By EW Staff
April 18, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Scoby Doo: Warner Bros.

The full title of the old cartoon, first unleashed on CBS in 1969, was ”Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” And that’s what the new movie’s actors kept asking, since the mystery-solving Great Dane was an on-set mystery himself, a blank spot to be filled in months later. ”We flirted with using an animatronic Scooby for about five minutes,” says director Gosnell (”Big Momma’s House”). ”But for Scooby to do all the things people expect, we needed CGI…. That’s certainly a financial commitment.”

In other words, at $80?90 million (so the cast hears), this could end up the most expensive Freddie Prinze Jr. movie ever made. Prinze plays Fred, an ascot-wearing dude who debunks apparent hauntings. (Latest target: Spooky Island theme-park owner Mondavarious, played by Atkinson.) Fred’s cohorts include go-go-booted Daphne (Gellar, Prinze’s fiancé), brainy Velma (Cardellini), and the screen-time-hogging anchors of the cartoon: Scooby and the peckish Shaggy (Lillard).

That name could be an ”Austin Powers” gag — and aptly enough, Mike Myers reportedly toyed with playing Shaggy a few years ago. ”Same thing Hollywood does all the time,” laughs Lillard. ”They go to their A list, and when those actors pass, you end up with Matthew Lillard.” But the four-time Prinze costar may be selling himself short: He apes Shaggy’s body language uncannily and sounds just like Casey Kasem’s cartoon vocals. ”It’s one of the few jobs in my life where I realized there’s a lot at stake,” says Lillard. ”I mean, ”Thirteen Ghosts,” yeah, you want to make a good movie, you want to make money, blah blah blah…. But ”Scooby-Doo” is a $700 million-a-year franchise. That’s the number I keep hearing. So I don’t want to screw it up.”