At the beginning of 2002’s Scooby-Doo, the Gang encounters their worst nightmare. No, not the Luna Ghost nor any of the other spookies they’ve uncovered in their long career as Mystery Incorporated. Rather, the movie begins with the Gang breaking up.
Of course, by the end of the movie, the team has reunited and put their differences besides them. Realizing that they work best as a team, the quintet learns how to share the glory. But in real life, the situation was far more fraught. In a recent interview with Esquire Magazine, Freddie Prinze Jr., who played team leader Fred alongside his wife Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne, revealed the drama behind the fictional Gang’s exploits.
The problems began when Prinze Jr. and his co-stars learned that they would not be making the movie they had intended, a PG-13 script by a post-Troma/pre-DC Studios James Gunn. At the studio’s demand, Gunn and director Raja Gosnell had to strip away jokes about sexuality and drug use, resulting in the more family-friendly final product.
But things grew worse for Prinze Jr. when he and his cast-mates returned for the 2004 sequel Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed (also written by Gunn and directed by Gosnell). Thanks to the success of films such as She’s All That, Prinze Jr. was the biggest star in the first movie and thus commanded the highest salary. But by the time production on Monsters Unleashed began, the cast had more parity and producers wanted to raise the salary of the other members of the Mystery Inc. gang, including Linda Cardellini as Velma, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, and Neil Fanning voicing Scoob. But the pay rate came at a cost, specifically for Prinze Jr.
In order to lift the salary of the other stars, Warner Brothers insisted that Prinze Jr. lower his own pay rate. The plan did not sit right with the actor. “I remember thinking, ‘Hold up, who’s giving them the raise? Me or y’all?’,” he recalled. “Like we made you guys three-quarters of a billion dollars, you can’t afford to pay them what I’m making on this? Screw that.”
Despite these strong words, Warner Brothers responded in even harsher terms. Allegedly, the studio leaked to a magazine Prinze Jr.’s salary, portraying him as greedy and against his fellow actors. “My ego was so angry,” he admitted.
Although the incident drove Prinze Jr. to leave the franchise on bad terms (Lillard and Cardellini would both stay in the world of Scooby by voicing characters in the excellent Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc.), he holds no ill will toward the movies today. “All these people that had grown up loving those movies started reaching out,” Prinze Jr. recalled. “And then I got what I felt was a more accurate perspective on what that movie meant to people because I was no longer viewing it through the lenses of the studio.”
Thanks to this perspective, Prinze Jr. can now emulate his character and defeat the scariest monster that any actor has to face: studio accounting.