CC Interviews “10 Things I Hate About You” Writer Karen McCullah Lutz

Fourteen years ago today, a little movie called 10 Things I Hate About You came out. I’m guessing you’ve heard of it? It featured Future Hipster Heartthrob Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, Gabrielle Union and of course made Heath Ledger a superstar. We were lucky enough to interview the writer of 10 Things, Karen McCullah Lutz (who’s an alumnae of my sorority Alpha Gamma Delta!) on sororities, Prince Charmings and her many movies. Lutz also penned Legally BlondeThe House Bunny, She’s The Man, and The Ugly Truth. So, yeah, she’s kind of a big deal.  

CC: You’ve adapted a few pieces of Shakespeare, were you a total pro in English?
KML: No actually I was a marketing major. I only took two English classes in college, and that was freshman year. I think one was creative writing and one was comparative literature. In creative writing I got a C.

CC: We’ve just finished recruitment at Syracuse. What would you tell someone going through recruitment?
KML: It’s so funny that it’s called “recruitment” now. We used to call it “rush.”

CC: “Rush” is no longer a politically correct term.
KML: That’s so funny! Oh my gosh, I wonder what happened that made that unacceptable. What would I advise? I would tell girls to go where they feel most at home and feel like they would have the best time and the best friendships. I still talk to someone in my sorority every single day, either by Facebook, or email, or on the phone. Actually my roommate of two years, she lived in the house with me junior and senior year, she was just out here visiting with her husband and kids.

CC: Why did you join the sorority that you chose?
KML: I just felt like it was the best fit. I liked the girls, it seemed fun, everyone seemed nice, it wasn’t too crazy. I felt like some of them were just too out of control with partying. It was just right. Just like you know Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You just have to try each one out, it’s just right.

CC: A lot of your movies involve sororities and strong women, how much of your time in Alpha Gam influenced that?
KML: Well Legally Blonde—yeah, a lot of the sorority stuff. And House Bunny too obviously. Those two movies were definitely influenced by my time in AGD.
It’s so funny when we did Legally Blonde, the Greek Row for that school was just a regular street. It was just regular houses and they put Greek signs in front of it. I remember the day we were shooting I was like “Oh my God, all these girls are going to want to come to this fictional college and live in these fictional sorority houses that don’t exist. We’re setting people up for disappointment.”

CC: What was your favorite Alpha Gam memory or tradition?
KML: God, so many memories, and traditions I invented actually. We would all sit out on our lawn in a circle with candles and I would do dramatic readings from the Playgirl letters. People would write in letters of supposedly true stories or whatever. So I would do really funny dramatic readings of those while everyone was sitting there, drinking margaritas on the lawn.

CC: You grew up in New Jersey, right?
KML: I went to high school in New Jersey. I kind of grew up all over. Elementary school in Maryland. Junior High in Japan. And then high school in New Jersey. And then James Madison University for college.

CC: How was it transitioning to school in the South?
KML: It wasn’t that big of a culture shock because there were a lot of kids from New Jersey that went there. There were definitely some girls, I remember [from] freshman year, who all had pictures of themselves in white dresses in their rooms. And I was like “What is this?” and they’re like “It was my debutante ball!” I was like “Wait, debutante ball, what’s that?” It sounded like something out of Gone With The Wind to me. So I was shocked that something like that still existed, but that was the only thing… And the accents, you gotta get used to the accents. Whenever I’m really sleepy people tell me I sound southern. Left over from college!

CC: What would you tell a college girl hoping to make it in Hollywood, whether it’s in front or behind the camera?
KML: To just have as much fun and lead as interesting a life as possible. And, meet as many people as possible from all walks of Earth! Travel as much as you can so that when you sit down to write or story or film a story you have a comprehensive view of the world.

CC: You’ve co-written many screenplays. College kids absolutely hate group projects, what advice do you have for them? If you can write a blockbuster movie, there’s a secret there.
KML: I think for group projects it’s important to value everybody’s opinion. I mean with my partner we usually say when we’re arguing over something, who ever feels most passionate about it wins. We’re like “Okay, well we’ll try it. If it doesn’t work we’ll try something else.” Just be open minded and willing to try something.

CC: Who’s your favorite character you’ve ever written?
KML: In movies, probably Elle Woods. And then in my book, I really loved the [main] character, I miss her. I’m going to turn that into a movie, pretty soon hopefully. The book is called The Bachelorette Party. I really miss that character, I wanted to hang out with her. You can get it on Kindle!

CC: Why is Elle your favorite movie character you’ve written?
KML: She’s very good hearted and fun and sweet. She underestimated, the same with Shelly in the House Bunny. We like to write about women who are underestimated by everyone else and then find their own strength and surprise people.
That’s probably true of me! I could tell you none of my friends or family probably ever thought I would end up out here doing this.
CC: There are quite a few Prince Charmings in your screenplays. Who’s your favorite?
KML: I like them all, that’s hard! But, Patrick Verona, that Heath Ledger played, [is] one of my favorite characters to write. I loved writing the Gerard Butler character in Ugly Truth he was really fun.

CC: Did you get to work with either of them? They’re both so great.
KML: Yeah! I was on set for just a few days for 10 Things, ‘cause they shot up in Seattle. But The Ugly Truth, Legally Blonde and House Bunny shot here in LA, so I was there everyday.
Gerard Butler is hilarious. He’s one of the funniest people to hang out with ever. He’s a lot of fun, he’s like a little kind in a man’s body.

CC: A lot of the actors in your movies were either catapulted into stardom soon after her movies (Emma Stone, Kat Dennings) does that make you feel proud?
KML: Yeah, I love that they’re so successful! I loved writing Joey, the character Andrew Keegan played in 10 Things, the villain. And he’s like the sweetest guy in the world. It’s so funny, it shows you what a good actor he is that he could play such a douche. I hang out with a lot of the actors I’ve worked with.

CC: Do you have any fun stories about them?
KML: Yeah! But, I don’t want to say anything that will get them mad.

CC: You talked about wanting to adapt Bachelorette Party to the big screen. Are you working on anything? 
KML: I have the script, I’m just working on getting the financing and the studio and producer and director and all that!

[Lead Image via Telegraph]

Ariana Romero is a student at Syracuse University. That would probably explain why she once had a load of laundry filled solely with orange tee shirts. Follow her on Twitter @ArianaRomero17 where she mostly talks about Game of Thrones Robb Stark.

The Best Baked Mac and Cheese Ever [Intro to Cooking]
The Best Baked Mac and Cheese Ever [Intro to Cooking]
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