Rosalind Wiseman, the writer of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” has seen her work turned into a successful franchise with the movie “Mean Girls,” Broadway musical, and another movie adaptation in the works.
However, while Tina Fey and Paramount Pictures have profited greatly from the franchise, Wiseman claims to have only earned a little over $400,000 after selling her film rights in 2002 and has not received any compensation since.
She is now speaking out against the real-life Mean Girls culture and her “painful experience,” revealing that Paramount has even claimed to have not made any profit from the franchise.
Her lawyers are preparing to take action, and she told The Post exclusively: “We have reached out to Paramount to have things be more equitable, but Paramount is not interested in that.”
It’s taken a lot for Wiseman, 54, to hit back. “For so long I was so quiet about it, so, so quiet, but I just feel like the hypocrisy is too much,” she said.
“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.
“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.”
In 2002, Rosalind Wiseman, the author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” met Tina Fey, the first female head writer of “Saturday Night Live,” when the comedy star signed a development deal with Paramount.
Fey expressed interest in purchasing the film rights to “Queen Bees,” a book that advises parents on how to navigate the challenging world of teenage girls and their friendships, after reading Wiseman’s cover story in The New York Times Magazine.
“When I went to meet Tina and Lorne Michaels [‘SNL’ boss and ‘Mean Girls’ producer] many years ago, it was very much a ‘we’re doing this together’ kind of experience,” said Wiseman, who chose Fey above multiple other film offers.
After Fey purchased the film rights to “Queen Bees,” she adapted the book into the movie “Mean Girls” starring Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, Rachel McAdams, and Lacey Chabert, and also appeared in the film herself. Wiseman was consulted during the production of the movie.
“Mean Girls,” which was released on April 30, 2004, exceeded expectations and earned $130 million globally, with a budget of $17 million that was doubled to include marketing and public relations expenses.
“We created this thing, Tina took my words, she did an extraordinary job with it,” Wiseman saids. “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?”
Wiseman added: “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 really what my work has been about, especially ‘Mean Girls.’ Women don’t have to be best friends — we can get mad at each other, but when it comes down to it we need to actually support each other.” Referring to Fey, she said: “That has been especially hard as a writer to writer.”
When she signed her initial contract, Wiseman gave up all rights to original movies and related works, such as musicals and TV projects, indefinitely. She claims that there were no discussions about any other projects at the time.
“Just because you can doesn’t make it right,” she said. “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 … “
According to Wiseman, to add to her frustration, Paramount has claimed that the franchise has not made any profit. Her contract included net profit points, which meant she would receive additional money based on the box office success of the movie.
However, the studio has repeatedly stated that they have not earned any net profits from “Mean Girls” and have incurred so many additional expenses that there are no profits left to share with her. Now, Wiseman’s legal team wants to examine the books of Paramount.
Wiseman’s lawyer, Ryan Keech, told the Post: “I suspect most people would be shocked at how shabbily Rosalind Wiseman has been treated. 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.”
The Post has contacted Fey and Paramount for a response.
From her home in Boulder, Colorado, Wiseman, a mother of two adult sons, revealed to The Post that a theater producer had contacted her years ago about adapting “Mean Girls” into a musical. Her agent approached Fey and Paramount to seek approval, but was turned down.
According to Wiseman, instead of granting permission for the musical, Paramount used the request from her agent as a basis to deny her payment, arguing that it indicated her acknowledgment of not having any 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.”
According to Wiseman, she collaborated with Fey to create an educational program for high school students who wanted to stage their own productions of the musical. She also worked with the cast and crew. However, she claimed that she was never compensated for her efforts.
“When the musical was coming out, I approached Tina and said this is an amazing opportunity to talk about bullying, to help parents talk to kids. She agreed and I did a workshop with the cast and the crew about bullying because they were going to get inundated with kids who were talking to them about their stories.
“I gave Tina so many notes as I knew high schools are going to use “Mean Girls” for their school musicals and I thought we were working towards this education program.”
Wiseman’s last encounter with Tina Fey was during the Broadway premiere of the “Mean Girls” musical on April 8, 2018. The event was attended by several celebrities, including Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon, Ellie Kemper, Titus Burgess, and Alec and Hilaria Baldwin.
The party was hosted at TAO downtown and featured a menu of kalbi sirloin, Peking duck, roasted cod, and spring rolls, as well as brownies resembling Regina George’s favorite Kälteen Bars.
But this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Wiseman, who said, “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.
“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?’”
The writer claimed: “They never compensated me for the work I did, they never compensated me for the training I did for the cast and the crew.”
As Page Six revealed, four of the original “Mean Girls” stars were in talks to appear in the new movie, but were left upset over Paramount’s “disrespectful” money offer.
Rachel McAdams, who portrayed Regina George in the original movie, was initially slated to play the role of “cool mom” June George, which was originally played by Amy Poehler. However, Busy Philipps has since taken over the role while the other actresses reportedly wanted to make cameo appearances.
At the SAG Awards last month, Amanda Seyfried expressed her hope for a “miracle” in regards to the new movie, saying “It’s not really up to us, is it?” Wiseman commented that when she read about the actresses supporting each other, she thought that it was what the movie was about, as they knew they were stronger together than apart.
Wiseman, who released her latest book “Courageous Discomfort: How to Have Important, Brave, Life-Changing Conversations about Race and Racism,” in October, learned about the new movie a few months ago through the press and was not contacted by Fey, who is producing, writing and co-starring in the film.
“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,” she 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.”