Making Babies

Joanne Mitchell on her love of horror, awesome women and Attack Of The Adult Babies

by Jennie Kermode

Attack Of The Adult Babies
Attack Of The Adult Babies

Powerful politicians and businessmen crawling around in nappies. A small army of nurses in skimpy uniforms, overseen by dominatrices. Hapless thieves forced to break into a house where they really don’t want to be. Few horror comedies lay it on quite as thick as Attack Of The Adult Babies, and few make such a lasting impression on the viewer. For Coronation Street alumna Joanne Mitchell, who co-wrote, produced and starred in this frenetic satire, it was a welcome opportunity to cut loose and have fun with themes that are usually strictly off-limits. We asked her how it all began.

“We were actually filming our second movie at the time, which was called Bait, and I don’t know how it came about, we must have all been talking and then Dominic (Brunt), my husband, thought about this title and he said ‘Attack Of The Adult Babies – what a brilliant title!’” she says. “It was just a concept he had, it just seemed so ridiculous and I didn’t think it had been done before. It got shelved for a little bit and then I started thinking about it and writing things down, because obviously you need some sort of story to it, it can’t just be adult babies standing around. So I developed the story, the characters, the plot, the style and tone. We wanted to have social comment coming through, and that’s how it organically happened. It was – as you can imagine – lots of fun to write. Then we handed it over to Paul Shrimpton, my co-writer, and he really put some meat on the bones. His area is very much horror – he’s done films like Inbred – and Dom had worked with him before.”

Joanne Mitchell as Clinton, doing a spot of babysitting
Joanne Mitchell as Clinton, doing a spot of babysitting

She’s full of praise for Paul’s work. I ask her if she did much research before tackling the central theme.

“I’d heard about adult babies and I had seen a documentary,” she says. “There’s no comment on a person who wants to be an adult baby because that’s completely up to that individual and no-one should tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do. Most of the research I’d done was on men or women wanting to be babies or young children, and I found it quite fascinating, the psychology of it, but we took it to a different level because we had that juxtaposition of these very powerful pope acting like little babies and wanting to be looked after, so that was what we wanted to explore rather than the reality of what people do when they’re dressed up as adult babies.

“I’d also worked on a movie where on the set was a lady who kind of fascinated me. She had not very much on and a kind of dominatrix costume, and she was getting nails done and everything. I was quite in awe of her and I thought I must get to speak to her. She had this kind of aura about her, this authoritative edge that made it feel like she wasn’t going to speak to anybody, and yet she was a supporting artist, she wasn’t an A-lister or anything. So anyway, I did speak to her and she was a very intelligent woman. She ran her own dungeon – that’s what she does – and she told me some incredible stories. Obviously she didn’t mention any names, but I was fascinated by how this person earned a very good wage. And she does nothing sexual at all, but she will will be the person that the businessman, or whoever it is, will want to do all sorts of things with. So I had that little nugget of information from a real life dominatrix. I had a lot of respect for her. She was a very strong woman.

“The characters in that house where the adult babies are are all very damaged and warped, but they’re all quite strong, they’re in control of the silly men. Apart from the nurses, obviously.”

Ban this sick filth!
Ban this sick filth!

Did she always envisage playing a part in the film herself?

“I kind of did. I really wanted to because I really like to play characters that are completely off the wall. I know you wouldn’t believe it, but I do! My mum always says ‘Darling, can’t you do anything nice?’ I wanted to play them when I was trying to create Clinton and Barbara [the dominatrices supervising the nurses], and then obviously Paul Shrimpton really developed them with the dialogue and some of the scenes which he wrote, which were fabulous. I think obviously they were very institutionalised and all those things, you know, which we can all be to some degree, but we just took it to the extreme. I think it’s a movie of extremes. I think we took it quite far.”

Did she always want to prioritise having strong female characters and female perspectives in her film?

“I did. And I think that’s just a natural thing as a female writer, creator, whatever. I’ve always wanted to create parts for women because I think we’re just saturated with male actors most of the time. I think things are changing now and I think it’s great that lots of women are coming to the fore with writing and directing and producing, though there’s still a long way to go.”

Reflecting further, she observes that the female characters are quite diverse in personality.

“The nurses are a little bit innocent and naive. They’ve got themselves into this situation in their lives for whatever reason, but they’re there and they’re doing it to earn money and then they’ll go back to their normal jobs. They do have to do certain things that they wouldn’t necessarily want to do, but they have to earn money to pay their rent or whatever. And also with the Barbara character, the Clinton character, I wanted them to be, well, they’re monsters really, so it doesn’t have to just be the men who have that fun. I think women really do have to open themselves up to all these other things. And I think women really enjoy it. It’s a bit like, you know, I do a lot of boxing as a hobby and it’s normalised much more than it was, say, ten years ago. It’s still got a way to go as well, but women box, and that was essentially a male sport.

Keeping baby happy
Keeping baby happy

“There’s so much room for change and I think horror is a great platform to explore and discover areas that you perhaps wouldn’t dare to go to, but I think we all secretly really want to do that kind of thing because it’s lots of fun and it takes you to different levels. It’s lovely to be Shakespearean and all those kinds of things but it’s so much fun to do horror because it’s not real and you’ve got to have a very open mind.”

One of the characters dies suddenly quite early on. I ask if she wanted to make viewers nervous and keep them guessing about who (if anyone) would survive.

“We wanted it to have those twists and turns so that people were shocked, you know? So you’re thinking ‘What? Where can it go from here?’ and then it goes somewhere completely different.”

And now she’s preparing to direct for the first time...

“Yeah, I am. Next week, actually. I’ve been frantically trying to get everything ready and prepared, because I’m directing it, writing it and producing it as well – with a very small cast and crew, which is ideal, but it is a horror so there is a lot of aesthetics and various body parts needed. So there is a lot to do but I’m really excited. I’ve just got to be totally organised and I keep waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking ‘Did I remember that? Did I organise that?’ So that’s what I’m up to at the moment.”

Horror seems to be in her blood – she says she’ll definitely be doing more genre work in future.

“I’ve actually written my first proper screenplay. It’s really early stages – first, second draft – which is a genre, set in an old people’s home. So I’m hoping that that will get developed at some point. It’s just finding the time, really. and then we’ve got several other things in the pipeline – they’re certainly not romantic comedies, that’s for sure!”

Attack Of The Adult Babies is available on limited edition Blu-ray, DVD and download from 9 July.

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