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Freddie Prinze Jr. Reveals He Almost Quit Acting Due To 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' Director

The actor says 'a**hole' director Jim Gillespie made his first film experience 'miserable' after he openly disparaged his casting in the film.

Freddie Prinze Jr.
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Dunkin' Donuts

Actor and TV film producer Freddie Prinze Jr. opened up in an interview about how "miserable" he was filming the movie that launched his career in the 90s, I Know What You Did Last Summer.

The film was based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan and it followed a group of friends who were terrorized by a hook-wielding killer a year after they supposedly killed a pedestrian in a car accident and tried to cover it up.

The 47-year-old actor had revisited watching the 1997 horror film in his recent podcast That Was Pretty Scary and discussed his negative experience of filming his first major film in an interview with TooFab.

Prinze Jr.–who played the character Ray Bronson in the film–claimed the movie's director Jim Gillespie wanted actor Jeremy Sisto for the role instead.

However, the movie's production company Mandalay Entertainment and Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson insisted on casting Prinze Jr.

The decision led to a toxic work environment for Prinze Jr.–who acknowledged Sisto may have been better suited to playing Ray because he had more "of an edge" to the character that merely implied something sinister about him as a red herring in one of the film's final moments.

"There was no passive aggressiveness, which I hate," he said of working with Gillespie.

"He was very direct [with] the fact that, 'I don't want you in this movie. So when that's your first job and you hear those words, it just wrecks you, man."

The actor recalled the director often "singling him out" and giving him "psychotic" notes like:

"Don't leave your mouth open. You look stupid when you do that."

The actor said "I'm either gonna break down or I have to beat this guy's a**," was a thought that crossed his mind.

Fortunately, the support of his co-stars, including his future wife Sarah Michelle Gellar and colleague Ryan Phillippe, kept him going.

You can watch the full interview here.

"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," he continued.

He said he "almost quit the movie" after a "near-death experience" during the shooting of the final scene taking place on a boat.

In a separate interview, Prinze Jr. said:

“There was a stunt where they, to save money, sent the stunt crew home."

The stunt involved Prinze Jr. driving a dinghy with an outboard motor, and when he asked if it was approved by the stunt coordinator, Gillespie said it was.

He recalled:

“We do the rehearsal and this boat is not safe to do this jump. I fly out of the boat and it goes right over my head, the outboard engine."
"I don’t know how close it was but it felt like it was a millimeter away.”

Prinze Jr. said.

"And I get out of the water and I’m pissed. And the director comes up to me and he goes, ‘You told me you know how to drive a speedboat!’"
"And I’m like, ‘Yes, I do. That’s not a speedboat, it’s a dinghy with an outboard motor. You’re mad at me?!’”

Gillespie allegedly wanted to do a retake but the actor refused.

It turns out that the stunt coordinator was not on set at the time.

Freddie Prinze Jr Almost DIED Filming A

Prinze Jr. told TooFab:

"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 if I'm not wanted here, screw it. 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."

While he did say he wanted to fight Gillespie "two or three different times" during production, he did acknowledge the positive takeaways from the experience.

"I'm not upset because that movie launched my whole career," he said, adding:

"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."

Prinze Jr. had gone on to star in films like She's All That (1999), Summer Catch (2001), Scooby-Doo (2002), and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004); in addition to featured roles in TV shows like Friends, Boston Legal, Freddie, and 24.

He has also lent his voice to his character Kanan Jarrus in the Disney XD 3D animated sci-fi TV series, Star Wars Rebels.

Upon reflection of his time on the IKWYDLS set, Prinze Jr. said he was:

"forever grateful for Jim for being such an a**hole because I've never met one like that since."
"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."

Prinze Jr. is in preliminary talks to reunite with his IKWYDLS co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt for a legacy sequel to be directed by Do Revenge director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.

IKNWYDLS's success led to its direct sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998), which brought back the remaining survivors from the original movie.

In 2006, the second film was followed by a direct-to-video sequel that didn't reunite any of the original cast members and was unrelated to the main plot called, I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.

An IKWYDLS television series was released for Amazon Prime Video in 2021.