McCullers, Fey and Poehler tossed around ideas for a story, and then McCullers went to work pounding out the screenplay. Baby Mama follows Fey as Kate Holbrook, a super successful career woman who at 37 decides it’s time to be a first-time mother. However when Kate’s doctor says pregnancy just isn’t in her future, she decides to turn to a surrogacy center (run by Sigourney Weaver) for help. When Angie (Poehler) agrees to be Kate’s ‘baby mama’ and moves in, Kate quickly discovers what life will be like when a toddler’s running around her place.
Interview with Michael McCullers
I understand your wife was pregnant during the making of this.
That had to be a little surreal, going to work being around someone who’s supposed to be pregnant and then going home to be around someone who is pregnant.
“Well my wife has been pregnant a lot. [Laughing] We have three kids. That I'm a little more used to. And unfortunately I was separated from her for part of the shooting because we live in Los Angeles and we shot in New York.”
And she didn’t visit the set?
“She did later. We have two older kids who were in school, and so they had to wrap up school in Los Angeles. Then my wife took our, at that time, 7-year-old, 6-year-old and she was 8 ½ months pregnant - and she had a dog in the cargo hold - and flew out here and joined me like halfway through shooting. So the big prize goes to her.”
She's a brave woman. Did you use anything from any of her pregnancies in the film?
“Not necessarily anything really specific, but just the general sort of slightly satirical take on the marketing of baby culture - baby safety and the right stroller and the classes and the books that you have to read - because we were not immune to that with our first.”
Tina Fey’s character reads pretty much everything available on what to expect with a new baby. Did you read most of those books during your wife’s first pregnancy?
“Oh yeah. You know my wife read more than I did, but I read my share. But yeah, we read all the books. I think with everyone with multiple kids, that the first kid is so much safer. [Laughing] By the time the second comes around and certainly the third, there are no bumpers on the edge of the tables and no electrical outlet covers and toilet locks. I mean, for instance, toilet locks was an episode out of our life. Anybody, I think, who's had a kid, when they watch the movie and they see the toilet locks, they start laughing because it just reminds you how crazy you kind of get with the stuff, you know?”
I found it very interesting that a guy is behind this very female-driven film. It was great to see two smart, funny women in the lead roles. That’s something we don’t get to see a lot of anymore. So how did you tap into your feminine side to write and direct this movie?
“I think, first of all, I was excited because I agree with you, there's not many comedies out there for women with funny women and strong women. So that was interesting to me, just as a fan. The root of all this is, I think, that Amy and Tina are so funny. I've known them for years and they're just really, really funny and they deserve to be out there. So it almost came out of more that way just sort of like, ‘Oh, these are people who should be in a movie. These are funny people who need to be heard,’ which is sort of how I like writing. I wrote the Austin Powers movies with Mike Myers and that was sort of the same thing. That was, ‘Oh, this guy is really funny and how can I help him get his funny out?’
In a way, the movie started with me just wanting to work with Amy and Tina. I didn't say, ‘I want to do a chick flick,’ or ‘I want to do a chick flick with Amy and Tina.’ I've never written another movie like that, frankly. But it was just a chance to work with those two. And then we all sat together and sort of came up with ideas, and this was the one that came out and was the best. I did like that it was about women and about women being funny, but wasn't about weddings or sort of a really straight down-the-middle romantic comedy.
This is telling a story. It was just an interesting story because you're always looking, especially comedically, to get unlike people together and force people into funny situations. And there's only so many times people can be assigned to each other by an angry police captain or something like that. This way when someone is having your baby, you are linked to them. You are not getting away from that. So if that person is annoying or humorous, it’s a great situation.”
How collaborative was the process of working with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler?
“We talked about a lot of ideas and what we might do. And then we came up with this idea just because the idea of Amy having Tina's baby, that's so funny and concise that I knew that was a winner. I did have a moment where I thought, ‘That's a fantastic idea. Am I the right person to do it because I'm a guy?’ But, again, having a… I'm not a baby-crazed woman, but I live with a baby-crazed woman [laughing]. I'm at the age where a lot of our friends were going through infertility and issues and things like that, that I felt like I could tap into it.
Amy and Tina had their shows - they were both working on their shows - so we talked about the idea, a little bit of an outline, what it might be, and then I went off and wrote a first draft and brought that back to them, the studio, and everyone. The studio had to make a decision really quickly because we had to shoot during hiatus. The show made everyone act really quickly. It was fantastic. The studio said yes and from that moment on it was very collaborative. Amy and Tina worked on the script a little bit, then changed their parts and added a lot of the funny things in the movie.”