The writer behind the source material for Mean Girls is considering taking legal action against Tina Fey and Paramount over what she calls “unpaid dues” for the ongoing success of the franchise.
Rosalind Wiseman — author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, the basis for the cult-classic 2004 teen comedy — signed a deal to sell her film rights in 2002 for $400,000. While she relinquished all rights to original motion pictures and derivative works including musicals and TV shows, Wiseman’s contract included net profits, residual gains dependent on how the movie fares at the box office. However, she claims its studio has insisted that it has made no net profits, instead accruing so many extra costs that it has no revenue to share with her.
Wiseman is not convinced and is requesting more compensation since her work “has changed our culture and changed the zeitgeist,” she told the New York Post in a story published Saturday. “Yes, I had a terrible contract, but the movie has made so much money, and they keep recycling my work over and over again, so to not even consider me.”
She said the “hypocrisy is too much,” adding, “Over the years Tina’s spoken so eloquently about women supporting other women, but it’s gotten increasingly clear to me that, in my own personal experience, that’s not going to be the experience.”
CBS via Getty Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, and Rachel McAdams in ‘Mean Girls’
She chose Fey’s over multiple other film offers because “it was very much a ‘we’re doing this together’ kind of experience,” Wiseman said.
Representatives for Fey and Paramount did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.
Starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert, Mean Girls was a box-office hit and grossed $130 million worldwide, later spawning a 2017 Broadway musical. Wiseman claimed that a theater producer approached her decades ago about adapting her book into a musical, but Paramount and Fey denied the request and prevented her from getting paid, citing ownership rights.
“What’s hard is that they used my name in the Playbill,” Wiseman said. “And Tina, in her interviews, said I was the inspiration and the source, but there was no payment.”
Everett Collection Tim Meadows and Tina Fey in ‘Mean Girls’
Wiseman’s lawyers want to audit Paramount’s books over its claims of no net profits. “I suspect most people would be shocked at how shabbily Rosalind Wiseman has been treated,” her attorney Ryan Keech told the Post. “It is nothing short of shameful for a company with the resources of Paramount to go to the lengths to which it has gone to deny Ms. Wiseman what she is fairly entitled to for having created what has become one of the most iconic entertainment franchises of the last 25 years.”
“My client is reviewing all of her options, up to and including litigation,” Reech told EW when asked for further comment Sunday.
Fey and the producers of the Broadway show announced a movie adaptation of the musical in 2020. Both she and Tim Meadows are set to reprise their roles. Wiseman said Fey didn’t contact her about the project.
“For a lot of reasons I didn’t come forward for a while, and one of the reasons [is] because I was so focused on me not whining or trying to trash Tina,” she said. However, she added, “I believe strongly when you’re in a position of power and privilege that you have a responsibility to share that to create equity.”
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