Rachael Leigh Cook’s career following the 1999 hit She’s All That — a ’90s classic and the inspiration for the new Netflix movie He’s All That, in which she appears — might’ve looked much different had she accepted the part she was offered in Marvel’s high-profile 2000 movie X-Men.
As Cook explained in a New York Times story published Monday, she had wanted to avoid acting on a green screen and to appear in smaller movies. So it was Anna Paquin, who had acted alongside Cook in the teen comedy, who played Rogue.
“As soon as I saw the posters for it, I knew that I’d made a mistake,” Cook said.
She called passing on the part a “huge misstep.”
Green screens and all, X-Men was huge, and it kicked off a successful box-office franchise.
Meanwhile, Cook, who had been just 19 when She’s All That was released, went on to play the lead in the adaptation of the comic Josie and the Pussycats, which famously bombed upon its theatrical release in 2001, but has found a loyal audience in the two decades since. She took some dubious advice after that.
“I really thought what everyone told me was correct when they said, ‘What we need to do now is make sure you’re taken seriously,'” she said. “I definitely did things for the wrong reasons.”
Looking back, she acknowledges some other moments early in her career that were less than perfect. One of them is when Peter Howitt, the director of her 2001 film Antitrust, asked her to lose weight days before they began filming. According to the Times, he “cushioned the insinuation that she’d overindulged at Thanksgiving with the addendum that he’d told her male co-star, Ryan Phillippe, the same thing.” (Howitt told the newspaper that he’d been delivering the message from the producers, and that he “regretted” doing so and has since apologized.)
“I just immediately burst into tears,” Cook said. “And he felt terrible and immediately took it back. But it doesn’t mean I wasn’t offended. It doesn’t mean I don’t remember it.”
Cook also recalled her agent having directed her to send disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, who’s now in prison for sexual assault and rape, get well cards when he was in the hospital. However, that same person was by her side when she met with Weinstein. She now suspects that it was to protect her.
“I think that I overheard enough people calling me mature that I believed it myself,” Cook said. “But that wasn’t actually true. In retrospect, was I equipped to navigate the industry? Zero percent.”
While promoting He’s All That, Cook told Access Hollywood that she even feels protective of the reboot’s star, 20-year-old influencer-turned-actress Addison Rae, who now stands where she once did.
“I feel very protective of her, because I feel like she will be judged under a harsher light than somebody just starting out in the industry cold,” Cook said, “so I hope that people see her for… just the dynamic and lovely young human that she is.”