The untold truth of Mean Girls
If you’re between the ages of 10 and 80 you’ve probably seen Mean Girls at least once in your life. It’s technically a high school movie, but it has something for everyone. There’s high school drama, sure, but there’s also romance, betrayal, and revenge. At its core, the story is one of friendship and forgiveness, told with a lot of humor.
Released in 2004, fans of Mean Girls have had well over a decade to watch the film over and over again (yes, it’s just that fetch). But how many people know the behind-the-scenes story of one of the world’s most iconic and beloved films? Sure, you can quote the lines, but how much do you really know about the movie? From casting switcheroos to the truth about Glen Coco, we’ve got you covered with the 411. Here’s the real truth of Mean Girls that you won’t find in any burn book.
There's a mini SNL reunion in the film
Fans of sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live no doubt noticed that SNL alums Amy Poehler, Tim Meadows, Ana Gasteyer, and Tina Fey made appearances in Mean Girls. Poehler played Regina’s mom, Meadows played the school principal, Gasteyer played Cady’s mom, and Fey played math teacher Ms. Norbury. SNL creator Lorne Michaels produced the film, which was written by Fey. She was always going to co-star in the movie, but the other casting choices required a bit of negotiation. “It was frankly discouraged by Paramount,” director Mark Waters told Entertainment Weekly. “Paramount didn’t want this movie to be branded as an SNL movie.”
Waters knew that having so many SNL cast members in the film would make some epic comedy, so he went to bat for them. “It required some sweet talking on my part with Paramount to convince them it was the right idea,” said Waters. Thankfully, Paramount eventually came on board, or Mean Girls would have been a much different film.
The character of Janis Ian was named after the singer Janis Ian
In the film, Janis Ian is the epitome of the rebel outcast. Her only real friend is Damian, she dresses in a distinct style that’s all her own, and everyone thinks she’s a lesbian. Her character is actually based on a real person, a singer/songwriter also named Janis Ian whose song, “At Seventeen,” is played in the background in the movie.
The song is based on the real-life Janis Ian’s high school experience, an experience which has a lot in common with the Janis Ian in the movie. “This song was written about a time in my life when I was really weird-looking, and there were all these girls I was going to school with who were really terrific-looking, they were like cheerleaders and very tall, and long blonde hair,” said Janis Ian before a performance of “At Seventeen.“
There’s another connection between Janis Ian and Mean Girls. Remember how many people, including its writer Tina Fey, were also involved with Saturday Night Live? Well Janis Ian was the show’s first ever musical guest when it debuted in 1975.
In the original script, "Regina George cussed like a sailor"
The film is a classic teen movie (although it’s also enjoyed by adults) but it was very nearly rated R. The original script had a lot more swearing in it. “It was a balls-out R-rated movie,” Waters told Entertainment Weekly. “Regina George cussed like a sailor. She had more F-bombs than Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. And I thought, ‘This is incredibly bold and daring, but how is anybody going to be able to make this?'”
The rap that mathlete Kevin G performs was also originally much racier, with some of the more obscene lines cut from the film. Even with everything that was deleted, Waters said they got the PG-13 rating “by the skin of our teeth.” The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) pressured the filmmakers to cut a line that referenced a “wide-set vagina,” but were persuaded to keep it in the movie. “We made a whole stink about them being sexist because Anchorman had Will Ferrell walking around with an erection,” said Waters. “Like, you really think a teenage girl speaking about her anatomy [is the problem]?”
Most of the film's stars wanted different roles at first
Mean Girls was almost a completely different film. For starters, it was originally called Homeschooled. The casting was also going to be totally different. Lindsay Lohan, who played Cady, had actually wanted to be Regina. That part ended up going to Rachel McAdams, who had originally auditioned for Cady but was told that, being in her mid-20s, she was too old to pull off being a young and innocent ingenue. Amanda Seyfried, who was eventually cast as Karen, also auditioned for the part of Regina.
Lacey Chabert, for her part, didn’t feel like she was right as the character of Gretchen at all. “The character description physically was very different from me,” she told Entertainment Weekly. It’s hard to imagine how different the film would have been had Lohan, McAdams, and Seyfried ended up in different roles, and if Chabert hadn’t been in it at all!
Amy Poehler wasn't just a "cool mom," she was also a really young one
Who can forget Amy Poehler as Regina’s mom? In the movie, she plays a middle-aged parent desperately trying to recapture her youth who seeks the approval of her daughter and her daughter’s friends. In real life, however, Poehler is only seven years older than the actress who played Regina, Rachel McAdams. Mean Girls was released on April 30, 2004, making Poehler just 32 when it hit theaters. McAdams was 25.
In fact, out of the clique known as The Plastics, Lindsay Lohan, at 17, was the only one who was actually high school aged. Amanda Seyfried was 19, and Lacey Chabert turned 21 during filming. Other pivotal characters were also played by actors who were quite a bit older than they were. Jonathan Bennett, who played Aaron Samuels, was 22; Lizzy Caplan, who played Janis Ian, was 21; and Daniel Franzese, who played Damian, was 25.
What's the deal with Glen Coco?
The line “You go Glen Coco” is one of the film’s many memorable quotes, but most people don’t actually know who Glen Coco is. The character was named after Tina Fey’s brother’s friend, but he doesn’t actually have any lines in the movie. He was played by actor David Reale, who wasn’t even credited for the role. Reale had auditioned for Mean Girls, but wasn’t cast. That didn’t stop him from wandering on set in search of free food, however. “I was a 19-year-old actor with no money so eating was daily mission,” he told Dazed.
The director recognized him from his audition and decided to put him in a scene. While he made it into the movie, his time on set wasn’t as exciting as it sounds. “Tina Fey wrote the line, Daniel Franzese spoke the line… I just sat in a chair and tried not to stare at Lindsay Lohan,” he said.
The truth about October 3rd
Any Mean Girls fan worth their salt knows that October 3rd is the unofficial Mean Girls day. In the movie, Aaron asks Cady what day it is and she answers “It’s October 3rd,” which seems like a completely insignificant date… until you dig a little deeper.
One of the film’s most memorable scenes is the one where Gretchen, giving a presentation on Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, has a meltdown, yelling “We should totally just stab Caesar!” This is a turning point in the movie where Gretchen falls into the trap laid out by Cady, Janis, and Damian to overthrow Regina as the most popular girl in school. Regina is clearly being compared to Caesar, the ruler of Rome, who was assassinated by a group of men including Roman official Gaius Cassius Longinus. Cassius was one of the ringleaders in the plot to assassinate Caesar and plays a prominent role in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. In the play, he dies in the Battle of Philippi on what he claims is his birthday: October 3rd.
The book it's based on is nonfiction
Tina Fey based Mean Girls off a self-help book called Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman. Mean Girls wasn’t the first offer to turn her book into a film. A lot of people were interested in adapting the popular book, but Wiseman rejected all of them, and almost turned down Fey, too. “People had called about turning it into a movie or a TV show, and I had no problem turning them down, because it was always something cheesy,” Wiseman told The New York Times.
“‘They were trying to make it about me — ‘You’re so inspirational!’ Then Tina called. I didn’t know who she was. … But I knew it was important to her that it was not going to be stupid.” Fey assured Wiseman that she would do her book justice, and the rest is history. “Rosalind wanted the movie to be positive, and I remember promising her that that was the goal — to have a positive core,” she said.
Regina's cattiness was partially inspired by Tina Fey's mom
Regina is the leader of The Plastics, so it makes sense that she’s the meanest one of all (at least until Cady comes on the scene). It turns out that Tina Fey drew from inspiration pretty close to home when writing Regina’s character. Remember the scene where she compliments a girl’s skirt and then makes fun of it as soon as she walks away? That’s something that Fey’s mother actually does.
“My mom has this habit that if she sees a lady in a really ugly hat or a glittery sweatshirt, she’ll go ‘I love your shirt’ and I’ll say ‘Mom, that’s really mean,'” she told Blackfilm.com. “And she’ll say ‘clearly she wanted someone to notice that shirt. She picked it out. It has a huge Teddy Bear on it.'” Some of the inspiration for The Plastics came from Fey herself. “I was the Mean Girl, I admit it openly,” she told Net-A-Porter.
Jonathan Bennett (aka Aaron Samuels) wrote a Mean Girls cookbook
Aaron Samuels might be lousy at math, but it turns out that he can write. At least Jonathan Bennett, the actor who played him, can. The actor collaborated with chef Nikki Martin to write The Burn Cookbook which is chock full of recipes like Fetch-uccine Alfredo and Just Stab Caesar Salad for the Mean Girls lover. Bennett hopes that the cookbook will bring joy to people and brighten up their lives.
“There’s so much crap in the world, and there’s so much stuff going on that is so negative and bad, and Mean Girls is such a great movie because it brought awareness to dividing people,” the actor told Hollywood Life. “It brought awareness to how in high school, you divide people by standing apart from each other, but Mean Girls taught us a great lesson. And so this book is meant to bring people together instead of putting them apart. And what better way to bring people together than over food?” We agree!
The Broadway adaptation was nominated for 12 Tony Awards
Mean Girls is pretty perfect as is, but a lot of people seem to think that it’s just as good (or better!) with some killer song and dance routines. We already know that The Plastics have some moves, thanks to their “Jingle Bell Rock” routine, so it’s only natural that the film made the leap to Broadway in 2018. The show racked up an impressive 12 Tony nominations, proving that Mean Girls, with or without music, is timeless.
Tina Fey helped the show make the transition, writing the book for the musical and updating it for a modern audience. “No spoilers, but we knew we had to kinda pull the show into 2018 and social media is certainly a part of that,” Fey told New York Theatre Guide. “For example, when something goes wrong for our characters at the talent show, maybe it gets broadcast across several social media platforms. …It was quite fun and like a breath of fresh air to kind of pull those characters into the present and to talk about things kids have to deal with.”
Tina Fey regrets not doing a sequel
While there’s a Mean Girls 2, it isn’t a true sequel to the original and has a totally different cast. The 2011 film wasn’t very well received, and holds a measly 31 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Sadly, this is the closest we’re probably going to get to a Mean Girls sequel, at least for the foreseeable future, and it’s something that Tina Fey is also bummed about. “At the time we did want to start the conversation about the sequel, and for whatever reason I was like, ‘No!!! We shouldn’t do that!'” she told Entertainment Weekly. “Now I look back and I’m like, ‘Why?’ But now, no — it’s too late now.”
While Lindsay Lohan has said she’d love to do another Mean Girls movie, Fey has joked that they wouldn’t be able to afford a sequel today. The original Mean Girls was filmed before the stars had become the mega-famous celebs they are today. “Their quotes are all too high now,” Fey told ET. “They’re, like, Oscar nominees and stuff.”
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