Hewitt’s ascent to Hollywood stardom truly took off following the release of the 1997 horror flick “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” She starred alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze, Jr., playing the role of Julie James, the quintessential final girl.
Her ability to project vulnerability was a major factor in her landing the part, as both the producers and creative team recognized the depth of emotion she could bring to the role. While the film itself garnered mixed reviews, Hewitt’s performance was widely praised, with one critic singling her out for her ability to “scream with soul.”
Her Career Takes Off Slowly but Surely
Jennifer Love Hewitt's rise to fame began in earnest with her first starring role in the movie "Little Miss Millions" (1993), playing the part of a wealthy nine-year-old who embarks on a journey to find her real mother. She also appeared as a choir member in “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” (1993).
But it wasn’t until her role as Pierce Brosnan's daughter in the NBC pilot “Running Wilde” that people started paying serious attention to her talent. Although the pilot never aired, she continued to pursue acting and landed roles in several short-lived television series, such as “Shaky Ground” (1993) on Fox, “The Byrds of Paradise” (1994) on ABC, and “McKenna” (1994).
The Role That Made Her a Star
Hewitt rose to great heights when she snagged the role of Sarah Reeves Merrin on the widely beloved Fox series, “Party of Five” (1995). Originally slated for just nine episodes in the show's second season, Hewitt's exceptional performance quickly won over both producers and fans alike, leading to her becoming a series regular and playing the character until the show's final season.
Co-creator Amy Lippman was effusive in her praise, highlighting Hewitt's unwavering professionalism and dedication to her craft. The actor spent all of her downtime on set immersed in her scripts. Hewitt's portrayal earned her nominations for a Kids' Choice Award, a Teen Choice Award, and a YoungStar Award, among others.
Rising Teen Idol
With a budget of $17 million, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” proved to be a massive box-office hit, raking in an impressive $125 million the world over. Hewitt's performance as Julie James earned her a Young Artist Award nomination for Best Performance in a Feature Film — Leading Young Actress, as well as the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Female Newcomer.
She would go on to reprise her role in the sequel, "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" (1998), which, while not as successful as its predecessor, still managed to bring in significant money during its opening weekend.
BTS on "I Know What You Did Last Summer"
Jennifer Love Hewitt and Sarah Michelle Gellar actually auditioned for each other's roles in the hit movie "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Gellar tried out for the part of Julie, while Hewitt auditioned for Helen's role. This piece of trivia is fascinating because it could have altered the movie's outcome.
Gellar's portrayal of the stylish and self-assured Helen has become iconic, and Hewitt's role as Julie is equally memorable. The idea of them switching parts is certainly intriguing and adds an element of excitement to the movie's behind-the-scenes history. One thing's guaranteed: this film would have been very different!