Last week, at the ever-so-swanky Ritz-Carlton near Central Park, Universal held a press conference for its upcoming feature, Baby Mama, which opens the Tribeca Film Festival tonight. Who participated? None other than stars Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Sigourney Weaver, along with writer-director Mike McCullers.
Fey and Poehler were first, and they spoke to reporters together. They met on the Chicago improv circuit fifteen years ago, performing together in a group called Inside Vladimir (named after a gay porn movie, apparently).
"I had heard about Tina -- on the streets! -- before I met her," said Poehler. "We both had moved from where we were going to college to study improv. We were the two women on that improv team and that's where we were when we met. We met when we were big eyebrowed, poor, badly dressed ducklings."
The chemistry between the longtime friends was evident not only in the movie itself, but also during the press conference; they were able to very easily joke around and go back and forth without stepping on each other's toes. And, of course, since both are improvisational experts, they came up with very funny lines instantly, like when a reporter asked Poehler if she has any desire to be a mother. The answer is in the following audio clip:
Amy Poehler wants to be an Oscar winner's mother (0:14)
More quotes and audio after the jump.
At its essence, Baby Mama, about Kate Holbrook (Fey), a successful executive who hires the less-than-classy Angie Ostrowiski (Poehler) to carry her baby, is about fertility and class. And a big moment during the film addresses the class difference between the two characters, in a very confrontational way. It's a moment that Poehler and Fey thought was their favorite from the film:
"It's this moment that they're being the worst to each other," said Poehler. "They know ways they can
hurt each other, and that's when Kate really decides to hurt Angie. There's a lot of that in the film...what makes a person successful, what are you good at, what skills do you have, what does it mean to be smart...and all those things are what separate them and then they find out they are more alike than they thought." When Fey calls it the "nadir" of the characters' relationship, Poehler shoots back with "nice word."
Because Fey plays a successful single woman in her late thirties, it could be construed that she's just playing a version of Liz Lemon, her character on 30 Rock. I was curious, so I asked Fey about that. She thinks Kate is a "higher-functioning" version of Liz, which she explains in the following audio clip:
Why Kate is different than Liz Lemon (1:10)
Speaking of 30 Rock, Fey was asked about the New York Times article that talked about how her show is skirting the boundaries of the family hour with their references to the fake reality show MILF Island. "I take great pride in operating within the boundaries of the standards rules," she replied. "I think it's harder to make comedy when you can't curse. I didn't realize how shocked people would be by the term "MILF Island" and how much has been printed (about it). The New York Post would not print the term "MILF." They printed a five page spread of a prostitute!"
Fey's the mother of a two-year old daughter, and believe it or not, she and her husband are starting to look for preschools for her. That's the life of being a parent in a big city like New York, something Fey and Poehler riff on in this clip:
Fey looks for preschools (0:43)
Next up was Mike McCullers, who worked as a writer with Fey on Saturday Night Live (where Poehler still writes and performs). He was looking to write a movie that Fey and Poehler could star in together. There were ideas thrown around -- a Cagney & Lacey remake for one -- but the idea of Poehler having Fey's baby was too good to pass up. At first the baby was going to be adopted by Fey's character, but, according to McCullers, they "didn't really want to deal with a baby on the set." The surrogacy idea, according to McCullers, who's wife had their third child while the movie was filming, speaks to the experiences of thirty-something couples in this day and age:
"Infertility and who can have a baby and who can't has been a big issue with a lot of people in my life. Though there is a lot of emotion and anger there is a lot of humor and funny stuff that goes with it," he said.
Since Lorne Michaels is one of the executive producers of the movie, getting stars like Steve Martin, in an uncredited role as Fey's boss, wasn't much of a problem. In fact, the role was a very standard boss role in the original script; Fey and Poehler rewrote him to be a cross between Jerry Garcia and Donald Trump. "I always hoped that the two of them would join in on the script, which they did," he said. "They both joined in on the script, and they made their parts a lot funnier."
The movie takes place in Philadelphia, not New York. When I asked him about that, he had a very interesting response, which you can hear in this audio clip:
Why Philly? (1:30)
Last up was Sigourney Weaver, who plays Chaffee Bicknell, the who runs the surrogacy agency Fey turns to for help. Weaver acknowledged her character is more out for profit than altruism, but she "believes her own press," even though she's doesn't believe in surrogacy for herself. She thinks that "the movie would spawn a lot of Chaffe Bicknells, women making money off the desperation of childless couples."
It's hard to believe, but Weaver has been a movie headliner for close to thirty years (I refuse to believe that Alien is coming up on its 30th anniversary), so I asked her what it was like to drop in and play a smaller role like Bicknell. Her answer is in this clip:
Sigourney Weaver on playing smaller roles (1:30)
The line "I felt like an honorary member of the Upright Citizens Brigade" refers to the improv troupe Poehler helped co-found. They operate two very popular theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and Poehler still improvises with Fey and her other improv friends every Sunday at the New York ASSSSCAT show. I'd love to see Weaver there one day, maybe as the guest monologist.
When someone asked her about working with Tina Fey, she had nothing but praise for her (and Poehler, of course)
Weaver on Tina Fey and 30 Rock (1:20)
Weaver fielded questions on her Broadway work and working with James Cameron again on the new 3D movie Avatar, but the most interesting question she got was on her impression of the Alien Vs. Predator movies that are currently infecting screens and DVD players everywhere.
"I haven't seen them. I don't even know who wins. I hope its Alien, " she joked. "I don't think of them. I guess they're profitable enough to keep doing them. Once you expose the creature that much, there's no sense in going back and doing a story anymore. But we made 4 wonderful movies."