THE GANG'S ALL HERE + A NEW DIRECTOR
Kids, craziness, domestic disaster and, yes, the Bakers' weapon of choice - the family dog unleashed upon a pair of meat-soaked trousers - made up the mix that drew audiences to 2003's CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. The film became a box-office sensation and Steve Martin's biggest-grossing comedy to date. Moviegoers embraced the film's modern comic sensibility coupled with old-fashioned sentiment rooted in family values. CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN was a love letter to large families.
Given the film's success, it's not surprising that Twentieth Century Fox asked CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN director Shawn Levy and co-screenwriter Sam Harper to create a sequel. But all parties agreed that the new film had to be bigger in scale and expand upon themes explored in the first film.
Under Levy's supervision, Harper began work on a script. When the film received a "green light" from the studio, Levy was unable to take the helm due to other commitments. But he still had ties to the characters he helped bring to life, and was eager to contribute to a new film about the Bakers. So Levy became a producer on CHEAPER 2. "The film takes this franchise to a new level," he says. "It really ups the stakes in so many ways. It was important for CHEAPER 2 to have a large scale, and at the same time have something new to say. It has more stunts, bigger laughs, and another family, which adds a new dimension to the Bakers' story."
With Levy producing, CHEAPER 2 needed a new director. Steve Martin had an idea: Why not ask Adam Shankman, who had directed Martin in the comedy smash "Bringing Down the House," to helm the new film? "Adam's a talented filmmaker with a great eye and ear for comedy," says Martin. "He also has a terrific way of working with kids, and we were lucky to get him for CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2."
Levy and the studio agreed that Shankman was a great choice. Indeed, in a short period of time, Shankman has become one of the industry's most successful comedy directors, having helmed the hit films "The Pacifier" and "The Wedding Planner," as well as "Bringing Down the House."
Shankman couldn't wait to get started on CHEAPER 2 and bring a new scale and vision to the Baker family dynamic. "I'd just done a film involving a bunch of kids ["The Pacifier"], but when I read the script for CHEAPER 2, I knew I'd have to do it - and that we'd have to top the first film. The set pieces are bigger than the original's and that gave me a lot to sink my teeth into. It still has the heart, but it's a bigger canvas. It's CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN…on steroids!
"Shawn Levy did a great job with CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN," Shankman continues. "I approached CHEAPER 2 with my own sense of humor, sense of family, and heart."
The studio, Shankman and Levy agreed that all the actors who made up the Baker family in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN had to return for the new film. Reassembling such a large cast could have been problematic, but all 14 of the 2003 film's cast had such affection for their characters, that the reunion for the second film came together relatively easily.
Shankman credits screenwriter Sam Harper for succeeding in what would seem an impossible writing task: balancing CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2's 25 principal roles "Included in that group of actors Sam was writing for are three stars (Steve Martin, Eugene Levy and Bonnie Hunt) who are writers in the own right and who have strong opinions," says Shankman. "It's a testament to Sam's work that all three actors cite the screenplay as a reason they made time in their busy schedules to participate in CHEAPER 2."
Confirms Steve Martin: "The script was good from the first draft. CHEAPER 2 kept the essence of the first movie, while taking it in new directions."
Harper was eager to revisit the Bakers. "Starting work on a new CHEAPER script was like coming home to old friends," he says. "Adam, Shawn and I wanted to move the characters forward. The biggest challenge in writing the screenplay was finding a universal theme around which I could wrap a story that's funny, emotional and big."
Harper's script finds Tom and Kate Baker experiencing "empty nest syndrome": Nora (Piper Perabo) is married, pregnant and moving to Houston; Lorraine (Hilary Duff) has graduated high school and is moving to New York for an internship in the fashion world; and Charlie (Tom Welling) is working as a mechanic while considering his next move.
The central story point about Tom's reluctance to let his children leave the "nest" allowed the filmmakers to explore questions such as: How much can you control your kids? When do you have to let go? When you do let go, how do you handle it? "Ultimately our story is about acceptance," says Adam Shankman. "It's about accepting change is okay and a natural part of a family's evolution, raising your family starting from a place of love, and letting go of your kids is the most difficult and the most necessary thing you do as a parent."
To bring the family together for a summer "last hurrah," Tom takes the entire brood for a vacation at the Bakers' favorite getaway spot: Lake Winnetka. "It'll be just like old times - one more time," he promises.
Instead, the vacation resurrects the longtime feud between Tom and Jimmy Murtaugh. It's a fight that stems in part from differences in parenting styles between the Bakers and Murtaughs. Tom and Kate Baker have allowed their children to grow as individuals, warts and all. In contrast, Murtaugh represents strict control. He keeps his kids on a short leash, grooming them, as Harper writes, "to reflect the best aspects of his gene pool."
Says Harper: "The battle between Tom and Jimmy is as much a philosophical war as it is an athletic competition. After all the one-upsmanship and fighting between Tom and Jimmy, it becomes clear that parenting is a balance, and that they can learn from one another."
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 brings these themes into sharp focus, while presenting even bigger laughs and stunts than its predecessor. The formidable acting and comedic talents of Steve Martin were critical to bring together the physical humor and the quieter, emotional moments.
Martin had taken the 2003 film to a level unattainable without his presence. "When you have Steve Martin, you get layers of character and comedy that go well beyond the scripted page," says Shawn Levy. "His work starts where the words end."
Adds Adam Shankman: "Part of what Steve does in the CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN films is incredibly physical, and he is really at his best when you set up a context for him to be zany.
"The idea of working again with Steve was so appealing because I love putting him in peril," laughs Shankman. "Putting Steve in peril is what I do well - like suspending him 25 feet above ground, having him crash through a dock, and fight a losing battle with a wake board," all of which Martin's Tom Baker suffers through in CHEAPER 2.
Also returning in the starring cast are Tom Welling, Hilary Duff and Piper Perabo. All three actors made time from their busy schedules to participate in CHEAPER 2. For Welling, it meant squeezing in his CHEAPER 2 work before beginning work on the fifth season of his hit television series "Smallville." Duff juggled a demanding concert tour schedule to make room for the CHEAPER 2 shoot. And Perabo has appeared in no less than six films in 2005.
"I wouldn't have missed it," says Duff of the chance to reprise her CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN role of Lorraine Baker. "Lorraine has changed a lot. In the first film, she was a teen whose main interests were clothes, hair and makeup. In CHEAPER 2, she is young woman about to leave home for a great opportunity in New York. You can also see how Lorraine has changed when she offers advice about dating to younger sister Sarah."
Perabo, as eldest sibling Nora, is now married (Jonathan Bennett plays Nora's husband, Bud), expecting, and preparing to move to Houston - much to her father's consternation. "Like so many in the family, Nora's had some seismic changes in her life," says Perabo. "But her dad doesn't seem to want to let go of her, or his about-to-be first grandchild, whom football coach Tom expects to a linebacker."
Romance is the air for Tom Welling's Charlie Baker, who finds his neighbor Anne Murtaugh (Jaime King) more than a summer diversion. "But she's a Murtaugh," says Welling, "and with that name comes all sorts of complications for a Baker."
Sam Harper, Shawn Levy and Adam Shankman created these new dimensions to the Baker family who of course are already familiar to the legions of fans of the 2003 film. For CHEAPER 2, Shankman and Harper had the opportunity to create from scratch a new family - the Murtaughs.
Shankman asked Eugene Levy to take on the role of family head Jimmy Murtaugh, a successful businessman with a young, beautiful wife and seemingly perfect kids. The acclaimed funnyman is another alumnus of "Bringing Down the House," whose highlights included the comedic back-and-forth between Martin and Levy. "The magic between Steve and Eugene can't be imitated," says Shankman. "They really enjoy playing off each other. Their characters in CHEAPER 2 are the yin and yang of parenting, and Steve and Eugene brought that to life."
Levy didn't think twice about reuniting with Martin and Shankman. "I liked playing Jimmy because he takes winning seriously and he is very successful. It was a nice change from the characters I usually play who are somewhat less than successful. You know, they're not the sharpest pencils in the drawer."
Jimmy's young wife Sarina is a former actress who feels a little in over her head as a mother figure to her husband's eight children. But according to Carmen Electra, who plays the role, Sarina is no trophy wife. "She's genuinely in love with Jimmy and doing her best to cope with his competitive ways and with his kids. Fortunately, they're all near-perfect."
Electra, a former dancer, appreciated that Shankman, too, comes from a dance background; indeed, he was one of the entertainment world's premier dance and physical comedy choreographers. With 25 principals in constant motion, his choreography background came in handy. "It let me make faster decisions about how a scene would move," says Shankman. "For example, in many scenes we moved a group of the kids almost as a single unit - as if they were one actor."
When casting the younger members of the Baker clan for the 2003 CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, the filmmakers opted for fresh faces, some of whom had never been before a camera. They became the heart and soul of both films and are a huge part of what give the films their fun and motion.
Playing the younger Baker children are twins Shane Kinsman and Brent Kinsman as Kyle and Nigel; Forrest Landis as Mark; Liliana Mumy as Jessica; Kevin G. Schmidt as Henry; Jacob Smith as Jake; Alyson Stoner as Sarah; Blake Woodruff as Mike; and Morgan York as Kim.
These young actors' biggest fans are the CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 cast and filmmakers. "Each child has his or her own creativity and imagination," says Shankman. "The team spirit they helped create in the 2003 film carried over to CHEAPER 2. They're the heart of the sequel."
For Bonnie Hunt, reuniting with the youngsters was a major draw for her returning as Kate Baker. "My first thought when I came aboard CHEAPER 2 was, I can't wait to see the kids again," says Hunt. I wanted to see how they've grown and changed. The joy of doing this movie is being with them and sharing their experiences.
"I come from a family a seven children, so for me, working with all the kids is a total comfort zone," Hunt adds. "The more, the merrier."
And for CHEAPER 2, there are "more" - eight new young people who play the Murtaugh siblings. In addition to the aforementioned Jaime King, they are: Shawn Roberts as Calvin; Robbie Amell as Daniel; Melanie Tonello as Becky; twins Courtney Fitzpatrick and Madison Fitzpatrick as Lisa and Robin; Alexander Conti as Kenneth; and Taylor Lautner as Eliot.
Steve Martin marveled at how the kids playing the Baker children hadn't changed. "I was afraid that success might have led them to 'go Hollywood'," Martin laughs. "But I was happy to see that little changed but their height and the depth of their voices."
A cast round-up would be remiss without mentioning two key four-legged members of the ensemble: Gunner, the Baker family pooch; and a troublesome pack-rat the Bakers call The Chiseler. In fact, the production wrangled eight rats for the shoot, each trained in a specific discipline.
SUMMER CAMP…CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN- STYLE
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 was shot on location in and around Toronto, Canada, from June to September 2005. While other productions based in Toronto were stuck in the city amid record-breaking heat and humidity, many of the cast and crew of CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 spent their off-time swimming, bouncing on a water trampoline and jet-skiing at beautiful Stoney Lake, a rustic area northeast of the city.
It was a very different experience from shooting the 2003 film, much of which was shot on Los Angeles soundstages.
Many of the CHEAPER 2 cast stayed at Stoney Lake's charming cottages and resorts. The "summer camp" environment brought them closer together.
"We were away from many of our families and friends, so the cast had lots of time to just hang out with each other," says Hilary Duff. "I even learned to fish on this movie!" Duff credits Shankman for nurturing a creative yet relaxed environment. "Everyone has so much respect for Adam because he lets the cast have fun until he says 'ready,' and then everyone focuses on the scene. After the shooting was done, we all would get silly again."
A special treat for the CHEAPER cast and crew was participating in an authentic Ojibwa Indian festival, where Bonnie Hunt, Carmen Electra and all the kids danced around a fire to traditional Ojibwa drum music.
Adam Shankman wanted to shoot much of the film outdoors because, as he puts it, "I love the sense of space and expansiveness." Director of Photography Peter James welcomed the opportunity to shoot using natural light.
Once an existing lakeside mansion was found for the Murtaugh's summer home, Boulders (yes, their house has a name), production designer Cary White built the exterior shell of the Bakers' modest "Big House" on a piece of land across the bay on Stoney Lake; the interiors were shot inside a Toronto studio. "The exterior was so realistic you could even see the paint chipping and the wood rotting," says Piper Perabo.
The costumes also reflect the contrasting family styles. Veteran costume designer Joseph G. Aulisi approached the Murtaughs' look as though they were in a never-ending Ralph Lauren advertisement, while the Baker's duds were based less on style and more on comfort.
The cinematography, design and the all the post-production work were, of course, critical to the film's look. But a CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN film is always going to be focused on people, family and emotion - with a healthy dose of domestic chaos. "People always say, don't work with animals or kids," Shankman notes. "Well, we had a lot of both on our film, and it was never less than a fantastic experience."
ADAM SHANKMAN (Director, Executive Producer) is an artist who as a master of comedy also captures the sensitivity of his stories, making him one of the most loved and commercially successful filmmakers of his generation.
Currently, Shankman is in pre-production on "Untitled Dance Movie," a project he is producing for Touchstone pictures. The film, written by Melissa Rosenberg, will be directed by Anne Fletcher. Additionally, Shankman just signed on to the high-profile film version of the musical of the film "Hairspray," for New Line Cinema. Filming is scheduled for 2006.
Shankman is also producing "Premonition" for TriStar pictures. The story centers on a housewife whose husband dies in a car crash and is shocked when he appears alive the next day. Sandra Bullock is in negotiations to star along with Julian McMahon, with Menan Yapo on board to direct. Shankman is producing along with Hyde Park Entertainment, Jennifer Gibgot and Sunil Perkash.
Shankman most recently directed Walt Disney Pictures' "The Pacifier" starring Vin Diesel, Brittany Snow, Brad Garrett, Faith Ford, and Lauren Graham. The over-the-top comedy stars Diesel as Shane, a Navy SEAL who thought he was prepared to take on any duty no matter how perilous or impossible . . . until he tried baby-sitting. Assigned to protect the five out-of-control children of an assassinated scientist working on vital government secrets, Shane is suddenly faced with juggling two outrageously incompatible jobs: fighting the bad guys while keeping house. The movie made $200 million worldwide and is Disney's biggest hit of 2005.
Prior to "The Pacifier," Shankman directed Disney's box office hit "Bringing Down the House." This comedy, starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah, was number one at the box office for three weeks in a row, grossing over $131 million.
Shankman began crafting an enviable career with his directorial debut, Columbia Pictures' "The Wedding Planner." The Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey film was the heart-felt hit of 2001. Shankman's following grew with his next film "A Walk to Remember," distributed by Warner Bros., starring Mandy Moore and Shane West. "A Walk to Remember" was nominated for a 2002 Phoenix Film Critics Award for Best Live Action Family Film.
Shankman and producing partner Jennifer Gibgot recently renewed their overall deal with Walt Disney Studios and their Offspring Entertainment. The duo have several high-profile comedies in development including a retelling of "Topper" starring Steve Martin with Mandeville Films with Shankman attached to direct, "The Other Guy," "The Fiance," "Overparenting" and the aforementioned Untitled Dance Movie.
In the world of television, Shankman and Gibgot have sold "The Assistants" to NBC through Twentieth Century Television. Brian Fuller ("Wonderfalls") will write the project and executive produce along with Shankman and Gibgot. Project is about the "upstairs, downstairs" world of assistants and their bosses.
Prior to directing, Shankman was one of the entertainment world's premiere dance and physical comedy choreographers, putting his creative stamp on many well-known comedies, dramas, thrillers, and animated films. His projects include "The Addams Family," "Casper," "Inspector Gadget," "Anastasia," "George of the Jungle," " Boogie Nights," "Miami Rhapsody" and "The Flintstones," for which he was nominated for a Bob Fosse Award. Shankman won the Bob Fosse award for his work with Simon West.
At age 24, Shankman teamed up with influential video director Julian Temple as a music video choreographer. One of the first videos as choreographer was Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight." He has also choreographed videos for The B-52's, Barry White, Aaron Neville, Chic and Stevie Wonder.
A native of Los Angeles, where he currently resides, Shankman developed a love for the theater at an early age. After high school, he moved to New York and attended Juilliard in the dance program for two years. After five years of work as an actor and dancer in New York and regional theater, he moved back to Los Angeles and began dancing in music videos, including videos for Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. He also performed at the 1989 Academy Awards.
SAM HARPER (Writer) co-wrote the screenplay for the 2003 "Cheaper by the Dozen" and wrote the box-office hit "Just Married"; both films were directed by Shawn Levy. Harper is a self-described lifelong Cubs fan, which led to his writing the comedy "Rookie of the Year." A box-office hit, the film struck a cord with baseball fans everywhere, grossing $53 million domestically. Harper was previously a story analyst for a major studio and before that an associate editor for Advertising Age magazine in New York.