The Cast of 'What a Girl Wants,' Then and Now

8:30 AM 3/27/2018

by Lindsay Weinberg

The movie hit theaters 15 years ago, on March 27, 2003.

It’s been 15 years since Daphne Reynolds (Amanda Bynes) had to learn to be a proper debutante in Warner Bros.' What a Girl Wants. The New York-based teen set off across the pond in order to meet and try to impress her estranged politician father (Colin Firth). 

The teen comedy, based on a 1955 play called The Reluctant Debutante by William Douglas-Home, hit theaters on March 27, 2003, and earned Bynes a Kids' Choice Award in 2004 for favorite movie actress. Though Bynes hasn’t made a film in eight years, The Hollywood Reporter looks at what she and the rest of the cast of What a Girl Wants has been up to in the time since their movie was released.

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    Amanda Bynes as Daphne Reynolds

    Amanda Bynes had her breakout film performance in What a Girl Wants as Daphne Reynolds, who jumps on a flight to London to find her long-lost father, Lord Henry Dashwood. In the 2000s, Bynes became known for her portrayal of eccentric teenage girls, including Viola, who joins the men’s soccer team in She’s the Man, and the ditzy Penny in Hairspray alongside Zac Efron. However, the pious Marianne in 2010’s Easy A was Bynes’ most recent role. In the years since, Bynes experienced what The Hollywood Reporter called a “career-ending meltdown,” following an arrest for drunk driving and an alleged hit-and-run. She’d begun filming for the raunchy Hall Pass in 2010, but was replaced by Alexandra Daddario (Baywatch). In 2014, Bynes pursued her interest in fashion by attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. However, she told Hollyscoop in June 2017 that she was looking to get back into acting on television, so fans might be seeing more of her on the platform where she originally rose to fame with The Amanda Show and All That.

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    Colin Firth as Henry Dashwood

    Colin Firth stepped into the dad role for What a Girl Wants as the high-profile Lord Henry Dashwood, who worries about his political career when he discovers his less-than-debutante-ready daughter. Firth previously starred in several romantic films like the Pride and Prejudice miniseries as Mr. Darcy and the reinterpreted version, Bridget Jones’s Diary, as Mark Darcy. He's embraced a few quirky roles since his What a Girl Wants days, including the father Mr. Brown on Nanny McPhee and Harry in Mamma Mia!, and he earned his first Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for A Single Man in 2010. The next year, he won both awards for his acclaimed performance as King George VI in The King’s Speech. On top of his own acting career, Firth co-founded Raindog Films in 2012 with executive Ged Doherty. With more than 80 credits under his belt, Firth is adding to the list with the upcoming Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Mary Poppins Returns and Kursk
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    Kelly Preston as Libby Reynolds

    Daphne’s hippy mother is brought to life by Kelly Preston, who previously acted in Twins and Jerry Maguire. She was born in Oahu — making her television debut in an episode of Hawaii Five-O — and then left the island for Hollywood, studying theater and drama at USC and UCLA. Since What a Girl Wants in 2003, Preston has appeared on Medium, CSI: Cyber and Joey, the Friends spinoff. She performed in a variety of mediums from feature films to short films to TV series, and even in Maroon 5’s "She Will Be Loved" music video. Preston married actor John Travolta in 1991; their third child was born in 2010. 
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    Eileen Atkins as Jocelyn Dashwood

    Eileen Atkins has a knack for portraying the British upper-class, and is in fact a dame herself. In What a Girl Wants, she played Jocelyn Dashwood, the mother of Colin Firth’s character who urges him to get to know his daughter. In 2002, Atkins played Queen Mary in the TV movie Bertie and Elizabeth, then Lady Spence in the 2012 film The Scapegoat and Queen Mary again for the acclaimed Netflix series The Crown in 2016. Her credits span from Doc Martin to The Walking Dead. She even reunited with her onscreen son (Firth) in 2014 for Magic in the Moonlight, in which Firth plays an illusionist hired to help expose a clairvoyant woman (Emma Stone). Atkins has been nominated for four Tony Awards and remains very invested in theater — she passed over a part in The Wolf of Wall Street for a stage production of All That Fall at Jermyn Street. She’ll soon play Madame Kozlova in Paddington 2
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    Anna Chancellor as Glynnis Payne

    Every girl trying to connect with her separated father needs an evil stepmother to stand in her way. Anna Chancellor’s Glynnis Payne is just that — Lord Dashwood’s fiancee and daughter of the prime minister. Just two years after co-starring with Amanda Bynes, Chancellor landed her best-known role as Questular Rontok in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. However, her background lies principally in television, with her first recurring role as Miss Bingley on Pride and Prejudice alongside Colin Firth. She also starred on Fortysomething, Suburban Shootout and The Hour, for which she received a BAFTA television nomination. Chancellor voiced characters for BBC audiobooks and, in 2012, acted in Private Lives in London’s West End. She appears in the television series Trust, which premiered March 25. 
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    Jonathan Pryce as Alistair Payne

    Jonathan Pryce’s career spans multiple genres and formats. He played the titular character in Hamlet for the Royal Court Theater in 1980, but has since starred in Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean and Tomorrow Never Dies. It was his performance as gay author Lytton Strachey in Carrington that earned Pryce a BAFTA film nomination and a best actor win at Cannes in 1995. It’s been 15 years since he played the prime minister on What a Girl Wants, but Pryce has stayed in the spotlight by playing High Sparrow — the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven — on Game of Thrones. Both Pryce and his What a Girl Wants co-star Atkins are set to head up the U.K. premiere of Florian Zeller's The Height of the Storm in the West End this fall. 
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    Oliver James as Ian Wallace

    Oliver James gave up his musical career to play a helpful musician, Ian Wallace, on screen. James had joined a boy band produced by American Idol creator Simon Fuller, but left once he was cast alongside Amanda Bynes. Indeed, James is credited on the film’s soundtrack for "Long Time Coming,” "Get up offa That Thing/Release the Pressure” and "The Greatest Story Ever Told,” but boasts only nine film and television acting credits. His next film was Raise Your Voice with Hilary Duff, who won the Kids' Choice Award for favorite movie actress the following year. James, now 37, last uploaded music to YouTube in 2013 with the acoustic ballad “Slow Down Girl” and now tweets about the vegan documentary Cowspiracy.
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    Christina Cole as Clarissa Payne

    Her portrayal of Daphne’s soon-to-be stepsister was Christina Cole’s second acting role on screen, as she was still in the Oxford School of Drama during filming. She later acted in Casino Royale alongside Daniel Craig in 2006, and then in Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum. Cole plays Dr. Paula Agard, Harvey Specter's therapist, on USA Network’s Suits, which made headlines when co-star Meghan Markle became engaged to Prince Harry of Wales. But Cole turned to the stage in 2016, when she got to perform as one of four characters in Matthew Perry’s (Friends) playwriting debut, The End of Longing, in London.