Why Clint Eastwood's American Sniper Uses A Fake Baby (& Why It Looks So Terrible)


Why Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper Uses A Fake Baby (& Why It Looks So Terrible)

American Sniper has become infamous for its painfully obvious prop baby, and the movie’s screenwriter has revealed why a doll was used.


  • The fake baby scene in American Sniper has overshadowed the movie’s success, with critics and audiences focusing on the unrealistic prop rather than the powerful performances and engaging story.
  • The film initially attempted to use real babies but encountered difficulties with sick and absent infants, leading director Clint Eastwood to use a doll as a last resort.
  • The prop baby significantly detracts from the film, pulling audiences out of the immersive experience and making the scene feel awkward, potentially impacting the movie’s chances at winning awards like Best Picture.



American Sniper is one of the most successful biopics of the 2010s, but the fake baby scene has overshadowed the movie’s accolades in the years since its release. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the 2014 movie follows Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a real-life former Navy SEAL sniper with a record number of confirmed kills during his service in Iraq. American Sniper received positive reviews, with critics praising Cooper’s portrayal of Kyle’s struggles with the moral dilemma he faced in the war and his attempt to settle down with his family. As a result, the film grossed an impressive $547 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo).

As engaging as the movie is with the way it pulls audiences into the emotionally engaging real-life American Sniper story, the most talk surrounding the film is a dramatic scene between Cooper and Sienna Miller. Unfortunately, the talk isn’t about the powerful performances. The scene sees Chris Kyle and Taya Kyle (Miller) arguing while trying to comfort a crying baby, and that baby is painfully obviously fake. The prop baby led to countless memes and overshadowed the American Sniper’s success story. Nevertheless, American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall revealed the story behind the fake baby, and that the doll was plan C.

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American Sniper Tried To Use Real Babies – But They Didn’t Work Out

Following the onslaught of jokes ridiculing the fake baby in American Sniper, screenwriter Jason Hall set the matter straight by explaining that a real baby was hired only for it to fall sick during production. However, there was still a plan B, as the production even had a backup baby (via Vulture). The writer commented, “Hate to ruin the fun but real baby number one showed up with a fever. Real baby number two was a no show.” Then, Hall claims director Clint Eastwood growled, “Gimme the doll, kid.” That led to the toy-like doll being used in a movie that had a budget of $58 million.

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Working with children and babies comes with a number of production issues, such as limited working hours and lack of experience. That’s why movie and TV productions often cast twins for child characters, as that ultimately doubles the time the director has for the characters’ scenes. One notable example is Dylan and Cole Sprouse, who played Julian in Big Daddy, Ben Gellar in Friends, and a number of other notable ’90s child characters. When it comes to baby characters, the only other option is to use dolls, and as proved in American Sniper, that strategy has inconsistent results.

American Sniper’s Prop Baby Looks Really Bad (& Hurts The Movie)

Chris at weapons training in American Sniper

Unfortunately, the prop baby in American Sniper drastically hurts the 2014 movie. Aside from the embarrassing scene, the film is a harrowing and enthralling story and one of Clint Eastwood’s best movies thanks to a conflicted and layered real-life person at the center, but the prop baby is too distracting that it pulls audiences out of the otherwise immersive experience. The prop baby might not have been shown face-on, but the fake doll is still painfully evident from its side profile.

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What makes the prop baby worse is Cooper’s handling of the doll, as the actor uncomfortably and clumsily holds the prop, making the entire scene feel totally awkward and not in keeping with the overall quality of the 2014 release. Fandango critic Dave Karger posited that the prop baby is the very reason the film wouldn’t win Best Picture (via The Telegraph). While American Sniper excelled at the box office, the prop baby is remembered more than the film’s narrative, and the scene might have even ruined the movie’s Oscar chances.

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