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The Real-Life Diary Entry That Inspired The Title For 10 Things I Hate About You

In the 1990s, teens reigned supreme, and no more so than in the arena of romantic comedies. Over two decades after the fact, we can still look back on a nostalgic time and remember how "10 Things I Hate About You" took a well-known piece of public domain and spun it into gold. Starring fledgling actors getting their start before the new millennium, the film follows two sisters in the Stratford household who could not be more different. Elder sister Kat (Julia Stiles) is a nonconformist, perfectly content in antagonizing anyone around her. Her little sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) is quite another story. Desperate for popularity and the attention of school stud Joey (Andrew Keegan), Bianca cares deeply about what people think about her.

So starts the familiar plot of "Taming of the Shrew." For Bianca to start dating, Kat also has to. Throw in dangerous loner Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) trying to win Kat's heart and you've got yourself an iconic rom-com for the ages. However, while fans of the movie know that "10 Things I Hate About You" is based on a Shakespeare play, that wasn't the only source of inspiration for the film. The title didn't come from iambic pentameter, but something much more personal.

The writer really, really hated her high school boyfriend

Filled with dramatic declarations and spontaneous musical numbers, "10 Things I Hate About You" may not seem like the most realistic film. But peel away the layers of rom-com tropes and you are left with something remarkably authentic. Though Kat lashes out at everyone, it has to do with the pain of her mother's abandonment. Patrick's inexperience with relationships causes him to fumble around Kat and make mistakes time and time again. Anyone will remember the acute pain of what it is to be a teenager and no one more so than co-writer Karen McCullah. She bravely delved into her old journals from high school for inspiration and came across an interesting relic.

"The title was based on a diary entry I made in high school," McCullah recounted at a UCTV panel. "I had a boyfriend named Anthony who I was frequently unhappy with. And I made a list called 'Things I Hate About Anthony.' When Kirsten [Smith] and I decided to write this, I went through all my high school diaries to kind of bone up on those angsty memories and when I told her about that list, she's like: 'That's our title!'" The title honors the sonnets that Shakespeare was so well known for, as well as encapsulating the heightened emotions of teenage relationships. 

As for Anthony himself, there is no bad blood between the two.

"Anthony is very proud of that fact," McCullah added. "We're still friends today."

Julia Stiles also drew from a well of emotion

When "10 Things I Hate About You" came together, it was a fully realized and lived-in film thanks to the artists' contributions. Not only did Karen McCullah bring her teen angst to the forefront, but Julia Stiles also contributed personal emotion to her iconic scene. When Kat reads the titular list, she breaks into tears because Patrick betrayed her. But these tears were more than Stiles' acting prowess, and she admitted to The New York Times that they came from her feelings on the project.

"It had been such an emotional role and such a wonderful experience that I was overjoyed, and probably sad it was coming to an end, but I also was just in a very raw place," Stiles mused in a profile on film. She also noted how professional Heath Ledger was in the sequence. Even though he is in the room and watching Kat break down, Ledger did not want to take the scene away from Stiles. All the actors on set reported what a positive experience it was. For many, it was their film debut and bonding with the cast and ultimately leaving made the emotions in the film much more real. To this day, it is a quintessential high school film that continues to resonate.

"It's projecting a fantasy of a high school experience," Larisa Oleynik added, "but it's also grounded in what most 17-year-olds are still feeling, what I'm still feeling as a 37-year-old."