If the Nutty Professor and Mrs. Doubtfire shared a grandmother, she’d probably look a lot like Big Momma, the crass Southern granny at the center of the FBI’s wackiest sting operation. After a tough-talking FBI agent (Lawrence) is sent to Georgia to protect a single mom (Long) and her son (Jascha Washington) from an escaped convict, he goes incognito by disguising himself as the woman’s grandma. Sounds funny, but going geriatric was a serious consideration for Lawrence. In August of last year, before ”Big Momma” got rolling, he collapsed from heat stroke and went into a coma after exercising in heavy clothing.
After that, his health was a concern on the set. ”We made every accommodation we could to make sure Martin was comfortable and safe in the fat suit,” says Gosnell, who was familiar with such transformations, having served as film editor on ”Doubtfire.” ”We had portable air conditioners, break times scheduled, and cooling vents built into the suit itself.” Such alterations didn’t hinder the film’s realism. ”We’d walk around the [Fox] lot with Martin,” says Gosnell, ”and nobody seemed to realize he wasn’t actually someone’s big momma.” That is, until he opened his mouth.