- The Washington Times - Friday, June 14, 2002

BURBANK, Calif. - Actor Freddie Prinze Jr. says he "never met anyone who loved Scooby as much as me."
Mr. Prinze is explaining his co-starring presence in "Scooby-Doo," the new but nostalgic movie farce that transposes the venerable cartoon pooch and his sidekicks to the big screen.
Rendered through computer-graphic animation, Scooby shares space with the live-action team of Mr. Prinze; the actor's fiancee, Sarah Michelle Gellar; Matthew Lillard; and Linda Cardellini. The four are cast as the human components in a crime-busting apparatus called Mystery Inc. Respectively, they play egotistic ringleader Fred Jones, glamour puss Daphne Blake, hippie slacker Norville "Shaggy" Rogers and bespectacled brainiac Velma Dinkley.
This quartet, joined by director Raja Gosnell, screenwriter James Gunn and producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle, spent a recent weekend promoting the release of "Scooby-Doo" within a semiexotic setting. A portion of a Warner Bros. soundstage was dressed to resemble Spooky Island, the tropical location that beckons the Mystery Inc. group.

Mr. Prinze says that at the outset he was not sure he liked the idea of a "Scooby" feature.
"I didn't think Hollywood could pull something like this off. It wasn't until I read James' script that I wanted to be a part of it. I laughed out loud a thousand times. This was a chance to say, 'Come play with us for 90 minutes and check out what we love.'"
Mr. Prinze has collected every Scooby cartoon episode known to exist. "There's over 340 of them," he specifies. "It previewed Sept. 13, 1969. I have all the remade stuff, too. There was one called 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo' that had the gall to get rid of Fred and Velma. I even have the Scrappy-Doo episodes, although we all agree that Scrappy (Scooby's treacherous nephew, who also appears in the new movie) is a rodent. I don't like him. At one point, they even brought in a half-retarded Puerto Rican kid called Rudy. All of those are horrible. But I even have those in my collection."

Miss Cardellini, who first came to prominence in the short-lived "Freaks and Geeks" television series, expresses a similar fondness for the series. "I love childlike things in general," she says. "I've been a fan since watching the show as a little kid. You couldn't escape it, as I recall. Of course, I never expected to play Velma when I did grow up."
According to her colleagues, one of Miss Cardellini's best scenes was left on the cutting-room floor, mainly as a timesaving sacrifice. The DVD version is expected to restore it as an "extra." The actress says: "There were some interesting things that had to go. I had a scene where Velma, after having a few special tropical drinks, sings and dances on a piano. Anyway, she also got carried away and shed her sweater, revealing something funny underneath. It became a little risque."
Director Gosnell says Miss Gellar was always at the top of a very short list of desirable Daphnes. "We thought she looked right," he says. "We were just uncertain about her Buffy schedule."
As it happened, Miss Gellar needed to double up on her shooting schedule for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," now in its sixth season, in order to be available for six months of production on "Scooby-Doo." The movie was shot in Brisbane, Australia, using studio facilities owned in part by Warner Bros.
Miss Gellar, who speaks in a rapid-fire tempo that is considerably slowed down in most of her roles, feared that she wasn't wanted. "I had to fight the producers' urge not to cast me," she says. "I had to go in and sell myself, to Raja in particular. It wasn't so much was I capable, but would people be willing to suspend disbelief? Especially at the beginning of the movie, when they might be saying, 'Why her?'"
She believes casting Daphne allowed for flexibility. "It was necessary for Matthew and Linda to nail these very familiar voices associated with Shaggy and Velma. I didn't have that problem," she says. "Daphne never sounded distinctive.
"The really difficult thing was to capture the way she posed, as a cartoon figure," Miss Gellar continues. "I could not get my body to imitate those positions very easily. The gang will be running, running, running, and then they stop, and Daphne's striking a pose. That's a lot easier for a cartoon girl."
Miss Gellar says she felt no trepidation about performing with Mr. Prinze. They met as co-stars of the horror thriller "I Know What You Did Last Summer." According to the actress: "It depends on the project. This was never going to cross over into our real life. It wasn't heavy and dramatic. We weren't taking it home."

Mr. Lillard got his big break playing one of the two young psychopaths in Wes Craven's "Scream." He took the audition for "Scooby" in earnest because "Shaggy was an icon I grew up with, and I didn't want to be known as the guy who screwed it up."
He hired two acting coaches he had worked with before and spent a few weeks "locked up in a dance studio five hours a day, breaking down the role and deciding the best ways to make a two-dimensional character three dimensional.
"I knew I had to be concerned about the voice when I first auditioned for Raja. I'm not an impressionist. I've never had a mimic's skill base," Mr. Lillard says.
"I got there by screaming myself hoarse. I was shooting '13 Ghosts' at the time. I went straight from the set to the audition. I screamed all the way while driving in my car," he says, demonstrating vividly. "Eventually, I figured out how to do it without screaming."


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