22 Things You Might Not Know About Dawson's Creek

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

On January 20, 1998, teenagers found a new small-screen obsession when Dawson's Creek made its debut. Created by Kevin Williamson, the series centered around a tight-knit group of friends—Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek), Joey Potter (Katie Holmes), Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), and Jen Lindley (Michelle Williams)—living in the picturesque (and fictional) town of Capeside, Massachusetts.

It didn't take long for the series, which ran for six seasons, to become a bona fide pop culture phenomenon. On the 20th anniversary of its premiere, here are 22 things you might not know about Dawson's Creek.

1. IT FOUND ITS INSPIRATION IN SEVERAL OTHER MOVIES AND TV SHOWS.

"I pitched it as Some Kind of Wonderful, meets Pump Up the Volume, meets James at 15, meets My So-Called Life, meets Little House on the Prairie,” said creator Kevin Williamson. “I sort of threw everything in there." Fox passed on the show, so Williamson brought his pitch to a younger network, The WB, which got its start in 1995. In an attempt to reach a younger audience, the network picked up Dawson’s Creek.

2. KATIE HOLMES'S MOM PLAYED DAWSON IN HER AUDITION TAPE.

Katie Holmes as Joey Potter in 'Dawson's Creek'
Getty Images

Williamson actually wanted to cast Selma Blair as Joey, but he decided to audition other actresses—including Katie Holmes, who he'd seen in Ang Lee’s film The Ice Storm. Still a high school student at the time, Holmes refused to fly to Los Angeles to audition because she had another commitment: playing Lola in her school’s production of Damn Yankees. So, in their sewing room, Holmes and her mother acted out the scene and filmed it. "I had the camera, and my mom would read Dawson's lines," Holmes told Rolling Stone.

3. JOSHUA JACKSON AUDITIONED FOR BOTH PACEY AND DAWSON.

Joshua Jackson actually auditioned for both lead roles. He originally read for Pacey, but the producers were interested in hearing him read for Dawson as well. Then, they switched him back to auditioning for Pacey. Despite an exec falling asleep during one of his auditions, Jackson got the role. One of his competitors for that role, by the way, was future American Pie star Jason Biggs.

4. KEVIN WILLIAMSON HAD TO FIGHT FOR JAMES VAN DER BEEK TO BE CAST.

James Van Der Beek
Getty Images

Dawson was the last role to be cast. On the way to the audition in Los Angeles, James Van Der Beek actually sat next to future Entourage star Adrian Grenier on the plane, only to discover that he was also auditioning for the part of Dawson Leery. After watching the auditions, the head of Sony didn’t believe that Van Der Beek had star quality. But Williamson was convinced that Van Der Beek could do it, so they kept having him read the scene over and over again. Finally, Williamson yelled, “I wrote Dawson! I am Dawson! This is Dawson!” Two days before filming was scheduled to begin, Van Der Beek was officially cast.

5. WILLIAMSON PUT PROPS FROM SCREAM AND I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER IN DAWSON'S BEDROOM.

Williamson wrote the screenplays for all the Scream movies as well as I Know What You Did Last Summer. Sometimes he used Dawson’s world to wink at his own work. For example, in the season one episode “The Scare,” Dawson and Joey watch I Know What You Did Last Summer together. Later, in the season finale, there’s a poster for the movie hanging on Dawson’s wall. “The Scare” also has a few Scream references and contains the iconic Ghostface mask. 

6. WILLIAMSON LOVED STEVEN SPIELBERG AS MUCH AS DAWSON DID.

Steve Spielberg
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Dawson’s passion for Spielberg movies came from Williamson’s direct childhood experience. “In fifth grade, Jaws came out," Williamson once said. "It began my love affair with Steven Spielberg. I took out a spiral notebook and I wrote the sequel to Jaws.” Sound familiar?

Unsurprisingly, it was tough to get the rights to all of the Spielberg posters that hang in Dawson’s room. In fact, Spielberg watched the pilot to personally approve the use of his work. He did ask that they remove a line about Jen looking like Kate Capshaw, but other than that, he was fine with the references. According to Van Der Beek, Spielberg later approached him at a Lakers game to say, “I like the posters on your wall.”

7. THEY WEREN'T ALLOWED TO SAY THE WORD "MASTURBATE" IN THE PILOT.

In the original script, Joey plainly asked Dawson, “How often do you masturbate?” After examining the pilot, Standards and Practices told them that they couldn’t say the word “masturbate” on television. In the final version of the episode, she asks, “How often do you walk your dog?”

8. DAWSON'S HAIRCUT WAS INSPIRED BY BRAD PITT'S HAIRSTYLE IN THE DEVIL'S OWN.

Brad Pitt in 'The Devil's Own' (1997)
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

The studio insisted that Van Der Beek change his hair for the role. The crew paged through an Entertainment Weekly and saw an ad for The Devil’s Own, and Dawson’s infamous haircut was born. 

9. THE SHOW LOST A SPONSOR FOR BEING CONTROVERSIAL.

The show shocked audiences and critics with its blunt dialogue about sex—and a first season plot line about an affair between a teacher and a high school student didn’t detract from the controversy. Procter & Gamble was supposed to be a sponsor of the show but pulled out before it aired.

"As we have learned more about the episodes over the long term and the content that will unfold over time, the majority of the content within the majority of the episodes walks a fine line and bumps up against what we think is appropriate," a spokesperson for the company said.

10. WILLIAMSON KNEW HE WANTED JACK TO BE GAY, BUT HE DIDN'T TELL ANYONE AT FIRST.

Kerr Smith in 'Dawson's Creek'
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In the second season, two new characters were introduced: siblings Jack and Andie McPhee. Williamson claimed that while creating the characters, there was a voice in the back of his head saying, “God, I wish Jack could be gay. That would be so great to write a gay character.” But he decided not to mention it to anyone, including the writers. Jack quickly became one of the show's most popular characters and halfway through the season, Williamson had him come out to his friends. 

11. THE "TRUE LOVE" EPISODE FEATURED THE FIRST MALE GAY KISS ON U.S. PRIMETIME TELEVISION.

“True Love” was the third season finale, which aired in May 24, 2000. In the episode, Jack kisses his boyfriend, Ethan. Ten years later, Kerr Smith, who played Jack, recalled, “I did know how historic it was and he did too. I’ll never forget the day that we were filming that. I was quite nervous, as was he ... We knew what we were doing. We knew what we were addressing. We knew that it was important and that a lot of people were going to be looking up to the show now for this particular type of storyline. I think we did a good thing.”

12. MEREDITH MONROE WAS 29 WHEN SHE PLAYED 16-YEAR-OLD ANDIE.


Getty Images

Meredith Monroe, who played Andie McPhee, was nine years older than Katie Holmes and 10 years older than Michelle Williams. But her on-screen brother, Kerr Smith, was also a little old for high school. He was 27 when he was cast.

13. HALFWAY THROUGH THE SERIES, A HURRICANE WREAKED HAVOC ON THE SET.

One of the downsides to filming on the Wilmington, North Carolina coastline was the possibility of hurricanes. In fact, one took down the pier outside the Leerys' home. It was only halfway through the series and the crew had to rebuild the pier because it had already become a beloved part of the show.

14. VAN DER BEEK'S MEME-WORTHY CRY WAS AN AD LIB.

Years after Dawson cried on a pier in the first season finale, his cry-face became a meme. Van Der Beek had a good sense of humor about it and even admitted that his tears were organic. “It wasn’t scripted, I don’t think,” he said. “You know, it was just high drama; you've been living with this character for a while and a scene like that just kind of drops in your lap and you just lose it.”

15. JACKSON USED TO MOON PEOPLE TO EASE TENSION BEFORE FILMING SCENES.

In an interview on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Holmes said, “I think he really thinks he’s doing a service to everyone ... It doesn’t even faze us anymore. We have different directors every week that come in and he’ll do it and some people will give a chuckle. The rest of us are like, ‘Oh,’ you know. The directors get a kick out of it.”

16. MICHELLE WILLIAMS WAS OFTEN INSECURE ABOUT NOT GETTING ENOUGH SCREEN TIME.

Michelle Williams and James Van Der Beek in 'Dawson's Creek'
The WB

“The show was primarily a love triangle between Dawson, Pacey, and Joey," Michelle Williams later explained. "For the most part. At times I felt, ‘What’s not good enough about me? Am I doing something wrong?’ Flipping through the script you’re only in three pages, ‘Oh, boy. Okay.’ And maybe I had questions about why that was.” Van Der Beek helped her through these times by reminding her that her career would be easier because she would be the least associated with the show in the future. (Given the fact that she has been nominated for four Oscars—and counting—since her Dawson's days, Van Der Beek was clearly onto something.)

17. THE CAST MODELED IN A J. CREW CATALOG.

In a beautiful cross-marketing moment, Holmes, Jackson, Van Der Beek, and Williams did a photo shoot for J. Crew in 1998. You can find pictures online, but if you’d like a copy of your own, they usually sell for over $100 on eBay.

18. SOME OF BUSY PHILIPPS'S SCENES HAD TO BE REWRITTEN AFTER A WILD NIGHT OUT.

In an interview with Wendy Williams, Busy Philipps confessed that she liked to party during her Dawson’s Creek days. One drunken night out resulted in an emergency room visit and a dislocated knee. This was an inconvenience for the writing staff who, according to Philipps, “had to rewrite the show so that I was laying down and sitting down for two weeks.”

19. THE SHOW HAD SIX HEAD WRITERS, ONE FOR EACH SEASON.

After the second season, even Williamson went off to focus on other projects. During a Reddit AMA, someone asked Van Der Beek why there were so many writer shifts over the course of the series. He responded, “I think it was more a function of our writers being in such high demand that they were eventually wooed with offers [to do] their own shows, or just a matter of someone coming into an already established show with a very specific voice and everyone realizing a few steps down the road that it just wasn't quite the right fit.”

20. JOHN WESLEY SHIPP'S CHARACTER WAS KILLED OFF BECAUSE HE DIDN'T LIKE WHERE THE SHOW WAS GOING.

John Wesley Shipp
Diane Freed, Getty Images

John Wesley Shipp, who played Dawson’s dad, grew disappointed with the show, especially after Williamson left. He didn’t like how small the roles of the parents were becoming. “At the end of the four seasons and the kids were going to be going to college, I saw the handwriting on the wall,” Shipp explained. “We would be standing in the background with Lily and waving at Parents Day and I really had no interest in doing that. So when they wanted to renegotiate our contact, I set my price really high.” Executive producer Paul Stupin asked if he would return to do the death storyline and Shipp agreed.

21. WILLIAMS DIDN'T WANT JEN TO DIE.

According to Williamson, “Michelle was a little scared and nervous. She goes, ‘Well, what if we do a reunion show? What if we do a movie or something?’ I’m like, ‘Well, then you’ll be a ghost.’” He noted that Jen’s death “was that last bit of growth that pushed [the characters] into adulthood.”

22. ANDIE WAS CUT FROM THE FINALE.

The cast of 'Dawson's Creek'
Getty Images

Meredith Monroe did return for the finale, but her scenes were not aired. Andie was a medical resident in Boston, who came back to Capeside to say goodbye to Jen. She also had a sentimental scene in the hospital cafeteria with ex-boyfriend Pacey. Her scenes can be found on the Dawson’s Creek DVDs.

In 2015, Williamson and several members of the Dawson's Creek team reunited for a panel discussion about the show in which it was revealed that the panel's moderator, Julie Plec—a longtime friend and collaborator of Williamson's who was also a writer on Dawson's Creek—was the one who wanted Andie to appear in the finale. "She felt it was incredibly important for Pacey and his first love Andie to have some sort of a resolution," wrote The Hollywood Reporter.

8 Haunting Horror Movie Gimmicks

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the 1950s and 1960s, horror movies were making studios huge profits on shoestring budgets. But after the market hit horror overload, directors and studios had to be extra creative to get people to flock to theaters. That's when a flood of different gimmicks were introduced at movie theaters across the country to make a film stand out from the crowd. From hypnotists to life insurance policies and free vomit bags, here's a brief history of some of the most memorable horror movie gimmicks.

1. PSYCHO-RAMA // MY WORLD DIES SCREAMING (1958)

In order to truly become a classic, a horror movie can't just work on the surface; it has to get deep inside of your head. That's what Psycho-Rama tried to achieve when it was first conceived for My World Dies Screaming, later renamed Terror in the Haunted House. Psycho-Rama introduced audiences to subliminal imagery in order to let the scares sink in more than any traditional film could.

Skulls, snakes, ghoulish faces, and the word "Death" would all appear onscreen for a fraction of a second—not long enough for an audience member to consciously notice it, but it was enough to get them uneasy. Obviously Psycho-Rama didn't really catch on with the public or the film industry, but horror directors, like William Friedkin in The Exorcist, have since gone on to use this quick imagery technique to enhance their own movies.

2. FRIGHT INSURANCE // MACABRE (1958)

Director William Castle didn't make a name for himself in the film industry by directing cinematic classics; instead, he relied on shock and schlock to help fill movie theater seats. His movies were full of what audiences craved at the time: horror, gore, terror, suspense, and a heaping helping of camp. But his true genius came from marketing—and the gimmicks he brought to every movie, which have since become legendary among horrorphiles.

His most famous stunt was the life insurance policy he purchased for every member of an audience that paid to see Macabre. This was a real policy backed by Lloyd's of London, so if you died of fright in your seat, your family would receive $1000. Now who wouldn't want to roll the dice on that type of deal? Of course, the policy didn't cover anyone with a preexisting medical condition or an audience member who committed suicide during the screening. Lloyd's had to draw the line somewhere, right?

3. HYPNO-VISTA // HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959)

How do you make your routine horror movie stand out from the crowd? Hypnotize your audience, of course. Thus Hypno-Vista was born. For this gimmick, James Nicholson, president of American International Pictures, suggested that a lecture by a hypnotist, Dr. Emile Franchel, should precede Horrors of the Black Museum, which had a plot focusing on a hypnotizing killer.

For 13 minutes, Dr. Franchel talked to the audience about the science behind hypnotism, before attempting to hypnotize them himself in order to feel more immersed in the story. Nowadays it comes off as overlong and dry, but it was a gimmick that got people into theaters back in 1959. Plus, writer Herman Cohen said that eventually the lecture had to be removed whenever the movie re-aired on TV because it did, in fact, hypnotize some people.

4. NO LATE ADMISSION // PSYCHO (1960)

Though this isn't the most gimmickiest of gimmicks, Alfred Hitchcock's insistence that no audience member be admitted into Psycho once the movie started got a lot of publicity at the time. The Master of Suspense's reasoning is less about drumming up publicity and more about audience satisfaction, though. Because Janet Leigh gets killed so early into the movie, he didn't want people to miss her part and feel misled by the movie's marketing.

This publicity tactic wasn't completely novel, though, as the groundbreaking French horror movie Les Diaboliques (1955) had a similar policy in place. This was at a time when people would simply stroll into movie screenings whenever they wanted, so to see a director—especially one so masterful at the art of publicity—who was adamant about showing up on time was a great way to pique some interest.

5. FRIGHT BREAK // HOMICIDAL (1961)

Another classic William Castle gimmick was the "fright break" he offered to audience members during his 1961 movie, Homicidal. Here, a timer would appear on the screen just as the film was hurtling toward its gruesome climax. Frightened audience members had 45 seconds to leave the theater and still get a full refund on their ticket. There was a catch, though.

Frightened audience members who decided to take the easy way out were shamed into the "coward's corner," which was a yellow cardboard booth supervised by some poor sap theater employee. Then, they were forced to sign a paper reading "I'm a bona-fide coward," before getting their money back. Obviously, at the risk of such humiliation, most people decided to just grit their teeth and experience the horror on the screen instead.

6. THE PUNISHMENT POLL // MR. SARDONICUS (1961)

The most interactive of William Castle's schlocky horror gimmicks put the fate of the film itself into the hands of the audience. Dubbed the "punishment poll," Castle devised a way to let viewers vote on the fate of the characters in the movie Mr. Sardonicus. Upon entering the theater, people were given a card with a picture of a thumb on it that would glow when a special light was placed on it. "Thumbs up" meant that Mr. Sardonicus would be given mercy, and "thumbs down" meant … well, you get the idea.

Apparently audiences never gave ol' Sardonicus the thumbs up, despite Castle's claims that the happier ending was filmed and ready to go. However, no alternative ending has ever surfaced, leaving many to doubt his claims. Chances are, there was only one way out for Mr. Sardonicus.

7. FREE VOMIT BAGS // MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970)

Horror fans are mostly masochists at heart. They don't want to be entertained—they want to be terrified. So when the folks behind 1970's Mark of the Devil gave out free vomit bags to the audience due to the film's grotesque nature, how could any self-respecting horror fan not be intrigued? It wasn't just the bags that the studio was advertising; it also claimed the film was rated V, for violence—and maybe some vomit?

8. DUO-VISION // WICKED, WICKED (1973)

Duo-Vision was hyped as the new storytelling technique in cinema—offering two times the terror for the price of one ticket. Of course Duo-Vision is just fancy marketing lingo for split-screen, meaning audiences see a film from two completely different perspectives side-by-side. In the 1973 horror film Wicked, Wicked, that meant watching the movie from the points of view of both the killer and his victims.

Seems like a perfect concept for the horror genre, right? Well, Duo-Vision wasn't just employed during the movie's most horrific moments; it was used for the movie's entire 95-minute runtime. The technique had been used sparingly in other films—most notably in Brian De Palma's much better film Sisters (1973)—but it had never been implemented to this extent. A little bit of Duo-Vision apparently goes a long way, because it fell out of favor soon after.

John Carpenter May Be Planning a They Live Sequel

Universal Studios Home Video
Universal Studios Home Video

John Carpenter is one of the horror genre's biggest names. The man behind the original Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York, and The Thing, ​Carpenter has had a long enough career to see many of his most popular creations be remade, including this year's new Halloween film, which features some of the original actors returning to their iconic roles to continue a decades-long story.

But in a recent interview with ​Den of Geek, when Carpenter was questioned about whether his cult classic They Live might he ripe for revisiting, Carpenter teased: "Well, I’m not gonna tell you about that, because it might be closer to reality than you think."

​They Live, which came out in 1988, featured the late professional wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper in his signature role as a man who finds a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the true state of the world and uncover an alien invasion. Like so many of Carpenter's other films, it has continued to amass a cult following in the decades since its release—especially among those viewers who understood and appreciated its underlying political metaphor.

Today's highly divisive political climate makes it a perfect time for a sequel/reboot/reimagining of They Live, and it sounds as if Carpenter might agree.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER