Entertainment Weekly
Cover Story: The prinze and the slayer
June, 2001-2020

by Clarissa Cruz

Sarah Michelle Gellar, the stake-wielding star of ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer,'' and her fiancé, Freddie Prinze Jr., Mr. ''She's All That,'' are as mismatched as grilled-eggplant-and-chocolate-syrup sandwiches -- the favorite meal of Shaggy, the scruffy sidekick in the couple's latest collaboration, ''Scooby-Doo.'' Gellar wakes before 6:30 a.m.; Prinze can doze until noon. She reads Oprah's Book Club selections; he devours comic books. She loves to travel; he kissed the ground upon returning from the five-month-long ''Scooby-Doo'' shoot in Australia. Her series is humming along; after working the teen-romance circuit, he's in search of a new thing.

''When we were doing 'I Know What You Did Last Summer,' I would have never thought of those two together,'' says the film's producer Neal H. Moritz. ''I just found them to be so different. But when I see them out or at dinner, they just genuinely care so much about each other.''

In a town filled with celestial couplings -- and the tabloid tales that seem to inevitably follow -- Gellar, 25, and Prinze, 26, who became friends while costarring in the aforementioned 1997 horror flick, have a reputation for being sickeningly harmonious. ''He's completely in love with her,'' says Prinze's ''Down to You'' costar Rosario Dawson. ''When they got together, he was blown away.... He was thrown by how hard he fell.''

And he still hasn't touched the ground. Over lunch at a dim L.A. restaurant, Prinze recalls the filming of ''Scooby,'' most of which took place in Queensland on Australia's Gold Coast. ''If Sarah wasn't there, I would have cracked up,'' he says, hunched over his second cup of coffee. ''If I don't see her for a day, that's not a very good day.'' He straightens and reaches for a slice of goat-cheese pizza. ''That's my girl, so I gotta hang out with her.'' (Insert collective ''Awwwww'' here.) ''If we were lonely for home, at least we had to be lonely together. It was a long, long shoot.''

It was also a shoot Gellar would have endured alone, had she not forced her significant other to read the script. Prinze -- who was such a fan of the cartoon he had every episode on tape and owned a Scooby bowling ball -- admits that at first he hated the idea of a live-action version. ''I didn't want to have anything to do with it,'' he says. ''But she was just like, 'Read the script, Freddie. It's a genius script [by fledgling scribe James Gunn].' I read it and laughed out loud so many times...I called my agent and went in the very next day,'' says Prinze. The couple were cast within days of each other as Daphne and Fred, joining Matthew Lillard, Prinze's frequent partner in teen high jinks, as Shaggy, and Linda Cardellini (''Freaks and Geeks'') as Velma.

''It was very attractive to us that they were a real-life couple,'' says ''Scooby'' director Raja Gosnell. ''They saw the opportunity to play an on-screen couple but without playing it really seriously or as a romantic comedy.''

For ''Scooby,'' Prinze and Gellar earned $2.25 million and $1.25 million with back-end deals, respectively. But business matters aside, there were fringe benefits during filming as well -- like the couple's elaborate barbecues, Nerf-gun fights, and even a birthday blowout for Gellar in Queensland's polar-themed entertainment complex FrozenWorld. ''We'd play games at each other's houses,'' adds Cardellini. ''We had barbecues.... Freddie's a good cook.''

Even at home in L.A., the Gen-Y Ozzie and Harriet like to leave the tabloid reports of table dancing and strippers to Britney and Justin. The pair, who have yet to set a wedding date, can spend a free day walking their dogs (Thor, a Maltese, and Tyson, an Akita), taking a morning Pilates class, and stopping by a favorite Ventura Boulevard sushi joint. ''They try to give us surprises,'' says dedicated foodie Prinze, who attended culinary school in Pasadena before dropping out when he snagged his first film gig in 1996's ''To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday.'' ''They make the best ankimo, which is a marinated monkfish liver.'' (Note to ''Fear Factor'' producers: We've found your next celebrity contestants.)

Gellar's ''Buffy'' contract expires at the end of next season, ostensibly leaving her free for more film projects in the future, should she choose not to renew. She sounds a bit ambivalent about the series' move last year from The WB to UPN. ''It hasn't been as easy as everyone makes it sound,'' she says. ''It's like anything -- you're in some place for five years, and things are just done differently [somewhere else].'' Eager to tackle new challenges, she says she'd love to work with someone like ''Moulin Rouge'''s Baz Luhrmann. ''It's not just about making $100 million at the box office -- it's about a craft, a profession.''

And what of Prinze, who followed the $63.4 million ''She's All That'' with a string of forgettable romantic comedies like ''Head Over Heels''? Let's put it this way: Don't look for ''Summer Catch 2'' anytime soon. ''We're looking at some gritty independent films for him,'' says Yablans, who adds that Prinze has written a screenplay and is developing a couple of TV pilots based on a comic-book world he conceived. (Speaking of which, Prinze is philosophical about losing the role of Spider-Man to Tobey Maguire: ''I thought I would get that movie based on what people told me and the delusion that I created,'' he says. ''But I was happy to know that they hired a very good actor instead of some bum.'') His next acting project, the details of which haven't been finalized, should be a departure. ''He did a lot of movies that were similarly themed, where he plays the sweet, sensitive guy,'' says Yablans, ''and Freddie is so much more than that.''

Interestingly, both Gellar and Prinze face the same task: to make the transition from teen-oriented fare to adult careers. And though ''Scooby'' does dabble in some far-out innuendos (Shaggy and Scooby fire up the grill to the tune of the ganja anthem remake ''Pass the Dutchie''), the kid-friendly film doesn't exactly scream ''gritty.'' ''The challenge for Sarah is how to transfer popularity from one medium to another,'' says one high-level studio producer. ''The problem with Freddie is sort of how you get your heat back.''

Gellar may be the one lighting that fire. ''I'm much more creative now that I'm with Sarah,'' says Prinze. ''She's inspiring and encouraging and very critical in a good way.... That's how you know you're with a good person because they're able to bring you to the next level.'' Gellar, on the other hand, ''went from reading Shakespeare to comic books,'' she cracks. ''I now play videogames and don't do my work ever because I'm too busy playing golf on the PlayStation.''

As for this joint effort, both are hoping the film will help propel their careers. ''Once 'Scooby' comes out, it's gonna be much easier for someone to greenlight [future projects],'' says Prinze. ''Every kid in America's gonna see it and they're gonna bring their parents.'' His better half is more diplomatic. ''This is not exactly the movie that we read,'' says Gellar, adding that the naughtier bits -- including a sexy Daphne and Fred story line -- were cut. ''That's a little upsetting, but it's like any movie.... [It's] important for me to stand behind this movie and be out there

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