Owen Gleiberman
July 13, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

How can one film spawn a generation of actors?

What is it about one film that can spawn an entire generation of actors? — Emily

It helps if you’re doing a slice-of-life teen comedy that defines an era. Every 10 years or so, there’s a karmic moment when a gifted filmmaker, riding a wave of nostalgia, gets mystically aligned with a bumper crop of fresh talent. George Lucas first did it in American Graffiti, using unknowns (Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, even Suzanne Somers) to depict the bobby-socks era as if it had never been seen before. A decade later, the early ’80s gave us two examples of the teen flick as generational launchpad: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, etc.) and The Outsiders (Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, etc.). Then, in 1993, came that definitive ode to the ’70s, Dazed and Confused, with Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Renée Zellweger. All of which suggests: Isn’t it time for the first looking-back-at-the-’90s teen comedy, with a cast featuring…who knows?

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