WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING
About The Production
Since its first publication in 1985, What to Expect When You're Expecting has
become a modern standard and the definitive bible for expectant parents. The
perennial New York Times bestseller, authored by Heidi Murkoff, was named one of
USA Today's 25 most influential books of the past 25 years and is now the first
book in a series that has sold 35 million copies worldwide. The book offers
exactly what it promises: a wealth of up-to-the-minute information and advice
about the mysterious and unpredictable process of pregnancy. But its true appeal
is its singular voice: totally frank, modern, empathetic and very funny. That's
exactly what sets What to Expect apart from the glut of imitators and what
attracted producers at Phoenix Pictures - Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer and David
Thwaites - to the idea of adapting What to Expect for the screen with Lionsgate
and Alcon Entertainment.
"I think it's very, very clever, this movie concept based on the book," says
actress Cameron Diaz, who plays one of five expectant mothers in the ensemble
comedy. "I've always heard the title being talked about. It's one of those books
that have been around and a part of almost everyone's life. When you read it, it
feels like you're getting advice from your best friend who's been through it
Co-star Jennifer Lopez agrees wholeheartedly. "The book is amazing, which is
why it's so popular," she says. "It tells you exactly, week to week, what's
happening to you in the moment. I think women, by nature, when we're pregnant,
are so worried that everything's going to go okay. And here you have this book
saying, 'This is supposed to be happening. Don't worry. You're supposed to feel
like this.' I think the movie does the exact same thing. It reassures you by
telling five totally different stories about being pregnant and making you
A father of two, Chris Rock admits that the book, What to Expect, is still on
his wife's nightstandâ€¦and his oldest daughter is nine. "This book's been in my
face for ten years," he says. "But it really helped. It's rough having a baby.
My wife was pretty cool. But just imagine carrying around a seven- or
eight-pound ham for nine months. Forget it even being in your body - just have
it in a bag that you can't put down - and you've got to sleep with that ham and
swim with the ham and take a bath with the ham. No matter where you go, you've
got to carry this ham. So, you know what? You're allowed to complain."
The book was introduced to Phoenix Pictures at a joint staff meeting between
Alan Nevins of Renaissance Literary & Management, Brian Medavoy of Medavoy
Management and Phoenix. All the books represented by Nevins were listed on a
document circulated during that meeting.
What to Expect caught the attention of colleagues David Thwaites and Douglas
McKay, and afterwards the two discussed its potential for a feature film. They
then contacted Alan Nevins, who in turn, approached Heidi and Erik Murkoff.
The question remains: how does a non-fiction pregnancy manual translate into
a narrative film? Phoenix chairman Mike Medavoy admits, "Bringing the book to
the screen might seem like a far-fetched idea, in a way. But I credit the vision
of both David Thwaites and Doug McKay, who said, 'Hey, we know how to do this,
and we're going to do it!'"
After reading the book and realizing just how diverse pregnancy experiences
can be, David Thwaites imagined an ensemble film comprised of several
interlocking stories. "It just occurred to me - having seen how different people
are with their children, and how none of their pregnancies were the same - that
this was something that would be well served by having a number of different
couples who find themselves pregnant at the same time."
Director Kirk Jones, the English director known for the films Waking Ned
Devine and Nanny McPhee, responded in particular to the comedic potential of the
project. "The book has such a generous sense of humor, and I began to identify
the potential of that in the film. Couples experiencing pregnancy for the first
time are being launched headfirst into the unknown, and that's always a rich
place for comedy. And for pathos, too. I like to make films that feature humor
and emotion, often at the same time. I think that's a magical combination."
Book author Heidi Murkoff admits she was initially skeptical about an
adaptation, but she was soon won over by the producers' take on the project. She
says, "These guys plugged into the sensibility of What to Expect: the warmth,
the friendliness, the hand-holding, and also the humor. I knew the book was in
Murkoff's husband and Executive Producer of the film Erik Murkoff agrees,
"The further we got into the project, the better it got. But it really started
with the script, along with a great director and wonderful cast, and it built
and built and built. We're very lucky."
Faced with limitless story possibilities, the filmmakers approached
screenwriters Shauna Cross and Heather Hach to fashion an appealing cast of
characters whose experience might represent the diversity of the pregnancy
experience. The structure itself, according to Hach, was immediately evident. "I
was incredibly pregnant myself when I came aboard this project, so it was really
on my brain and in my heart," she recalls. "And it just made sense to me: there
are three trimesters and there are also three acts in a movie so there was an
inherent story there."
Shauna Cross, who's also a mother, set her sights on bringing as much humor
as possible to the characters' experiences. "While I found pregnancy touching
and sweet, I also thought so much of it was funny," she says. "I wanted to push
that and make it feel modern, so that this film could be our generation's
version of how we get through this stuff now."
By the final draft of the script, the writers and filmmakers had built a
vibrant ensemble comedy around five different couples, each one incorporating
unique experiences and addressing both male and female points-of-view. Producer
Arnold Messer says, "We were quite conscientious in our attempts to make sure
the film looked at a whole range of perspectives on child-rearing. As much as
it's a movie about babies; it's also a movie about people who don't want babies.
As much as it's a movie about motherhood; it's also about fatherhood."
Director Kirk Jones also felt strongly that the book's candor and honesty
should be reflected in the film. In keeping with his dictum, the screenplay
candidly addresses many issues surrounding pregnancy, including the physical
challenges of carrying a child to term, infertility and adoption. "Often
pregnancy is portrayed the way people in the media talk about it: women have
this wonderful glow and an amazing experience," says Jones. "But it's also
pretty tough. And our script didn't flinch from being truthful, honest and
Casting What to Expect was a daunting task - the filmmakers had to balance an
ensemble cast of twelve leads - but actors were incredibly responsive to the
film's subject matter and the strength of Cross' and Hach's script. Says
producer David Thwaites, "You can't ever be 100% sure about chemistry between
actors until the cameras are rolling, so you have to follow your instincts. Kirk
and I spent a huge amount of time working out that balance. I think we have a
tremendous cast - there isn't a single role that I'd change or an actor who
hasn't exceeded my expectations."
"It was incredible how everybody who we really hoped would be in the movie
ended up in the movie," adds author Heidi Murkoff, who also serves as executive
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