Clueless At 25: Alicia Silverstone Talks The Movie's Legacy And Being More Than ‘The Aerosmith Chick’

Alicia Silverstone is Cher in Clueless

Clueless turns 25 this year? As if. It feels like only yesterday when Cher (Alicia Silverstone), Tai (Brittany Murphy), Dionne (Stacey Dash) and their crew were applying the societal norms of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma to Los Angeles, circa 1995. And in the process, they were catapulting the cast to superstardom, creating a seminal teen comedy that continues to speak to kids of all generations as they grapple with “Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Whatever.”

Standing on the shoulders of John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Clueless comprehended how Southern California teens were communicating – in class, at home with their parents, at parties or with their significant others. Audiences have been rollin’ with the homies and citing the filmography of Mel Gibson ever since.

We haven’t tired of talking about Clueless. The timeless staple seems to grow more mature and intelligent with age. Probably because teenagers don’t evolve quite as much as they might be led to believe. But how does Cher herself, Alicia Silverstone, feel about the pop-culture staple. After all, she’s been fielding questions about it from fans for 25 years… or, the better part of her professional life. Silverstone recently came on our ReelBlend podcast to promote her latest film, Bad Therapy. When we asked if, like William Shatner and Star Trek, she ever reached a point in her life where she grew tired of talking about Clueless, the actress candidly replied:

No! I think that… I mean, I completely understand both sides of that. I can understand feeling like, if you're so proud of the thing you just made, then I can understand, you know – like, musicians when you are at a concert. You're like, ‘I don't want to hear you play anything but what I remember! That’s what I’m here for. Play me that!’ And the musician’s like, ‘Fuck off. I’m here to play what I want to play, and I'm going to make you listen to what I want you to listen to!’And so, I understand it from both sides. And I also just really love Clueless. I’m grateful for being a part of something that touched so many people and made so many people so happy. And you know, Amy Heckerling… there’s so many parts of [that movie] that are outside of me. You know, Emma, the book written by Jane Austin, is a very good book. She’s a really good writer. And Amy Heckerling who, you know, wrote Fast Times at Ridgemont High, she ain't too shabby either. She knows what she’s doing. I feel happy to be a part of something that really resonated with so many people, and made them so happy.

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The thing about a Hollywood career, though, is that you never really know what is going to hit, even when you are working on it. Alicia Silverstone, in 1995, had a string of mid-sized successes before she even accepted the role of Cher in Clueless. And with each role, she was becoming more and more of a household name. And that, she recalls, brought its own unique pressures.

I am grateful for what Clueless [did], how it touched people. But at the time, I was so young, and it really was overwhelming. It was overwhelming when I was in The Crush, and The Crush, did [so well]. … That was first, and that was a lot. And then I did a bunch of movies. And there was the Aerosmith videos. And then I did bunch more movies. Like, I did a movie with James Gandolfini in France called Le Nouveau Monde and did all these really cool things. Jeff Goldblum and I did a movie with called Hideaway and I just did all these things leading up to then Clueless. So at each turn, I was getting more and more well-known, and it was more and more uncomfortable. And when Clueless came out, it was so uncomfortable how… I was a teenager. I was 18! And there was just a lot. So I needed a good therapist and I didn't have one!

One unfortunate side effect of being that famous, at such a young age? Sometimes you get pigeonholed by pop culture, and massive fanbases only see you as one thing. You might assume that the persona of Cher stuck to Alicia Silverstone like a tight-fitting Calvin Klein dress. She says, though, that it was another role from that time frame:

I do remember when I was in the Aerosmith videos and people would call me ‘The Aerosmith chick,’ and I was like 17 and I was very offended! Because I was like, ‘I’m a very serious actress. How could you? The Aerosmith chick? That was really… and now I think it’s hilarious! But at the time, I was like, ‘That’s so rude.’

We all look back fondly on Clueless. Even Silverstone. But as the comedy turns 25, she credits it for teaching her how different – and in this case, better – once she had some distance from the fame. In Silverstone’s own words, she found activism, which sent her down paths that led to her own Kind Life brand. (Read either The Kind Diet or The Kind Mama, to get an idea of her beliefs in those realms.) And her post-Clueless life led her a s far away from Beverly Hills as you might imagine. Yes, even south of Sunset. Silverstone said:

I just got really focused. I went to Africa and was trying to help the elephants doing this project. That was like 20 years ago now. I went to the Amazon river with Woody Harrelson and tried to help save the rainforest. I really got so into the world. And so in a way, I’m grateful for how much [Clueless] overwhelmed me, that it allowed me to go into a world that I really cared about.

And 25 years after the movie made its debut, fans still care, and for that, Silverstone is thankful.

The actress has been on a hot streak as of late, juggling projects as diverse as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and Yorgo Lanthomos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer. We spoke to her on behalf of the dark relationship drama Bad Therapy, which will make its VOD debut on April 17.

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.