If you saw them in person, the first thing you'd think is, I can understand how. How the irresistible, chubby-cheeked charm of Daniel and Joshua Shalikar identical twins from suburban New Jersey, with no toilet training, let alone thespian training could make Disney casting agent Renée Rousselot throw all prudence aside. And how in December 1990, Disney could make the unprecedented decision to ask these 2-year-olds to star as Adam Szalinski in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, the effects-laden sequel to the smash 1989 comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
There's little need to question that decision now: The new Kid, in which the Shalikar boys appear to balloon up to 112 feet tall, is doing reasonably big box office, pulling in $27 million in its first 10 days. But before this success, even the boys' parents thought that Disney, a notoriously tightfisted studio, was taking a huge risk in building a $32 million production around two tots who could barely toddle.
It's not unheard of for little kids to land big parts (such as the four infants who played Mikey in Look Who's Talking). But never before have 2-year-olds been hired to do so much: laugh, cry, exclaim, recite, even follow choreography for complex trick shots. Though standard practice is to find 3- or 4-year-olds who can look and act younger, the Shalikar boys beat out 1,100 other, mostly older hopefuls. ''I guess to the casting agent, they looked like perfect little Rick Moranises,'' says their mom, Audrey, who submitted the boys' photos to an agent without knowing what the role was.
Key players on the Honey team say that ultimately they were impressed by the boys' ability to take direction and repeat scenes as many as 10 or 15 times. But before all the oohing and googling, there was a lot of white-knuckle time.
Chief ''baby wrangler'' Elaine Hall Katz, recruited to guide the twins through the production, began breaking in her tiny charges two weeks before filming started. A California state-mandated social worker was on hand as well. The plan was to shoot all morning with one child, break for nap time and lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., then switch twins in the afternoon.
To get the boys to stand, walk, jump, and look where they were supposed to, Katz borrowed a page from Mary Poppins' psychology: She made the job a game. ''I had to extend their focus, which was sometimes only 30 seconds,'' she says. ''They took turns being animals, learning songs. Slowly we'd incorporate their dialogue, like 'Sorry, mama, sorry!''' Katz and director Randal Kleiser planned for each scene several days in advance, deciding what kind of child behavior was needed and then, Kleiser says, ''mapping out play to create that behavior.''