Puuuuuuush! Here’s Exactly How Film Directors Find Newborn Babies For Birth Scenes

Before covering them in jam and Philadelphia in lieu of blood and goo.

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Anyone who saw the Oscar-nominated American Sniper in 2014 no doubt remembers the “baby” that the cast used in one key scene.

Even to someone with no experience of babies or film production (me), it was painfully obvious that Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller were in fact holding a plastic doll.

While director Clint Eastwood clearly made a massive eff-up by choosing not to use a live baby, it most definitely saved his crew a heap of time and energy on set. Casting a real, live newborn baby is difficult, y’all. It takes paperwork, patience and – if it’s a birth scene – a lot of jam and cream cheese.

The Guardian‘s recent piece about newborn “actors” threw up some very interesting facts.

Like the fact that casting directors often go for triplets
Triplets and twins are generally born smaller and often prematurely. This is handy for birth scenes, because by law a baby must be at least 15 days to be “hired” under Screen Actors Guild Regulations. That means no real-life births and no newborns.



Plus, using twins means that there are effectively multiples of each baby
Which is again a plus, because under SAG regulations, infant actors can only work four hours per day and can only shoot for 20 minutes of those hours.

“So you have four infants, approximately the same age, same hair colour, look enough alike that they can double each other,” said Chris Riddle, an assistant director.

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The audition process is fairly basic – just stay awake and don’t cry
If a baby falls asleep a lot, it can delay filming as handlers are not permitted to wake it up. One father of an infant actor says that his daughter has won lots of jobs by virtue of not being a big napper. “Being physically awake during auditions is a big thing,” he explains.

baby mama


A lot of weird things are used to re-create blood and goo in birth scenes
Cream cheese, grape jam and corn syrup are just a few ingredients mentioned.




Things can get stressful on set
One baby in a scene is difficult, but imagine if you’re filming with two or even three separate infant characters. Producer Evan Goldberg recalls a day working on Bad Neighbours 2 with four babies at once.

“The babies were crying, and everyone else on set was making farting noises – that was the only way to keep them smiling. And, keep in mind this is everyone’s job, so they’re taking the farting noises really seriously.”

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Overall though, it’s worth the hassle to use a real baby
If you were freaked out by Sienna Miller trying to breastfeed a plastic doll, you weren’t the only one. The uncanny valley theory states that the more a non-human (doll, robot) resembles a real human, the more relatable we find it, and the easier to accept. But if the non-human appears too realistic, we begin to feel uneasy and repulsed – think Tintin or The Polar Express.

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