In the upcoming film When the Bough Breaks, we see a case of surrogacy gone wrong. John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall) are a successful couple, but are desperate to have a child. They’ve tried everything and decide that surrogacy is their only option. They find Anna (Jaz Sinclair) and think their lives are about to be complete. Anna, however, isn’t exactly stable. She moves in with the couple and begins to display deeply disturbing behavior, including a powerful obsession with John. The film is directed by 24 veteran Jon Cassar and we got a chance to visit the set outside of New Orleans, where we spoke with him, Chestnut, Hall and Sinclair about the film. Here’s what you need to know about the film.
Director Jon Cassar was attracted to this because of the ambiguity of the characters:
Cassar is known for his work on the TV show 24. He told us that the show was really fast-paced and his actors said he works really quickly in film as well. Caesar said that, like on 24, you really don’t know who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy. “Nobody’s black or white,” he said on set. “What attracted me to this was putting characters in a situation that has a moral choice. There is a choice to be made. And then it’s fun for the audience to play along and go, what would I do?” He continued, “ There is a decision that has to be made. I always say, if there’s a husband and wife watching the show, one thinks it’s one way, one thinks it’s the other way. If they’re arguing on the way home, I did my job.”
There is going to be a major confrontation with firearms and a car:
We watched a scene where one of the characters has lost it and is threatening some of the other characters with a gun. While we won’t spoil who it is for you, we can say that the scene was shot in front of John and Laura’s gorgeous house, involves a car and even watching it from the sidelines, we could feel the tension. It didn’t hurt that it was shot in the bayou in the wee hours of the morning, and the crew (and reporters) were unusually close to the action.
New Orleans and the house itself are characters in this movie:
Caesar told us, “The film was written for LA. Sometimes it’s easy to transition from one city to another, and sometimes you go to one city and pretend it’s another city. We could have done that, but I think all of us agreed right away that we loved the idea of New Orleans, and instead of fighting it, we wanted to embrace it. So we have—we have John Boutte playing at a party, a local jazz player, this guy that we just…went to see. [I said] ‘I love that guy. Let’s put him in the movie.’ It’s kind of fun that way. What happens in the film, the house is a big character. The house in LA was a big character, but the houses here are very different from the houses in LA, especially at that caliber. Especially very high end. There was [originally] a guest house and a pool. Not a lot of guest houses in New Orleans…we never found one with a guest house. We found one with a pool house that we made a guest house…a lot of the movie deals with Anna staying in the guest house and the Taylors staying in the main house. Them looking at each other and him looking at her through the window. And she looks up at the bedroom when they’re making love…the one we finally found was just spectacular.” We got a chance to see the interior and it was stunning.
Newcomer Sinclair did a lot of research into surrogacy:
We asked Sinclair about her character. “Anna Walsh—this girl’s complex. There is a lot to this character,” she said. Sinclair explained why Anna wants to be a surrogate. “Originally I thought that it was her boyfriend Mike. I thought he forced her to do it. That was the idea that I came into it with. Then I went to see a surrogacy office, because I was curious about what it would actually feel like. And I walked in and they were so nice. And they were so kind. And it wasn’t dark like the movie. It was just really happy. I talked to the people and they were kind to me, and she gave her card to me and said, ‘If you ever want to donate your eggs, come back.” [laughs] They said the prime candidate for an egg donor is someone who is in their thirties, has their own kids and doesn’t want to [have more kids] but loves being pregnant. So why on earth would they [John and Laura] pick this girl who is 20-years-old, has never had a kid to have their baby? But I realized it came from a true, authentic place. When Laura sees this girl for the first time, she can see the power behind this girl’s desire to help somebody. It comes from the need to help and to have the ability to give something to somebody.” Unfortunately, things go pear-shaped in what Sinclair calls, “a series of triggers.”
Surrogacy is a very complicated matter, legally:
One of the issues in the film is whether or not Anna will turn over the baby, which was created with Laura and John’s genetic material. She has the legal right to the baby, even though it was their sperm and egg. Hall told us, “Until I read the script, I didn’t know that legally it was the surrogate’s baby. Until she resigned over the rights. Even if it’s hers, because if it’s your embryo, life doesn’t begin until it attaches to the uterine wall. So because life doesn’t begin until it’s in the womb, it’s the carrier’s baby and till she resigns off the rights.
Chestnut says his character is not a bad guy—he just makes bad decisions:
We chatted with Chestnut while he was sitting in a makeup chair, getting his fake blood touched up in the early morning hours, surrounded by swarms of bugs in the bayou, yet he was cracking jokes the whole time. He described his character for us; “He’s a loving husband who just gets caught in a situation where he has to make some decisions. He’s an alpha male so he feels what he does is best. It turns out probably not to be the best decision—he’s a character who has to make a lot of decisions. He makes some right decisions, but his wrong decisions make him look like this,” he said, referring to his fake blood. “He’s just a very conflicted character.”
Hall said ,”The script wasn’t written for any race specifically,” and Cassar said that was one thing that attracted them to the film. Chestnut said, “That’s what made the difference. I could tell when I read the script that it wasn’t written for black actors. They actually tried to do the movie about two years ago and they offered the role to, I think it was Jon Hamm or something like that. That was one of the things that really appealed to me.
Hall said this was an intense performance for her:
“The character has emotional ups and downs. The movie takes place over just under a year. You kind of have to go through what your character goes through, even if you don’t want to, it just ends up happening. So it definitely feels different than it feels when I’m making a comedy.” She said she did research into fertility issues, miscarriages, both of which her character has suffered, and “what emotionally it does to a woman who’s actually gone through that and what it takes to get a surrogate. How long that process is.”
When the Bough Breaks will hit theaters on September 9th. Here’s the trailer: