U-WIRE.com - January 29, 1999
Rachael Leigh Cook is 'All That'
by Ronald Clark
"(Yawn!) Sorry ... but if I sound a bit out of it, it's because I took a tiny nap - one of my only few perks. Glamorous, huh?"
And on a snowy, waterlogged afternoon somewhere in Birmingham, actress Rachael Leigh Cook hit metro Detroit promoting "She's All That," Miramax Film's latest teen romantic drama.
But unlike most Tinseltown superstars who often go out on a limb to sell the pic (in character of the aboveboard shamelessness of such typical Hollywood bigshots), the demure Cook sincerely sighed, "Go see it ... and I hope it doesn't suck."
But for a relatively young sprout whose career has blossomed playing opposite the likes of showbiz vets Rod Steiger, George C. Scott and Stanley Tucci, to Gen X hipsters Parker Posey and Tori Spelling, it would appear that the teen sensation is indeed "all that."
Born Oct. 4, 1979, Cook, originally from Minneapolis, Minn., started her career as a child model, as her mug was plastered across print ads for Target, 3M and Milk-Bone Brand Dog biscuits, (according to sources, she shared space with a cocker spaniel named "Chivas" on the box).
Later, the Twin Cities maven got her big break with the lead role in 1994's "The Girl in 26 Summer Street"), the acclaimed independent short film directed by Steve Erik Larson, based on "The Girl With the Pimply Face," the 1938 William Carlos Williams short story. "From there, I guess, my big moment was, as they inevitably say, right around the corner," she says, "but instead, came 'The Babysitters Club.'"
Unfortunately, Cook, like many unknown teen and young adult Hollywood talents, endured a series of lackluster hits, like that one and other forgettable roles in "Tom and Huck" (1995) the big budget, big screen adaptation of Mark Twain's classic "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" with "Home Improvement's" Jonathan Taylor Thomas and 1996's "Carpool," the disastrous family comedy with Tom Arnold, Rhea Perlman and Rod Steiger.
However, Cook got on track, doing TV dramas like CBS' "Country Justice" with George C. Scott and Ally Sheedy. In the film, she played in her most controversial role to date as a teenage rape victim who, along with her grandfather, legally challenges the man who sexually assaulted her for custody of her son.
"It may not seem much, but as a professional actor, you seek out that one role that relates to your personality and maximizes your chances to expand your career," Cook said, "So, it's never, ever an ego thing - it's a survival thing. You work and you, hopefully, get roles that lead to better films."
That "better film" came with Miramax's celebrated indie "The House of Yes," the Mark Waters adaptation based on the play by Wendy MacLeod, in 1997. Even without a whole lot of screen time, Cook stillmanaged to dazzle critics as she played a young Jacqueline Onassis in a suburban dysfunctional family. Cook held her own admirably in an all-star cast that included the likes of Parker Posey, Tori Spelling and the enigmatic Genevive Bujold. Currently, Cook is featured in the new public service announcements for Partnership for a Drug-Free America. In this new version of the popular "This is your brain on drugs..." PSA, a surprisingly sexy Cook demolishes an egg with a skillet.
Now, she's the center of attention in "She's All That." In the film, she stars as Laney Boggs, the ugly duckling/nerd art student at an exclusive L.A. high school who becomes the object of desire - the result of a cruel bet - by the school's leading jock after wagering that he can turn her into a prom queen bombshell. She's reunited with Freddie Prinze Jr., who also starred in "The House of Yes" and carries weight with R&B/hip hop royalty Lil' Kim and Usher, while Oscar winner Anna Paquin from "The Piano" dolls her up. And Kieran Culkin, younger brother of Macaulay Culkin, with Kevin Pollak ("The Usual Suspects") round out the cast.
"Generally, I wouldn't normally get excited about a film," Cook said, "but there's something that gives this film the underdog edge. There's an empathetic connection with her the audience will key into." In fact, Cook once told "Entertainment Tonight" that in real life she was stood up at her own prom. "I can relate all right," Cook joked. "I'm in therapy ... I've got issues."