One sure sign of a film’s legacy: Does it inspire its own holiday?
If you happened to be anywhere near the Internet on Oct. 3, you probably noticed an outpouring of nostalgia for 2004’s Mean Girls. The reason? A throwaway line uttered by Lindsay Lohan‘s Cady: “It’s October 3rd.”
That may seem a pretty slim thread to hang an entire day on, but it’s indicative of the fervent fan base for this new-classic teen comedy. Written by Tina Fey and directed by Mark Waters (Vampire Academy), Mean Girls stars Lohan as a high school student at a new school who infiltrates the Plastics, a group of nasty popular girls led by queen bee Regina (Rachel McAdams) and her underlings: insecure Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and dumb-as-a-stump Karen (Amanda Seyfried). The film became a surprise sleeper hit, earning $129 million worldwide and gaining an even bigger following on DVD. In the decade since, Mean Girls has joined Clueless and Sixteen Candles in the teen-comedy canon.
For its 10th anniversary, EW invited the film’s female leads to our own little pep rally, where they talked about their memories, behind-the-scenes magic, and what they think their characters would be doing now.
In 2002, Fey was writing for and starring on Saturday Night Live when she discovered author Rosalind Wiseman and her nonfiction book Queen Bees & Wannabes, about teen-girl behavior. She thought it would be a natural for a comedic film and mentioned it to her boss, Lorne Michaels, who eventually became an executive producer.
TINA FEY (Ms. Norbury): When I first pitched it to Lorne, I was thinking I’d like to write a movie about what they call “relational aggression” among girls. He was like, “Okay, but could they also still have cool cars and cool clothes?” And I was like, “Oh, for sure!”
Fey planned to star as teacher Ms. Norbury. But finding the right actresses to play the titular mean girls proved to be more difficult.
LINDSAY LOHAN (Cady Heron): I had finished Freaky Friday with Mark Waters not long before. I had gone to Toronto and I was doing Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Mark came out to scout locations for Mean Girls and came to see me at my hotel and said, “Do you wanna do this movie?” I wanted to play Regina. I had just played—in Confessions and Freaky—not the cool girl in school. I was still 17 years old and I wanted to be the cool girl on set. So I had a war with him, and he goes, “No, Cady is the heroine, and that’s who you are.” Then I sat in all the auditions. Amanda auditioned to play Regina as well. It ended up being Rachel, and she’s wonderful.
RACHEL McADAMS (Regina George): Originally, I auditioned for Cady. Everyone was flipped around a little bit. I loved Regina—she seemed so deliciously wicked and borderline evil. I was quite a bit older at the time—I was, like, 24 or 25. Mark said, “I see Cady a little bit younger, but I think it makes sense if Regina kind of grew up a little too fast.”
FEY: At some point I was like, “Oh, should Lindsay be Regina?” And then Mark and Lorne had the good sense to say, “No, she gets to turn into Regina.” You work backward from that and you cast her as Cady, knowing she could get to that point of being Regina, but you let her be the innocent side, too.
LACEY CHABERT (Gretchen Wieners): I thought I was really wrong for Gretchen. The character description physically was very different from me. [She] was supposed to be really gangly. I loved how insecure she was. For me, the comedy came in her trying so desperately to please everyone and fit in and having no clue of her own identity.
AMANDA SEYFRIED (Karen Smith):Mark Waters was like, “You have something I want. Let’s see if you work for Karen.” He was so amazing. He saw comedic timing I didn’t see, and thank God for that. You only get so many breaks in your life. I just wanted to be in the movie. To be asked to play Karen, I was like, “Great! Whatever!”
The film was shot in 2003, with Toronto standing in for Evanston, Ill. The cast was filled out by Lizzy Caplan as surly Janis Ian, Daniel Franzese as sassy sidekick Damian Leigh, Jonathan Bennett as dreamboat Aaron Samuels, Amy Poehler as Regina’s inappropriate mother, and Tim Meadows as the school’s frustrated principal. Mean Girls was the first major movie for some of them, leading to a lot of on-set bonding.
FEY: We all stayed in the same hotel. The fire alarm would go off pretty much every night at some point—it was just a flaw of the hotel. At the time I was coming back and forth from SNL a lot from New York. I don’t remember if I was weird about flying or if it was the timing, but sometimes I would go do SNL, then I would get in a Winnebago at two in the morning and be driven to Toronto. It’s so stupid.
SEYFRIED: I had just graduated high school! It was terrifying. I don’t know what I would have done without Lacey Chabert. She was my angel. She took me in, and we’d hang out in her trailer and listen to Dido.
CHABERT: Amanda and I became very close very quickly. It was a very special time. I turned 21 while we were filming in the mall. The crew gave me a cake, and the entire mall sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I made this huge feast for Canadian Thanksgiving and invited everyone over.
SEYFRIED: Lacey taught me how to make pecan pie. She made my experience so magical and so safe for me.
FEY: I remember 17-year-old Lindsay was on a mission to find pink Uggs. That was, like, what she was working on. And there was one day where she tried to explain to Amy and me her beef with Hilary Duff, but we couldn’t crack it. But we were pretending we could follow it.
LOHAN: I had been online trying to get pink Uggs because I had a pink pleated skirt in the scene where I fall into the garbage can. I was like, “I need pink Uggs!” I mean, I was rhinestoning my phone at the time with Swarovski crystals. [Laughs] So it was somewhat Method.
SEYFRIED: One of my favorite scenes was when the little Chihuahua is biting the nipples off Amy Poehler. It was so fun.
McADAMS: They, like, pinned a piece of a cocktail wiener into her bra. I thought this dog was going to tear her apart. It was very effective. She was such a pro through it. She’s trying to do her lines and being so professional, and this dog is chomping on her fake boob. I’ll never forget that.
Mean Girls opened on April 30, 2004, and became a word-of-mouth phenom. It’s one of the most widely quoted movies of recent years.
FEY: 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!” Now I look back and I’m like, “Why?” But now, no—it’s too late now.
McADAMS: I was staying at a bed-and-breakfast recently in the-middle-of-nowhere Ireland. And one of the owners’ granddaughters came up to me, and she gave me a piece of pink paper and she goes, “Can you write down just a few of your favorite Mean Girls quotes?” It was so sweet. I couldn’t think of any of them! It’s been 10 years! So I said, “Well, what are your favorites?” So she literally fed me all these lines, like “Is butter a carb?”
FEY: I tried to use real names in writing because it’s just easier. My older brother’s good friend is Glenn Cocco. He’s a film editor in Los Angeles, and I imagine it’s a pain in the butt for him. Someone said to me you could buy a shirt at Target that says “You go, Glenn Cocco!” That was unexpected.
LOHAN: I was leaving the playhouse the other day. [Lohan is starring in a revival of Speed-the-Plow in London’s West End.] These kids were outside, and someone said, “Do you know what day it is?” and someone said, “It’s October 3rd!” I was like, “What? I don’t understand!” I didn’t know what they meant. Then I realized it! [Laughs]
CHABERT: My new nephew was born on October 3rd. My brother came home from work and goes, “Everyone at work keeps going, ‘Oh, your baby is so lucky! Your baby is born on Mean Girls Day!’ ” He goes, “What is that? Can you explain that to me?”
LOHAN: Mariah Carey and I have the same makeup artist. Whenever I see her, she does always say, “On Wednesdays, I wear pink.” She loves that movie.
EW asked each of the Plastics where they think their characters would be now, 10 years later.
SEYFRIED: Karen would manage or own a store that sells really cool dog attire, like Swarovski dog collars and Halloween costumes for animals. She’s probably really focused.
LOHAN: Cady’s with Oprah in Africa working at children’s schools with a family, teaching girls to be nice to each other.
CHABERT: Gretchen is probably running the Toaster Strudel empire. She is probably married and has, like, seven babies right now. She and Jason worked it out. She has very big curly hair.
McADAMS: Regina is a Real Housewife. She’d have too much time on her hands, for sure. She’s probably found all her other Reginas.
A version of this article appears in Entertainment Weekly‘s Nov. 14/21 issue.