Actor Matthew Lillard shot to fame as one of the two masked killers in Wes Craven’s iconic slasher movie Scream. But for a certain generation, he’ll forever be known as Scooby-Doo’s beloved sidekick Shaggy. However, these days you’re far more likely to hear his voice than see him on screen.
Lillard first took on the role of the shaggy haired amateur sleuth in the live-action movie Scooby-Doo in 2002. The film proved to be such a big success that he was invited back to reprise the role two years later in the sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. But Lilllard’s duties as Shaggy didn’t end there.
Before Lillard, Casey Kasem had been the voice of Norville “Shaggy” Rogers since Scooby-Doo’s animated adventures first aired on TV way back in 1969. But following the showbiz veteran’s retirement 40 years later, producers believed there was only one man who could possibly fill his shoes. Lillard subsequently lent his tones to both Be Cool Scooby-Doo! and Mystery Incorporated.
However, the team behind the canine’s CGI reboot had other ideas; Saturday Night Live graduate Will Forte will take over from Lillard in 2020’s Scoob! Just like Grey Griffin, the regular voice of fellow crime fighter Daphne Blake, Lillard wasn’t even asked to join the discussion about the recasting.
Sadly for Lillard, this certainly isn’t the only major snubbing he’s faced during his career. And despite his hot streak of box office hits either side of the new century, the actor never really enjoyed the leading man status of his peers. So here’s a look at Lillard’s rise to the A-list and how he struggled to stay there.
Lillard’s path to stardom began when he landed a place at Pasadena’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He also honed his acting talents further at New York City’s Circle in the Square. However, Lillard first appeared on screen as a TV co-host, fronting 13 episodes of Nickelodeon show SK8-TV alongside Skatemaster Tate.
Interestingly, Lillard’s movie career didn’t exactly start in the most auspicious of circumstances. He first graced the big screen as a mere extra in 1991 schlocky B-movie horror Ghoulies 3: Ghoulies Go to College. However, everything changed three years later when he was discovered by John Waters. The cult auteur cast Lillard in his dark satire Serial Mom and from then on, the actor never looked back.
In fact, Lillard added no fewer than five different entries to his filmography the following year. The most notable of these was Hackers, a high-tech thriller also starring a young Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie. But it was Lillard’s casting in a super-meta horror in 1996 that elevated his career to new heights.
Lillard played one of the two masked killers in Wes Craven’s game-changing slasher Scream. The actor terrorised the fictional community of Woodsboro as Stu Macher, the best friend and partner-in-crime of Skeet Ulrich’s murderous Billy Loomis. Lillard then capitalized on the film’s monster success with roles in rom-com She’s All That and Shakespeare adaptation Love’s Labour’s Lost.
In a 2014 interview with The A.V. Club, Lillard gave thanks to Scream’s director for taking his career to another level. He said, “It’s this big point in my life, being a part of that moment and that cast. The cast and I shared this incredible bond and I love Wes Craven. He changed my life.” However, Lillard still seems a little bemused about how much impact Scream had on ‘90s cinemagoers.
“The idea that people are still obsessed with it, it’s so bizarre to me,” Lillard revealed. “I can understand why people are obsessed with Hackers – it’s kitschy kind of fun attached to an era and the beginning of something on the internet. But the Scream thing, the obsession with Scream, I just don’t get it. It’s something that kids are still obsessed with, 20 years later.”
Lillard returned to the horror genre in 2002 when he played the ill-fated Dennis Rafkin in haunted house flick Thirteen Ghosts. But it was another role he landed that same year which gave his career a new lease of life. And his uncanny portrayal of Shaggy in Scooby-Doo’s live-action debut also introduced his talents to a much younger audience.
However, Scooby-Doo and its 2004 sequel proved to be Lillard’s last notable hits of the decade. The actor struggled to sustain his early success as the ‘00s progressed and eventually found himself stuck in straight-to-DVD territory. Lillard cites 2007’s In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale as the worst movie he ever made – although he’s still fond of his performance in it.
Lillard then proved he was a man of many talents in 2011 when he took the director’s chair for the first time. He also served as producer on Fat Kid Rules the World – an adaptation of K.L. Going’s same-named book. His career subsequently received a further boost later on that year when he showed up in the Oscar-nominated dramedy The Descendants.
After impressing as Daniel Frye in the U.S. take on Scandi noir The Bridge, Lillard joined the likes of Drake Bell and Brooke Shields in the voice cast of animation Under Wraps. Three years later he was given the opportunity to work with another maverick filmmaker, David Lynch. Lillard was cast as William Hastings in the long awaited return of head-scratching mystery Twin Peaks.
Lillard continued this career upswing when he bagged a recurring role in crime dramedy Good Girls. In the hit NBC show, the star plays Dean Boland, the adulterous husband of Christina Hendricks’ career criminal. But it’s his voice role as Scooby-Doo’s best friend Shaggy that continues to dominate his filmography.
In 2018 alone Lillard lent his tones to Shaggy in direct-to-DVD animations Scooby-Doo! and the Gourmet Ghost and Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold. He also voiced the character in the video game Scooby-Doo! Mystery Cases. And the star could even be heard playing the character in the “Scoobynatural” episode of long-running procedural Supernatural.
And Lillard is certainly grateful for the opportunity to play such an iconic character. He told The A.V. Club in 2018, “If it wasn’t for Scooby-Doo, I wouldn’t still be in California acting, I’d be somewhere else doing something else. Scooby Doo the movie saved my bacon, to be honest – and it still does. That show is still around and it’s the constant job I have and I love doing the voice.”
Lillard also hasn’t been afraid to embrace his love of geek culture. In 2005 he took part in a Dungeons & Dragons tournament held at California’s Magic Castle. He’s also participated in the same game for Dice, Camera, Action, a web series in which the Dungeon Master is played by game designer Christopher Perkins.
Wife Heather Helm has supported Lillard throughout most of his various endeavors. The pair first met at a party hosted by a mutual friend and hit it off so quickly that Lillard later joined Helm when she attended a wedding in Italy. The couple walked down the aisle together themselves in the summer of 2000 and they have since welcomed three children into the world.
Elsewhere, Lillard’s career may be heading in the right direction once again too. But why exactly did it stumble in the first place? Well, the man himself has a few theories about why he never achieved the same level of success as his fellow late 1990s co-stars. And one relates to Scooby-Doo’s shaggy-haired BFF.
Speaking to The A.V. Club in 2014, Lillard claimed that playing Shaggy in 2002’s Scooby-Doo completely derailed his Hollywood journey. He said, “Of all the movies I’ve ever done, that movie probably put me behind the eight ball more than any other film. Nobody gives it any kind of credit or respect.”
Lillard continued, “It took my indie credit from being in SLC Punk! and a lot of those independent films and threw it out the window, because you ‘sold your soul’ to be in this huge blockbuster.” But Lillard doesn’t pin the blame squarely on Shaggy’s shoulders; he also believes that his connection with Freddie Prinze, Jr. hurt his reputation, too.
Incredibly, Lillard has shared the screen with Freddie Prinze, Jr. five times over the years. Alongside the two Scooby-Doo films, he’s also appeared alongside the one-time pin-up in Summer Catch, Wing Commander and She’s All That. And in each and every one, Lillard has been the wingman rather than the lead.
Lillard told Moveline in 2011, “I don’t think anybody in their right mind gets into an industry like this and goes, ‘You know what I want to do? Be a second fiddle.’ I just don’t want to be that guy who gets lost in the lexicon of Freddie Prinze, Jr. movies. I’m glad to have them, and I’m glad I did them. I learned a lot in that process of my life.”
Of course, both Lillard and Prinze Jr. eventually fell out of favor with cinemagoing audiences. Lillard told Blackbook in 2011, “Somehow I just got off the radar, off the cool radar. I became a product of the ‘90s. It became this kind of like, ‘Oh, he was a star in the ‘90s.’ Which is hilarious, because I was never a star.”
Lillard rarely played the leading man, but when he did take center stage, he readily admits that the films in question weren’t of particularly great quality. A self-effacing Lillard told The A.V. Club in 2011, “The more lines I have, in general, the worse a movie is.”
“It’s very rare that I get say great things in fantastic movies,” a refreshingly honest Lillard added. “So if you see me as like, number one on a call sheet? In general, that movie is pretty bad. I will say that I am usually the best thing in that horrible movie.”
And Lillard has starred in a fair share of stinkers; some of his choices were questionable even at the peak of his post-Scream fame. In 1998 he appeared in comedy Dead Man’s Curve and Marlon Wayans vehicle Senseless – both of which were widely panned by both critics and audiences alike.
However, you’re unlikely to have heard of the movie that Lillard told The A.V. Club is “one of the ugliest, fattest children that I have.” Also starring Dean Cain, sports comedy Home Run Showdown only made it into one theater in 2012, and it grossed only $8,824 over its one weekend on release.
And in a revealing interview with the Daily Star in 2015, Lillard also admitted that he let fame go to his head during his heyday. He told the British newspaper, “There was a moment in the ‘90s when I thought I was a successful actor, I thought I was God.”
Lillard continued, “I had a big house and big cars and then I looked at my wife after not working for two years and realized I wasn’t as big as I thought I was. My career hadn’t gone where I thought it was going to go and I had to change. It doesn’t serve me to be anything other than humble a working class actor. The only reason we are scared of doing that is because of ego.”
Thankfully, Lillard has moved on and now lives a less flashy life in Los Angeles with his wife Heather and three children. The actor told the Daily Star, “Now there are no big cars or fancy mansions. I’m lucky to get the job I have and I’m happy to have it.”
Don’t expect to watch Lillard appearing in the Big Brother house any time soon, either. The actor claimed, “I’d rather be around for 30 years and make a modest wage than try to be a celebrity making a lot of money making horrible reality television.” To that end, Lillard believes that those with actual talent are now being unfairly overshadowed by people who are famous just for being famous.
“Our society is really keen on making overnight stars via Twitter and Facebook,” Lillard added. “There is a never-ending stream of people who will take that but I think there is something to be said for people who have learned the craft and have been around for a long time. I think people like that should be celebrated way more than people who are pretty on the outside and can get a million Twitter followers.”
Lillard might not be the superstar many tipped him to be at the end of the 1990s; however, his lower profile has undoubtedly allowed him to take on juicier supporting roles. And in a chat with Collider in 2014 about his stint on The Bridge, Lillard revealed that he was more than happy to have swapped the big screen for the smaller one, too.
“I thought, ‘There’s no money, the guy dies in episode six, he’s barely in the pilot,” Lillard revealed. “And I have to audition for it?’… I was like, ‘Yes, but look at this part, and look at how amazing this scene is. I’d get to do this scene. I’d love to do it.’” In fact, Lillard is positively buzzing about the fact his career has moved towards television.
“TV is the s*** right now!” Lillard excitedly proclaimed to Rolling Stone in 2014. “You get great directors, great actors, great things to say, and you get to work all the time. You do a movie… I did The Descendants. A year later I did Trouble with the Curve. That’s two jobs in two years. That’s a really terrible way to make a living.”
And you haven’t seen the last of Lillard behind the director’s chair, either. In 2014 he told Buzzfeed that he’s desperate to follow up his filmmaking debut Fat Kid Rules the World. The Scream star said, “My life now is not about being famous. My life is about writing a script that means something emotional to me.”
“My life is about teaching and trying to grow as an artist,” Lillard went on to add. “My life is about trying to cultivate my craft. There’s no quitting because you could get a job at any time even if you haven’t worked in ten years.” Indeed, since the interview with Buzzfeed, Lillard has signed up to direct Thomas Sadoski and Lucy Liu in indie romance The Last Weekend in May.