Alright yes, it's true — Evan Rachel Wood turned down a role in Mean Girls, as she revealed in an interview on Thursday night. But before you start scolding her for what feels like a cardinal sin, just know that there was a good reason behind it. The 30-year-old sat down for an interview with Jimmy Fallon during a Tonight Show appearance on Thursday night. And for as much as the actor says she regrets the loss of an opportunity to do a project with Tina Fey, she considered her career and her brand in the decision. And truthfully, you can't be mad at that.
"I heard — is this true?" Fallon questioned his guest, "—did you audition for Mean Girls?" "No, it's even worse," Wood answered ruefully. "I turned it down." The late-night host's jaw dropped, the audience gasped, and the Westworld star launched into the fateful tale:
"There's a good reason! The only reason is because I was already supposed to do a film called 'Pretty Persuasion' that was set in a high school, that was very 'Heathers'-esque, and it was very similar [to 'Mean Girls']. And I was already kind of doing that. So I was like, I can't, I can't."
And the rest, as you know, is history.
Wood doesn't go as far as to spill which role she was invited to play, but Pretty Persuasion is listed on IMDb as a dark comedy, which presents some clues. If the then-teenager had been offered a role like Cady Heron, which went to Lindsay Lohan, or Amanda Seyfried's ditzy Karen Smith, perhaps it would've been a different-enough character to set it apart from Wood's existing projects. But coming off of 2003's Thirteen, Wood was likely eyed for the moodiest of the main female parts, Janis Ian, ultimately played to perfection by Lizzy Caplan, or chief manipulator, Regina George, nailed by the impeccable Rachel McAdams.
And since Mean Girls' 2004 release sandwiched it riiiiight smack dab in between Thirteen and Pretty Persuasion in the years before and after, it's easy to see why Wood might have wanted to steer clear of another role of the same ilk. She couldn't possibly have known what a big hit the film would turn out to be, so it's a really good thing that she was looking out for her own bottom line. It's easy to get pigeonholed into roles no matter what your age, but the transition from child star to adult actor is a particularly tricky one.
Who knows — maybe if Wood had taken the role in Mean Girls, her name wouldn't even be familiar now, because she would've gotten stuck in a rut of playing intense teenagers that she never got out of. (Not to mention the fact that it's full-on shocking to imagine a different cast of the beloved comedy — what if mixing things up had made the film even slightly less quotable? Imagine how your group texts would have suffered.)
So since the Emmy-nominated actor has navigated that transition so impressively, it's no surprise to find that there are one or two moments that she might have tweaked in hindsight. The important thing is that Wood is prepared to meet the next opportunity head-on, as she told Fallon during her interview, speaking directly to her costar-that-wasn't:
"But Tina, if you're here, I'm so sorry we got off on the wrong foot. As long as the next movie you're doing is not about a robot uprising, I will happily, happily [do it]."
Just like her business-minded teenage self, Wood is still looking out for the good of her career and very smartly doesn't want to take on projects that are too similar. So if someone can convince Fey to write, say, Westgirl'd, it sounds like the lead role is wide open.