Amy Heckerling is having a Clueless moment: Her new film, Vamps, is a reunion with Alicia Silverstone, Wallace Shawn, and costume designer Mona May, but instead of tackling youth culture, it addresses what it’s like to have to endlessly keep up with it. Silverstone and Krysten Ritter (“in a part she was born to play,” the writer/director says) are two relatively harmless vampires in New York who just want to have a good time and date cute guys (Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey is one such morsel), but staying young is getting old. Heckerling chatted with Vulture about her iPad mini prediction, the Clueless musical, and her next episode of Gossip Girl.
Vamps is out in time for the launch of the iPad mini, which you have a moment about in the film — something you predicted before it was actually announced.
Oh my God, you’re right! Who would have thought? That’s pretty wacky, right? I was working with a young person when the iPad was coming out, and it was what I had been wanting for a long time — not that small, not that big, just right — so I said, “Go get me one.” He didn’t want one for himself. He said, “No, I want my computer.” When new things come along, some people always want the newest of the new — This is what I’ve been waiting for! — and some people don’t want or need the change — I like my old one. Companies have a bunch of things that they make and then take away as soon as you get used to it, and it was only logical that a mini version would be in the works.
Paul Rudd, who you helped launch in Clueless, still has an AOL e-mail address. He says that it’s so uncool that it’s cool.
After Gmail, if you have AOL, people are like, “Are you still with this?” What does it matter what e-mail you have? What the fuck? It’s not like I’m wearing my mother’s clothes. It’s a couple of letters after your name. Who cares? It’s like caring what stamp you put on an envelope: “Oh, your stamp has a flag on it, you big loser.” It’s not a reflection of you. On what planet is your e-mail address a basis to judge you? I wouldn’t want to work with someone who judged others on the basis of a couple of letters.
When you were writing Clueless, you quizzed young people and incorporated their vernacular. How did you approach slang in Vamps?
That was the fun part of it for me, because you had people essentially from all different time periods. The way you talk when you’re a teenager, that sort of gets written in stone in your brain, although other things do get picked up, so I was having fun with slang from different time periods. I love listening to things from the thirties and the fifties, but unfortunately, it’s hard to get a sense of how people talked before sound was recorded. Different authors would write in the vernacular, so you would get a feeling from Mark Twain and Herman Melville — you figure they’re solid writers; they probably got it right. I remember I got one phrase for Alicia that way: “not worth a candle.” You figure for a poor person, a candle is a big deal. You have to weigh, Do I really want to do this, or can it wait until tomorrow? I don’t think that’s about to take off like “As if.” [Laughs.]
You’re working on a Clueless musical. Would it be updated to modern times? Would you make room for an Alicia cameo?
That would be a blast to have her in it. But I’m not updating it — it’s fun to keep it in that time period. I’m working with Kristin Hanggi, who directed Rock of Ages. I want it to be a jukebox musical.
You’ve got to keep “Rollin’ With My Homies“!
Or something with hand movements, right? There’s a lot of songs that could work there, like “Fantastic Voyage,” with its “slide, slide, slippity slide.” A lot of things that could lead to you getting conked. We used “Kids in America” in Clueless, but it was one of the songs I was considering for Fast Times, before I knew if I could get the Go-Gos.
It’s the thirtieth anniversary of Fast Times at Ridgemont High this year. Cameron Crowe said Sean Penn was in character during the entire shoot …
Everyone always makes a big deal about how he had a chair that said Spicoli on it! [Laughs.] Big deal. How hard is it to put some lettering on a chair? For the Clueless anniversary, we did something about a month or so ago, and that was fun. I think Paul did it separately, because he was in rehearsals for Grace on Broadway. But that reminds me, I’m going to go see Alicia in The Performers on Broadway tonight, and I just saw Dan Stevens in The Heiress — and they’re right across the street from each other! The two stars of Vamps, across the street on Broadway.
Alicia told me she hasn’t seen him in Downton Abbey yet because she had a no-TV policy at home this year.
Oh my God, I worship it! I just bought my great-aunt, who is 105 years old, the box set of the first two seasons. But the reason I cast Dan is because I was in England in 2006, and I saw him in a play with Judi Dench on the West End, Hay Fever, and I thought, Oh my God, who is that guy?! But he won’t tell me anything about what’s coming up on the show.
Do you think there are parallels with Clueless and Gossip Girl? You directed one episode before last season, and you have another coming up, airing November 5.
Oh, brother! You better get braced for it. My little touch on this episode was that when I yelled action, I wanted some of the debutantes in the background to be fighting with each other [during a Cotillion scene] — push each other and be bitchy to each other. We’ll see if they keep it!