"Trang Pak is a grotsky little byotch." "Dawn Schweitzer is a fat virgin" "Muckleroy takes medication for the boil on his back side." "Damian Leigh, too gay to function."
The poetic dissbombs that fill the Burn Book -- the anti-Bible wielded by Cady (Lindsey Lohan), Regina George (Rachel McAdams), and her Plastics in the 2004 comedy Mean Girls -- are awful and legendary. But when director Mark Waters first set out to construct the insult tome, he only had the harsh words. Revealing the making-of story to Thrillist, Waters says Tina Fey's script simply said "Karen takes a scrapbook of a shelf." That meant constructing a hyper-specific, yet universally high school prop out of the ferocious personality Fey had carved out on the page. Not easy, but clearly not impossible.
"It had to be pink -- the obvious color choice for Regina," Waters says. The other idea that immediately sprung to mind was that the Burn Book had to look like a yearbook so that it could sit covertly on the shelf, eluding parental detection. Then came filling the book with words, images, and designs that would evoke that would take bullying to a new, but cheerful level. Waters remembers his prop master's design breakthrough: "He said, 'Let's make it look like those kidnapping videos.'"
What followed was a series of off-the-cuff photography sessions that could be combined with the Burn Book's creepy pages to create something that could earn the name "Burn Book." Cary White, the production designer on Mean Girls, says he learned everything he knows about teenage girls from photographing the bedroom of Jamie Lee Curtis's daughter, who he and Waters met on the set of Freaky Friday, their previous movie. Wall photos became an inspiration for what wound up in the book. "The faces in the book… there were all these extras, some in featured roles, and you do a photo session with those folks, not professional -- the right camera, and sometimes terrible light."