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By now, you have seen the fake baby cradled by Bradley Cooper in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, right? Either you caught it on screen in a movie theater, as the Oscar-nominated film broke box office records for a January release. Or you have seen the video, which has now gone viral. (If you somehow missed it, I’ll show it to you below.) At this point, the plastic doll baby used by Eastwood has become as much a part of the American Sniper conversation as the praises for Cooper’s performance, or the controversy over Chris Kyle’s legacy. What we don’t know is why Eastwood decided to use a blatantly fake baby in his movie… until now.
In the scene in question, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) and his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), are arguing about his desire to return overseas and fight alongside his brethren in the Navy. Taya has recently delivered the couple’s first child, and she’s saying that she needs Chris home. They pass a baby back and forth, and it’s so obviously a doll, it takes audiences out of the scene. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. How did this happen? In a tweet that has since been deleted (but captured by Vulture), American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall explained:
Hate to ruin the fun but real baby #1 showed up with a fever. Real baby #2 was no show. (Clint voice) Gimme the doll, kid."
Aw, man, you ARE ruining the fun! Although we do appreciate the effort to drop in a trademark "Clint voice," which makes the rational explanation better. And sure, this explains why Eastwood – a notoriously economic director who isn’t going to let a little thing like a fever baby stand in the way of staying on time and under budget – would roll with the doll and keep his actors moving. Maybe he figured no one would notice? Maybe he thought – and rightfully so – that there is so much narrative and subjective "meat" to Chris Kyle’s story, that there’s no possible way that the conversation swirling around American Sniper in the days and weeks following his film’s Academy Award nominations would involve the fake, plastic doll baby he asked Bradley Cooper to awkwardly cradle that one day on set.
Except, what once was seen can NOT be unseen:
American Sniper and its horrifying fake, plastic doll baby is in theaters as we speak.