Drew Barrymore and Jessica Alba sweetly reminisced about their experience together on the set of Never Been Kissed more than two decades ago. Keep scrolling to see the reunion for yourself.
Drew Barrymore isn't Josie Grossie anymore, but that doesn't mean she's forgotten her former co-star.
The daytime talk show newcomer kicked off the week with a guest that's bound to spark some major nostalgia for Never Been Kissed fans: none other than on-screen Disco Barbie and off-screen Honest Company mogul Jessica Alba.
"It's been almost 22 years. I think it has been 22 years since Never Been Kissed," Barrymore said as her virtual interview with Alba kicked off. To fact-check the host, April 9 marked the 21st anniversary of the beloved 1999 rom-com, which starred Barrymore and was the first production out of her Flower Films company.
If you've never seen the film—or could simply use a refresher after two decades—the movie centered on a young, reserved copy editor who tackles her first assignment as an undercover reporter tasked to pose as a high school student. Back in class, she has to befriend the popular crowd, which was filled with now-familiar faces like Alba and James Franco. However, at the time, it was Franco's first film role and Alba's third.
As Alba recalled to Barrymore, "I had my 17th birthday on the set."
While the host remembered them having "the best time making that film," her former co-star credited Barrymore for also giving the younger stars an opportunity to shine.
"You popped so many actors as well," Alba said. "It felt like camp, but you also, I mean, you really took so many people under your wing and guided them and a lot of us were just really starting out and you set the stage, I would say for us and gave us a platform to be successful, so thank you."
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In honor of their sweet reunion, it's the perfect time to revisit some secrets from the enduring movie. All you have to do is keep scrolling!
The rom-com was the first production for Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen's Flower Films. "I wanted to make this movie because it taps into an emotion that everyone can identify with—the awkward moments of our high school years," the actress told Wild About Movies in 1999. Coming off her work in Ever After and The Wedding Singer, it was a marked success for the former child star and led to a slew of other successful work. (See: 50 First Dates, He's Just Not That Into You, Whip It!) "I had fun but wanted to make it work," she recently told E! News of her first producing gig, "and then when it did I was allowed to make Charlie's Angels so each movie is a piece."
Just three months before selling the script, screenwriting partners Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn were master's degree candidates at University of Southern California. And their stellar first project launched a romantic comedy career for the ages. After some TV work, they re-teamed with Flower Films for 2009's He's Just Not That Into You before diving into Valentine's Day, The Vow and How to Be Single. "We ride the wave and you just push it around into different areas," he told ET. "We moved into the romantic drama, we moved into the multi-character story arc version of that movie. You just try to keep it fresh. People want to see stories about relationships."
Before Silverstein would go on to meet Busy Philipps he and Kohn were a thing for some seven years before breaking off an engagement in the early aughts. "When we decided not to get married, we were contractually obligated on a pilot," Silverstein told the Los Angeles Times. "So we figured we should try to work together." It wasn't great, they agree, "but it didn't take that long to get normal again." Kohn would go on to wed music exec Jason Linn and Silverstein married Philipps and now, he said, "I think we have the best of both worlds. I know a lot of writing teams that, as good friends as they are, still can't say to each other what we can say to each other."
He was perhaps a little hard to spot in his debut film role of cool kid Jason, which saw the UCLA student (credited as James Edward Franco) offer up a scant few lines and mostly serve as a background player in prom-perfect disco attire. Before the comedy, Franco's credits were limited to a TV movie and a guest spot on Pacific Blue, but later that year he'd break out as head freak Daniel Desario in Freaks and Geeks alongside Silverstein's future bride Busy Philipps.
The teen fare also featured a little-known 17-year-old Jessica Alba, a year away from landing on TV screens in Dark Angel. Though she was spot-on as cool kid Kirsten, Alba has admitted she had very little to draw on. "I actually never went to high school. I graduated when I was sixteen," she said of her stint at an L.A.-area academy, "but when I was in junior high, I was, like, the biggest nerd and I had no friends." Once she began acting—including a two-season gig on Flipper, "They wanted to be my friends, then they wanted to beat me up because I was in magazines and stuff," she continued, "but yeah it brings back weird issues."
Supporting leads Barrymore and Michael Vartan was a wealth of talent in secondary roles. All told, the film can claim their cast was made up of three Emmy-nominated actors (Barrymore, Leelee Sobieski and Molly Shannon, who nailed her part as Josie's work BFF), two Oscar nominees (Franco and John C. Reilly—Josie's grumpy boss Augustus in the flick) and an Academy Award winner in Octavia Spencer, underutilized in a bit part as one of Josie's coworkers.
Jeremy Jordan had some experience to draw on playing Guy, the high school heartthrob you totally want to be crunched by. In a bid for pop star fame, he released his debut disc, Try My Love in 1993, with his two biggest hits, "The Right Kind of Love" and "Wanna Girl," peaking at 14 and 28, respectively, on the Billboard Hot 100. Though his acting credits were limited post-Never Been Kissed, he did put out another album in 2013 titled Where Do We Go From Here.
One of the bigger stars in the film thanks to her work in Deep Impact and A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, Sobieski was reportedly offered popular Kirsten, before saying she found the role of ambitious Aldys more interesting. She'd continue racking up parts before telling Vogue in 2012 that she was looking to retire in deference to her marriage to fashion designer Adam Kimmel: "Ninety percent of acting roles involve so much sexual stuff with other people, and I don't want to do that. It's such a strange fire to play with, and our relationship is surely strong enough to handle it, but if you're going to walk through fire, there has to be something incredible on the other side."
"I auditioned for Never Been Kissed 116 years ago and I was as nervous as can be," Vartan told E! News during a 2017 visit to The Arrangement's set. "It was my first, one of my first really big movie auditions and I really had no notion or thought that I was gonna get the job." He credits screen partner and producer Barrymore with helping him score the role of far-too-dreamy teacher Mr. Coulson saying, she "fought very hard for me and I got the job."
As if Vartan wasn't charmed enough by Barrymore, her arrival on set certainly sealed the deal. Though the former child actress was already a bonafide star many times over (not to mention the boss, with her Flower Films helming production), "The first day she showed up on that job, she showed up in a 1970s beat-up white Volvo," Vartan told Bravo's The Daily Dish last year, "and I was like, 'I like that girl. [She's] down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth. No nonsense with her. [She's] just a real sweet person."
Costume designer Mona May revealed Barrymore got very hands-on choosing Josie's eccentric fashions for the film. (Never forget the all-white, boa-tinged outfit with an accompanying citrus-themed tote.) "We went to Loehmanns to try clothes on because she really wanted to find the coolest, weirdest stuff to create this character," May told Interview last year. "She's so strong in her visuals and how she likes things, so it was really us creating it together, which is always really fun." By the credits, Josie has undergone more than an internal evolution. "At the end we clean her up and you find her soul," said May. "She's gone through this crazy journey and she's now who she's supposed to be."
In the decades since that first release, Barrymore and May have gone on more than one department star adventure. "I've worked with her for many years," May raved to Interview of dressing the actress. For the past three seasons the pair have teamed up for Barrymore's Netflix series, the Flower Films-produced Santa Clarita Diet.
With a peak nineties soundtrack, the film secured the rights to choice songs by Jimmy Eat World, Cyndi Lauper, Blind Melon, Pat Benatar, Madonna and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. But one standout moment comes when Josie discovers that the more charming parts of South Glenn South's student body have pushed her car into the middle of the football field. The number the marching band is practicing at that moment: the theme song for The Simpsons.
Even legendarily tough film critic Roger Ebert was won over by Barrymore's charms. Though he goes in on the screenplay a bit (it's "not deep or sophisticated, but it's funny and big-hearted and it wins us over"), he admitted he found himself cheering for the requisite happy ending. "The scene is so contrived and artificial, it could be subtitled 'Shameless Audience Manipulation,'" he wrote in his 1999 review. "But you know what? Because the wait involved Barrymore, I actually cared. Yes, I did."
Despite the use of the very legitimate Chicago Sun-Times and a various necessary exteriors in the Windy City, the movie was largely shot on location in Los Angeles. John Burroughs Middle School filled in for South Glen South, UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium served as the backdrop for the all-important finale and Josie's childhood home was actually located in the city's Hancock Park neighborhood. As for The Tiki Post, where Rob toiled before his dreams of a baseball career could take off, it's now a Cold Stone Creamery in Monrovia, Calif.
As a clichéd editor-in-chief with nary a trace of subtly, Garry Marshall remarks in one conference room scene, "I don't even know my own kids." Sitting directly to his right: real life daughter Kathleen Marshall, whose other credits include Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Runaway Bride and The Princess Diaries.
To promote the April premiere of the flick, Barrymore turned up on Saturday Night Live, her second of six hosting gigs and her first since her debut at age 7 made her the youngest lead ever. And, yes, there was some kissing. "That was the best thing ever," the actress told Wild About Movies of returning to the sketch comedy show. "But kissing Molly Shannon was even better." Her costar agreed, telling the outlet that Barrymore had skills: "We even did some kissing during our dress rehearsal."
Though there's no chatter of a reprisal for the 1999 flick, screenwriters Kohn and Silverstein say it did serve as inspiration of sort for last year's I Feel Pretty, starring Amy Schumer as a cosmetics employee who gets the self-confidence knocked into her after falling off a SoulCycle bike. Asked how their approach for that comedy varied from their first, Silverstein told ET, "Between this and Never Been Kissed, not that different at all. When we started this, we felt like this is a spiritual successor to that movie in a way. Because, again, it's a lead character comedy that has a broad, high concept to it, but it's treated in a very real way."
For the record, though, if there were to be a reprisal, count Vartan among those who believe Josie and Sam are still holding steady. "Well, I mean, I think we'd be age appropriate, at least," he told Bravo's The Daily Dish last year. (At 24, Barrymore was just a year younger than her character while Vartan was 30.) "I mean, she's still younger than me, but yeah maybe I'd be the janitor and she'd be the principal of the school. I guess I'd still be a teacher. Maybe I'd have a tie now, like a little cloth tie. I have no idea."
Despite a bevy of roles to choose from, Barrymore names Never Been Kissed as one of her "favorite films" from her storied four-decade career, telling UK's Glamour she "loved playing Josie." The experience is edged out just slightly by 1998's Ever After, a riff on the classic Cinderella fairytale because the decidedly feminist retelling of the story taught Barrymore how to "rescue" herself. No wonder, then, that the actress would be down to reconnect with her former costars. "We need to do something—a reunion," she recently told E! News of the milestone anniversary. "We loved it and each other."
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