The year is 1999, and there is only one slick-haired, chiselled-jawed boy tacked to the wall of teenage girls from Sydney to San Diego: Freddie Prinze Jr.

"Yup, boys and girls, Freddie Prinze Jr is all that," People magazine wrote of the then-24-year-old heart-throb as they sang his praises in their annual sexiest people alive issue. "He's casual, confident, not showing off," judge Ben Stein said in the issue. "He's a guy I would let my daughter go out with."

Thus sums up the appeal of the Los Angeles-born actor, riding high on the success of 1997 and 1998's teen horror movies I Know What You Did Last Summer and, in 1999, the high school romance She's All That.

The movie weaponised Prinze Jr's particular charm, which was equal parts gregariousness and good boy energy. As the king of the canteen Zach Siler, he is charged with transforming Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook) from adorable geek to effervescent prom queen.

Advertisement

It's a Cinderella tale as old as time, and yet the echoes of She's All That still reverberate in teen movies today, from To All The Boys I've Loved Before to Lady Bird.

She's All That set Prinze Jr up for major stardom, akin to teen stars Noah Centineo or Timothee Chalamet today. He and then-girlfriend, now-wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar were Hollywood's golden couple, but by the late-00s Prinze Jr's acting career had almost completely fizzled out. So whatever happened to everyone's teen crush?

AFTER ZACH SILVER

Paul Walker and Freddie Prinze Jr in 1999 film, She's all that. Photo / Supplied
Paul Walker and Freddie Prinze Jr in 1999 film, She's all that. Photo / Supplied

With She's All That, Prinze Jr found himself enjoying wide and mainstream fame. He was on the cover of Seventeen and Teen People and invited to every party in Hollywood.

Prinze Jr tried to follow up that success by doubling down on high school heart-throb parts. The actor's post-She's All That films included Down To You, about a man reeling from the end of his first major relationship featuring a '00s teen heart-throb all-star cast including Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, Ashton Kutcher and Rosario Dawson, and Summer Catch with Jessica Biel, a sort of Notebook-esque star-crossed romance between a poor little rich girl and a local boy who dreams of being a baseball player. There was also Head Over Heels, featuring a young Sarah Murdoch as the friend of a woman who falls for Prinze Jr, despite believing that he is a murderer. It's a lot funnier than it sounds.

But none of these romantic comedies had the sticking power of She's All That. The latter made $143 million from a $14 million budget. Summer Catch, on the other hand, made just $27 million at the box office.

So, in 2002, Prinze Jr switched gears. Both the 26-year-old and Michelle Gellar, his then-fiancee, signed on to star in the live-action Scooby Doo remake. Prinze Jr would play, appropriately enough, Fred, the group's bleach-haired charmer. Michelle Gellar took on Daphne, the chipper purple-wearing alpha female of the crew. (Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini rounded out the cast as Shaggy and Velma.)

The movie was not a critical success. "Flimsy," was LA Weekly's summation. "The acting is stiff, the story lacks all trace of wit, the sets look like they were borrowed from Gilligan's Island," film critic Richard Roeper said. The Rolling Stone gave the film one single star and the following review: "Get out your pooper-scoopers."

And yet Scooby Doo was a huge hit. It made $384 million at the box office, which was enough of a return on investment to commission a sequel, released in 2004. Both movies were written by James Gunn, who would go onto major studio success with the Guardians of the Galaxy series, and his original vision for the film wasn't exactly what you might call PG-13.

Advertisement
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr were married in 2002. Photo / Getty Images
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr were married in 2002. Photo / Getty Images

"I had written an edgier film geared toward older kids and adults, and the studio ended pushing it into a clean-cut children's film," Gunn wrote on Facebook, revealing that the original rating for the movie was R. "The female stars' cleavage was CGI'd away so as not to offend," he added.

His fondest memory of the movie, which filmed on the Gold Coast, was playing Nerf gun tag through the "enormous, mostly-unfurnished house" that Prinze Jr and Gellar had rented, overlooking the ocean. "Truly some of the most fun I ever had," he said.

Speaking to Hello Giggles in 2016, Prinze Jr noted that Scooby Doo is the movie that fans stop him on the street to talk to him about. "If it's guys, it's Scooby," he said. "If it's girls, it's She's All That because you were all in love with me back then."

SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR IS ALL THAT

When She's All That was released in 1999, Prinze Jr was in a relationship with the actress Kimberly McCullough, but she broke it off later that year. By 2000 he was happily dating his I Know What You Did Last Summer co-star (and Buffy heroine) Sarah Michelle Gellar. In 2001 the pair became engaged, and they were married in Mexico in September 2002.

If you ask Prinze Jr, he knew that his wife was 'the one' from their first date. "A lot of girls back then in Hollywood, as far as the actresses, they didn't eat," Prinze Jr said in 2016. "They ate salad. And I had gone on a date with a handful of them; they would never eat what I would eat. You have to have that in common with me if we're going to get along."

Prinze Jr in scene from film I Still Know What You Did Last Summer where he co-starred alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar. Photo / Getty Images
Prinze Jr in scene from film I Still Know What You Did Last Summer where he co-starred alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar. Photo / Getty Images

He continued: "And so Sarah came to dinner with me, and we sat down and she ate everything, including a crab they let walk across the counter, then kill while it was alive in some oil, and said 'It's popcorn, try.' And she ate it without even blinking, and I was like, 'Yo, my girl is legit.'"

The pair had been friends for two years before they even went on a date, which is something both actors have credited with the fact that their union has outlasted many others in Hollywood.

"She knew what kind of guy I was," Prinze Jr has said. "She knew what my morals were, what my priorities were, and vice versa. We already kind of knew all the faults in the other person … We ended up being the perfect balance. But it didn't happen until years after and there was a solid foundation built, and that's probably the main reason why we've always been cool and groovy."

DADDY DAY CARE

After the success of Scooby-Doo and its sequel Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, Prinze Jr signed on to a television show called Freddie about a celebrity chef who takes in his niece, sister-in-law and grandmother. Again, the series was not a success. The same could be said for his film choices at the time, which included the mob thriller Brooklyn Rules and the Taryn Manning romantic comedy Jack and Jill vs The World.

But as his career was flailing, Prinze Jr and Gellar were starting a family. Their daughter Charlotte was born in September 2009, with son Rocky joining the family in September 2012. Immediately, Prinze Jr's priorities had shifted. "I became a full-time father," he told E! News. "It's not a job. It's what I love to do."

The actor touches the star dedicated to his late father, comedian Freddie Prinze. Photo / AP
The actor touches the star dedicated to his late father, comedian Freddie Prinze. Photo / AP

Being present as a dad is crucial to Prinze Jr, whose own father the comedian Freddie Prinze died of suicide before his son had celebrated his first birthday. "For me being a father, not having a dad, it makes it my number one priority," Prinze told E! News. "So when my daughter was born, that was pretty much it for me."

Prinze Jr has spoken of his childhood as lonely and tormented, the pall of his father's death hanging over him. "I would always pretend that I was this new member of The X-Men," the actor told The Chicago Tribune in 1999. "This kid, this young boy, who really didn't fit in with society because he couldn't control his power."

He continued: "My old man taught me a lot of stuff in his death that I don't even know if he would have been able to teach me had he been alive. And that was to never to stuff that can jeopardise the people you love and hurt them. And I would never want my girlfriend or my friends to feel the way I felt when I was young, just to have this huge void in your life. I wouldn't want anybody to feel that."

IN THE KITCHEN

Firmly ensconced in family land, acting took a backseat for Prinze Jr. He took a few bit parts in television, voiced a major character in an animated Star Wars series and appeared in season eight of 24 as agent Cole Ortiz.

"It was terrible," Prinze Jr said in 2014. "Kiefer [Sutherland] was the most unprofessional dude in the world. That's not me talking trash, I'd say it to his face. I think everyone that's worked with him has said that … I just wanted to quit the business after that. So, I just sort of stopped."

The grievance, according to Prinze Jr, was that Sutherland would request that the actor take off his shoes in scenes when they were together, because of the height difference between the two, on account of Prinze Jr being more that six feet tall.

Freddie Prinze Jr released his book Back To The Kitchen in 2016. Photo / Getty Images
Freddie Prinze Jr released his book Back To The Kitchen in 2016. Photo / Getty Images

"Just put the guy on an apple box or don't hire me next time," Prinze Jr said. (Sutherland's representatives refuted the claims and said that the actor had an enjoyable experience working with Prinze Jr.)

After the disaster of 24, Prinze Jr stepped back from acting almost entirely. He began working for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as a producer, director and a creative consultant, blogging and interacting with wrestling fans on online forums.

Prinze Jr also released a cookbook. Called Back to the Kitchen, the 2016 title was a celebration of the actor's long-term love of food. "I've always cooked for actors I've been lonely on location with," Prinze Jr told Bon Appetit. "And I'd always become friends with the chefs in the cities we shot in. After enough people asked for recipes, it felt like the right time to put 20 years of stories in this business into a cookbook."

The book features recipes for Prinze Jr's melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork, linguine dripping with clams (his daughter's favourite), a spicy chicken dish that he cooked for Gellar when she was pregnant and a lobster pasta sauce so delicious it caused an actress who shall not be named to fall deeply in love with him. ("To the point that it was creepy," Prinze Jr told Bon Appetit. "That's in the cookbook … It was too dangerous to keep to myself.")

So far, there's only been one cookbook, but Prinze Jr hasn't ruled out writing another one. One thing he has ruled out, though, is starring in any reboots of his most famous films. Including She's All That.

"I'm definitely done with that part of my career," he told Hello Giggles. But he's not averse to someone else telling the story for a new audience. "I'm all for it, if that's the kind of art that studios want to make," he told the website. "I've heard about a reboot … If they make it, it wouldn't be with me, and it's nothing against them. I am a full-time father, I live in Los Angeles, and my work has me here. I won't leave my family."