Tina Fey on ‘Mean Girls’ Then and Now

Tina Fey spent the summers of 2002 and 2003 hunched over an old desk in the mildewy back room of a Fire Island rental home. Fueled by coffee and Entenmann’s chocolate-covered doughnuts, Fey, at the time the head writer for “Saturday Night Live,” cracked the script that became “Mean Girls” on her laptop.

“She would old-school just sit and eat doughnuts and drink coffee, like a secretary from the ’50s or something,” said her husband, the composer Jeff Richmond. “Not glamorous but very conducive to creativity.”

In the two decades since, Fey has turned her first and only released screenplay into an empire. The original Paramount film, based on Rosalind Wiseman’s nonfiction book “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” earned $130 million during its 2004 theatrical run and helped make superstars of its cast, which included Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. In 2018, a musical stage adaptation with a book by Fey and music by Richmond, opened on Broadway. In June, that show will begin its West End run. And this week, a movie musical adapted from the past iterations, and written by Fey, arrives in theaters.

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

But beyond the commercial success of “Mean Girls,” Fey’s endlessly quotable script — “You can’t sit with us”; “The limit does not exist”; “I’m a cool mom”; “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen” — has embedded itself in our culture.

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

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