The Story Behind How Lindsay Lohan Was Almost Regina George In 2004’s Mean Girls

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Written By Maya Cantina

If you can believe it, it’s been nearly 20 years since the original Mean Girls hit theaters. Considering the iconic comedy has a musical remake movie already bringing the story to a new generation of teens, I guess that does check out. You go, Glen Coco (again). As Reneé Rapp has now taken on the role of Regina George in one of 2024’s upcoming movies, let’s talk about the origins of Rachel McAdams becoming the OG Regina George, and how Lindsay Lohan was almost cast in the role before she ended up playing Cady Heron. 

As you probably know, Mean Girls is the brainchild of Tina Fey during her Saturday Night Live days and before she started work on 30 Rock. She wrote the screenplay for one of the best movies of the 2000s after reading Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes, even though the inspiration itself is a nonfiction book for parents about high school cliques. She collaborated with Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels and Paramount Pictures on what would become one of the most iconic high school movies of all time. Here’s the story behind how Lindsay Lohan was almost cast as Regina George. 

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Why Lindsay Lohan Originally Wanted To Play Regina George 

When Mean Girls was being cast in 2003, Lindsay Lohan was a 17-year-old star who was starting to find fame as a teen following her successful debut in 1998’s The Parent Trap as a child actor. When recently speaking to Vanity Fair, Lohan shared the following: 

I had just played—in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Freaky Friday—not the cool girl in school. I was still seventeen years old and I wanted to be the cool girl on set.

The actress understandably wanted a change of pace from playing the outcast in her recent high school roles, as she reflected on. Lohan called her string of roles at the time “damaged teenagers,” and she wanted to do something different with Mean Girls following working with Jamie Lee Curtis on Freaky Friday and starring in The Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. She was handpicked by Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels to be part of the film, but as the casting process continued, the filmmakers changed their tune on Lohan playing the high school queen bee. In a 2019 Cosmopolitan interview, director Mark Waters shared this about the casting process: 

We thought Lindsay was going to be Regina because Tina and Lorne loved Freaky Friday but we were trying to find a Cady and couldn’t. One actress came in and she was incredible but a bit too old for Cady. I told her I thought she was going to be a star and that was Rachel McAdams [who was 25 at the time].

And thus, Rachel McAdams entered the fold. It’s time to get into how the actress beat out Lohan for the beloved Plastics leader. 

The Story Behind How Lindsay Lohan Was Almost Regina George In 2004’s Mean Girls

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

How Rachel McAdams Won The Role Of Regina George Instead 

Per Mark Waters, Rachel McAdams had initially come to read for Cady Heron amongst other names like Kristen Stewart, Mae Whitman and Michelle Trachtenberg reportedly up for the new girl role as well. As Waters recalled: 

Rachel was a bit too old for Cady but, for Regina, that felt interesting. When we did the testing, I found that when Rachel came into the room Lindsay got quite nervous. She was a little intimidated by her as Rachel was older, had worked a lot, and was a very serious actress. It did something to Lindsay I liked, so in the testing process head to head Rachel was the better choice.

The Mean Girls filmmakers clocked an intriguing dynamic between McAdams and Lohan immediately, and it only made their ideas for switching their roles even more exciting to them. Plus, there was something really attractive about McAdams playing Regina as a “kind and polite” mean girl that really elevated the role in ways the filmmakers were not expecting. Casting director Marci Liroff said this: 

I just kept re-watching Rachel’s audition, I couldn’t stop. There was something really compelling about it and I just kept saying: ‘This girl is a movie star.’ She was so watchable, likeable and loveable even though this role was such a bitch. Her audition was fantastic.

Additionally, there was apparently some pressure from Paramount to have a “bankable” star in the center of Mean Girls, which they would have with Lindsay Lohan as Cady. As McAdams continued to sell the filmmakers, Fey and Michaels were into the idea of Lohan playing a good girl “who gets to turn into Regina,” per Fey’s words. Paramount’s former CEO Sherry Lansing ended up sitting Mark Waters down to say that she couldn’t see Lohan playing Regina George. 

Of course, Waters and the other filmmakers later convinced Lohan to play Cady, citing the character had more lines, a “much comfier wardrobe” and would help boost her career. She accepted, but in terms of the “comfier wardrobe” Lohan was actually initially rather bummed she couldn’t get more Plastic fashion moments.

The Story Behind How Lindsay Lohan Was Almost Regina George In 2004’s Mean Girls

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Famous Actors That Were In The Running For The Other Plastics 

The story of the Plastics isn’t complete without talking about the rest of the clique, i.e. Amanda Seyfried’s Karen and Lacey Chabert’s Gretchen. As previously revealed, both roles had their own journeys that revolved around different (and quite famous actors) playing the roles before Seyfried and Chabert ultimately nabbed them. As the Mean Girls casting director Marci Liroff told Cosmo

We wanted Blake Lively, who hadn’t done the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants yet, for Karen. She came down to the final tests but, at some point, some of the filmmakers said to keep looking. Amanda Seyfried had read for Regina and we really liked her but then Lorne suggested, ‘Why don’t we make her Karen?’

Clearly, a lot of actresses were vying for the role of Regina George. As Liroff shared, Seyfried was another performer up for the Plastics leader for whom they found another role. Seyfried was, of course, perfect in the role, but as she’s since shared, she had to later “fight” in regards to getting “pigeonholed” as Karen-type characters after Mean Girls put her on the map. Here’s what Liroff said about Chabert’s role:  

We had a difficult time casting Gretchen Weiners. I kept reading young actresses for the role, Ashley Tisdale auditioned for that part but didn’t come down to the finals. There was a certain type of desperation for Gretchen, that you really felt for her. The original book was Queen Bees and Wannabes and she so wanted to be a mean girl and be part of the crowd yet kept getting put down. Finally Lacey [Chabert] came in and just got it on the very first take.

It’s no surprise High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale was in the running, but Lacey Chabert made Gretchen absolutely iconic in the role! Ultimately, the Mean Girls filmmakers made a lot of tough, but incredible decisions regarding each of the original Mean Girls cast members, especially considering how memorable each of their roles in the 2004 movie continues to be. It has since become a Broadway musical, and some of the lead cast even recently took part in a Walmart commercial as their characters that went absolutely viral! 

The movie hit theaters on April 30, 2004 to a No. 1 spot at the domestic box office. Waters recalled the movie’s success in theaters blowing “everyone’s expectations away,” and 20 years later, it’s a classic. You can watch 2004’s Mean Girls right now with a Paramount+ subscription and see the Mean Girls musical in theaters on January 12. You can check out the cast involved in the 2024 version and CinemaBlend’s review of the new Mean Girls movie

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