Author Rosalind Wiseman is now detailing her real-life experience with the queen bee cliques of Hollywood.
Wiseman, whose book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” was adapted by Tina Fey into the hit 2004 film “Mean Girls,” alleged that Fey and studio Paramount have denied making net profits from the franchise and have not fairly compensated her for the source material. Wiseman made approximately $400,000 after selling the film rights in 2002 but has not received any additional payments since. Wiseman is taking legal action against Paramount.
“For so long I was so quiet about it, so, so quiet, but I just feel like the hypocrisy is too much,” Wiseman told The New York Post. “I think it’s fair for me to be able to get compensated in some way for the work that has changed our culture and changed the zeitgeist.”
Her attorneys added in a statement, “We have reached out to Paramount to have things be more equitable, but Paramount is not interested in that.”
“Mean Girls” screenwriter and star Fey, who later adapted the movie into a 2018 Broadway musical and now an upcoming movie musical, purchased the rights to Wiseman’s “Queen Bees” after reading her New York Times Magazine cover story interview in 2002.
“When I went to meet Tina and [producer] Lorne Michaels many years ago, it was very much a ‘we’re doing this together’ kind of experience,” Wiseman said, citing that the business partnership aspect is what led her to select the duo over other film production offers.
She added, “We created this thing, Tina took my words, she did an extraordinary job with it. She brought it to life and the material has been used and recycled for the last 20 years. I’m clearly recognized and acknowledged by Tina as the source material, the inspiration. I’m recognized and yet I deserve nothing?”
The “Mean Girls” film starred Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, Rachel McAdams, and Lacey Chabert, plus Fey herself. Wiseman served as a consultant on the movie.
Wiseman signed away in perpetuity all rights to original motion pictures and derivative works, including musicals and TV projects — yet noted there was no discussion of additional projects at the time.
“Yes, I had a terrible contract, terrible, 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. Wiseman was approached by a theater company to make a “Mean Girls” musical; Fey and Paramount turned it down, and then came out with their own musical on Broadway years later. Wiseman was not paid for the musical with Paramount claiming that she had no ownership of the rights.
“What’s hard is that they used my name in the Playbill,” she said. “And Tina, in her interviews, said I was the inspiration and the source, but there was no payment.”
Wiseman and Fey were set to collaborate on producing an educational program for high schoolers to do their own productions of the musical, but Wiseman was also not paid for that work nor assisting the Broadway cast and crew.
“They never compensated me for the work I did, they never compensated me for the training I did for the cast and the crew,” Wiseman said of Paramount. She explained that the opening night of the 2018 Broadway musical led her to realize the inequity of the situation.
“There was a moment for me, I was at this incredible party and I’m thinking how much money this party must have cost, probably more than I was paid,” Wiseman said. “There were all these Paramount execs who had no idea who I was and I’m just walking around going, ‘Wow, wow.’ I had to leave. I realized that night that nothing was going to happen with the educational program and that made me really angry. That’s when I reached out to my lawyers and they pushed Paramount and said, ‘How can you be doing this to her?'”
According to Wiseman, Paramount has also claimed that the studio has made no money from the franchise. Wiseman’s original contract included net profit points based on box office, but Paramount alleged there were no net profits from the film. Wiseman’s attorneys are calling for an audit.
“I suspect most people would be shocked at how shabbily Rosalind Wiseman has been treated,” Wiseman’s lawyer Ryan Keech said. “And properly so. 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.”
Per Page Six, Paramount had a “disrespectful” offer to the original “Mean Girls” stars to appear in the movie musical. McAdams was allegedly set to play “cool mom” June George, taking over the role from Amy Poehler. Busy Philipps instead was brought on board in the role. The original core “Mean Girls” stars are not making cameos.
“For a lot of reasons I didn’t come forward for a while and one of the reasons for all of these years — because I was so focused on me not whining or trying to trash Tina,” Wiseman said. “That’s just not who I am and it’s almost disrespectful to the content of what we were doing. I just felt so trapped. But also, I believe really strongly when you’re in a position of power and privilege that you have a responsibility to share that to create equity.”
She added of Fey, “For me, having a female writer and not having that happen has not only been difficult because of the money, but it’s also been painful, very painful. [It’s] especially hard as a writer to writer. 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. You don’t just talk about supporting women, you actually do it.”