Look Who’s Talking was one of the best comedy films of the late 80s, giving viewers a hilarious glimpse inside the mind of a newborn baby and spawning a whole new franchise. The series kicked off with the original 1989 movie and continued with two sequels and a spin-off sitcom on ABC.
Here, we’ll look at the full story of how these comedy films got made and how they were received, and find out what the cast members are up to these days. Plus, we’ll share some tidbits about the future of the franchise and a potential new installment.
The Story Began with a Real Baby
Amy Heckerling came up with the concept for Look Who’s Talking, inspired by her daughter, Mollie. Amy had just become a new mom and enjoyed watching her child “endlessly look around.”
She and her husband used to have fun imagining what Mollie was thinking at the time, coming up with words for her based on her facial expressions. As they continued with this little habit, Amy realized that it could be a great idea for a movie.
Early Problems Plagued Heckerling
Heckerling felt that she had a great idea for a film, but she still needed to convince a studio to make it. This proved much more difficult than she had originally hoped, with no less than three movie studios turning down the project.
Warner Bros., Disney, and Orion Pictures declined the idea, and Heckerling began to worry that the project would never see the light of day. Fortunately, TriStar Pictures was more receptive to the idea and decided to give it a shot.
Stresses and Doubts
Heckerling was happy to have the project approved, but she had some more issues to deal with as she continued to work on the script and screenplay. She worried that the film could be seen as making a political “pro-life” statement by including voices for the unborn baby.
Some friends suggested that she simply wait until the fetus was 3 months old before giving it a voice. However, in the end, she decided to start the voices before conception, with the sperm and the egg, and thereby avoided the issue entirely.
Putting the Team Together
Once the main ideas for the film had been established, a cast of actors needed to be chosen, and it was important to find the right people. Kirstie Alley, who was popular for her work on Cheers, was quickly chosen for the part of Mollie.
John Travolta was not initially considered for the part of James. However, his agent asked if he could be involved somehow and Heckerling decided to rewrite the role to make it more Travolta-friendly to include him. This is how the famous dancing scene was created.
Olympia Dukakis Negotiated a Sweet Deal
Olympia Dukakis was cast in the role of Rosie, Mollie’s mother. She joined the project shortly after filming another movie, Moonstruck, which was discussed as a possible Oscar contender, and Dukakis used this to her advantage.
The veteran star negotiated a bonus of $50,000 if she won the Academy Award. In the end, she won the award and pocketed a massive sum for her work on Look Who’s Talking, despite not being one of the film’s leads.
Real On-Set Romance
Sometimes, when actors play people who are deeply in love, they end up feeling a genuine romantic connection with one another in real life. It seems like that’s exactly what happened for one major member of the Look Who’s Talking team.
In an interview with Barbara Walters, Kirstie Alley admitted that she saw John Travolta as the love of her life. She said that the pair remained professional, but that she had a major crush on him and wanted to simply run away with him during filming, even though she was married at the time.
Crazy Special Effects
Ever wondered about how some of the special effects scenes from the film were made? It was quite a complicated process, especially to film the images of Mikey in the womb and capture the scenes involving the sperm and the egg.
Todd Masters, a special effects expert, was called in and tasked with creating puppets of Mikey’s various stages of development. Tiny vinyl sperm were also made and placed into a fish tank. One scene involved Mikey playing with his placenta and required 12 puppeteers. After all that effort, it eventually got cut from the film!
The Film Was the Subject of a Lawsuit
Some movie projects deal with accusations of plagiarism or theft of ideas, and that was the case for Look Who’s Talking, too. A $20 million lawsuit was filed against Amy Heckerling and TriStar Pictures, alleging that the film’s premise was stolen from a student project that was sent to Heckerling years before.
In the end, the lawsuit was “resolved amicably,” according to lawyers. However, no details were released about what had happened and how accurate the original allegations were. It looks like nobody is talking about that part of the story!
John Travolta Now
John Travolta is one of the world’s most famous actors, enjoying huge success both before and after Look Who’s Talking. In the years after the film, he had a string of big hits with movies like Pulp Fiction, Face/Off, Get Shorty, and Phenomenon.
In recent times, he’s been in various movies, from comedies like Old Dogs to animated films like Bolt and musicals like Grease. He’s also a trained pilot and a famous Scientologist. In 2010, after his wife, Kelly Preston, passed away, Travolta announced that he was taking a break from acting.
Kirstie Alley Now
Kirstie Alley was still working on Cheers when Look Who’s Talking was released and continued to do so until 1993, appearing in a leading role in the late 90s sitcom, Veronica’s Closet, for which she earned more Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
She also appeared in a range of movies like Madhouse, Deconstructing Harry, It Takes Two, and Drop Dead Gorgeous. In more recent times, she was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and appeared in the British reality show, Celebrity Big Brother, where she finished runner-up.
Bruce Willis Now
In the years after Look Who’s Talking, Die Hard star Bruce Willis continued to bolster his tough-guy credentials with more installments in the Die Hard franchise and other action movies like Last Man Standing, 12 Monkeys, and Hostage.
Willis has also released several albums, made his Broadway debut in Misery in 2015, won many awards, and appeared in countless classic movies like Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense. In 2022, he was diagnosed with aphasia and made the decision to retire from acting.
George Segal Now
George Segal was highly praised for his role in Look Who’s Talking and even came back to appear in a later film in the series. The Oscar-nominated actor’s career continued to go from strength to strength in the 90s and into the 2000s with many more film and TV roles.
He had a lead role in the TV sitcom, Just Shoot Me!, which ran from 1997 to 2003, and also in The Goldbergs, in which he played Albert “Pops” Solomon for many episodes. Segal died in March of 2021 at the age of 87.
Olympia Dukakis Now
After Look Who’s Talking, Olympia Dukakis went on to appear in many other big films, such as Steel Magnolias, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, Mighty Aphrodite, and The Event. She also had many TV roles in the likes of Tales of the City, Sinatra, Center of the Universe, and Sex & Violence.
Her final role came in the 2021 film, Not to Forget, and she passed away at her Manhattan home in May 2021 at the age of 89. Dukakis leaves behind a legacy as a wonderful actress and a big advocate for equal rights for women and LGBTQ+ people.
Abe Vigoda Now
Abe Vigoda was a very famous actor before joining up with the Look Who’s Talking cast, having already made his mark on the industry in The Godfather and shows such as Barney Miller and Fish, in which he played the classic role of Phil Fish.
After the film, Vigoda continued to be offered many parts in movies and on TV. He can be seen in a range of roles in 90s and 2000s productions like North, Home of Angels, Good Burger, Law & Order, Wings, and High School USA! Sadly, he died in 2016, just a month before his 95th birthday.
What Happened to Mikey?
A few babies were used to play Mikey in the movie, and we don’t know what happened to all of them. However, we do know that Jacob Haines, who played the 1-year old version of Mikey, is still in the acting business.
The Metro newspaper managed to track down Alabama-born Jacob. A trained actor, singer, and dancer, he was recently working as a Walt Disney World entertainer who also does TV ads. He has had a guest role in One Tree Hill and is married with children.
A Big Hit
So, how did Look Who’s Talking perform? It was a smash hit! The movie was made on a relatively modest budget of just $7.5 million, and it managed to make close to $300 million at the box office, achieving Amy Heckerling’s lifelong dream of making a wildly successful film.
The film was also very well-received critically, enjoying plenty of positive reviews. Cinema audiences gave it an A grade when polled, and many reviewers commented favorably on the film’s fun sense of humor and Heckerling’s energetic direction.
Time For a Sequel
When films are as successful and make as much money as Look Who’s Talking, it doesn’t take long for studio executives to start thinking up plans for a sequel. That’s exactly what happened with Look Who’s Talking, with Heckerling almost immediately beginning work on the franchise’s second entry.
The logical next step for the franchise seemed to be the addition of another baby and picking up where the first film left off. So, Amy decided to introduce the character of Julie for the next film, entitled Look Who’s Talking Too. She also called on her husband at the time, Neal Israel, to help with the writing.
Some New Voices
Since the new film introduced a new baby and some other young child characters, new voices were required. Originally, Joan Rivers, who had briefly voiced Julie in the teaser at the end of the first film, was asked to return but had scheduling issues.
Instead, Roseanne Barr was chosen for the voice of Julie. Barr was a hugely successful comedienne at the time, known for her TV sitcom, Roseanne. Another major comedian, Richard Pryor, was originally cast as the voice of Eddie, Mikey’s friend. However, he was later replaced by Damon Wayans.
Cuts, Edits, and Alternate Versions
During production, quite a few ideas were added and removed from the film, which led to a lot of deleted scenes and alternative versions. One of these versions actually aired on ABC Family, including various scenes that weren’t shown in the theaters.
The alternate version included a scene where Mollie threatened Mikey with corporal punishment, which Kirstie Alley hated filming, as she was strongly against corporal punishment of any kind. Another deleted scene involved Mollie and James parodying John Lennon and Yoko Ono as part of a Mollie dream sequence.
A Mixed Reception
While the first film was very warmly received, with many positive reviews, the second film was more of a mixed bag. It earned just a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average review of just 3/10.
The film earned a couple of Razzie Award nominations, too, including one for Roseanne Barr as Julie. However, it still performed well from a financial standpoint, making a total of $120.9 million worldwide, including over $47 million in the U.S.
Roseanne Barr Now
After Look Who’s Talking Too, Roseanne continued to star in her successful sitcom, which ended in 1997 and made a brief comeback in 2018. She won an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for her time on the show.
Barr did some standup shows in the 2000s and moved into reality TV in the 2010s with shows like Roseanne’s Nuts. She also became more politically active and courted controversy for some of her views on President Trump, as well as an infamous tweet that was deemed racist and led to her being fired from the show.
Damon Wayans Now
Damon Wayans was a popular addition to the Look Who’s Talking world when he provided the voice for Eddie. After the movie, the former SNL performer starred in In Living Color and created an animated series for children entitled Waynehead.
He has starred in many other films and shows, many of which he has also co-produced and co-written, like Beverly Hills Cop and The Last Boy Scout. He was recently seen in the TV version of Lethal Weapon, playing the part of Roger Murtaugh.
A Sitcom Spinoff
After the success of the first two films, it was decided that the idea for Look Who’s Talking could also be adapted into a great TV sitcom, with individual episodes revolving around the adventures of a talking baby as it adapts to life and explores the world.
This is how Baby Talk was created. Baby Talk was basically a sitcom spinoff of the Look Who’s Talking franchise that began production after the first film was released and first hit the small screen in March 1991, a few months after the film’s first sequel had come out.
It Was Originally Called Look Who’s Talking
The show began production under the name “Look Who’s Talking”, but Heckerling decided to change it later on to avoid confusion. However, even though the name was different, the show borrowed a lot of elements from the film.
Heckerling was tasked with creating some new original characters, but various creative and script elements from the film were carried over into the show. The story focused on a baby called Mickey who spoke directly to the audience, sharing his views on life while living with his single mom, Maggie, who is looking for love.
Casting Problems Started Early On
During its two-season run, Baby Talk had quite a few issues with casting. It began when the producers tried to find the right leading lady to play the part of Maggie Campbell, Baby Mickey’s mother.
They originally cast Connie Sellecca in the role. Sellecca was known for her work on shows like Flying High, Hotel, and The Greatest American Hero. However, she was unhappy with the show after filming a few episodes and decided to walk away, leaving the whole project in turmoil.
Julia Duffy Arrives
The show was originally set to air in September 1990 before Look Who’s Talking Too came out. However, when Sellecca left, the schedule was delayed and a new actor needed to be brought in. Julia Duffy was chosen for the role.
Duffy was an established TV actor. She’d appeared as Penny in The Doctors in the 70s and had a lead role in Newhart as Stephanie Vanderkellen. She was an Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated star, so it seemed like a great fit.
George Clooney Was a Cast Member
The rest of the cast for the first season of Baby Talk included some pretty big names. George Clooney, who wasn’t well-known at the time but later became a major movie and TV star, was cast as Joe, a friend and potential love interest for Maggie Campbell.
Oscar-nominated star William Hickey was also given a role on the show as Mr. Fogarty, and the voice of Baby Mickey was provided by Golden Globe winner, Tony Danza. Interestingly, Danza also made one on-screen appearance in the show, too. He played the part of Mickey’s father.
A Success at First, But Not for Long
So, how was Baby Talk received when it finally hit the airwaves? Well, the show did quite well in terms of ratings for its early episodes. It finished 27th among all programs, with many fans of the Look Who’s Talking film tuning in to see what the show was like.
Unfortunately, the early hype quickly fizzled when the critical reviews arrived. Critics were scathing in their assessments, calling the writing “simple” and the characters “one-note.” The show was renewed for another season, but big changes needed to be made.
A Very Different Second Season
Before the second season, executives knew they had to make some big changes to turn the show’s fortunes around. However, they were dealt a big blow when Julia Duffy, the show’s leading lady, announced that she wanted to leave as she was unhappy with the negative reception.
Duffy was replaced by soap actress Mary Page Keller. Most of the other cast members were also let go, with new characters introduced and former Happy Days star Scott Baio added to the cast. The setting was changed, and the whole story was overhauled. However, the efforts ultimately failed and the show’s ratings continued to drop, leading to a permanent cancellation.
Julia Duffy Now
What happened to the main cast members for Baby Talk, and did their careers recover after starring in such a poorly received show? Let’s start off with Julia Duffy, the star of the first season, and find out what she’s up to these days.
After Baby Talk, Julia landed a role on Designing Woman and continued to appear in comedy shows and films into the 2000s, being spotted in the likes of Drake & Josh, Dumb and Dumberer, and Shameless. She also became a published author in 2018 and can still be seen in small roles in films and on TV.
Tony Danza Now
Tony Danza was already a fairly big star before Baby Talk, having appeared in Taxi and Who’s The Boss?, and the short-lived sitcom didn’t do too much to dent his career. He quickly got more roles in the likes of Hudson Street and The Practice.
In the 2000s, he had his own talk show, The Tony Danza Show, and starred in a Broadway production of The Producers, too. He was recently seen in the Netflix show The Good Cop and has written a cookbook with his son, Marc.
Mary Page Keller Now
Mary Page Keller was a pretty big soap actress before Baby Talk, having appeared in Another World and Ryan’s Hope. In the years after the show, she continued to act in various sitcoms and dramas, like Camp Wilder, Joe’s Life, and Life Goes On.
As the years went on, Mary Page Keller continued to be a reliable and regular guest actor on a range of TV shows. She’s been in everything from NCIS and Criminal Minds to Mad Men and Supernatural. She also landed a major role on the show Chasing Life, which ran for two seasons.
The Third Film
Fans of talking babies were let down by Baby Talk, but followers of the franchise still had hope that the next entry in the series, Look Who’s Talking Now, could be a big hit. This film was released in 1993 and brought back John Travolta and Kirstie Alley once more.
Bruce Willis, Roseanne Barr, and Joan Rivers did not return to lend their voices for this film, however. Instead, the plot focused on a pair of talking dogs, owned by the Ubriacco family and voiced by Danny DeVito and Diane Keaton.
The third film was a real departure from the previous two. The biggest change came with the fact that Mikey and Julie were now relatively grown-up, so they no longer had internal monologues or commentaries. Instead, voiceovers were given to a pair of dogs named Rocks and Daphne.
Several former cast members refused to return for this film, like Twink Caplan, who played Mollie’s friend Rona, and Elias Koteas, who played Mollie’s brother, Stuart. Both characters were therefore written out, but one star from the first film, George Segal, returned for a small appearance as Albert.
A Major Flop
Unfortunately for fans, Look Who’s Talking Now effectively killed the franchise. The film was very poorly received, being one of the rare movies to have a 0% approval rating on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, and an average score of just 2.5/10. Famed critic Gene Siskel called it “an abysmal, embarrassing sequel.”
Many critics complained about how the formerly cute and charming tone of the franchise had devolved into crass humor, sex jokes, and total abandonment of the original premise. Financially, the film was also a serious failure, earning just $10 million of its $22 million budget.
The Voices of the Dogs
Oscar-winner Diane Keaton gave her voice to the character of Daphne. Keaton was a very big name to bring into the project, having made her name on Broadway with the musical Hair and then gone on to star in The Godfather series, as well as several Woody Allen films, like Annie Hall.
The second canine, Rocks, was voiced by Danny DeVito. A popular comedy actor, DeVito made his mark on the industry with the TV series Taxi along with films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Romancing the Stone, Terms of Endearment, and Twins.
Danny DeVito Now
Danny DeVito’s career quickly recovered after the flop of Look Who’s Talking Now, and the 90s proved to be a big decade for the star. He appeared in Batman Returns, Junior, Get Shorty, LA Confidential, Matilda, and more.
In the 2000s, DeVito landed a lead role on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and produced various successful films, like Erin Brockovich. He’s also been seen in movies like Jumanji: The Next Level and Dumbo.
Diane Keaton Now
Diane Keaton also moved on from Look Who’s Talking Now. She has since appeared in several films throughout the 90s like Father of the Bride Part II, Manhattan Murder Mystery, The First Wives Club, and The Family Stone. Some of her top 2000s films included Morning Glory and Something’s Gotta Give.
In recent years, Keaton has been seen in plenty more successful films and shows, like Finding Dory, Book Club, and The Young Pope. She has also moved into film and TV production and has become an accomplished photographer and real estate developer.
Where Are the Kids Now?
For the third film in the franchise, David Gallagher was cast as Mikey Ubriacco and Tabitha Lupien played Julie. So, where are they these days? Teen Choice Award-winner David has enjoyed quite a successful career, playing Simon in 7th Heaven and having a guest role on Numb3rs, too.
Gallagher has also done voice work for video games, providing the voice of Riku in the popular Kingdom Hearts franchise, and he’s still acting today in shows and TV movies. Tabitha also continued acting, with guest roles in films and shows like Hairspray and The LA Complex, but she hasn’t done much work in recent years.
Plans for a Reboot?
In recent years, we’ve seen tons of classic films from the past get the reboot treatment. All sorts of classic franchises, from Mad Max to Scream, have been remade and reimagined with a modern audience in mind. Could this happen with Look Who’s Talking, too?
Plans have been in place for quite a while. In fact, back in 2010, news broke that the Fast & Furious producer, Neal H. Moritz, was very interested in bringing the films back to the big screen in a fresh and fun new way.
Fans Have Waited a Long Time
Sadly, the 2010 rumors didn’t really go anywhere and news of the Look Who’s Talking reboot faded away in the years that followed. However, in 2019, fans of the franchise got some more good news!
Screen Gems revealed that Look Who’s Talking was indeed being rebooted and a director for the project had been chosen. Jeremy Garelick, who has worked on the likes of The Hangover and The Binge, was chosen to write and direct the movie, with Adam Fields in a production role.
Garelick Seems Passionate About the Project
In case you were worried that the new reboot could simply turn out to be another rumor, Garelick confirmed that he’s fully on board with the project and appears to be very excited about getting to work.
Garelick stated, “What excited me about doing this is, I have four kids, including twins, and this is something they can watch, and share some of the experiences I had with my wife… Like, figuring out how to raise these kids, with all the mistakes that happen. Add in the voices that are keyed to facial expressions, it just really seems like a fun idea.”
A Big Challenge
However, even though Garelick is excited about the idea, he admits that rebooting such a beloved movie is a challenge. He said, “The challenge is, that was a really good movie. Travolta and Kirstie Alley had great chemistry, and Amy Heckerling wrote a great script.”
Garelick went on to say that he and his team were in the “early stages of figuring out what the story is for the modern version of the movie.” So, it might take some time for the team to prepare this project, but fans can be hopeful of seeing a brand-new Look Who’s Talking hitting cinema screens in the years ahead.
An Up-and-Down Franchise
Ultimately, what we can say about the Look Who’s Talking franchise is that it was a story of ups and downs. The first film was an undisputed classic, with a great script, superb on-screen chemistry, and some really fun ideas.
The sequels and spinoff series didn’t quite reach those same heights but still gave fans a lot of laughs, in more ways than one. And, if reports are true, the future might have even more fun times in store for fans of funny talking babies. We’ll just have to wait and see if the reboot turns into a big hit, like the first film, or a serious flop, like the third.