Once upon a time, a California blonde decided she'd like to go to Stanford Law School—because of its proximity to Neiman Marcus. Nope, not Elle Woods. We'll get to her.
"I wanted to go to Stanford when I saw the mall," Arizona State grad Amanda Brown admitted to the San Francisco Chronicle of enrolling at the prestigious institution in the early '90s. "When I went for my interview I checked out the Polo Store, checked out Neiman's. So I became myopically focused."
With what she called "very good" test scores, she got in easily. What? Like it's hard?
Apparently not, though it does turn out that law school isn't for everyone. In her first week, Brown checked out a meeting of The Women of Stanford Law and realized just how unlikely she was to find someone who shared her love of shopping and flipping through Elle magazine. "The woman who was leading it spent three years at Stanford trying to change the name 'semester' to 'ovester,'" she recalled. (Sound familiar?) "I started laughing and I realized everyone in the room took it very seriously. So I didn't make any friends there."
Or anywhere, really, Brown spending her time between lectures penning letters to family and friends lampooning the personalities that she'd encounter, including "this one particularly horrible Trekkie" who told her to just go home and get married already.
She turned more than 300 pages of notes into Legally Blonde, a feel-good take on the importance of not judging a (text) book by its cover. Her novel—written on pink paper because it gives it a little something extra, don't you think?—was sent "out to studios and publishing houses the same day," she told the Chronicle. It was roundly rejected as a book, but incited a bidding war for the film rights—MGM emerging the victor.
With a then-24-year-old Reese Witherspoon signing on as our pink-loving Gemini vegetarian heroine Elle Woods, "she was so good that you're like, 'Okay, if she signed on for this, this is for real," Selma Blair said during the cast's October reunion, explaining why she eagerly accepting the part as Elle's preppy rival Vivian Kensington.
And yet expectations were still tempered when the comedy opened July 13, 2001, the $141 million box office haul blowing the expected $12 million opening weekend out of the water. Then there were the awards (Golden Globe nods for both the film and Witherspoon) the $125 million grossing 2003 sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, the 2007 Broadway musical and enough begging and pleading to make Legally Blonde 3 a reality.
How's that for showing just how valuable Elle Woods can be? (She once had to judge a tighty-whitey contest for Lambda Kappa Pi. Trust her, she can handle anything.)
To celebrate the flick's anniversary, we rounded up our favorite behind-the-scenes secrets from the cast and crew. And we promise it'll be just like your senior year of college, except funner!
This story was originally published on Tuesday, July 13, 2021 at 12 a.m. PT.