, we’re going to cast Clueless as if it was never made back then, but was brand new today. Who would utter all those “As ifs?”
As Cher would say, “Let’s do a makeover!” and imagine, What if Clueless Was Cast Today?
15. WANDA SYKES AS MS. HALL
Okay, Clueless fans, we know we may have raised some eyebrows with that header, but hear us out. In the original film, as well as the series, we had the teacher Mr. Hall, and he was played by one-of-a-kind master of the lisp Wallace Shawn in both. Cher fancied herself a matchmaker and did her best to hook up Mr. Hall with Ms. Geist.
But we’d like to do something different and more modern with Hall and Geist. How about we keep Geist a woman (more on her coming up), but also make Hall a woman? So we’d have Cher setting up these two women, they find love, and the movie ends with a fun lesbian wedding. It’s not a big deal, we don’t have to hang a “Lesbian Wedding” banner or anything, it just is what it is. Plus, lesbian subplot aside, we’d have Wanda Sykes in the movie, providing the same kind of funny-voiced banter, with a little more attitude.
14. MARY LYNN RAJSKUB AS MS. GEIST
The fascinatingly named Twink Caplan was all over 80s sitcoms as a guest actress, not to mention big-screen comedies in bit parts, before she portrayed Ms. Geist in both the Clueless film and TV series. The Bronson Alcott High teacher was a bit of a mess. As Cher described her, “She has runs in her stockings, and her slip is always showing, and she always has more lipstick on her teeth than her mouth. God, this woman is screaming for a makeover. I’m her only hope.”
While Mary Lynn Rajskub is most well-known as Chloe O’Brian on 24, she’s also a hilarious stand-up comic and comic actress. But there was even humor in Chloe’s social awkwardness, which Rajskub could certainly draw on for Geist. On the purely funny side, you might remember her has mute spiritualist Heartfire on Arrested Development or on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia as Gail the Snail, an annoying relative of Dennis and Dee.
13. JUDY REYES AS LUCY
Lucy the maid, played by Aida Linares, was a fairly minor character in Clueless, but she illustrated some of Cher’s ignorance when it comes to the world beyond Beverly Hills. When Cher tells Lucy she doesn’t speak Mexican, Lucy responds that she’s not Mexican. She’s actually from El Salvador and Cher just doesn’t get the difference. Also, Lucy doesn’t take any crap. When Lucy mentioned they got a notice from the Fire Department about clearing out a bush, Cher suggested Lucy should tell Jose, their gardener, to which Lucy bluntly responded in her broken English, “He your gardener. You tell him.” She may be the maid, but you can’t push her around.
Anyone who’s watched Scrubs is familiar with Judy Reyes’ work as fiery nurse/Turk’s wife Carla. Now 48, she can believably play a maid who has a little attitude about her, and can probably subvert the stereotype of a Latina maid a little more than the 1995 movie did. In fact, she’s part of the main cast of the Lifetime TV series Devious Maids, which is currently in its fourth season, as – you guessed it: a (devious) maid.
12. PARIS BERELC AS SUMMER
Summer doesn’t have a huge role in the film, but she pops up now and then, played by Nicole Bilderback. She’s part of Cher’s popular clique and perhaps most significantly shows up at a party and suggests they play “suck and blow,” which leads to Elton “accidentally on purpose” kissing Cher. Later, she offers to give the gang a ride home.
All that being said, we certainly don’t have to cast anyone with a huge name here, just someone who can look like a pretty, enthusiastic high school girl and play the part. So we’re going with Paris Berelc. The 17-year-old has been a regular on two Disney XD series: Mighty Med and its current spinoff, Lab Rats: Elite Force, as Skylar Storm, a teen superhero. In the Disney Channel movie Invisible Sister she played the most popular girl in school, so she’s got that experience under her belt.
11. KATHRYN HAHN AS MS. STOEGER
In the film and series, gym teacher Ms. Stoeger was played by Julie Brown, perhaps handed the role in this Valley Girl-centric film as a tribute to the Valley Girl persona that made her famous in the 80s. She was also known as the writer and star of the 1988 comedy Earth Girls are Easy. Stoeger was a bit of a man-hater and, according to Cher, “In the grand tradition of P.E. teachers, Ms. Stoeger seemed to be same-sex oriented.”
Her sexuality is certainly not essential to the plot and if we’re going to have a lesbian courtship subplot, we can do away with that aspect of Stoeger’s personality when we cast comic actress Kathryn Hahn in the role. Hahn pops up everywhere, stealing scenes as weirdo characters, from her recurring role as over-confident campaign manager Jennifer Barkley on Parks and Recreation to films like We’re the Millers and Wanderlust.
10. MARK RUFFALO AS MEL HOROWITZ
Mel is Cher’s $500-an-hour lawyer dad, played by veteran character actor Dan Hedaya in 1995. He’s proud, protective, and ultimately a nice guy who likes to have step-son Josh around even though he divorced his mother. Hedaya, who also played Carla’s ex-husband on Cheers, had the somewhat prickly but ultimately good-hearted divorced dad thing down pat.
Mark Ruffalo more than has it in him to be that guy, too, bursting with quiet charisma. Sure, he’s best known these days for his role as the Hulk in the Avengers movies and elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he also excels at quieter, more down to earth characters. That’s surely exactly why he was cast as the Hulk and his mild-mannered alter-ego Bruce Banner. We can totally see Ruffalo criticizing Cher’s wardrobe, yelling, “It looks like underwear. Go upstairs and put something on over it.”
9. ANSEL ELGORT AS ELTON
Dionne refers to Elton, played by Jeremy Sisto, as “the social director of the crew.” The crew of popular kids, that is. His dad can get them into any concert, he’s dreamy, he’s rich, he’s popular and he knows it. Part of Cher’s mission to initiate Tai into the popular group was to play matchmaker with her and Elton. But, ultimately, it’s Cher that gives him a “toothache” (that would be how they say “thinks she’s sweet” in the film).
Our dreamy dude for 2016 would be Ansel Elgort, star of the Divergent series and The Fault in Our Stars. The 22-year-old actor certainly has the preppy, popular rich dude look. It wouldn’t hurt that teenage girls love him, with a slew of MTV Movie Awards, Young Hollywood Awards and Teen Choice Awards already under his belt. But if we couldn’t get him to sign on, we’d give Douglas Booth a call.
8. KODI SMIT-MCPHEE AS TRAVIS
Travis, the skateboarding stoner, was played by veteran character actor Breckin Meyer back in 1995, when he was 21. In fact, Meyer did such a good job that he was typecast for a brief time, playing similar roles in The Craft and Escape from L.A. in the mid-90s. The Franklin & Bash star celebrated the movie’s 20th anniversary last year by posting an Instagram pic of his current-day self with Travis’ Marvin the Martian skateboard.
Our pick for the new Travis is Nightcrawler himself, Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men: Apocalypse). The 20-year-old Australian first caught eyes in the modern horror classic Let Me In back in 2010, but has grown up to star in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as well as the latest installment in the X-Men franchise. He might offer a slightly different take on Travis, but we think he could pull off a good stoner skateboarder, with his slightly odd, wide-eyed look.
7. EZRA MILLER AS CHRISTIAN
In the original Clueless, Christian was played by little known actor Justin Walker, in his first significant role in anything. He worked as an actor for about 10 years with parts here and there, but hasn’t done anything of note on-screen since 2005. Christian was a key character, though, as the object of Cher’s obsession who turned out to be gay, which was a somewhat unique character trait for a major motion picture in 1995.
We went with a superhero for Travis, so why not Christian as well. We’re going with the dude recently cast as the lead in the upcoming Flash movie, Ezra Miller, who also appeared as the speedster in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The 23-year-old has been open about his fluid sexuality, so he could certainly draw on that, and he certainly did the gay high-schooler thing well in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
6. INDIA EISLEY AS AMBER
In her first feature film role at age 24, Elisa Donovan scored the role of Amber in Clueless, and like a few of her castmates, continued to play the character on the TV series. Amber was the mean girl at Bronson Alcott High School before there was Mean Girls. Cher and Dionne coexist with her, but don’t like her for her snobbish ways. Consider this illustration of Amber’s snobbery, with a blistering burn from Dionne: Amber says, “Ms. Stoeger, my plastic surgeon doesn’t want me doing any activity where balls fly at my nose.” Followed by Dionne’s burn: “Well, there goes your social life.”
We’re picturing former teen TV star India Eisley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) as our Amber in 2016. Put the 23-year-old in a redheaded wig and she’d definitely have the mean-girl look. She had a key role in Underworld: Awakening and as far as experience playing an antagonist, there was her turn in this year’s lackluster horror flick The Curse of Sleeping Beauty.
5. TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS AS MURRAY
Before he was known as Turk on the long-running series Scrubs, Donald Faison was Murray in both the Clueless film and TV show. Murray is in what Cher calls a “dramatic relationship” with Dionne – always jealous of each other, hilariously arguing about “jeepin’” aka “vehicular sex” or polyester hair extensions.
We’re tabbing 23-year-old actor Tyler James Williams for this, best known as young Chris Rock on Everybody Hates Chris, and we’ve also enjoyed him as Noah on The Walking Dead. In both roles, he’s oozed humor, charm and even discomfort. For Murray, he’d have to dig down for a little more bombast, go a little more over the top, but we’re confident he’s got it in him. He’s got to inspire a speech like this from Cher, on high school boys: “They’re like dogs. You have to clean them and feed them and they’re just like these nervous creatures that jump and slobber all over you.”
4. OLIVIA COOKE AS TAI
Knowing what we’d later see from late actress Brittany Murphy, her role as mysterious new girl Tai in Clueless is especially impressive. After all, it was her first major film role before going on to star in the likes of Girl, Interrupted, 8 Mile and Uptown Girls. Cher made it her mission to make the red-haired, tough-accented outsider popular, until she realized it was more important for Tai to just be Tai.
Bates Motel star Olivia Cooke has all the unique vulnerability, attitude and humor you’d want to see in Tai. She’s shown it both in the A&E series and in the film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Plus, as a Brit, Cooke has to be a tea drinker, right? So it would be fun to watch the sequence where Tai says, “I could really use some sort of herbal refreshment.” In which, of course, Tai most certainly does not mean tea, but Cher thinks she does. That being said, Orphan star Isabelle Fuhrman would make a fascinating backup choice.
3. MAX THIERIOT AS JOSH
These days, Paul Rudd is one of the busiest actors around, excelling in everything from Judd Apatow comedies to his action-star (but still funny) turn as Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But in 1995 in Clueless he was an up-and-comer in his first major Hollywood film. Playing Josh, Cher’s older former step-brother (and future love interest), we got our first taste of Rudd’s bright-eyed charm and humor.
Is there an up-and-comer who could pull that off today? We’re putting our money on Max Thieriot, who, like Cooke, has quietly done some strong work on Bates Motel the past few years. He’s nailed the big brother thing there, albeit with more intensity than he’d require for Josh. Plus, he’s got eyes to match Rudd’s and, especially if he’s sporting a beard, he’s got the combination of pretty boy and rugged guy that would make him a good environmentalist (Josh wants to be an environmental lawyer).
2. AMANDLA STENBERG AS DIONNE
With her stunning looks and blue-green eyes, Stacey Dash shone as Dionne, Cher’s fashion-forward best friend. She fell a little more on the narcissistic side than Cher, but she was just as sneaky-smart. Dash reprised the high-schooler role in the three-season TV series, despite aging into her 30s during the series’ run.
That being said, we’ll go more age-appropriate in casting our new Dionne, with 17-year-old Amandla Stenberg. You may have seen the former Disney catalogue model as young Rue in The Hunger Games, during her four-episode run on the TV series Sleepy Hollow or, most recently, in Beyoncé’s Lemonade “visual album” on HBO. She can definitely handle Dionne’s attitude and it would be fun to watch her bust out in this role.
1. CHLOE BENNET AS CHER HOROWITZ
Alicia Silverstone jumped straight from MTV, as “that girl” in seemingly every Aerosmith video in the early-mid 90s, to A-list movie star thanks to Clueless. It was like the many facets of Cher were custom-built for her: the pretty, rich, blonde Valley Girl who’s a little ditzy but also smart, socially adept and big-hearted. She could go from constantly (but effectively) repeating the stereotypical Valley Girl line, “As if!” to showing her smarts and with with lines like, “I’m not a prude. I’m just highly selective.”
We’re confident that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet could easily pull off the same nuances. At 24, she’s a few years older than Silverstone was, but she could convincingly play a high school girl. And despite her action-centric role on TV, she’s got the comedy chops as well. Though her resume is still fairly short, she’s shown a terrific sense of humor in interviews. Then there’s the elephant in the room: Bennet is not a white blonde girl. In fact, her father is Chinese American. But so what? America – and Beverly Hills in particular – is not all white blonde girls anymore. If there’s one thing we can thank the Kardashians for, it’s that. That one thing.
That being said, if we wanted to go straight up the middle with another blonde girl, Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) would be a great choice on the younger side, with Maika Monroe (It Follows) on the older end.
Do you disagree with any of these choices? Let us know in the comments!