CULVER CITY, Calif., March 20, 2000 -- The classic novel "Emma" became a Beverly Hills "whatever" teenfest in 1995's "Clueless." The play "Pygmalion" was high schooled most recently into last year's "She's All That." Now Columbia Pictures and Phoenix Pictures plan to put an adolescent spin on the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac with the romantic comedy "Whatever It Takes."
Said Cyrano is Ryan (Shane West), an accordion-playing average Joe who is obsessed with the untouchable Ashley (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). Ashley, like the majority of the school's population, doesn't acknowledge his presence (and when she does, she calls him Bryan). Luckily for him, the school stud, Chris (James Franco), is enamored with Ryan's childhood friend Maggie (Marla Sokoloff) and seeks his aid. The two make a deal to help each other capture their respective targets.
Ryan coaches Chris on how to woo Maggie, feeding him lines while hiding behind scenery, disguising his voice and verbalizing how Chris feels in a more eloquent manner. Trouble is, Ryan begins to catch himself believing what he says.
It also makes him question his attraction toward Ashley, who completely ignores him until he begins to ignore her back, per Chris' advice. Suddenly he's intriguing, and Ryan's the talk of the school, a status that dismays his 'out-crowd' friends.
For 21-year-old West, who appeared in Barry Levinson's "Liberty Heights" last year and currently stars as Billy Campbell's teen-age son in the hit television drama "Once and Again," it was a time to reunite with friends.
"I was friends with Marla Sokoloff for four or five years, and Aaron Paul, who plays Floyd [Ryan's scheming 'loser' buddy] was my roommate during the filming of this movie," says the Louisiana-born West. "It was really nice to go into this movie which had people our age, with two people behind my back. … I had two friends there for me."
Their friendship helped ease possible awkwardness on the set, particularly when West and Sokoloff had to pretend that they were falling in love.
"It was a little weird," West says of their romantic scenes. "Marla and I hung around the same crowd for a while and dated other people. And there was always that thing where it could have been a possibility that we went out. So it wasn't that hard for us in that sense."
Even tougher, he recalls, was the tension of real-life couplehood. West had a girlfriend during the shoot, and Sokoloff began dating Franco. It didn't help that both companions were on the set during West and Sokoloff's big kiss.
"They were both there during our final scene so that was frustrating, so it was hard to keep in character," West says. "It was an important scene, and we wanted it to be a good scene. So I basically hid the whole time."
But Franco, who starred in the recently canceled NBC drama "Freaks and Geeks," wasn't as worried about his girlfriend's kissing scene as he was the G-string he had to don during the film.
"There's not a better diet than knowing you have a G-string scene," Franco says. "I worked [out], and then when the day came, they gave me a choice. … I went with the glorious leopard spot. I wore it around the set all day."
To feel at ease, he says. "They offered a robe … but I walked around all day," Franco says. "I'm sure I made a lot of people uncomfortable, but … I even ate lunch with the G-string."
Whatever it takes, indeed. The film opens March 24.