Write it down! Nearly 25 years ago, Harriet the Spy adapted Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 children’s novel of the same name as fans embraced Harriet’s curious nature and zest for adventure.
In the July 1996 flick, Harriet (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a precocious sixth-grader who’s destined to be a super-sleuth. She records all sorts of suspicious activity in her private notebook along with a running list of observations about everyone she knows. It all seems like harmless fun until one of her classmates finds her journal and exposes the middle schooler’s inner thoughts to the entire school. As everyone turns against her, Harriet resolves to exact revenge.
During the project, director Bronwen Hughes found working on the Nickelodeon picture with a plethora of child actors to be “utterly freeing.”
“[Kid actors] are so uncomplicated, if you pick the right ones that is, and I think we did,” Hughes recalled to Uproxx in May 2016. “If you want to try something completely different you just say so and they try it. As opposed to some more complicated personalities who when you say, ‘Let’s try something completely different,’ they go into a dark place of ‘Why are we trying something different? What’s wrong with me?’ It’s like I have to talk people off a cliff or something.”
The Canada native even noted her particular kinship and fondness with the young spy.
“I love Harriet because she has a vision and she has guts and she pursues her own pact and marches to her own drummer,” Hughes explained to Uproxx. “I love that character, I really do. The ultimate goody two shoes? No thank you. Don’t want that in anybody.”
Much like Hughes, Trachtenberg also has kept a piece of the film close to her heart as she often fondly looks back at her big break.
“I turned 10 years old on the first day of principal photography of Harriet this Spy,” Trachtenberg recalled to Entertainment Tonight in October 2021. “Rosie [O’Donnell] was my biggest supporter … There was a lot required of me. I’m extremely grateful for the experience.”
At the time, the Weeds alum noted that fans still reach out to her regarding the film’s impact on their own life.
“When I do look at social media, which is challenging, [I see] them coming in with, ‘You inspired my life. You made me become a writer,’” the New York native told ET. “All of those, just beautiful things.”
Since filming wrapped, the EuroTrip actress even kept a few key souvenirs from her time on the set of the Nickelodeon feature film.
“I still have her yellow, plastic binoculars that say ‘Harriet the Spy’ on my library consul with different books and memories. I also have the original book by Louise Fitzhugh on my desk to always inspire me,” Trachtenberg told Entertainment Weekly in November 2016. “My love of writing came from reading and being Harriet the Spy. Writing changes people’s worlds.”
For the film’s 20th anniversary, the Ice Princess star shared a throwback photo from the set via Instagram.
“Twenty years ago today, July 10th 1996, Harriet The Spy opened in theaters,” Trachtenberg captioned her social media upload in July 2016. “I was 10 years old, this was my first movie, and my dream come true. I will always be honored to have been the girl who brought #harriet to life. The time has come the walrus said…. #hts 📽🎬✏️📓🔎 “I want to see the whole world, and I want to write down everything!” ~ Harriet 💗.”
Scroll below to see what the Harriet the Spy cast has been up since their days filming the Nickelodeon picture: