SNL's Tina Fey went ga-ga for "Girls" story
LOS ANGELES--Tina Fey says she knew that taking a sociological study of American high-school girls and turning it into a film comedy was filled with risks. Could the gossip, the pettiness, and the rivalries come across as both real and funny? In a Los Angeles hotel room, the writer of Mean Girls says that when she first read Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 book Queen Bees & Wannabes, she immediately optioned it, but then sat back and questioned her decision. "I bought the book and then, after all the flourish and excitement of the deal was over, I realized that we were going to have to adapt this textbook and make it into a movie. I thought, 'Oh, right, there is no story here.' So then I just thought the best way into it would be to illustrate the characters and give them a strong factor of relatability for the audience."
Mean Girls, which opens in Vancouver on Friday (April 30), stars Lindsay Lohan as a home-schooled student who arrives, at 16, for her first day of classes at North Shore high and realizes that to survive she is going to have to cultivate some kind of relationship with the three girls who appear to be in charge. Fey, who is best known as a star of Saturday Night Live--where she is also head writer--says that after she had optioned the book she brought in the show's producer, Lorne Michaels, and asked him to be the liaison between the studio, Paramount Pictures, and the film.
"Lorne was a great buffer between me and the studio because the studio trusts him and I trust him. He said, 'If there is a thing about the story that concerns them, fine, but if it's comedy then we will go ahead and just do it.' The first person we talked to at the studio has a 13-year-old daughter, so he said, 'Yeah I want to make this movie.' "
Fey wasn't too concerned about getting her ideas shot down. She says that after writing jokes for seven years on SNL, she has developed a thick skin. "I think you master rejection at SNL and you master humiliation, because if you have a piece at read-through, which is this crowded room full of actors and writers and designers and NBC executives, and you really hit the dirt hard, it is the worst feeling possible. Once you have survived that 10 or 20 times, then you are impervious.
"You learn to choose your battles. I think that in my seven years there I have developed a more laissez-faire attitude. I think that the way of not going crazy there is to let go of things when it is time to let go of them. I have also learned that if I am hiring writers, I have to make sure that they are a personality match. Lorne says it is like a college dorm. You have to feel that if you pass them [the other writers] at 3 in the morning in the hall, you are happy to see them."