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How "Clueless" became a classic 20 years ago

Twenty years ago this month, summer movie fans rushed to see "Clueless." It grossed more than $56 million and launched several big Hollywood careers.

It also introduced the world to a new style of fashion, new music and even a whole new vocabulary, reports CBS News correspondent Vladimir Dutheirs.

It's a film about Cher Horowitz, an upper-class high school girl with impeccable fashion sense who falls slowly in love with her ex-stepbrother, Josh.

The film, set in 1995 Los Angeles, was based on Jane Austin's 1815 coming-of-age novel, "Emma."

"It was, like, the most fun set I've ever been on in my life," writer and director Amy Heckerling said. "Those characters make me happy because it doesn't matter what reality is. Reality is what you decide it is."

Heckerling first pitched the script to Fox as a TV show, but they passed and so did everyone else. Executives wanted to see more of the male characters.

"And I said, 'Well, how could we be in the voice of this girl and then, be suddenly in somebody else's home and see his life without her there? It's her point of view,'" Heckerling said. "I couldn't make these pieces fit together."

Paramount Pictures finally signed on. They gave her 40 days and $12 million.

For the lead role of Cher, Heckerling wanted Alicia Silverstone, who at the time was an undiscovered girl from Aerosmith's hit music video for "Crazy."

"When I met her, I just loved her," Heckerling said.

Paul Rudd auditioned for just about every male character. Heckerling cast him as Josh, Cher's eventual love interest.

Stacey Dash was chosen on the spot to play Dionne, Cher's faithful best friend.

"I always, you know, thought, 'This is the group of friends.' It didn't occur to me to say, 'There's the, like, gay guy that you talk about relationships with, and there's the black people that tell you, like, what's cool,'" Heckerling said.

The movie's best-known catchphrase is now the title of a new book about the teen comedy.

Journalist Jen Chaney and author of "As If!: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew," said the characters feel like real people.

"It sets an example that frankly more Hollywood movies should be paying attention to now," she said.

Veteran character and actor Wallace Shawn played the affable Mr. Hall and said the teachers were intelligent, fun and a bit clueless themselves.

"The teachers were trying to teach the kids to be more sensitive and intelligent," Shawn said.

"Clueless" also spawned a dictionary of new words and phrases.

"They had a great fun life and cared about clothing and boys and that sort of thing thing, but they also had this higher consciousness about life," Elisa Donovan, who played Amber, said.

But "Clueless" wasn't complete without the clothes: the seemingly endless, fanciful and youthful outfits that Heckerling and her team fashioned using both high-end designers and cheap separates.

"I think a lot of young girls immediately wanted to look like Cher," Chaney said.

And today, 20 years later, they still do.

"Even though it was maybe targeted at a young audience at the time, I think that its appeal is really ageless," Chaney said.

"There are some things that just are forever," Heckerling added. "But also you, like, hope that if people are taking something away, you hope it's something good."

And so what on the surface is the story of an airhead teenager is best remembered today as a smart, warm and timeless film.

"You can have emotional intelligence, and you can have some sort of heart intelligence and I think that might be more important in some ways," Heckerling said.

"The movie, basically, is in favor of the good aspects of life, including love, which is something that you can't say about 99 percent of the films that are made," Shawn added.

And for those of you who can't get enough "Clueless," Heckerling just announced she's bringing the story to Broadway.

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