A bunch of teen movies debuted in 1999, but only one starred the sweet Melissa Joan Hart and swoony Adrian Grenier, delivered a remix of Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and gave fans the next-door neighbor, fake dating and makeover tropes all in one film.

That underrated movie is “Drive Me Crazy,” which celebrates its 20th anniversary today, after releasing in theaters on Oct. 1, 1999.

Directed by John Schultz (“A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding”) and written by pre-“Veronica Mars” Rob Thomas, the classic teen movie, based on the book “Girl Gives Birth to Own Prom Date” by Todd Strasser, stars Hart as the preppy and popular Nicole and Grenier as her thinks-he’s-so-James-Dean next-door neighbor and former friend, slacker Chase.

When she doesn’t get asked to the big centennial dance by the star basketball player, Brad (Gabriel Carpenter), and he gets dumped by his girlfriend, Dulcie (Ali Larter), the two decide to fake date to make them jealous. After spending time together again, Nicole and Chase realize they might not be faking their feelings for each other after all, and, perhaps, high school love isn’t just for saps, like Nicole originally thought.

By the time the 20th Century Fox rom-com was released, Hart had already finished “Clarissa Explains It All” and was halfway through her run on “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” but this film arrived long before Grenier landed “Entourage” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” So, how exactly did the two end up as the leads?

drive me crazy original Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier’s “Drive Me Crazy” came out 20 years ago. Photo: 20th Century Fox

International Business Times spoke with Schultz and producer Amy Robinson, along with star Susan May Pratt (Alicia), about just that, as well as how they chose The Donnas as the film’s featured band, their favorite memories from filming in Utah and how Britney Spears’ involvement, which didn’t arrive until after the movie finished shooting, came about.

Hart’s journey to landing the role started with her two hit TV shows and continued with the small role she took in another iconic teen movie just a year earlier, despite starring on her popular “Sabrina” series. In 1998, she proved how much she wanted to be part of the teen movie scene when she played Yearbook Girl in the Jennifer Love Hewitt-led “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

“[Hart] had a TV series, so we just met and she was like, ‘Look, I really like the script, whatever you guys want me to do,’” the film’s co-writer/director Harry Elfont told IBT last year. “So, we said, ‘Would you want to do Yearbook Girl?’ And she was just game to do whatever. She was really cool.’”

It was the actress’ same clear appreciation for the “Drive Me Crazy” script, along with her talent and experience, that helped her land the lead role just a year after her cameo bit.

The film almost starred Kate Hudson and Wes Bentley, but, in the end, Hart got the part because Fox wanted her “huge following, and she really wants to do it, too, and she was great,’” Schultz said. “So, they decided to go with somebody who had ‘Clarissa’ and ‘Sabrina’ behind her, rather than Kate Hudson, who, at that point, had really not done anything, didn’t have any inherent following.”

The “Melissa & Joey” alum’s name was thrown around from the start, but Hudson was still in the mix for a little while. Robinson explains she “sort of came in, but then she had to go out of town, and she was supposed to meet Tom Rothman, who ran the studio, and she didn’t come to that meeting,” which only helped them make the decision they were planning to make anyway, which was having Hart as the lead.

With the female role filled, it was time to find the actor for the male counterpart.

Robinson and Schultz auditioned a lot of guys, with Bentley catching their attention and becoming one of the frontrunners, but then Grenier found his way into the mix and won out for the role.

“We had this fantastic casting director named Sheila Jaffe, and we saw a lot, a lot of boys, and then Adrian came in, and Sheila said to me, ‘You gotta see this guy, he’s so adorable,’” Robinson said. “So, I came, he was in New York, and I saw him in the room, and I sort of fell in love with him. And John wasn’t sure and the studio wasn’t sure, so we did a couple of screen tests, and he was just it, he popped off the screen as the kind of boy when you were in high school you’d fall madly in love with, in my opinion.”

Schultz remembers doing a pretty extensive screen test for Grenier, filming three scenes in one day and screening it for Fox, to make sure he was the best fit to star opposite the “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” actress. Although the director felt Grenier was “a little ambivalent about doing the” movie, and about even being an actor, in general, they got along really well, the studio liked the screen test, and Grenier was officially cast as the film’s male lead, Chase.

They went on to finish casting the rest of the movie, landing a pre-“Legally Blonde” Larter as Chase’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, Dulcie; Pratt (“10 Things I Hate About You”) as Nicole’s frenemy, Alicia; Jordan Bridges (“Rizzoli & Isles”) as jerk jock Eddie and more.

drive me crazy dulcie Ali Larter played the role of Dulcie in “Drive Me Crazy.” Photo: 20th Century Fox

“It was great, you could just go and find all of this great, young talent,” Schultz shared of the experience, before explaining what exactly they were looking for from these relative unknowns auditioning for them.

“You want to find someone who has talent but who also is right for the role and also works with the cast that you’re putting together,” he said. “You decide, ‘We’re gonna make it with Melissa because she’s a name and she’s good, so then we need a guy who works with her. So, it’s Adrian. Then, what should Ali’s character look like and be like? And she came in and was perfect for it. And you need to hit this mark that’s totally out of your control — beyond just having the talent — the look, the chemistry and putting together the whole thing. Some people show up with that, what you think the role needs, and it’s fun doing that with people that age because everyone’s unknown, and you can just see some really great people who just haven’t had a break yet.”

Robinson added, “We picked a group that we thought worked well together and that were talented, and we were lucky enough to be able to cast them. We didn’t need to have big names. We were able to put together a really adorable group of young people.”

With the “Drive Me Crazy” team assembled, it was time for everyone to head to Utah for 36 days of filming. There were only a couple of days before shooting started for everyone to do a little bonding, but Schultz said more than that wasn’t necessary because everyone took to each other very easily and formed both friendships and romances.

“You had a bunch of young actors who are all getting their big break and all very excited, and we all lived in this corporate apartment place in Salt Lake City, and it was like a dormitory where everybody had their own little apartment,” the director said. “And, of course, every single cast member hooked up with somebody else, I found out later.

“You know, like, you have a bunch of 20-year-olds given an apartment, and then they get time off when they’re filming, and they’re all together, all day, every day, and, of course, everybody was hooking up with everybody else. I mean, every single person. I found out later, I was like, ‘Oh, you guys had a thing?’ So, the bonding happened quite quickly, and it was very good and everyone got along.”

Pratt confirmed that a lot of hooking up was happening, adding that the cast also “ate out together a lot and hung out when we weren’t shooting” because it was just a really “nice group” of people.

When it came to acting with everyone in that group, the “Center Stage” actress said it was really helpful to have Hart, who had five seasons of “Clarissa Explains It All” and three seasons of “Sabrina” under her belt, leading the cast.

drive me crazy nicole alicia Melissa Joan Hart and Susan May Pratt played frenemies in “Drive Me Crazy.” Photo: 20th Century Fox

“Melissa was such a pro. It was great because I feel like that kind of calmed everyone down,” she said. “Everyone’s so young and kind of all over the place, and she’d been doing it for so long that I think it was actually a good thing, calmed people down a little bit.”

She continued: “Everyone was coming from such different places in their careers, so that was kind of interesting because then she was a seasoned veteran. And Adrian was kind of new, and Marc Webber [who played ‘Designated’ Dave] was kind of new, and we were all kind of making our way. Lots of different vantage points.”

Of the actual time spent filming, Pratt most remembers loving when she got to shoot the dance scene at the end of the film because her character finally “gets her comeuppance,” with Hart’s Nicole done putting up with her frenemy and finally putting her in her place.

“I’m honestly sorry about how things worked out,” Alicia says in the film. “I really thought Brad was gonna ask you.”

Nicole responds, “He did, but I already had a date. He was bummed, so I let him know you were easy.”

A pissed-off Alicia stalks away after that comment, which is something Pratt’s happy about because “she’s so horrible and nasty.”

“I thought that was just, and I enjoyed shooting that,” she added. “Because I thought maybe I’d have more sympathy with my character because I was playing her, but, no, I was like, ‘Yeah, get her. She’s horrible.’ I guess what stands out to me the most was how fun it was to be the villain, and how it’s just really, really enjoyable.”

As for Schultz, he was excited about filming that scene for a whole other reason. Utah let them film the centennial dance in the Utah State Capitol building and let them do it for cheap.

“It could’ve been realistic and shot in a high school gym,” he said, “but for no money — we had to stay up all night to shoot, but — we could shoot at night on weekends at the State Capitol, and we got that ridiculously nice area for the prom.”

To top it all off, Schultz got to have rock band The Donnas perform at the venue for the dance scene, which he loved since he hand-picked the musical act for the film himself.

“The best casting I did, though — the most fun was we needed a band for the prom, and… I like music, so I wanted to get something that was a little different. A cool prom band,” he said. “The Donnas at that point were, I think, still in high school, but they were maybe just out of high school, like 18 or 19, and they had a record out and were playing at the Troubadour in [Los Angeles], so I went to see them and thought — because they used to have a band when they were in junior high called The Electrocutes, in real life, so I thought, ‘Their old band should be the band at the prom.’

“So, I went to the Troubadour, and, after the show, I suddenly had this awkward moment where I’m the guy who’s way too old to be talking to 19 or 20-year-old girls, so I saw Torry, the drummer, was standing by the stage, and I walked over to her, but it was really kind of awkward because I didn’t want to get too close to her and suddenly be like, ‘Hey, wanna be in a movie?’ So, I stood back, totally apologetic, and was like, ‘Listen, I’m doing this movie, really, for 20th Century Fox, do you have a manager I could call? I want you guys to be in the movie.’ She gave me the number of the manager and I got away. I was so scared of scaring her off.”

Luckily, he didn’t “freak her out,” which is why their manager called a couple of days later to let Schultz know the band was game to cameo in the film.

Although the all-female group, which formed in 1993 and had multiple albums out by the time the movie was released, only had one song, a cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You,” on the official “Drive Me Crazy” soundtrack, they got to have three songs in the movie total, including their originals “Get Rid of That Girl” and “Outta My Mind.”

The songs were all under the band’s name at the time, The Donnas, though they performed them in the movie under their old band name, The Electrocutes, because Schultz thought it fit better with the film.

“They were all friends in junior high, and they had a band before they renamed themselves The Donnas, they were The Electrocutes. They had some great recordings, I eventually heard. I talked to them, and I kind of thought, ‘Well, you guys are starting a real career, it would be funnier, I think, and more like a high school band, if you just were that old version of yourselves.’ And they liked that idea, so that’s what we did,” Schultz said of making the decision.

The movie attached itself to the punk-rock scene by having The Donnas throughout the film, but then it found itself jumping into a whole other genre in the music world when Britney Spears got in the mix.

The pop star had just released her debut album, “...Baby One More Time,” less than a year before the release of “Drive Me Crazy,” and her star power was rising quickly, making the then-17-year-old a perfect fit for the teen movie, since she wouldn’t be starring in her own flick until three years later with “Crossroads.”

Originally titled “Next to You,” from Schultz’s suggestion based on a song by The Police, throughout the entirety of filming, the movie was later renamed “Drive Me Crazy” once the studio realized they could get a remix of the similarly-titled Spears song, “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” for the soundtrack.

“I had to go to New York and meet Britney. Here I am again meeting a 19-year-old girl. But she was — I felt bad for her because she was right in the throws of blowing up, and I was there at some MTV Live thing,” Schultz said, “and you could tell her entire day was meeting people, like me, that she didn’t really care [about]. I just thought, ‘That poor girl.’

“I said hi to her, and she said hi to me, and so I talked to her for a few minutes, and she was fine for that little bit. It’s just strange to see someone who’s just kind of starting, and she’s knowing she’s getting huge, and all the pressures and everything they’re putting on her. And then somehow the movie went from being a movie with The Electrocutes and The Donnas in it to a Britney Spears vehicle, which is interesting.”

Originally, both Schultz and Robinson weren’t too thrilled about the partnership, but when they went to see Spears film the music video for her song on the soundtrack, the “Stop Remix!” version of “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” which featured cameos from both Hart and Grenier, they started to see how her rising fame could help the movie.

“It was a lot of fun, and we said to each other, ‘Hey, she’s such a big star now, why don’t we just have them put the video on the back of the movie, and then everybody will have to stay through the whole movie and watch the video,’” Robinson said. “So, we sort of went over to the dark side in commercialdom.”

They asked studio head Rothman about the idea, but he shut it down, and Robinson now realizes it might’ve “been a little bit crass” had they actually gone through with it, although the movie might’ve “made a lot more money.”

Still, the Spears song was on the movie’s soundtrack, Hart and Grenier were in the music video and Spears’ cameo episode of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” premiered just one week before “Drive Me Crazy” came out, acting as the perfect lead-up to the movie’s release.

The film, which had a budget around $8 million, ended up making just over double that ($18 million) at the domestic box office, according to Box Office Mojo, which was less than other 1999 teen movies with similar budgets, like “10 Things I Hate About You” ($38 million), “Cruel Intentions” ($38 million), “She's All That” ($63 million) and “American Pie” ($103 million). Still, according to Schultz, Fox “was really happy with the movie.”

Looking back on the film, 20 years later, Robinson, Schultz and Pratt are all happy with the film, as well, and proud to have been a part of its legacy. While this has been true for the producer and director the whole time, it took a little while for Pratt to get there.

“I mean, now, at this point, when I’m no longer an actor, I can enjoy it a little bit more,” she said. “But it wasn’t that fun to have your best projects be in your 20s and then your career have a slow nosedive since then. So, I have to say, that wasn’t super fun, quite honestly. But, now that I have some distance, and I’m no longer an actor, I can definitely enjoy it more. And I do really appreciate how much people enjoy the film and how much it means to them.”

While “Drive Me Crazy” might mean a lot to some people, not all viewers were happy with its ending.

At the close of the flick, Nicole and Chase finally share a (real) kiss, outside of Chase’s home, only for the door to open and for them to learn that not only are their parents dating each other, but they’re all going to move in with each other, as well.

Though the parents aren’t engaged or married yet, this situation would make Chase and Nicole quasi-step-siblings, which isn’t something that necessarily sat well with all viewers.

“I think that’s what hurt the movie’s performance initially, that it’s a little creepy because people, I think — I guess some people couldn’t get it out of their mind that they’re not really brother and sister, they’re gonna be step-brother and sister,” Schultz said. “But they still kind of had that, ‘Ooh, and they’re dating?’ It did give it a little bit of a queasy twist at the end. But that was the story.”

Robinson never had any hesitation about making that the ending of the movie, though.

“Not really because we thought it was kind of ironic and funny, and they weren’t really gonna be related to each other. So, it wasn’t like we were gonna be doing an incest movie,” she said.

Still, for those who remain troubled with the way the movie ended, Schultz and Robinson have some ideas about what Nicole and Chase might be up to now, in 2019, and if they might still be together or not.

While Schultz answered with a telling question — “What percentage of people marry their high school sweetheart and stay together 20 years later?” — Robinson flat out responded with an “uh, no.” That same answer went for the idea of their parents still being together, as well.

Of the film’s main couple, Robinson continued, “They were in high school, they went to college, so how old are they? 38? I think that she works at Google, and I think he may have dropped out of college, then went back, and he’s just about — maybe he got married and divorced, and now he’s gonna get married again.”

drive me crazy chase nicole Would Nicole (Melissa Joan Hart) and Chase (Adrian Grenier) still be together today, 20 years after the events of “Drive Me Crazy”? Photo: 20th Century Fox

Meanwhile, Pratt had some ideas about what her character, Alicia, might be getting up to now.

“I think that she would still be a horrible person. I don’t think she would change her ways,” the actress said. “I think she’s rotten to the core. I think she’d end up being some really unhappy, bitter person. Maybe she was a journalist. A ruthless journalist. Or maybe a ruthless lawyer, going after people, I don’t know. She’s heartless. I think she might be a bit of a sociopath. I’m not sure what she would do, but something ruthless.

“Maybe defending horrible criminals. Not on the good side. Taking lots of money from rich people to defend guilty people. Not even caring. Doing whatever it takes. Because she’s clearly quite bright. Or maybe she’ll go into politics.”

The exact whereabouts of the film’s characters now might still be up in the air, but we know just what the cast and crew are doing now. After having directed Netflix’s second “A Christmas Prince” movie last year, Schultz came back to direct the third one, “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby,” which arrives later this year. Plus, he’s writing a new heist movie he hopes to pitch to the streaming service.

Meanwhile, Pratt is currently working at New Line Cinema in publicity, and Robinson is working on a few different projects, including trying to get “The Pink House,” a movie based on a short story published in The New Yorker, off the ground. It’s a “scary, sexy movie about the death of the patriarchy,” she said, and she’s working on it with “What About Brian” creator, Dana Stevens.

To continue the “Drive Me Crazy” 20th anniversary celebration, the film’s available to stream online by renting or buying it on YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play or Vudu, starting at $3.99.