Lucy In The Sky Director Defends Cutting Infamous Diaper Incident After Backlash

Natalie Portman in Lucy in the Sky

Those who know the story of Lisa Nowak, the former NASA astronaut who later attempted the kidnapping of an Air Force Captain named Colleen Shipman, may already know some of the nitty gritty details about the woman and her actions, which will be explored more in the somewhat fictional 2019 film Lucy in the Sky. Among those moments is an adult diaper subplot that made the press rounds during the early 2000s. It’s a moment that we now know also doesn’t appear in Lucy in the Sky.

While Lucy in the Sky is loosely based on the infamous astronaut’s choices earlier in the century, the characters in the movie have been fictionalized as have some of the moments and background related to the incident. Thus, when director Noah Hawley was asked about why Lucy doesn’t wear adult diapers in the film in the same way Lisa Nowak allegedly did, he said,

I found it interesting that response, people who said, ‘There's no diaper and I'm not OK with that.’ I thought it said more about them really; what is it that makes you want that detail, that makes you want to reduce her to a punch line again? The goal of the film is to rehumanize her and to build empathy for her, to show you that she had an emotional and existential crisis and that's part of becoming an adult.

Per Noah Hawley, the diapers were not really a key focal point in the story and he ultimately wanted to make Lucy Cola a character that audiences could relate to rather than a punchline. The idea that she had adult diapers on while she drove across country to kidnap her former lover’s girlfriend would have likely served as more of a punchline for the character, and Hawley told THR he was trying to “build empathy” for the character.

Still, Lucy in the Sky premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month and one of the critiques that keeps cropping up about the movie is the fact Lucy doesn’t wear adult diapers. Given it was one of the things people identify with the Nowak case, there was an expectation it would be in the movie and it isn’t.

It should be pointed out that when Lisa Nowak was arrested in real life, it was alleged that she had brought adult diapers with her for the kidnapping so that she did not have to stop on her 900-mile journey to kidnap Colleen Shipman. It was a point which she has always contended did not happen.

An early report said that two used diapers and some unused diapers had been found in the car, but had not been collected. Later Nowak’s lawyer denied the claims, noting the diapers found in the car were “toddler-sized.” At that point though, the headlines had latched onto the adult diapers and in some way that has become the legacy of the case.

Due to Lucy in the Sky not being a wholly true and accurate tale -- the lead character is named Lucy Cola and not Lisa Nowak, after all – Noah Hawley’s choice to not include a diaper sequence was absolutely his to make. Clearly, some people, however, still had an expectation the scene would be in the new movie, which stars Natalie Portman.

Jon Hamm, who also appears in the movie as the object of Lucy Cola’s affections, also had a take on why the diaper doesn’t need to be in the film, noting,

The way that story came out was all a bit tabloid'ed out, and I think people tended to forget that that's a real human being going through what seems like a pretty difficult time for whatever reason. think Noah in particular wanted to dig in there — I certainly did too — to dig into the question of what is that? Why do people unravel like that? What makes them like that?

Even Natalie Portman is being asked about the absence of the scene and had to tell Ellen DeGeneres that’s basically all she’s being asked about leading into the premiere of the movie, which will hit theater schedules on October 4. It’s certainly a different sort of backlash than the one she faced years ago involving her Star Wars movies. Hopefully, nothing of this ilk crops up when she stars preparing for her Thor: Love and Thunder role.

We’ll have to wait and see if Lucy in the Sky can earn some traction that’s not about the diapers as it heads out of the gate and readies itself for awards season.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.