The Baby Boom Audition: Three Instances of Fate
It will be an adventure, right? United Artists were searching for identical twin babies between twelve to sixteen months for the film Baby Boom starring Diane Keaton. My sister Laura told me about it. “Michelle and Kristina will be perfect!” she said. She insisted we bring a professional photograph of the girls with us. She knew about such things. I ran it by my husband Jim and he thought it might be interesting. We had never done anything like this before.
Before we knew it, we were off to Manhattan with the twins. When we entered the high-rise, we knew right away we were in the right place; twin strollers were parked everywhere about the lobby. The room itself was plush and loaded with toys and apple juice. Someone had been hired to make this audition-thing run smoothly, as it was handled with obvious consideration for the children. There were at least forty babies in the room. We had never seen so many twins before, and I believe the feeling was uplifting for everyone. It was for me. I settled near a make-shift play area where toddlers were sitting on a colorful carpet. It was pleasantly noisy without much crying.
It was a funny atmosphere overall because it was a quirky kind of competition, with an odd “whose baby is prettier” thing in the back of our heads. I’m sure it occurred to everyone that it was altogether absurd that someone was going to actually “judge” these beautiful children. Meanwhile, four fashionable young ladies were ambling around the room asking questions and distributing forms. Casting agents as it turned out. One of them was by the window talking to my husband. Something was definitely up.
Her name was Pam Dixon, Casting Director, and she was genuinely interested in our story. She asked congenial off-hand questions about our girls…name, weight, “Can they talk? Walk?” She explained we were waiting for Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, the writers and directors of Baby Boom. I had not heard of them before, but I did recognize their previous films, Private Benjamin and Irreconcilable Differences. They would appear shortly.
A Daily News photographer arrived. A New York Post photographer was next. The casting director came over again, for perhaps a third or fourth time. Another agent sat on the carpet, playfully tossing a plastic ball to Kristina. Rather suddenly, the writer/director team entered and they walked directly to an adjacent room reserved for them alone.
Charles Shyer was a thin, silver-haired enthusiastic man in his late thirties and Nancy Meyers was a pretty, petite and confident woman about the same age. Before I could form an opinion based upon first impressions, I noticed they were looking down at their feet. A stray toddler had crawled into the office in pursuit of a rolling ball. It was my daughter Kristina. This was the first instance of fate. Before I could scoop her up and apologize, to my surprise, Nancy and Charles were genuinely delighted.
“Show them in!” Charles exclaimed, in mock ceremonial fashion. And so we were invited inside the room. We were the first to be auditioned. It was strange alright, but there you have it.
The audition itself was brief and comfortable. We tried to maintain composure, but with thirteen-month old babies crawling all over everything, this broke down quickly. Kristina took off toward Charles Shyer. Maybe it was his watch or his ring, but Kristina just mauled him. Nancy Myers asked questions about whether or not the family would relocate to California for six to nine months to make a movie. She asked if we had done any other professional work with the children. My husband remembered the photograph of the girls. He showed it to them. It was left open-faced on the table. They asked to keep it for a while, and we obliged.
Glancing over, Charles was in a real wrestling match with Kristina and he was losing. Amused, he laughed heartily. Upon leaving, the other parents peered at us unabashed. Perhaps I didn’t realize the fuss the casting agents had made during the preliminaries. We left feeling positively giddy. This was, indeed, a pleasant beginning.
It was incredible. When we arrived home that Sunday night, the phone was ringing. A production assistant asked: “Could we meet with Diane Keaton in the morning?”
We were floored. “Diane Keaton!”
I settled down. I told them I thought we could arrange things to meet with the Academy Award-winning actress…as if there were any doubts.
Our appointment was for ten o’clock and so we arrived around eight-thirty or some time ridiculously early. The babies were comfortable in their stroller and we spent the time milling about the building until ten o’clock. We wondered if this might be Diane Keaton’s apartment at first, but discovered later that it was a wardrobe room rented for the movie. Diane Keaton would be meeting my daughters Kristina and Michelle and she would also be fitted for wardrobe at the same time; two birds with one stone.
As we strolled, my husband spotted someone getting out of a cab. It was Diane Keaton in classic Annie Hall garb from head to toe. In particular, she wore elbow-length, fingerless gloves and a distinctive hat. She walked to the corner, looked around a bit puzzled, and then crossed the street toward the building entrance. Jim spoke to her first, calling:
“Hey! Diane! Diane Keaton!”
She acknowledged us with a friendly “hello” as she would to any New York passerby who had recognized her.
“Diane!” my husband explained. “These are the twins…the girls you are here to meet…the little ones in the movie.”
We introduced ourselves there on the sidewalk and Diane Keaton quickly turned her attention to the twins. After all, she understood (better than we) that she would be spending enormous time with these babies, and she peered into the stroller and cooed and smiled. Generally, we got the feeling she was looking forward to it. She appeared genuinely delighted.
“Well. I’ll see all of you upstairs!” she said, making her way into the building.
We knew this chance meeting was a tremendous stroke of luck; a second instance of fate. All of the anxiety about “the big meeting” was gone. Our first impression was that the famous actress was personable, friendly, and she evidently loved kids. We were right.
Inside the building, a small fitting room was crammed with wardrobe. It felt no larger than a walk-in closet, especially with our stroller and supplies, Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, Diane Keaton, and a wardrobe professional named Susan Becker and her assistant. It was decided we should sit on the floor in a circle and wait. There was no set agenda. Everyone was present to simply see how the babies reacted to…everyone else. This was going to be interesting, I thought.
At thirteen months, the girls were toddling walkers but expert crawlers. They swam around this fish tank of a room and all over everyone, sort of upsetting the ring of serenity. There was a bit of a circus mood really, when Kristina tumbled over to Diane Keaton and clung to her with an unusual display of affection. A third instance of fate.
I looked at my husband and eye-browed my astonishment. What is this? Kristina’s tiny fingers grasped Ms. Keaton’s blouse and she rested her head tenderly on her shoulder. My daughter clung to her as if trying to crawl inside of her pouch. I know Ms. Keaton was surprised. She exclaimed, “So this is what it’s all about!” and she was right. While she and Kristina snuggled, Michelle kept active rolling on her back reaching for her toes in the air. Susan Becker of wardrobe went to work holding up clothes, and we realized that Ms. Keaton was needed elsewhere.
Everyone thanked everyone else and we were given scripts and some real encouragement. This was Monday. A decision would be made no later than Friday.
The script was engaging. If you have seen the movie Baby Boom, the finished version is edited from the original script and many scenes were omitted completely. We could see plainly that the role of Baby Elizabeth was a large one, indeed. We still had no idea what we were getting into, but doors were opening with hardly a nudge. It looked like we were going to go for this thing.
Things happened quickly. All that week, the phone was wild with calls from Baby Boom affiliates inquiring about the girls’ dress size, shoe size, transportation needs and so on. Production seemed to have gotten the green light. When were we going to be notified? On Friday, as was their promise.
It will be an adventure, right? “Michelle and Kristina will be perfect!” Laura said once again. My husband thought it might be interesting. And so, Jim and I headed off to Hollywood with the twins. We had never done anything like this before.