2001 sure was a long time ago now but it really was a great year for movies. That year saw the release of the first Lord of the Rings, the first Harry Potter, Monster’s Inc., The Princess Diaries, Zoolander, and perhaps most importantly Legally Blonde. Yes, 2001 was the year that made us all want to apply to law school and certainly gave any brunettes and black haired gals total blonde-ambition. No one could have known that this film about a perky blonde sorority girl who goes off to Harvard Law School would become a guilty pleasure classic, and become one of the best-loved rom-coms of all time. Full of quotable moments and certainly the flashiest fashion in cinema that year, Legally Blonde is the kind of film you can keep re-watching without ever getting tired of it.
Although you may have seen Legally Blonde a hundred times, there are certainly a few things you’re guaranteed not to know about this iconic film. Here are 15 facts that will have you saying “I never knew that” and make you want to go back and revisit the adventures of Elle Woods and her law school antics. You’ll be ready to get your Bend and Snap back on in no time.
15. Reese Witherspoon Almost Didn’t Make The Cut
It’s hard to imagine anyone except adorable Reese Witherspoon playing the part of Elle Woods, but surprisingly she wasn’t actually the first choice for the role. Tori Spelling was the actress the filmmakers really wanted for the main part, but when she declined the role, even then Reese wasn’t considered. Next on the list to play Elle was Christina Applegate, but she turned down the role too as she didn’t want to play another “ditzy blonde” and be seen as type-cast. Even then, beloved Reese’s name was at the bottom of the list, and before contacting her, actresses such as Katherine Heigl, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alicia Silverstone, and Charlize Theron were all considered above Witherspoon. Finally though, director Robert Luketic insisted on Reese playing Elle, after seeing her in Election. He wanted someone fun, but who had gravitas and brains. And boy did he make the right choice! Elle Woods just wouldn’t have been the same if it weren’t for Reese.
14. Vivian Was Almost Played By Someone Else
Selma Blair played the role of Vivian to perfection, so it’s hard to believe that she was almost left out of the movie’s casting as well. Originally, the filmmakers wanted Chloë Sevigny to play the part, but the actress decided to turn the role down in order to pursue a film that was being shot in Paris. Sevigny also wasn’t convinced that the film was going to be very successful, so she decided to skip out on a role that could have left her with an even bigger legacy. Luckily for us, Selma Blair got the part and became Warner’s fiancée whom we loved to hate at first and then learned to love. Vivian’s character had one of the biggest character development arcs in the film, and the way she turned from mean, jealous girl, to supportive sister is wonderful to watch on screen. Blair’s knack for playing an uptight, preppy princess is perfect for the role as Vivian and makes for a great counterpart to Elle’s bubbly character.
13. A Clause For A Closet of Clothes
Thanks to a clever little clause in her contract, Reese Witherspoon got to keep all 60 outfits she wore in the film. Reese’s character Elle is known for her wicked sense of style and her incredible range of cute clothes. It’s no surprise then that Witherspoon was keen to keep all the couture she had made especially for her role. Reese has since said that she rarely wears any of her Elle Woods wardrobe these days, but she’s taken care to wrap them up safely and treasures them because of her fond memories of shooting the film. Witherspoon also sported 40 different hairstyles in the movies, which basically means she had a different ‘do in every scene of the movie. We all knew that Elle Woods was a style icon, but a different style for every scene? In the words of Elle, “What, like it’s hard?”
12. Harvard Law Wasn’t First Choice
Legally Blonde was based on a book of the same name by Amanda Brown who actually grounded the story on her own experiences studying at Stanford Law School. However, when it came to making the movie, Stanford didn’t give the production permission to use its name, and neither did the filmmaker’s next choice which was the University of Chicago. This is because the university didn’t want to be associated with the scene in which a college professor is seen preying on his student. Luckily though, Harvard was cool with the film using its name but still didn’t allow any filming to be done on its campus, which is why all the law school scenes were actually shot in Los Angeles on the campuses of UCLA, USC, and Pasadena’s Rose City High School. The filmmaking team could have fooled us though – it sure did look like Cambridge, Massachusetts, didn’t it?
11. Reese Studied Real Sorority Girls For The Role
In preparation for her role as Elle Woods, Reese Witherspoon spent a lot of time with real-life sorority girls from USC. She wanted to pick up on the exact way they spoke and how they interacted with each other. She went out to lunches and dinners with them and went on shopping trips with them around Beverley Hills in order to gather as much information about how they acted as possible. Witherspoon wanted to make sure she didn’t portray Elle as just a stereotypical airhead sorority girl, so she made sure to really get to know the girls that she spent time with. It’s obvious when watching the movie that Reese put a lot of care into making her character Elle likeable and smart without resorting to generic, vacuous behavior that some might associate with sorority girls, which is why this movie has had such an enduring quality and why Elle Woods continues to be a favorite movie character for so many.
10. Legally Blonde Is Based On Truth
The now-famous Legally Blonde actually started off as a series of letters that first-year Stanford Law student Amanda Brown wrote to her folks back home. In the letters, Brown poked fun at her classmates who ostracized her and made her feel unwelcome at the college. She wrote all her letters on pink paper and used a fluffy pen to scribble down her thoughts, which was also the inspiration for Elle’s pink, scented resumé and her taking notes in class with her fluffy pen in class. Brown’s letters eventually became the manuscript for a novel, which the publisher happened to pluck out of the mountain of prospective books on her desk because of the pink paper it was written on. MGM then bought the film rights to the book and hired the screenwriters from 10 Things I Hate About You to adapt the book into a movie.
9. The Bend And Snap Was Actually A Musical Number
We all know what the Bend and Snap is and there’s a good chance that we’ve all done it before, most likely in the privacy of our own bedroom and maybe in front of a crush (let’s just hope it didn’t end up like Paulette’s failed attempt). But there’s not a chance you watched the movie as your younger self and didn’t try this out at home. As much as we all love Elle’s signature move, we could have loved it even more had the movie stayed with their original plan which was to have the Bend and Snap scene be a full-length musical number. What we see in the movie is just a shortened version of a longer original scene. Reese Witherspoon has said that she still gets requests from people to do her classic Bend and Snap move, and it’s undeniable that we all secretly wish we could have watched a longer version of the iconic scene.
8. Warner Wanted Elle For Real
Matt Davis, who played Elle’s boyfriend Warner in the movie, revealed that he was actually crushing on Reese Witherspoon in a big way while they were filming Legally Blonde. He’d had a crush on Witherspoon since the age of 15 when he first watched her in A Far Off Place, and when he found out he would be acting alongside her, he was filled with excitement and nerves. He was actually so nervous and bumbling around her that the producers had to pull him aside to ask if he was okay. Eventually, Davis ended up confessing his feelings to Witherspoon, who was already married to actor Ryan Phillippe and had just given birth to their daughter, to which she replied that it was really sweet of him to think of her like that but they should get back to work. Ouch! She undoubtedly handled the situation in a kind way, but what a blow for Davis!
7. The Toilet Paper Vote Was Real
Everyone remembers the scene in which Elle presides over a vote concerning which brand of toilet paper the sorority should use. The scene is incorporated into Elle’s submission video for Harvard Law school and is used to show the many ways she supposedly uses law in everyday life. But what you may not have realized was that this toilet paper debate was based on true events. Screenwriter Karen McCullah Lutz wrote this scene into the movie using her own experiences of being in a sorority at James Madison University. Karen revealed that apparently her sorority sisters were given activity points for stealing rolls of toilet tissue to replace their own sub-par toilet paper from the administrative building. It’s funny to think that one of the more absurd, silly details in the film that we all thought was a joke actually took place in real life. But again, it’s these little details that make the film such a fun watch and knowing that these things actually happened, gives the film something a little extra special.
6. Up Close And Personal With Frat Boys
In the opening credits, we see a bunch of frat boys in front of a house while a blonde girl bicycles past them with Elle’s invitation in her basket. The guys were actually real Caltech fraternity brothers conducting an initiation rite. Although we only see them for a few seconds, we can see that what they were actually doing was putting oil and shortening on each other in order to take part in a game of “Grease Frosh.” What’s that you ask? Well, it’s one of the many frat boy traditions in which two teams race against each other to see who can carry a freshman from one end of a field to another in the fastest time, all while being covered in grease. Sounds like a hoot, right? It just goes to show again how committed the film was to making the whole college experience seem realistic, and we’re sure the frat boys loved being caught on film doing their thing.
5. Elle Was Kind Of A Genius
We all know that Elle Woods is a style icon, an inspiring role model, and a butt-kicking lawyer, but were you aware that she was also basically a genius? In the movie, we see Elle furiously studying for her LSATs, the law test that would determine whether or not she got into Harvard. We witness Elle passing up parties and good times in order to study, and her furious determination got her through the fun temptations that surrounded her in the sorority house. The final score she gets on the test is 179 – out of 180! That means Elle’s score puts her in the top 0.1% of test-takers. The fact that she passed with flying colors just adds to the hilarity of her bumping into Warner later at Harvard and him asking her incredulously if she really got in. Also, the fact that we learn Warner was waitlisted whereas Elle got a near-perfect score makes her final triumph that little bit sweeter.
4. The Ovester Joke Was Real
There’s a scene in the movie where Elle is invited to a party by Vivian but is tricked into thinking it’s a costume party. Elle arrives dressed like a Playboy bunny and ends up facing the embarrassing consequences of being the only person wearing a costume. Obviously, her bunny costume doesn’t help her to convince people to take her seriously, but Elle being the strong woman she is puts on a brave face and tries to shake off the prank as best she can. While at the party, she tries to get involved in a conversation with Warner and Enid who is in the middle of explaining how she wants to change the college’s use of the word semester to ovester in order to challenge the subliminal patriarchal message it’s communicating. This discussion is actually something that really happened when writer Amanda Brown was at law school, and she found it so hilarious that she decided to write it into her book and into the final film.
3. There’s A Sneaky In-Joke – Did You Catch It?
Near the start of the movie, Elle goes to the beauty salon to cheer herself up after getting dumped by Warner, and she ends up sitting and waiting next to an old lady reading Seventeen magazine. What you may not have noticed is that on the cover of the magazine is a picture of the Josie & The Pussycats stars. This is because Marc E. Platt produced both Josie & The Pussycats and Legally Blonde, so this little detail is a nod to Marc and his great producing skills. Both films came out in 2001, but out of the two, Legally Blonde was definitely the more successful film. It’s a shame that Josie & The Pussycats has been so overlooked, but it’s nice to know that Legally Blonde referenced it and snuck it into its final edit. This is one of the more blink-and-you’ll-miss-it facts about the movie, but you’ll have a hard time not noticing the magazine cover now that it’s been pointed out to you!
2. The Original Ending Was Much Different
The final scene of the film where we see the whole gang graduate and Elle gives her iconic speech to the graduating class of 2004 wasn’t actually supposed to be in the film. The original ending finished with Elle and Emmett kissing on the courthouse steps after she successfully wins the court case. However, a test audience that were shown a preview of the film were so invested in Elle’s story that they wanted to see what happened to her afterward and how things eventually ended with Warner. The filmmakers decided (wisely) to listen to the audience’s wishes and changed the ending to the perfect conclusion the film now has. Witherspoon was actually already filming The Importance of Being Earnest in England by this point so she and Luke Wilson, who plays Emmett, went to Dulwich College in London in order to film the extra end scenes. The rest of the cast stayed behind in Los Angeles and shot their new scenes there. Thanks to the magic of post-production, we have the seamless, perfect ending we love.
1. That Blonde Hair At The Start? It’s Not Reese’s
Another added shot to the film was the opening credit sequence where we have a close-up of the back of Elle’s head as she’s brushing her gorgeous blonde hair. There isn’t a single girl out there who didn’t envy those thick, blonde locks when watching the movie for the first time, and it would be natural to assume that that wavy golden hair belonged to Reese Witherspoon. But in fact, it wasn’t actually her hair! Because they decided to add that sequence to the start of the film after the rest of the movie had already been shot, Witherspoon wasn’t available for filming, so they got a stand-in to create the scene instead. Watching it, you’d never know it wasn’t Reese Witherspoon. Whether they used a wig or the stand-in had exquisite, natural hair, either way, those locks are still envy-worthy to this day, and it’s safe to assume a lot of women were reaching for the box-dye after watching the movie.
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