“You can’t, obviously, know that,” the 44-year-old actor, who portrayed aspiring model Joey Donner in the 1999 flick, exclusively told Us Weekly on Thursday, June 1. “It’s interesting because, of course, there are times where people put that on the project as it’s beginning. I think you’re just in the moment and you’re not really sure, quite frankly.”
The 7th Heaven alum added that the teen rom-com’s leads — Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles — were also relatively unknown actors before the film premiered. “The other thing too is, at the time, Heath had never done anything in the States. And Julia had just done a movie that won at Sundance or at some film festival,” Keegan noted. “So it was Joey Gordon-Levitt and I that had anything. And so there was a question [mark] too, like, ‘Yo … where are, like, the names [that] they’re gonna put [on top of the poster]?”
10 Things I Hate About You, which was written by Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah, was inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Much like the theatrical comedy, the movie followed sisters Kat and Bianca Stratford (played Stiles and Larisa Oleynik, respectively) as they navigated high school romances. While Bianca was forbidden to date until her older sibling did, new student Cameron James (Gordon-Levitt) concocted a scheme to ask out crush Bianca. He enlisted bad boy Patrick Verona (Ledger) to woo Kat in exchange for cash. Keegan’s Joey — who also had an interest in Bianca — was bankrolling the plan in order to ask his dream girl to the prom. The fan favorite film also starred Larry Miller, Gabrielle Union, David Krumholtz, Susan May Pratt, Allison Janney and Daryl Mitchell.
“Gil [Junger, the director] and the writers as well were very … willing to take such a risk on two actors that didn’t have the credentials at the time and it was a good decision. Clearly,” Keegan added on Thursday. “I would say for me at that time, I wouldn’t have thought that. I was just like, ‘Well, who knows?’ But you would never know that 25 years later, people are just still crazy about it — and a new generation too. There’s a lot of young people that are like, ‘Oh, I watched the movie.’”
One of the new 10 Things fans is Keegan’s 7-year-old daughter, Aiya Rose.
“You know, you can’t resist,” the Broken Hearts Club star told Us when asked about Aiya’s thoughts on the film. “She’s actually really funny, like personality-wise, [and] she’ll throw me under the bus. [She tells people,] ‘My dad’s done 10 Things I Hate About You.’ I was like, ‘It was cute the first time, but you gotta stop doing that.’ … We were just at the passport office the other day getting a passport and the gal helping [mentioned the movie] and so she’s been listening to people saying that to me. So, now she knows she can get under my skin with it too.”
While Keegan does get tired of his daughter’s 10 Things I Hate About You references, he does fondly look back on his experiences on the set.
“The time that we got to spend together in Tacoma, Washington, was really cool with this particular group of actors,” the California native told Us. “But the memory that always comes to mind, [is when] Heath had this Saab car and we would drive to … some five-mile drive up to the mountains and we would listen to Portishead. We’d be changing CDs and he’d be sort of the DJ and we would smoke weed.”
He continued: “Listening to the great music, hanging out with the great couple guys — him and Trevor [di Carlo] — those kind of memories [are] almost, like, in a movie where you kind of look back and they have like sort of a magical sort of mist around them. Like, there’s just really a special time just doing nothing in particular, but just hanging out and, I guess, getting high.”
“[After 10 Things wrapped], [Heath] came back to L.A., which is really when we spent a lot of time,” Keegan said on Thursday. “He didn’t really work for a year … and we would end up doing a lot [of] hanging out every day. Like, ‘What are we doing today? Just hanging out,’ you know. I got to spend a lot of good time with him in that first year. But then he started working and it was, like, he was always somewhere, so it was much more inconsistent.”
The Moesha alum, for his part, eventually took a break from acting to focus on raising daughter Aiya and is now ready to dive back into movie-making.
“I’m at a point where I’d rather enjoy the experience than feel the need to work if I don’t have to. So now it’s more that work is actual work and I’m ready to be more creative and find a good place to lend the skills, the talent and all that fun stuff,” he confessed to Us. “I just enjoy life in a lot of ways [and] at this moment recognize, like, she’s at an age where she’s starting to kind of do her own thing. So, Daddy might need to do his own thing.”
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi