Son of the Mask
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION, p 3
The Babies and the Dog
Australian casting director Christine King was given the task of finding the perfect twins, no easy feat considering baby Alvey is the centerpiece of the film. Twins were crucial to the film due to the child labor laws limiting the working hours of a child or baby.
“I went to the Multiple Births Association and they were really helpful,” says Dawkins of the extensive search for just the right twins. “We even rang around maternity wards and asked them if they knew of any twins that were born in the last six to eight months!”
Dawkins thorough search eventually led her to Liam and Ryan Falconer. Their personalities and amazingly expressive faces made them the perfect baby Alvey.
“We spent a long time talking to Liam and Ryan’s parents because they had to be able to handle having their children on a film set for quite a few months,” says producer Erica Huggins. “That was going to take some time and they needed to be fairly relaxed about us working with their children. It was also going to take up a good chunk of their time as they needed to be with us throughout. But the parents were very relaxed about the whole thing and were incredibly supportive.”
The babies’ co-star Jamie Kennedy was also impressed with their debut performance. “The babies, incredibly, didn’t really cry very much they were easy-going and very cute!” he says. “Their parents were equally fantastic and pretty open to letting us try new things.”
The babies may have been easy-going, but that didn’t necessarily mean that from time to time the crew had to adapt to their world. For a scene where Alan Cumming’s character Loki needs to sneak in to the baby’s room, the filmmakers actually required the baby to be asleep on a set filled with fifty craftspeople, as well as numerous lights and equipment. In order to not throw a wrench in the shooting schedule, the parents brought the sleeping baby to the set to the sound of Dean Martin’s “Lullabyes” being crooned over a speaker on the set. As Larry Guterman recalls, “aside from that music, you could hear a pin drop as we gently dollied the camera over and over again to get multiple takes with the sleeping baby in the foreground, Alan Cumming sneaking around in the background, and Dean Martin’s soothing voice wafting over the set. Alan was a great sport about playing second banana to a sleeping 6-month old!”
Producer Erica Huggins was astonished by what the production was able to achieve with baby Alvey. “There were times when we thought that we’d never be able to get a certain shot, that we would have to augment it with visual effects,” she says. “But time and time again, we were able to throw out the visual effects and use the real baby. The baby was just magical. We were very, very lucky. But try to imagine how insane it looked with all of us trying to make the baby happy and trying to make the baby look in a certain direction! It took hours of hard work!”
In addition to Baby Alvey, one of the other main players is the Avery family dog.
“The dog, Bear, was wonderful and the good news was that the babies loved him, which was very helpful,” says Huggins. “Whenever we had an upset baby, we could bring the dog in and the baby was instantly happy again.”
Trainer Steve Berens spent weeks with Bear training him, scene by scene. “Movie trainers will just call out the basics: sit, stand, lie down, stay, things like that,” he says. “From there you have to break the scenes down and start adding some unique behaviors so it all goes smoothly when the scene is being filmed. So Bear trained very specifically in advance. And when the dogs are trained like that in advance they’re pretty responsive.”
“Bear did great,” Berens continues. “Considering the fact that it was his first film, he did really well. He had some bad days here and there. But then again it could have been me, not him, having a bad day!”
Jamie Kennedy spent a lot of time working with Bear prior to filming so that he and the dog could bond. “The scenes I had with Bear were very complicated so I thought the better we knew each other, the better it would work on the day,” says Kennedy. “He was such a bright little dog usually it was me that got it wrong on the day, not him!”
Despite the challenges of working with dogs, babies and an incredible amount of complicated visual effects, the team behind Son of the Mask ultimately managed to pull things together and create what should be a lasting piece of fun family entertainment that quite literally has something for everyone.
“We’ve got babies, dogs, special effects, prosthetics, huge action pieces, huge dance numbers, and huge costume changes,” says Jamie Kennedy. “This movie’s just got a little bit of everything.”