BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE
About The Production
BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE began its journey to the screen in the offices of producer David T. Friendly. Screenwriter Darryl Quarles was meeting with Friendly to pitch a story idea that Friendly didn't quite respond to. As the meeting's end, Friendly asked Quarles if he had any other ideas, and Quarles pitched the idea for BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE. Remembers Friendly: "Darryl describe the one-line idea, and I was blown away. I told him, 'We're buying that, and you're writing it."'
The idea, in which the lead actor would play three different characters — a street- smart FBI agent, a southern granny, and an aged Asian man — required an actor of singular comedic, physical and acting talents. While Martin Lawrence was at the top of the list, the writing of the script proceeded without a specific actor in mind.
"We were always interested in Martin for the role," notes Friendly. "But we didn't want to fall into the development trap of writing something too specific for one particular actor. We first wanted to craft a fun, credible story with a believable character." As soon as the script was ready, Lawrence was sent a copy and agreed to take on the role(s).
Lawrence quickly developed an affinity for his characters. "I understood Malcolm and I understood Big Momma," he explains. "If multiple characters work for the film, that's great. In BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE, I thought they were especially worth playing."
Once Lawrence was on board it was time to look for a director. Friendly immediately thought of Raja Gosnell, a former editor (Home Alone, Mrs.
Doubtfire) who directed Home Alone 3 and the recent comedy hit Never Been Kissed. "I'd always been interested in working with Raja," Friendly notes. "There is a very short list of comedy directors who can do this kind of material well, and Raja was at the top of my list. His background as an editor and his knowledge of comedy and what makes it work were invaluable."
Martin Lawrence also was pleased that Gosnell was taking the reins. "I knew from his previous work as an editor and director that he has great comedic timing. And good comedy needs timing and good editing."
Gosnell appreciated BIG MOMMA'S HOUSE's mix of outrageous humor, action, heart and romance. "The script had great characters and a compelling story," says Gosnell. "I saw the opportunities with the story, and knew I would have to keep a lot of balls in the air, because there was a lot going on at the same time.
Gosnell's tenure as a top editor is reflected in his filmmaking style. "I think my editing experience spins both ways," he says. "As an editor I like to have choices, so I shoot various versions of a scene. I'll try two or three lines in a spot or an alternate ending. My motto on the set was 'Perfect, one more.' On the flip side I also know how to get around stuff, so there are a lot of thing other directors might worry about matching, or other smaller problems I don't worry about."
Casting of the principal roles continued as Gosnell and Friendly worked to expand and fine-tune the story's mix of comedy, action and romance. Nia Long signed on as Big Momma's granddaughter — and eventual object of Malcolm's affection — Sherry. "Nia has this sweetness, but also a toughness inside of her that was just perfect for the role," Gosnell says. "She has dramatic moments where she fears for herself and her child, and she also had to play very big comedic scenes opposite Martin."
Long enjoyed the different rapport she shared with Lawrence as Malcom, as well as with Lawrence as Big Momma. "It's funny, because I really did have two distinct working relationships with Martin," she notes. "When he was Malcolm we tended to joke around more; the atmosphere was looser. But when he was Big Momma, it was like this wonderful old woman des
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