Why American Sniper Used a Fake Baby–and Other Infamous Fake Babies

By Zack
February 22, 2015 2:58 pm Last Updated: February 22, 2015 2:58 pm

American Sniper could lose its bid for Best Picture at the Academy Awards on Sunday, some experts say, for one reason–the fake baby in a scene with leads Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.

Why was the fake baby used? Well, Jason Hall, the movie’s screenwriter, said via Twitter back in December that the two scheduled real babies had problems.

“Real baby #1 showed up with a fever. Real baby #2 was no show. (Clint voice) Gimme the doll, kid,” he said, although he later deleted the tweet.

American Sniper has been a critical and commercial success, but the one scene could easily derail a potential Best Picture nod. In the scene, Cooper and Miller, who play sniper Chris Kyle and Kyle’s wife, hand the baby back and forth as they discuss Cooper leaving for another tour with the military. 

As Hall noted, there are difficulties in using real babies in movies–perhaps one reason why there are so few in films and television shows.

The Washington Post notes that rules in most cities and counties generally limit newborns to a set for 15 minutes at a time, under certain lighting. 

“That’s why, a lot of times, producers hire multiple babies — you can’t always guarantee a happy baby ready for filming,” said Toni Casala, founder of Los Angeles-based Children in Film. “And if one doesn’t show up, you’re definitely in trouble.”

Other rules specific to California, where the scene is believed to have been filmed, also add to the difficulty. “Infants must be at least 15 days old, and babies from that age up to six months can be employed for only one period of two consecutive hours in any given day. Moreover, that time frame has to be between 9:30-11:30 a.m. or from 2:30-4:30 p.m., and one studio teacher along with one nurse must be on set during filming,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

But the difficulties shouldn’t have prevented Clint Eastwood and the rest of the American Sniper crew from getting a real baby into the scene, even if it caused a delay and added expenses.

“It shouldn’t have been too hard to find a baby to be honest, even at the last minute,” said Casala. “It’s surprising they didn’t take the time to re-shoot that scene, because it looked so bad.”

Other prominent movies have also resorted to fake babies for one reason or another. An obviously fake baby stares at Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting. A fake baby stars in the final scene of Zoolander. A fake baby appears in a scene in Labyrinth. 

According to movie fans, fake babies have also featured in The Matrix and Braindead among other movies.

One film that dodged the criticism (for the fake baby) that American Sniper received was Breaking Dawn, part of the Twilight series. The weird robot baby, Chuckesmee, was eventually cut from the movie. “Chuckesmee is one of the most grotesque animatronic babies ever to not be seen on film,” said one producer. “”This is never going to work. ‘No fake thing is ever going to do the trick,'” added producer Wyck Godfrey.