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Nicole Richie on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Simple Life,’ Starring in ‘Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead’ Remake and Writing a Horror-Comedy


Nicole Richie has been a “diehard fan” of the 1991 cult comedy “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve been quoting this movie my whole life,” she says.

And now, life has come full circle because the former “Simple Life” reality television icon stars in director Wade Allain-Marcus’ “Don’t Tell Mom” remake as fashion company boss Rose.

The new film stars Simone Joy Jones as Tanya, a 17-year-old whose summer plans are upended when her mom (“Ms. Pat” star Patricia Williams) checks herself into a health retreat. Things completely unravel when the babysitter, played by Oscar nominee June Squibb, hired to take care of Tanya and her siblings suddenly dies.

“When I heard it was going to be a remake, I was like, ‘What does this mean?’” she says. “So I jumped on a Zoom with Wade and he was like, ‘This is a reimagining of the movie.’ He had everything from color palettes, mood boards and a lot of music to give me an idea of what he wanted to do with it. Right after our first Zoom, I was like, ‘I’m ready to play Rose.’”

How nervous were you for a remake? Some remakes work and some are pretty awful.

This is true, but I had the most fun doing it. I think it’s so funny. It’s very feel good, which is something that I don’t think you necessarily get all the time now. When I say feel good, I’m talking early ‘90s. It’s a family adventure comedy.

But one that pushes envelope. There’s a lot of weed in it. A lot more cursing than I expected.

Well, it is rated R. I don’t think anyone was expecting an R rating. It’s been a running joke in our group chat.

You don’t act often.

I read a lot of things, but I just want to make sure that it’s something that I can do a good job in and confidently pour my energy into and feel like I can do it. I think that this movie was a perfect example of that. I never imagined that I would ever play Rose. But now that I think about it, I’m like, “Oh, I’ve always felt spiritually connected to her.” So this was just waiting for me from day one, from 1991.

Do you remember your worst audition?

I don’t know that I’ve necessarily had something where I’m like, that was so horrible. But auditions are so funny. When I auditioned for “Great News,” I auditioned at the end of the day. I walked in, I signed my name, and I was number like 32 for this role. I was like, I’m not gonna get this. I left and got on a flight to go on tour with my husband [Joel Madden]. But when I landed, I found out I got a call back. They told me I need to needed to fly back home and audition again.

Do you have a dream role you’d like to play?

I am in the middle of writing a comedy horror movie right now that I am going to star in. This is a little more Kathleen Turner à la “Serial Mom.”

How often are being pitched a “Simple Life” reunion or reboot?

It has happened a lot, but Paris [Hilton] and I have always felt that we don’t want to do something just to do it. But it is the 20-year anniversary this year, so we have been talking about different ways to celebrate this very cool show that we did. So we’ll see.

Paris’ memoir is being adapted as a TV series.

Should I audition?

That was my next question: who should play you?

Jack Black? [Laughs]

You made big headline news the other night at the “Don’t Tell Mom” premiere because your kids (daughter Harlow Madden, 16, and son Sparrow Madden, 14) made their red carpet debut. Was that a conscious decision, something you all talked about beforehand?

Honestly, they were just going to come with me. It was not really something that we had necessarily talked about. We were there as a family. They’re old enough now. They understand what that is.

Lionel Richie, Lisa Parigi, Harlow Madden, Sparrow Madden, Nicole Richie, Brenda Harvey-Richie and Joel Madden at the premiere of “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” held at The Grove on April 2, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
River Callaway for Variety

How often do they look at old footage of you or watch the “Simple Life”?

“The Simple Life” is apparently having a big moment on TikTok, so they do tell me that they watch clips on TikTok. Their friends watch it. I get a lot of eye rolls in my house all the time. It’s right on brand with how they see me, in general.

Do they want to go into the business?

I’m not sure. I highly doubt that my son does. My daughter might but she’s not banging down my door asking about it. She’s really living that 16-year-old life.