Hollywood Flashback: Before ‘Ahsoka,’ Rosario Dawson Livened Up ‘Josie and the Pussycats’

Rosario Dawson’s starring role in Disney+’s Ahsoka, premiering Aug. 22 and based on a character from Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is not her first time bringing an animated figure to life — she played bassist Valerie Brown in Universal-MGM’s Josie and the Pussycats, the directorial debut of Can’t Hardly Wait screenwriters Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan.

Based on the Archie Comics series that spawned the 1970s cartoon, the 2001 film centers on a female pop-rock group plucked from obscurity in Riverdale. Tara Reid, then 24, was cast first as drummer Melody Valentine following her turn in American Pie. Rachael Leigh Cook (She’s All That), 19, nabbed the part of frontwoman Josie McCoy over Zooey Deschanel and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

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For Val, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds — who produced the gold-selling soundtrack — encouraged the filmmakers to consider a music star, and Aaliyah, TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Beyoncé were among those to audition. But Dawson, 19, who had been in Kids and He Got Game, won out with her sharp comedy instincts. “We just didn’t know if Beyoncé was funny, honestly,” recalls Elfont.

The Hollywood Reporter praised Josie for “its moments of pop culture-skewering pleasure,” but it flopped with $14 million at the domestic box office. It’s now a favorite among millennials. Says Elfont of Dawson, “I really do remember that first meeting with her, thinking, ‘She’s a movie star.’ ”

This story first appeared in the Aug. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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