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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 all."

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 laugh."

A father of two, Chris Rock admits that the book, What to Expect, is still on his wife's nightstand…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 great hands."

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 grounded."

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 producer

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