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Josie and the Pussycats” Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Cult Following and Enduring Popularit

Josie and the Pussycats may have been a box-office flop in 2001, but the movie and its soundtrack have since gained a cult following among fans. The film, which is a loose adaptation of the Archie Comics series, tells the story of Josie and her bandmates as they rise to fame, only to discover that their record label is using their music to hide subliminal messages.

Written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the movie hit theaters over a decade before Riverdale renewed interest in the Archie Comics characters. And while it didn’t make much of an impact at the time of its release, it has since become a beloved classic.

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In fact, when the film celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021, Elfont revealed that curiosity about the movie was at an all-time high. “It’s crazy how it has grown in people’s interest and the movie has grown over the years,” he told InStyle. “This is kind of a unique and fun experience to go through, to have people still want to ask us about this movie 20 years later.”

The film’s stars, Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson, all gave memorable performances as members of the titular band. While they didn’t actually sing in the movie, the soundtrack still became a hit thanks to the participation of Kay Hanley, the frontwoman of Letters to Cleo, who provided the vocals for Josie.

“We got to meet Kay before we went to shoot,” Cook recalled in a 2017 interview with The Fader. “She completely eased my nerves about the performance aspect.”

Reid, who played the band’s drummer Melody, even took drum lessons to prepare for the role. And Dawson, who portrayed bassist Valerie, learned how to play the instrument for real.

“We did it every day for, like, a couple of months,” Reid said in the same interview. “I remember at the beginning I couldn’t separate my hands from my feet and [producers] were like, ‘Oh, God, she’s never going to learn.’ Like, it was a disaster. And then one day I just got it.”

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Dawson, for her part, had an absolute blast filming the movie’s big finale, where the Pussycats perform for an arena full of people and shrug off the control of their record label.

“The music and project were just so great that it felt like this really big concert that everyone enjoyed being at,” the Daredevil alum told InStyle. “It was magical and profound. It was a big day! I wish I would have been able to crowd surf.”

While Josie and the Pussycats may have been ahead of their time, it’s clear that the film’s legacy has endured. As Elfont put it, “I feel like we made a movie that’s really kind of evergreen in terms of its message and its tone.” And with its catchy soundtrack and unforgettable performances, it’s no wonder that the movie has become a beloved classic.


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