History is full of movies that failed at the box office upon release, only to enjoy a resurgence in later times and going on to becoming known as cult classics. One such film is 2001’s Josie and the Pussycats, the comedy-musical about a teen girl band, based on the popular comic book series. Actress Rachael Leigh played the titular role of Josie, and as she told Collider, the job almost placed her and her castmates in Hollywood’s mythical ‘Movie jail’:
“We all sort of went to, what’s in the industry called ‘movie jail’ for that box office ‘failing’ and it took many years for people to get that movie. I’m just glad that we made something that I’m still proud of. It was a little bit of a bumpy road onward from that, but we have something great to show from it and we’re talking now about a movie that I really love, so I guess it all turned out the way it was supposed to be.”
The premise for Josie and the Pussycats sounded promising on paper, since the property already enjoyed a large fan base among teen girls. Rachael Leigh was also an established star in that demographic at the time, after starring in 1995’s The Baby-Sitter’s Club and 1999’s She’s All That. Her fellow pussycats were also being played by rising stars Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson. All signs pointed to the film being a big success.
Unfortunately, the project was a non-starter from the get-go, accumulating a measly $15 million against an estimated budget of $39 million. Critics pointed out that the heavy use of product placement distracted from the story’s appeal. Josie and the Pussycats was also compared unfavorably to, and in some cases accused of ripping off Spiceworld, the 1997 pop musical featuring the real-life girl band the Spice Girls. Leigh admits the consequences of the poor reception to Josie and the Pussycats were not readily apparent to her, and no one could have warned her about it either:
“What’s great about being 20, I was basically a teenager, when something like that happens is that no one really explains to you that it’s not just not great news; it’s news that’s gonna continue to affect you in a very real way for a long time. And truthfully, only time can kind of show you that so I understand why no one wanted to raise their hand and be like, ‘This is not good for sure.'”
Still, Leigh and her co-stars managed to make their way out of ‘movie jail’ and move on to other successful projects. And Josie and the Pussycats is today fondly remembered as a worthy adaptation of the comic series it was based on, especially compared to the ‘too-dark-too-edgy’ formula that Josie and the Pussycats’ contemporary Archie comics adopted for the CW’s Riverdale. As far as Leigh is concerned, she appears to have made her peace with the legacy of the character of Josie, and moved on to other things, with her upcoming Netflix movie Love, Guaranteed opposite Damon Wayans Jr. This news arrives via Collider.