Tina Fey on ‘Mean Girls’ then and now | ET REALITY


Tina Fey spent the summers of 2002 and 2003 hunched over an old desk in the musty back room of a rental house on Fire Island. Fueled by Entenmann’s coffee and chocolate-covered donuts, Fey, at the time a head writer on “Saturday Night Live,” hammered out the script that became “Bad Girls” on your laptop.

“She, old school, would just sit around and eat donuts and drink coffee, like a secretary from the ’50s or something,” said her husband, songwriter Jeff Richmond. “It’s not glamorous, but it’s very conducive to creativity.”

In the two decades since, Fey has turned her first and only published screenplay into an empire. The original Paramount film, based on Rosalind Wiseman’s nonfiction book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” grossed $130 million during its 2004 theatrical run and helped turn its cast, which included Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams, into superstars. In 2018, a musical stage adaptation featuring a book by Fey and music by Richmond premiered on Broadway. In June, that show will begin its West End Race. And this week, a musical movie Adapted from past versions and written by Fey, it hits theaters.

(Last March, Wiseman criticized Fey and Paramount for not involving her in later versions. When asked about the criticism, Fey said she had no comment.)

But beyond the commercial success of “Mean Girls,” Fey’s script, which is quoted incessantly: ““You can’t sit with us.”; ““The limit does not exist”; ““I am a great mom.”; “Stop trying to make the ‘search’ happen.” – has become ingrained in our culture.

“It became part of my vernacular, every single sound bite,” said Samantha Jayne, who directed the new “Mean Girls” with her husband, Arturo Pérez Jr., and was a teenager when the 2004 original came out. “It was in my DNA.”

The 2024 film primarily follows the characters and story that audiences know by heart, with the addition of singing and dancing: new Cady (Angourie Rice) joins outsiders Janis (Auliʻi Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey) to put an end to the vicious. Regina George (Reneé Rapp) and the Plastics, until Cady also gives in to her hurtful ways. Fey and Tim Meadows reprise their original roles as Mrs. Norbury and Mr. Duvall, and there’s still Mathletes, a Spring Fling, and pink t-shirts on Wednesdays.

“High school is the only American experience we all have,” said Lorne Michaels, a producer of the new film along with Fey and others. He and Fey have worked on every version of “Mean Girls,” aside from one widely panorama TV movie from 2011. “It’s just something central and iconic.”

But high school and the nature of comedy itself have evolved, on and off screen. Now, rumors spread on social media. Viral videos are uploaded to TikTok. In the film, Coach Carr (Jon Hamm) no longer has sex with underage students, and North Shore High does not have racially defined cafeteria groups. With each version of “Mean Girls,” Fey has tried to keep her script sharp but relevant and acceptable to new generations and the zeitgeist.

“As long as he doesn’t accidentally make Monkey Jesus, you know, like when that lady tried to fix that painting, then we’re in good shape,” Fey said.

In a recent video interview, Fey talked about her 20-plus year journey with the material and what’s next. These are edited excerpts from our conversation.

What was your original vision of what a “Mean Girls” movie could be when you read that? 2002 article About Wiseman’s book and adolescent relational aggression?

First I imagined, Oh! It’s going to be about this teacher. It will be like “Stand and Deliver.” And the more I read the book, the more I researched it, and I realized that the girls were the most interesting part. The true stories about the way young women behaved were insidious, but also somewhat amusing in their cruel cunning.

How has your technical writing process changed over the years?

The rookie mistake I made was that I asked to adapt a nonfiction book that had no story. It had these surprising behaviors and anecdotes, but it had no characters or story. So I literally read syd fieldread “save the cat”, he had a million chips. And then the change to the stage, on a technical level, you’re taking something in three acts and you have to split it into two acts. You don’t have voice-over, you don’t have close-ups. Things have to play on the balcony. Now, with the musical movie, you can have everything in your arsenal: you can touch things just with people’s eyes. You can make people sing about their emotions. Jokes can be big and visual, or they can be Easter eggs.

As someone who was in high school in 2004, seeing the slogan “These aren’t your mother’s ‘Mean Girls’” on the musical movie trailer It was a shock.

That came from Paramount’s marketing department. I want to console millennials by telling them that it is just an expression in English. And also, when the movie came out, some people older than you also went to see it. Some people as young as 26 or 27 may have been to the movies with you.

Much of the comedy from the original “Mean Girls” has held up incredibly well. But there are some jokes and stories about race, sexuality and pedophilia that haven’t, and were modified for later versions. How do you approach updating your writing?

I was writing in the early 2000s based largely on my experience as a teenager in the late 80s. It’s no surprise to anyone that the jokes have changed. You don’t push like you used to. Even if your intention was always the same, it’s no longer about how you do it, which is fine. I firmly believe that new ways to make jokes can be found with less accidental shrapnel in the sides.

Insults are central to “Mean Girls” and the way they throw out these barbs.

If people really talked to each other like they did in 1990, everyone would go to the hospital. The people were really tough. People are still horrible, they’re just more likely to write it anonymously. I’d like to take, but not teach, a class in grad school about the ways people are as divisive and horrible as ever, but now express it in virtue.

There are specific word changes throughout the new script. Like in the burned book, Dawn Schweitzer is now called “horny shrimp” instead of “fat virgin.” What does choosing those terms mean?

I know even Regina would know what doesn’t work. She will find a way to inflict pain on people, but she won’t get into trouble. For example, there are a joke in the original movie when Janis climbs on the table and Regina says, “Oh my God, it’s his dream come true: diving into a bunch of girls.” It was mine and Sam Jayne’s feeling that Regina wouldn’t try that now because she knows the kids around her would be like, “That’s homophobic.” She would know that she shouldn’t be homophobic and, hopefully, she wouldn’t really do it. be homophobic.

I was waiting for Mrs. Norbury’s speech telling the girls to stop calling each other “sluts” and “whores,” and that didn’t happen. But I realized they didn’t call each other those words in this script anyway.

Some of it just needed to go faster to make room for the songs. That’s not necessarily a moral issue.

Generation Z has seen body positivity and body neutrality movements. When Regina gains weight in the musical film, the other students’ initial reaction is positive, but she still feels embarrassed. Why was it important for weight to remain an issue here?

Look at the famous people influencing Generation Z and we’re still talking about their bodies. We either attack other people for talking about it, or we praise people for being one size, or we wonder how they got to a different size. It felt like a line to discover. We still want to talk about how strange and complicated everything is for girls, while recognizing that these standards are not mandatory, but many people are still signing up to them.

Were there any cultural changes you saw when updating the script from the 2018 show to now?

If anything, these behaviors have gone far beyond young women. It’s in our policy. It’s in everything. People now like to dress up and be very virtuous about pointing out why you’re a problem, but it’s the same behavior. It’s still: “Don’t look at me. Look at these. I’m doing great. I may not have pretty hair, but she is fat.”

We learned so much from the (stage) show that there doesn’t have to be rigidity in the casting of these roles, in terms of how they look and how they identify. This story works in many interesting permutations. Anyone who has charisma is a good Regina. Anyone who looks like they’re about to fall apart can be a great Gretchen.

How do you stay in tune with what teenagers are doing today? Is it through her daughters, Alice, 18, and Penelope, 12?

I surveyed some young people I know, including some young people who live in my house. Things like, “Should the recorded book be a physical book or does it have to be a Snapchat or something?” They said, “No, don’t please us. It’s a book. Tell the story. We understand.”

Have you thought about the idea of ​​making a sequel that brings back the original cast to play their characters as adults?

I have a feeling Paramount would love it. I haven’t really thought much about it. To me, part of the reason the story is so high is because we’re all so young and the feelings are huge and the love is huge and the friendship is huge in some ways (which it’s not with) mothers. middle-aged. I love writing about middle-aged people, but I don’t know.

There was reports that you tried to get the four original lead actresses back to play small roles in this film. What would that have been like?

We will never know. They’re busy people, so it didn’t turn out well, but we tried and we all loved each other.

What’s the appeal of returning to this material rather than doing something different?

I have other things I would like to do. But I’m very grateful that this movie seemed to stick with people. When I look at it, I remember how hard I worked on it in the first place. I feel like bricks and mortar was the best possible work I was capable of at the time. It’s not perfect, but it retains water.

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