Jimmy "Bubbles" Wagner is one of Hollywood's best known "baby wranglers." His knack for persuading babies to perform on-camera stunts earned him film credits on "Baby Geniuses," "Baby Geniuses II," "Baby's Day Out" and "George of the Jungle." Wagner's hidden talent came to light on the set of "Baby Boom" in the late 1980s, when he was working as a prop assistant. He managed to calm a hysterical baby using soap bubbles, now one of his trademark tools. Wagner is a bit of a character--he talks to babies and adults alike with the confiding, wise-guy accent of his native Chicago. We asked him to share some of the secrets of his trade.
What is the right look for a baby star?
The right look is [whatever] they are looking for. I was casting for "Baby Geniuses" and I got these really good-looking boys. Dynamite guys. Like Errol Flynn. The director looks at them and says, "Too good-looking. Get rid of them. They gotta look more like rascals. They gotta look goofy." We found goofy-looking rascals.
You trained 5-month-old twins to crawl along an I-beam suspended a foot off the ground for "Baby's Day Out." How did you do it?
First, I put him on the I-beam and I put a toy at the other end. Then we put him in farmer's jeans, overalls. It was like a harness. I moved him along the beam holding him [by the overalls]. Then I put the beam up against the wall and walked on the other side, not holding him anymore. And after that, I had a few assistants crouching there [out of camera range] and I went to the far end and called him. I got rid of the toy then and he just came to me.
Babies have only 15 seconds of fame. Why?
Say a kid does a Pampers commercial. He looks terrific. He does great. To get him to work again, you may have three months to keep that look. So he's washed up to ever work [again] as a 6-month-old baby. .