April 28, 2004
Weekend warrior
Chris Kattan leaving 'SNL'
By LOUIS B. HOBSON
HOLLYWOOD -- Tina Fey has an update for her colleagues on Saturday Night Live.

"If I want a career as an actress, I'll have to sign off some day as a performer but, as a writer, I could see myself staying at SNL forever.

"This is my seventh year as a writer and my fourth on camera," says Fey, who makes her big-screen debut as both writer and actress in the high school comedy Mean Girls opening Friday.

Fey, 33, took Rosalind Wiseman's best-selling advice book Queen Bees and Wannabes and turned it into a cross between Heathers and Clueless.

"Queen Bees and Wannabes is a very serious book which talks about how damaging cliques can be in schools and in society," explains Fey. "I read the book with a weird eye and it made me laugh. I felt it could be turned into a comedy but still address most of the same issues."

The biggest challenge for Fey in writing the screenplay for Mean Girls was to put sketch comedy rules behind her.

"With sketch comedy, plot is your enemy. For Mean Girls I had to learn how to tell a real story in 90 minutes."

Fey also had to "be less edgy in my dialogue but remain as truthful as possible to what high school is like for most kids. That meant telling an essentially R-rated story in PG terms."

Fey has watched her film with numerous test audiences and is grateful "that adults like it as much as teens.

"Adults find it funny. They are the ones who are laughing.

"Young girls watch it like a reality show. It's much too close to their real experiences so they are not exactly guffawing."

Mean Girls is the story of Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) who was home schooled because her parents were naturalists working in Africa.

Cady goes to her first school for her senior year and encounters the caste system that exists in most schools.

Though she initially abhors the three girls known as The Plastics, Cady finds herself becoming one of their clones.

"When I saw Freaky Friday, I knew we had to have Lindsay as Cady. Cady has to go from an innocent to a real villain and Lindsay is one of the few actresses her age who has that kind of range."

Fey's own experiences in high school placed her in the zone of the Plastics. "I was good in sports but I was on the bottom rung of the Plastics and that left me pretty bitter and jealous. I think that's where my barbed sense of humour was born."

Fey confesses she "had absolutely no luck with boys and that was my lot well into my 20s."

Fey, who is married to writer Jeff Richmond, has become a sex symbol with many of SNL's viewers.

"Jeff is comfortable with the whole sex symbol thing because it validates what he thought of me all along.

"The only time he balked was when I did the Rolling Stone shoot. He didn't like that one at all."

It was when Fey met with Wiseman that she saw a way of bringing herself into the film as an actor.

"I always intended to write myself a small role. I discovered Rosalind and I look quite a bit alike so I wrote myself in as the math teacher who shares Rosalind's philosophy."

Fey also wrote roles for several of her SNL colleagues including a role for Tim Meadows as the harried principal.

"I realized I gave Tim all the best jokes and pretty much left myself with a dramatic role. People keep coming up and telling me they like the movie but then confess they didn't find me very funny."

Fey says she was shooting Mean Girls when Thirteen came out but refused to see that expose on teen pressure.

"I heard so much about Thirteen that I was afraid to see it for fear it would influence our film. Once Mean Girls is in theatres I'm going to rent it.

"I think it is safe to say it will be the flip side of our movie."