Ask someone what they remember most about American Pie and you'll receive one of three answers.

The teen movie, released 20 years ago this week, was an instant sensation that catapulted its young stars to fame, but what people remember about the movie differs wildly.

Some remember the infamous apple pie scene (don't ask us to explain it). Others will never forget Jennifer Coolidge, defiantly sexy as Stifler's mum. And others remember Tara Reid.

Tara Reid with the cast of American Pie in 1999. Her follow-up films were less successful. Photo / Getty Images
Tara Reid with the cast of American Pie in 1999. Her follow-up films were less successful. Photo / Getty Images

As good girl Vicky, desperate to lose her virginity to her high school boyfriend, Reid's performance felt like the arrival of a new "America's Sweetheart". Fresh faced and cute-but-sexy, Reid was the archetypal "cool girl", way before Gillian Flynn dreamt up that terminology in Gone Girl.

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Thanks to Vicky, Reid went on to carve out a niche for herself as the teen movie queen, starring in Josie and the Pussycats, Van Wilder: Party Liaison and American Pie 2. But just as soon as her career had taken off, it was torpedoed courtesy of tabloid drama, wardrobe malfunctions and bizarre career choices.

What happened to Tara Reid?

Paris Hilton and Tara Reid in 2003. Photo / Getty Images
Paris Hilton and Tara Reid in 2003. Photo / Getty Images
Tara Reid At Palms Casino in Las Vegas. Photo / Getty Images
Tara Reid At Palms Casino in Las Vegas. Photo / Getty Images

A worthy subject for a teen movie to investigate, sure, but Body Shots never truly engages with the subject matter. As one critic put it: "(This movie) thinks it is about date rape, when actually it is about alcoholism."

Reid continued to notch up the roles, though, working with high-profile co-stars including Richard Gere (Dr T & The Women), Rosario Dawson (Josie and the Pussycats), Christina Applegate (Just Visiting) and Ashton Kutcher (My Boss's Daughter).

Reid would receive the first of her many Razzie nominations for My Boss's Daughter. The Razzies, which occur around the same time as the Oscars and celebrate the worst in the year's cinema, named her and Kutcher one of the worst screen couples of the year.

Reid built up quite the reputation as Hollywood's 'party girl'. Photo / Getty Images
Reid built up quite the reputation as Hollywood's 'party girl'. Photo / Getty Images

Despite poor reviews and flailing box office returns, Reid continued to appear in movies including Alone in the Dark, a schlocky horror movie for which Reid received another Razzie nomination, the bizarre romantic comedy Knots, co-starring John Stamos, and Devil's Pond, an eerie thriller about a just-married couple on what must be the worst vacation of all time.

The exception to this was Reid's turn on the satirical medical show Scrubs in 2003. As Danni, girlfriend to creator and star Zach Braff's JD, Reid was a hilarious though, it must be said, a largely un-self-aware presence for most of season three.

Tabloid disaster after tabloid diaster

Carson Daly met the American Pie actress on the set of MTV's Spring break show in Cancun. Photo / Getty Images
Carson Daly met the American Pie actress on the set of MTV's Spring break show in Cancun. Photo / Getty Images

But even in 2003, Reid's reputation was shot to pieces. In a news piece announcing Reid's casting on Scrubs, Entertainment Weekly joked that "at last Tara Reid has found something to keep her busy for a while when she's not dancing on tables".

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Just a few short years after the premiere of American Pie, Reid was already known as one of Hollywood's most vociferous party girls.

Paparazzi pictures of Reid falling out of nightclubs up and down Los Angeles were dime a dozen, so much so that Reid was given her own reality television series Wild on Tara, later renamed to Taradise.

Tara Reid at the Royal Birthday Ball for Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs, the night her breast was exposed to paparazzi. Photo / Getty Images
Tara Reid at the Royal Birthday Ball for Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs, the night her breast was exposed to paparazzi. Photo / Getty Images

The series followed Reid as she partied all around the world and was canceled unceremoniously after just one season.

It's not hard to see why, when footage of Reid telling dinner guests in Monaco that, "I need to get some ass … I need some booty. I've been out of America for months and I'm horny."

No wonder Reid has called the reality television show "probably the stupidest thing I ever did … I didn't know it was going to ruin my career."

Tara Reid as April Shepard in Sharknado. Photo / Getty Images
Tara Reid as April Shepard in Sharknado. Photo / Getty Images

By 2008, the partying had grown so intense that she checked into rehab at Promises in Malibu, the same high-end rehabilitation center frequented by Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. Reid has called her two-month detox "the greatest decision I ever made".

She went there to deal with the pressures of her alcohol abuse, telling In Touch that, "I was actually shy in real life, and I felt like everyone was judging me and watching me. I think I drank because it gave me a kind of confidence."

But the partying wasn't the only thing keeping Reid in the headlines. In 2004, Reid accidentally exposed her nipples to cameras on the red carpet at P Diddy's 35th birthday party in New York, leading to speculation that she had undergone breast surgery. Then, images of Reid in a swimsuit led to questions about whether or not she'd had surgery on her stomach.

In 2006, Reid opened up about her "botched" plastic surgeries to US Weekly. "I was smiling like a fool and people were snapping away," Reid told the magazine.

"When I realised it, I cried and begged the photographers not to print it, but it was everywhere … I was on the websites as having the ugliest boobs in the world."

Reid's breast augmentation and "body contouring" on her stomach were both carried out by the same plastic surgeon, and both with disappointing results. "My stomach became the most ripply, bulgy thing," she told the magazine. "I had a hernia, this huge bump next to my bellybutton. As a result, I couldn't wear a bikini. I lost a lot of work."

And then there were the strange publicity stunts. Over the years, Reid has leaked bizarre details about her personal life to the press, even staging relationships in order to get her name in the headlines. First, there was her relationship with MTV host Carson Daly, which was splashed all over MTV at every possible opportunity.

After Daly, Reid was engaged to Michael Axtmann, a tech entrepreneur, and when that ended she dated a Danish businessman called Michael Lillelund.

In 2011, Reid's publicist told the press that Lillelund and Reid had been married in a sun-drenched summer ceremony in Greece. The only problem was that Lillelund denied the marriage had taken place, or that he had even seen Reid since February.

Reid's team scrambled, revealing that the actress had married a man called Zack Kehayov after being engaged for a few hours, and that the marriage was never made legal in the US.

At the Los Angeles airport a TMZ cameraman confronted Reid, asking her how the new couple would fare in a round of the newlywed game. Reid responded, "We would lose … because we were never really married."

Reid was up to the same tricks again in 2016, when she was exposed for lying about her relationship with Dean May in order to score a place on VH1's reality show Marriage Bootcamp. Not only were May and Reid not married, they weren't even in a relationship.

The pair were exposed on camera, when they accidentally let slip that they weren't together, and producers booted them off the series.

Speaking to People, Reid admitted that she joined the series in order to help May get back on his feet.

"Part of the reason we did the show is because (May) owes money and taxes and he could use the money and he wouldn't mind the fame … so I wanted to do the show for him."

Along came Sharknado

Fake relationships, hardcore partying, botched plastic surgery … Was there anything that could save Reid's career? In fact, there was. A little movie called Sharknado.

The concept is deliriously simple. What if sharks … infested a tornado. And flew through the air. Terrifying, right? And terrifyingly silly, too.

Yet the little spoof of a movie managed to become the most-watched original movie in cable channel Syfy's history, and the five (count 'em!) sequels are reported to be worth more than $4 billion for the channel, making Sharknado one of the most profitable film franchises in history.

Reid plays April, the estranged wife of Fin, the surfer-turned-hero of the franchise who rescues her from near-certain shark-related death. But even Reid was hesitant to sign on.

When she finally agreed to take part in the film, she did so knowing that the movie's appeal is in its schlockiness.

"It is silly, and there's only a certain amount of barriers you could go into," she has said. "You can't take it so seriously when it's … sharks flying in the sky. It's so out there that it's actually really funny."

The spoofs keep coming

The Sharknado franchise finally creaked to its overblown end in 2018 with Sharknado: The Last One. But don't think that Reid isn't working.

The actress' CV is more populated than ever before, with 12 projects in development, production or completed and slated for release in the coming years.

Oscar-winning dramas or critically-acclaimed comedies these ain't, though. Instead, Reid has made the smart decision, courtesy of Sharknado's success, to fill her slate with spoof films that play off her public persona.

These movies include Aquatic Siege, a thriller about, well, about people with "makeshift bikinis" protecting an underwater oasis from cannibals. Then there's a brace of cookie-cutter Christmas movies and then a bunch of B-grade, schlocky horror films.

This is Reid's new genre of choice, and she's raking in the coin from it, too. She's currently working on a bunch of horror movies, including Bleach, about a man haunted by the ghosts of women he's watched in snuff movies, and Art of the Dead, about some scary paintings that come to life.

Reid seems happy to hunker down in her horror zone for the near future. Speaking in 2018, she said, "Horror movies are always fun. If they're done right, and with the right cast, there's nothing better than a scary movie."