Secrets Behind The Hills Revealed

MTV's "The Hills" was more than just a reality show. It was a staple in the adolescent lives of millennials everywhere. Days when possibilities seemed endless for the carefree twenty-somethings, and the only worry was which BeBe dress to wear on a night out. The audience lived vicariously through the show's protagonist Lauren Conrad as she chose love over Paris, balanced her Teen Vogue internship, and saw her long-time friendship with Heidi Montag dissolve. We can still hear her shouting, "You know what you did!" bringing us back to the night that changed the course of "Hills" history, ushering in the show's new arc of "Speidi" vs. LC.

Now that the reality show timetables have reached their so-called statute of limitations, many cast members have spilled details about what was manufactured on the show. After years of fans questioning the validity of events, producers seemingly addressed the speculation. In the final scene of the series finale where cameras panned out on Brody Jenner to reveal the infamous Hollywood sign behind him was nothing more than a set backdrop. But it raised more questions than answers, as devoted fans invested much of their time in the cast. Whether it be rooting for them or anticipating their breakups, we've lived vicariously through them to the soundtrack of Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten." The release of "The Hills" rewatch podcast "Was It Real?" in 2022 has put the infamous show back in the spotlight, and we're breaking down all the behind-the-scenes secrets.

Lauren Conrad almost wasn't the leading lady

"The Hills" was narrated by Lauren Conrad for five seasons, often retelling events from the prior episode and teeing up what was to come. But with The Little Market founder being such an integral part of the "Laguna Beach" spinoff series for years, it's hard to imagine anyone else being the show's leading lady. But the decision to follow Conrad's journey to the Hollywood Hills as an aspiring fashion designer wasn't always set in stone. It took a bit of convincing on the part of series creator Adam DiVello. 

"A lot of people at MTV said, 'Wouldn't you want to follow Kristin? Wouldn't you want to follow Stephen? Are you sure you want to follow Lauren up to the hills?'" he said on the Bachelor Party podcast. "Because they didn't know she was going to be the most outspoken — she certainly wasn't the most brazen character on Laguna Beach, but she was the one you connected with the most." 

DiVello certainly had a knack for knowing the kind of character Conrad would grow into, as she was adored by fans for being the most grounded.  The series creator even asked Conrad's parents for permission, even though the Laguna Beach native was over 18 years old at the time. "Just out of respect I did it with [her parents] because we had been working together for so many years," DiVello said.

Brody Jenner's fake relationships

Everyone's favorite "Hills" heartthrob was non-other than Malibu native Brody Jenner. The brunette hunk's easy-going confidence and a laidback personality made him the life of the party. While it seemed he was always dating beautiful women, Jenner revealed that the relationships fans saw him entangled in on the show was really nothing more than a storyline. Fans rooted for his on-again-off-again romance with Lauren Conrad, and the producers made that happen.

"We never actually dated," Jenner told Entertainment Weekly. "In the beginning we had a little kind of chemistry and we hung out, and I think it played pretty well on screen. I think that they, the producers, really wanted us to keep that going, even though we just wanted to be friends." Conrad admitted she felt pressure to have an on-screen boyfriend and went with it. "It always just felt forced," she confessed via New York Daily News. "I just sort of let them do whatever they wanted," she added.

As for the series' bad girl, Kristin Cavallari, she also admitted to never dating Jenner on the show — even though the cameras made it seem otherwise. "I dated Brody when I was 18, right after Laguna Beach, actually, and that's it," Cavallari said on an episode of Bethenny (via E News). "And then on the show, on The Hills, they had us 'dating' for a few episodes."

Some friendships were actually genuine

Not all of the relationships on the show were fake. Some friendships portrayed on the were genuine, according to accounts by Lauren Conrad herself. Though she decided to "forgive and forget" her frenemy Heidi Montag, the pair used to be real friends before their bitter feud split them apart. Conrad made friends with Montag during their brief stint at San Fransisco's Academy of Art University. "She just walked up to me in class, said hello, and offered to share a cab home. We immediately became friends," she told Us Weekly.

The same goes for Conrad's friendship with Whitney Port, who worked alongside her at their Teen Vogue internship. "The shot of us waiting to go in for our interviews was actually when we met. I thought, 'Oh, if I had to pick one of us, I would pick her!'" she said. Port was a fan of "Laguna Beach" and had no idea her future friend was the center of the show until that faetful day.

Audrina Patridge's introduction to the show was less than organic, however. Working as a model, she recalls being pegged as a potential cast member after producers noticed her living in the same apartment complex as Conrad and Montag. "I wasn't allowed to go to the pool for two weeks because they wanted us to meet on camera. I had to keep dodging the pool and lobby!" she told Us Weekly.

Cast members made bank

The lavish lifestyle of fancy clubs, nice cars, and spacious apartments in one of the most sought-after zip codes in the United States couldn't have been possible without help from MTV. According to a Daily Beast article published in 2009 during Season 5, being a cast member meant a six-figure paycheck. Lauren Conrad topped the list of salaries, earning as much as $125,000 per episode in a contract that required no other cast member could make as much. Audrina Patridge, Lauren "Lo" Bosworth, and Heidi Montag came in at close seconds, bringing in $100,000 per episode. Kristin Cavallari, the show's notorious bad girl, made $90,000 per episode, Spencer Pratt made $65,000, and Brody Jenner rounded out at $45,000 per show. 

But steep salaries came at a time when the show's ratings afforded a bigger budget. It wasn't always the case. Patridge worked full-time and borrowed her parents' money to pay rent during Season 1. "I had to talk to the producers and tell them, 'I'm either going to have to stop or you guys have to help me out,'" Patridge told Us Weekly

For Cavallari, stirring up trouble came easy, and she rode her gravy train all the way through the Hollywood Hills. "The money was the reason I did it. Producers gave me an offer I couldn't refuse," she told the magazine. "I'm glad I went back to [reality TV] because this time I looked at it strictly as a job, and I knew the character they wanted me to play."

Lauren Conrad refused to film with Speidi

Usher in one of reality tv's greatest romances of all time: "Speidi." A duo so enamored by fame and money that it ultimately became the death of them (their fortune squandered on wine and a floundering crystal business). Spencer Pratt became a regular cast member by Season 3, but his tumultuous relationship with then-girlfriend Heidi Montag and his playboy persona drove a wedge between Montag's friendship with Lauren Conrad. No fan can forget when Pratt spread rumors about an alleged sex tape between Conrad and her then ex-boyfriend Jason Wahler.

The famous scene where Montag confronts her former friend and hears those famous five words, "You know what you did!" was a gold mine for ratings but traumatic for Conrad at the time. "I definitely felt set up," Conrad admitted to former show producer Sophia Rossi during a tenth-anniversary special for the show (via Washington Post.) "I was so hurt by these people I didn't want to be in the same room as them." 

The Little Market founder told production in previously unreleased footage, "It's not okay that they let him up here." Adding "It's not f**ing funny when you guys do that. I'm gonna go home now. I don't want to film in the same vicinity as them." Pratt ultimately owned up to spreading the rumor, telling Complex, "She tried to destroy us. If you want to throw missiles, I'm throwing a nuke. This is how I operate."

Speidi's public feud with Stephanie Pratt

It's been the ultimate sibling rivalry for Spencer Pratt and his sister Stephanie. The two had a tumultuous relationship on the show, with Spencer constantly condemning his sister's friendship with Conrad and life choices. The two reappeared for "The Hills: New Beginnings," a revival series that showcased former cast members years later. But ahead of the premiere, Stephanie revealed she wasn't on speaking terms with her brother. 

"The behavior that I've seen ... I'm done. This is why I moved to London," she explained on the HillsCast podcast (via Us Weekly). "They are the most toxic people I've ever met. They are Bonnie and Clyde till they die. So if they say, 'The sky is black,' all of us are morons for saying, 'It's blue.' Stephanie also revealed that her brother didn't even let his sister know about the birth of his first child with Heidi Montag. "I was in London, it was my birthday, and I saw it on the Daily Mail," she said. 

Reality television drew a wedge between not just Spencer and his sister but his mother as well. "My mom's a Lauren supporter," he told Complex in 2016. Spencer responded to his sister's public allegations on the Juicy Scoop podcast via Buzzfeed News, saying, "Truth is we were never best friends and chatty."

Scenes were reshot

There's always been a debate over the show's validity – especially with the series finale ending on a panned-out view of a Hollywood backlot. Dramatic music and editing can play up emotions and storylines, blurring the line between what is real and what production wants us to believe. Refinery29 spoke to creator Adam DiVello after the series ended to clear the air on all the speculation. "We've been very open about the fact that we've reshot scenes that we missed," he said. "[If] stuff happens off camera, or stuff happens on the weekends, or when we weren't shooting, we would go back and get it on camera." 

He revealed that many sit-downs and brunch dates after nights out were orchestrated by production so that they could capture more of the story and cast reactions on camera. "A lot of holding on Lauren's face for reactions, because she is so expressive with how she reacted to things and how she responded to things. We started realizing that holding [the camera] on her and certain music cues could help enhance moments and stuff like that," said executive producer Tony DiSanto. However, not everybody is happy with their portrayal. "I think the whole show is unfairly edited! I call for a redo, please!" Heidi Montag told Buzzfeed News

Production wanted Lauren to go to Paris

Lauren Conrad will forever be known as "the girl who didn't go to Paris," thanks to passing on a Vogue internship in favor of a summer with her then-boyfriend Jason Wahler. Vogue's creative director at the time, Lisa Love, said the famous line that went down in reality tv history. The former reality star chose love over fashion in the Season 1 finale, much to the dismay of her former boss and the show's production team. 

"We all thought we were [going to] go to Paris and shoot this gigantic ball and everything," Adam DiVello said on the Bachelor Party podcast. "When she made the decision of not going it made for a great story." DiVello then discussed the infamous bait and switch, where Whitney Port showed up at the airport to take the flight to Paris instead.

As with many storylines in the show, it's not always what it seems. Port revealed to Vogue that no one went to Paris after all. The dramatic scene showed Port curbside at LAX, only to have her drive home right after filming. "That was so ridiculous," she continued, "It wasn't an ideal situation, but I thought, okay, this is good for me because I really was pursuing a career in fashion. I thought it showed that I was down and determined to do this."

Justin Bobby did not want to be involved in the show

Everyone's favorite bad boy Justin Brescia, better known as "Justin Bobby" to fans, almost didn't make it onto our tv screens. The motorcycle-riding heartbreaker, famously linked to Audrina Patridge in an on-again-off-again romance that always kept viewers guessing. His mysterious personality and famous euphemisms like "truth and time tell all" made him an unforgettable cast member.

"With Justin, he was so unwilling to shoot. It was very hard. He would give us so little of his time, and I think that there aren't any shoots we did with Justin Bobby that didn't make it to air. I think every single scene we shot with him is on television," executive producer Sean Travis told Refinery29. Brescia told Us Weekly that he was working as a hairdresser when producers discovered him, making him an offer he couldn't refuse in order to get him to film. "It came down to them going, 'Whatever you make, we'll triple it.' Audrina and I were friends. [The relationship] was more for the show," he said. 

As for how Brescia got his famous nickname "Justin Bobby," it was all thanks to cast member Lo Bosworth. Series creator Adam DiVello discussed it on the Bachelor Party podcast, recalling that Bosworth cemented the nickname after Brescia introduced himself to her with both names. DiVello says Bosworth told Brescia, "We're going to call you 'Justin Bobby,'" and the name stuck. "That night we had a nickname for a new character that people still talk about to this day."

Lauren Conrad was locked in a basement

Lauren Conrad lived some pretty shocking moments during her time on "The Hills," but no one could predict that the former reality star was once locked in a basement. Fans remember the iconic scene where Conrad decided to go to Heidi Montag's wedding to Spencer Pratt in the Season 5 finale — her final episode on the show.

But Speidi's wedding was delayed due to a power outage at the church, and production refused to let Conrad out without getting the perfect shots. "The producers literally locked me in the basement with two security guards and wouldn't let me leave! I was throwing a fit!" the reality star told Us Weekly. The reasoning? Producers had ushered in Kristin Cavallari as the new leading lady and wanted the two to see each other organically. "We had Lauren in one room, Kristin in another. We didn't want Lauren to see Kristin until we were on camera. She might have felt locked in, but she was not," Adam DiVello said.

But Conrad eventually did sit through her frenemy's wedding before leaving the show behind for good. "I think it was two hours later when the wedding actually took place," she explained. When Kristin showed up, I thought, Oh, this makes sense. This is sort of the passing of the baton."

Kristin Cavallari's alleged drug problem

Kristin Cavallari is not one to hold back. The "Very Cavallari" star came forward after the show wrapped to give fans the scoop on what really went down during some intense scenes. She was less than thrilled when she revealed to Us Weekly that it was made to look like she struggled with drug abuse during an episode of the series. 

"One of the producers bribed Lo, Audrina, and Stephanie and promised them he would buy them presents if they called me out on camera for doing drugs. Then Lo said, "Can I have a Birkin bag?" And he said yes," Cavallari recalled. "I was told it wasn't going to be a storyline, and sure enough, it was the first episode [of season 6]." It wasn't the first time the mother of three said producers manipulated her storyline. 

She told Insider that when she was filming "Laguna Beach," she was pressured to go into a hotel room to say goodbye to her then-boyfriend Stephen Colletti after senior prom. "I didn't want my dad knowing that we got a hotel room and then at the end of the night, I was like, 'I'm not going in there and saying goodbye to Steven because I don't want my dad knowing.' And MTV was like, 'Just go in,'" she admitted. Despite her beef with production, Cavallari returned to the show.

There was a lot of debate over how to end the series

In the series finale, Brody Jenner says goodbye to Kristin Cavallari before the camera pans out on him standing in front of a Hollywood set, winking to the audience about what was real what wasn't. Years after the series wrapped, MTV released an alternate ending to the show that fans had never known existed. In the other, Jenner returns to his apartment after saying goodbye to Cavallari to find Lauren Conrad sitting on his couch. Jenner tells Conrad he was saying goodbye to a friend, and she replies cheekily, "It's hard to say goodbye," before breaking out into a giant grin.

But fans may be surprised to realize that show creator Adam DiVello had no idea which ending the network would choose. So he submitted both options, hoping that the ending with Conrad would air. "I felt like it needed Lauren. I remember going back to MTV and even reaching out to Lauren and just saying, 'Is there any way we can make that happen?' It kind of seamlessly fit with adding Brody at the end," DiVello told Entertainment Weekly. "It was [Lauren's] story that I started the show with and followed her with Laguna Beach. I always wanted to end it on her face and her being happy."

Speidi spent their reality tv fortune

Speidi seemed to have it all at one point. Portrayed as the villains on "The Hills," they used fame and fortune to their advantage, making millions of dollars. For six seasons, they caused trouble, broke friendships, and alienated themselves as the couple that managed to stay together despite all the public backlash they received over the years. Though the pair is still together at the time of writing, their net worth will surprise you.

As of 2022, the couple is worth around $300,000 per Celebrity Net Worth, which is shocking compared to the six-figure salaries they were bringing in per episode when the show was airing. However, with the infamous duo blowing $500,000 on crystals, $2.5 million on Montag's flopped music career, and $200,000 on her plastic surgeries (undergoing 10 in one day), the money went as fast as it came. 

The stars revealed that their fortune, worth at one point an estimated $10 million dollars, was completely squandered. "We were immature and we got caught up," Pratt told InTouch Weekly. "Every time we'd go out to eat, we'd order $4,000 bottles of wine. Heidi was going to the mall and dropping $20,000 to $30,000 a day. We thought we were Jay Z and Beyoncé." The couple even admitted to The Daily Beast being so desperate for a check that they faked a divorce. As of 2017, the couple was living rent-free in Pratt's parents' Santa Barbara beach house.

Heidi Montag's plastic surgeries divided her family

While it's no surprise that plastic surgery reigns supreme in Hollywood, Heidi Montag's decision to undergo ten procedures in one day shocked "Hills" viewers. Montag admitted to Vice that the pressure of social media and negative comments caused her to feel insecure about herself. A doctor approached the former reality star and offered to give her the procedures totaling around $300,000. Montag saw it as a way to be more confident. 

Speidi recalled needing to step up their game as ratings for the show were falling due to the rise of "Jersey Shore," thinking that the surgery would drive ratings. "And at this point, we were all for plot, so '$300,000 free?'" Spencer Pratt said. But the free surgeries, which included breast augmentation, chin reduction, and brow lift, turned out to be more than Montag's body could handle. She told Paper Magazine that her heart stopped and she had to be placed under 24/7 nurse care.

The surgeries also drove a wedge between Montag and her mother, with the couple admitting to Vice that MTV was bribing Montag's mother to film a reaction about her daughter's surgeries for the show. The "Blackout" singer begged her mom not to film, but she was desperate and in debt with her Colorado restaurant. "[MTV was] writing $30,000 checks to a broke lady, with all due respect," Spencer told Vice. Montag told the magazine that her mother was fed lines, telling her daughter she preferred how she looked before surgery to satisfy production.