Kathryn Hahn is very cold. After shooting on location in a chilly supermarket all afternoon (and for Hahn, aggressively downing a few cartons of milk) she, Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell are decked out in matching floor-length grey parkas in an attempt to warm up amongst the store’s impressive assortment of pickles. It’s been a challenging day on set, which is actually just a repurposed grocery store: there’s been a lot of running, cereal throwing and milk chugging; but the women look like they couldn’t be happier.
They’re shooting Bad Moms, written and directed by the Josh Moore and Scott Lucas, the duo responsible for the beloved buddy comedy The Hangover. And while their adult sensibilities ensure their follow-up will be similar in tone, you could hardly call Bad Moms more of the same. Swapping Vegas for the suburban landscapes of Chicago and trading single man-dom for harried motherhood, Bad Moms follows the slow breakdown of Amy Mitchell (Kunis) as her search for motherly perfection proves to be far more elusive than she originally thought. Eventually, Amy finds solace in Kiki (Bell) and Carla (Hahn) to find the freedom to let go regardless of the pressures from the unrelentingly perfect PTA moms, lead by a painfully meticulous Christina Applegate.
In March of this year, I (along with writers of a few other film sites) had the chance to talk to the film’s three stars on the set of Bad Moms to find out more about their lives as real-life moms, their experiences on set and what it’s like working with a nearly all-female cast. Bad Moms hits theaters July 28th and stars Christina Applegate, Jada-Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumolo (including a cameo from Kesha!) along with the film’s three stars.
Question: You’ve had a rough day.
KATHRYN HAHN: I did, I’m earning my paycheck today.
You’re all mothers, have you ever had one of these moments when you feel like a bad mom?
HAHN: Never. We’re all perfect.
KRISTEN BELL: I might not be perfect, but I feel perfect and I think that’s all that matters.
I guess what I mean is one of those moments where something’s going crazy and you’re just hands in the air…
HAHN: Every day. Some days you think if they are still breathing at the end of the day, you’ve done okay. It’s the most out of control feeling you can possibly have.
BELL: I think it’s the norm. I find it to be the norm.
Since you started working on the movie have you found that when you tell friends about the project that they start sharing their bad moms stories?
MILA KUNIS: My friends have always been very open with their horrible days, I think we all have. So I don’t think this movie necessarily prompted my friends to be like, “Oh wait, me too!” It mostly happens every day, they’re like, “Holy shit, let me tell you what happened today.” I think it’s an everyday occurrence, to me.
BELL: I think when I mention it, people are excited about the topic and find it refreshing what we’re saying about motherhood.
KUNIS: I think people like to know they’re not alone. And I think that the second you’re like, “Oh wait,” it’s something you can poke humor at and make light of. I think before, when my parents were raising my brother and I, everything had to look perfect. Whether it was or wasn’t you just didn’t air your dirty laundry so to speak. And I think nowadays, if it’s going wrong I call my best friend like, “I don’t know, there’s this color coming out of her nose and I’m pretty sure she’s dying.” It’s okay to do that now and I don’t think it necessarily was okay before. So I think this movie kind of brings light to that.
HAHN: It’s also, we were talking about it, we live in such a child-centric culture where this unattainable perfection you get from… They’re so many books. We were talking about it, and my mom just had Dr. Spock.
KUNIS: Both our moms just had one book, Dr. Spock, and that’s the only book that they followed and that’s it.
BELL: My mom can’t read. [laughs]
HAHN: It’s crazy, even just the blogging alone, there’s this perfection so that everything you’re supposed to feel even or do, when it doesn’t match up with what everything in the culture is telling you to do, you feel like a failure.
BELL: But this movie blankets the whole topic of motherhood in a way — the message is, there are endless ways to do it, and however your gut is telling you to do it, that’s what’s right. It’s a unifying message that we all feel less than, we all feel frazzled, we all feel overworked and terrified we’re messing up our humans. But that’s the beauty of this entire movie is it’s unifying. It’s like moms in solidarity.
You’re all moms, and Christina [Applegate] and Jada [Pinkett-Smith] are moms, we were talking to (producer) Suzanne [Todd] earlier and she said there are tons of kids here all the time which is great.
HAHN: Yeah, it’s awesome.
BELL: Everything is sticky.
Suzanne also said that you’re wearing a necklace that your daughter made you as a character, right?
BELL: I am. She made it over Thanksgiving, I wear it a lot. And I wore it into a fitting and it just seemed perfect with every outfit, so we made a bunch more.
How do you prepare yourself for when you’re doing take after take after take of junk food like today?
BELL: Choose your props wisely.
HAHN: You just run to the restroom and vomit. [laughs] No.
I mean, a gallon of milk would make me vomit. You’re a hero.
HAHN: Leonardo DiCaprio nothing. [laughs]
I just want you to know we were all watching like, silently cheering. It was amazing.
HAHN: It was disgusting. It was fun, though. It wasn’t real milk which was helpful.
What was it?
HAHN: It was like soymilk.
Is that better?
HAHN: No, it’s not. It’s not. It’s not.
What for you guys is the best part about being in a movie starring all women, about women, aimed at women?
HAHN: We can just get real, deep into the deep, dive into the deep end real fast.
BELL: Yeah, it gets intimate real fast. Because we’re all in the same boat.
HAHN: Which is kind of where I want to live all the time anyway, so it’s great. There’s not a lot of tiptoeing around, it just got real down and dirty.
BELL: Being a mom can be so isolating, so hanging around with other moms can be really healthy.
HAHN: Your cycles really arrange themselves.
Is there anything you guys do in your own lives to avoid getting to the breaking point as moms?
BELL: Tapping out.
KUNIS: Alcohol, lots of alcohol.
BELL: My husband and I tap out and take mini-meditative breaks. Because we have two toddlers — they’re so fuckin’ loud. And we keep an eye on each other. Where we’ll go, “Oh, okay you can take a break, I’ll take over.” We step in. When you’re in the ring, you gotta tap out with your partner. That’s how we do it.
KUNIS: I only have one little human. It’s not too bad, these two have got two. I mean, I’m very lucky, I do have an amazing husband. My parents live in the same town as I do, I’m very lucky when it comes to all those things. She’s only 16, 17 months old. She’s rambunctious, but she’s not there yet, where she’s two and a half where I’m like, “Holy shit, there’s this demon baby coming out.” We haven’t quite hit the demon stage yet.
We heard one of the central antagonists is this PTA mom Gwendolyn, how do you deal with that in your own life?
KUNIS: I’m not there yet, that’s these two. I’m like, “Fuck you mothers!”
BELL: I’m not totally there yet, so I’ll pass that to Kathryn, but I will say this: I’ve found that the vast majority of people who are judging are just fearful and insecure.
KUNIS: It’s projection, that’s all it is, it’s pure projection.
HAHN: I feel like you’re just justifying your own way of doing it. I think for some of those women, they just have to like believe what they’re doing is the only correct way because that’s the way they’re doing it. [laughs] Do you know what I mean? They have to justify it. I used to take it very much to heart because I always felt like the kids were like fleabags, a mess, and like I always had toothpaste dribbling down me. I couldn’t believe the moms that would show up with not only their hair and makeup perfect, but the children with their hair brushed, with a clip in it that the kid doesn’t rip out. I just was like in awe of that and the perfect bento box lunches. But, you know. Who cares, really? You find your tribe and you stick with them.
BELL: But I think when there’s so much information to be eaten up, and so many ways to do it, people cling to groups. I think we, as monkeys, want to live in smaller groups. It’s very scary when we’re all, as wonderful as it is, connected. So you’re struggling for your own identity…
KUNIS: Even on like a larger scale.
BELL: Yeah, because you need that. But, that’s the great thing about this movie is it’s a reminder that we are all on the same team as women, as moms, as friends…
HAHN: It’s the competitive energy that is so destructive. Like you said, we are all in it together. You’re only a mommy for such a brief amount of time anyway, you don’t want to look back and be like, “Oh, why did I care about that stupid nonsense?” Who cares?
To change gears a little bit, this is one of the last days of shooting. It looked like you were doing a little bit of improv today, was this an improv-heavy shoot or was this heavily scripted?
BELL: It’s a fly by the seat of your pants kind of shoot.
KUNIS: It’s a little bit of both.
HAHN: Yeah, we definitely improvised. Yeah.
BELL: It’s really sad to me that it’s coming to an end, although it feels like *snaps fingers* that. It feels like we haven’t even shot anything.
KUNIS: I know, has been the fastest shoot I’ve ever been on in my life. This really has. I think at one point, I was like, “Wait, we have five days left?” Like I’m actually sad about it. I very rarely get actually sad when ending a movie and I am genuinely sad. The crew’s lovely, the cast is alright. [laughs]
HAHN: I think about the movie, and I think, I don’t think I’ve had one talking scene with a male actor. I’ve got some non-talking scenes, but that’s pretty amazing.
BELL: It’s been a clam jam.
HAHN: Yeah. Total clam jam.
KUNIS: Hair and makeup in the morning is really fun, there’s no guys in it ever.
HAHN: Really it’s also like we’re so lucky, I feel blessed that it’s such a low maintenance group of ladies. Hair and makeup trailer is so much fun.
BELL: Way more fun.
Even though this is a female-led set, you guys are still working with two male directors.
KUNIS: They’re barely male. [laughs]
BELL: Anatomy only, anatomy only. And we can’t even confirm that, to be honest.
HAHN: To be totally honest, we’re just assuming.
KUNIS: It’s just the haircut, really.
Have you guys felt like you’ve had to teach them anything or keep them in line?
HAHN: We have an awesome producer who’s been behind the monitor and she’s a —
KUNIS: A ball-buster. But they also wrote the script as an homage to their wives. Like it’s a thank you.
BELL: To their mommas, I think too.
KUNIS: It’s to all the moms. They’re the most loving, non-egomaniacal directors. They’re wonderful. And they want the crew to have fun and I think that any time you have that as the captain of your ship, it’s great.
HAHN: One of the writers, my son and his son go to school together with the costume designer’s daughter. It’s been hilarious to be like, “I’ll see you at the gala next week!” When we’re all back in Los Angeles, it’ll be like, “Wow, I was chugging milk for you a week ago.” It’s going to be hilarious. It’s definitely a love letter to their awesome wives.
It looked like there was a lot of fun stuff happening today, what would you say has been the most fun day on set so far?
HAHN: This is up there.
KUNIS: Yeah, destroying a grocery store is pretty fucking awesome.
BELL: I can’t even remember what the first shot we did today was. The cereal was pretty awesome.
HAHN: This day was pretty special. It just feels like a wrapping, because it’s tiny little pieces, it feels celebratory. You’re here on a fun day.