Mark Waters shares with EW the untold story of how the iconic "stripper thigh slap" was born.
MEAN GIRLS, Lacey Chabert, Rachel McAdams, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, 2004, (c) Paramount/court
Credit: Everett Collection

Since the 2004 Tina Fey-penned film was intended to be rated R, so too was the "racier" original dance. "They were going to turn and stick their posteriors up in the air," Waters says. "And then they showed it to me, and I was like, 'Whoa, that's too much! Go with something else.'"

It was in later choreography rehearsals for the dance that the now-infamous "thigh slap" was born. "That's how we got this idea of, 'Let's do this stripper thigh slap simultaneously,' and it just germinated out of the rehearsals organically, which ended up being the funniest part of the scene," Waters says. "And Neil Flynn's reaction shot!"

Flynn as Cady's (Lindsay Lohan) father's shocked facial expression in the audience as he watches his formerly-home schooled child slap her thighs onstage was all improv, according to Waters. As was Amy Poehler's over-involved mother dancing the choreography in the aisle while videotaping her daughter Regina's (Rachel McAdams) performance. "That was one of the amazing things about the movie, I got to work with all of these black belt ninja adult comedy stars like Neil Flynn and Tim Meadows and Amy Poehler, all of them," he says. "The young actors were obviously the core of the story but every time one of those guys would come in, they would just destroy."

And Waters makes sure to put an extra emphasis on the word young when talking about the main characters of the iconic teen film, since Lohan's age actually presented an extra obstacle when it came to directing the talent show dance scene.

"Because Lindsay was a minor at the time we actually had a real struggle finding time to choreograph the thing," he reveals with a laugh. "We hired a choreographer; it was going to be a much more elaborate dance. And then, because we couldn't book the time with her, it ended up being a little more roughshod and a little messier than we were intending, but that ended up being the greatest thing. We're actually able to do this for real and have it feel messy like it should [for high school teens]. That worked for the movie."

Making matters even more complicated? "Jingle Bell Rock" wasn't the movie's first (or second, or third ... ) song choice for that dance. "You'd be surprised how hard it is to license Christmas songs," Waters says. "I don't even know how many things we tried before we got the rights to 'Jingle Bell Rock.' We were just happy to have anybody say yes." Call it a Christmas miracle that's just so fetch.

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