Baby, You're A Star Twins Jacob And Adam Worton Swapped Top-billing Duties In "Baby's Day Out." Their Crawling, Drooling And Grinning Have Drawn Rave Reviews. Their Parents Are Trying To Keep Stardom In Perspective.

Posted: July 05, 1994

NEWARK, Del. — It's rare, in the course of interviewing movie stars about their new film, that one of the actors leans over and smacks another in the head, then rips a soggy bagel out of his mouth.

It's simply not done in most proper social settings, even among pampered film actors.

But then, most movie stars aren't Jacob and Adam Worton, the blond, blue- eyed, 19-month-old identical twins who make their acting debuts - actually, their crawling, grinning and drooling debuts - in the new comedy Baby's Day Out.

"WWAAAAAHHH!!!" is about all Adam had to say on the subject of the film as he banged around the kitchen of his parents' comfortable Newark home one morning last week.

Maybe he merely wanted his bagel back.

Jacob was equally inscrutable, volunteering only something approximating ''YEEEAAARRRRGHHH!" Both young thespians preferred to let their mother, Susan, act as their official spokeswoman.

"We're trying not to make a big deal out of it," she confided. "They're just babies. They don't even know."

Baby's Day Out is the latest offering from producer-screenwriter John Hughes, the man who brought you, among others, Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Sixteen Candles, Uncle Buck and the forthcoming remake of Miracle on 34th Street. As in most of Hughes' movies, Baby's Day Out has children making

bumbling fools of adults.

This time, the plot involves a kidnapping. The Worton boys, who were 6 months old when filming started, take turns playing Baby Bink, multimillionaire scion of a Chicago couple who gets snatched by three goofy goons (Joe Mantegna, Joe Pantoliano and Brian Haley).

But Bink quickly wanders away when one of the kidnappers dozes off, touching off a daylong chase through downtown Chicago department stores, sewer pipes and high-rise construction sites.

The baby-nappers give chase, naturally. The cops chase the baby-nappers, naturally.

Baby's Day Out, which opened Friday, is all in good family fun and is getting pretty good reviews.

Wrote Washington Post film critic Hal Hinson: "Best of all, though, is the Binkman himself, whose tiny face is so expressive that he brings new meaning to the phrase 'conquering with a smile.' "

For the Wortons, it all began a year ago in May when it was announced at Susan's monthly meeting of Mothers of Multiples that a movie-production company in Chicago was looking for young blond, blue-eyed twins, preferably boys. (Production companies prefer twins because of labor laws limiting time on the set for child actors.)

"A friend of mine there said, 'Oh, why don't you try?' " says Susan, 33, who was Susan Frank when she attended Little Flower High in Oxford Circle. ''I figured, 'What the heck?' " She and her husband, Joe, sent in a picture.

Within a week, the production company was on the phone, asking for videotape of Jacob and Adam. That led to a trip to New York to meet director Patrick Read Johnson, then a trip to Chicago to meet Hughes, followed by two weeks in Los Angeles.

There, the boys and their mother met Jimmy Wagner, a child psychologist- turned-baby-acting coach whom the Hollywood Reporter trade paper once called the Lee Strasberg of toddlers. In show-biz parlance, Wagner is a baby wrangler.

Wagner's job was to figure out whether the boys could be big-time box office - or at least whether they were up to enduring the grind of making a movie.

He took an immediate liking to the twins.

"Oh, they were my boys," says Wagner, calling from his Hollywood office. ''They were excellent. There was nothing you couldn't ask them to do."

They could take direction at 6 months?

"Yeah, they understood. Those babies were 'hot.' You look for a special magic in babies, an intelligence, and they had it."

He also looked for something else: "Kidnapability," which is to say that they wouldn't wail every time a stranger picked them up.

"Most children, when they get to be 7 to 9 months old, get very anxious when a stranger picks them up," Wagner says. "Nature builds it into them as a protective device. It's normal in all babies - except babies in the movies."

Convinced that the Worton boys had what it takes, Wagner devoted a couple of weeks to "rehearsals."

Because the script called for the twins to smile and frown on cue, plus crawl across grass, concrete, marble, a building rooftop - even through mud - Wagner had samples of each brought into his office.

By July, it was off to Chicago to begin filming.

Joe Worton, 33, a Cardinal Dougherty High graduate who repairs microfilm equipment for Bell & Howell, stayed home. Susan, who was still somewhat shellshocked by the fast-unfolding experience, and a neighbor, Madilyn Kelly, 19, went to Chicago to care for the boys.

"It was a long day, with a lot of waiting around," Susan says of the moviemaking process. "Each of the boys was allowed to work six hours a day."

Most mornings they'd be up and dressed by 7 a.m., then it was off to the day's location in a van filled with food, bottles, diapers and toys. Susan quickly found herself becoming quite protective of Jacob and Adam, often to the annoyance of the harried film crew.

If it was time for the boys to eat or nap, too bad. The crew would have to find something else to film for the moment.

"They got mad at me, but it didn't matter to me," says Susan. "I told them, 'These little guys are my life, and you'll just have to work around it.' ''

In that regard, she found an ally in Wagner.

"She had worked hard for about eight years to get pregnant and these were her miracle babies," he says. "Besides, anybody who got irritated with her didn't know about children. You must adhere to the child's schedule, not yours. If a baby is fed, rested and dry, he'll work - maybe."

On the set, it soon became apparent that Jacob and Adam had different abilities. Which one got the nod depended on what the scene required.

"Adam was somber, thoughtful, quizzical," says Wagner. "If you wanted that look, you'd run get him. You want the biggest smile you've ever seen, run get Jacob."

Only once did they sort of switch personalites.

It happened when Jacob came down with an ear infection, just as they were filming a scene in which Bink needed to smile.

"Suddenly, it was all up to Adam," says Wagner. "He knew he had to save the scene for his brother."

For viewers of Baby's Day Out, it often appears as if Jacob and Adam are in constant danger, crawling through Chicago traffic, cavorting with a gorilla and riding an I-beam hauled by a crane to the top of a high-rise. Of course, most of that was done with sophisticated sleight-of-hand film techniques and the boys were never in danger.

(For example, as real as that gorilla appears, it's a mechanical beast first used in Gorillas in the Mist. In the I-beam scene, the boys are really about two feet off the floor and strapped to the beam).

For Wagner, who cajoles the babies from just out of camera range, the most anxious moment came when he arrived at work only to learn that a scene had been added - a scene he hadn't practiced with the boys.

"I walk onto the set and I'm confronted with the 20-step fire escape. The director says, 'I need him to crawl up the fire escape and into the room.' "

Panic time.

"I took the baby aside - I don't remember which one it was - and I said, 'Here's the deal. I know I told you I'd never ask you to do anything we hadn't practiced, but sometimes grown-ups tell you things they don't mean. You only have to do it once. I promise.' "

Wagner crossed his fingers.

Whoever it was, Jacob or Adam, he did it perfectly, on the first try. Unfortunately, the grown-ups screwed up: The whole thing was shot out of focus. It took two more trips up the stairs before they had it on film.

"Hey, the first time it was a challenge" for the child, says Wagner. ''But the second and third time. . . . That baby did the impossible, and I walked away that day feeling like the Michael Jordan of baby coaches."

Now that the promotional machinery is prevailing upon the Wortons, they're trying to keep their senses about them. They're getting used to their 15 minutes of fame.

"I hear we're in People magazine, but I haven't even seen it yet," says Susan. "We're too busy being a family to worry about the movie-star thing."

And, as the law requires, Susan and Joe have set up trusts for Jacob and Adam, and deposited their earnings.

"If we invest it right, it'll pay for all four years of college," says Susan.

By squirreling away her per-diem money while in Chicago, Susan also saved enough to help finish the basement at home and buy a foot massager from Brookstone. "That was our splurge," she says. "We're not showy people."

She remains very protective of her boys. When asked whether it's Jacob or Adam grinning away in the Baby's Day Out poster on their living-room wall, she demurs.

"I don't know how much competition this movie will bring out in them. I don't want it all to come out years later in therapy. So Mommy doesn't know who is on the posters. I figure it's easier that way."

Both she and Joe readily acknowledge they're interested in other film projects, as long as it's still fun for them and the boys.

Wagner hopes they do more pictures, too.

"These kids could have a life in movies," says the baby wrangler.

"I'm hoping they'll turn out like Opie (producer-director Ron Howard) and get me jobs. When they're 38 and they're big-time producers, I want them to say, 'We don't work without Jimmy Wagner. Now, wheel him out here!' "

|
|
|
|
|