'Mom and Dad' star Selma Blair tells all about 'the most messed-up scene I ever shot in my life'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Selma Blair as a distraught mother in Mom and Dad. (Photo: Momentum Pictures)

No kids were harmed during the making of Mom and Dad, writer-director Brian Taylor’s ultra-dark comedy in which brainwashed parents discipline their children in violent fashion. The adults, on the other hand, endured plenty of painful moments. Take Nicolas Cage, who plays the “Dad” half of the film’s titular parental unit alongside onscreen wife Selma Blair. At one point, Cage’s aggravated family man, Brent Ryan, destroys a full-size pool table with a sledgehammer — a classic bit of Cage Rage that by first-hand accounts left the typically volcanic actor weary. And Blair tells Yahoo Entertainment that another key sequence in Mom and Dad pushed her to the edge of nausea … and beyond. “I threw up twice, I’m not joking,” the actress remarks with a laugh. “It was horrifying; the most messed-up scene I ever shot in my life.”

The scene in question takes place in a hospital maternity wing — and since you know the movie’s premise, you can probably tell where this is going. Arriving at the hospital to witness the birth of her niece, mother of two Kendall (Blair) watches in horror as her sister, Jeannie (Rachel Melvin), goes from cuddling her mewling infant to trying to suffocate it. Still unaffected by the mass “must kill children” hysteria that’s sweeping through her town’s parental population, Kendall manages to protect the baby and hands her over to hospital staff for safe-keeping. As she races home to her own kids — whom she’ll soon turn against as well — she passes by the maternity ward window, where fathers are lined up at the glass staring at their newborns with malicious violence in their eyes rather than pure love.

Nicolas Cage and Blair share breakfast with their onscreen kids in one of the happier moments in Mom and Dad. (Photo: Momentum Pictures)

That birth scene, along with Cage’s pool table smash-up, is the reason Mom and Dad — which opens today in theaters and on VOD — will likely be a midnight movie staple for years to come, mingling humor and horror in a way that’s transgressive while still being entertaining. Certainly, the midnight-movie crowd who attended Mom and Dad‘s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall reacted with equal parts glee and shock when we realized what we were about to witness. And Taylor clearly recognizes just how far he can go with this dark premise without losing the audience; while several older kids perish, he pointedly saves the babies … or, at least, declines to show us their demise on camera. “Brian could have gone so much further in this movie,” Blair admits. “But you know how many theaters it would be in? Zero! We’re just dipping our toe in the water here, because that water is pretty bloody. If you brace yourself and are in the right frame of mind, this movie is really enjoyable despite the horrific nature of the idea.”

Blair’s gag reflex didn’t act up when she came across the hospital sequence in Taylor’s script. But things changed when she stepped onto set and was handed a bereavement baby — lifelike dolls that hospitals provide grieving parents whose own babies have passed away — to protect from her onscreen sister. “They had umbilical cords and everything,” she remembers. “I was beside myself, and I vomited. Holding such a lifelike baby and it seeming dead was horrifying to me. I never want to hold a dead baby — I couldn’t. And thinking of all those grieving mothers. I really hated it. I was like, ‘When will this day be over, please?'”

Additional nausea may have come from Blair’s memories of her own maternity-room experience; the actress gave birth to her son, Arthur, in 2011, an experience she describes as horrifying for vastly different reasons than what we see in Mom and Dad. “[My son] was a month late, so they induced me even though it would have been fine if he stayed in for two more weeks. I had a 37-hour labor, and finally after that, I said that I’d have an epidural because I was hallucinating that I was in the Library of Congress. My child is alive and healthy, but I still haven’t recovered. I swear, it ruined me for five years. Maybe that’s also why I threw up during that scene!”

Blair was so eager to get the scene over with, she threw herself into take after take, literally. While protecting her niece, Kendall is shoved back against the hospital-room door and falls to the ground. “When I hit the door, I hit it really hard,” Blair remembers. “They gave me tons of safety lessons and told me not to overdo it, but I was in such an emotional state. So I flung myself at the door so that I could go home for the day or something. I didn’t want to be there.”

Blair as Kendall in Mom and Dad. (Photo: Momentum Pictures)

When the actress saw the end result at Toronto, though, she was happy she stuck it out. “That scene is amazing to me,” she marvels, adding that she’s had to cover her eyes on subsequent viewings. “To see a new mother turn against her newborn and my character is trying to stop her — it’s almost too much. I really admire Brian’s mind at being so crazy.” One of the filmmaker’s craziest flourishes is scoring the entire sequence to Roxette’s 1992 favorite “It Must Have Been Love,” with the needle dropping just as Jeannie switches over from loving mother to remorseless killer. Not surprisingly, Blair says that Taylor had a difficult time finding an artist willing to license their music for such a horrifying moment. “I know there was another song they were thinking of and most of the music libraries were like, ‘Not a f—king chance!’ I gotta hand it to Roxette: they’re brave, and I love it. It’s a perfect music cue.”

Speaking of perfect music cues, Blair tells us that earlier in the day she overheard “Bitter Sweet Symphony” on the radio and was suddenly transported back to 1999 when that Verve hit played over the climactic scene of the contemporary teen classic Cruel Intentions. “My character, Cecile, was very dorky, but [at the end] you saw her become this powerful person by serving those papers to Sarah Michelle Gellar while ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ plays in the background! I love that movie — I could watch it all the time.” In fact, she’ll happily watch it with her son, even if it means having a potentially awkward conversation about why Cecile is locking lips with Geller’s Kathryn in what has become one of the most celebrated movie kisses of all time. “I’m not squeamish of anything like that; violence I wouldn’t want him to see, because it really gets in your brain. But kissing stuff? He wouldn’t care. But he doesn’t want to watch anything I’m in anyway, because I’m his mom.”

Mom and Dad is currently playing in theaters and on VOD. Watch the trailer:


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