To set the record straight: Henry Jaglom's first name is not short for "Henrietta."
People could be forgiven for thinking Jaglom is a woman, however, based on his most high-profile films, 1990's "Eating," which rather painfully examined women's private neuroses about food, and his current "Babyfever," which explores the issues surrounding thirtysomething women's dreaded ticking biological clocks. Even the smaller film he made in between, 1992's "Venice/Venice," focused on the way movies affect women's expectations of romance.
Both "Eating" and "Babyfever" consist largely of women speaking directly to the camera, often about their own real-life experiences
"I listen to women," says Jaglom, 51, in an interview at the Sunset Boulevard offices of his production and distribution firm, the Rainbow Film Co. "Women's lives are not really represented on screen."
In the late '80s, he says, many men in Hollywood were skeptical when he told them he was making a film about women and food. And in fact, he doesn't know of any men who went to see "Eating" without women, and says that many of the men who did see it dismissed it as "women sitting around and complaining." But the film garnered critical praise and a cult following, and did nearly $8 million at the box office (it cost less than $1 million to make).
"Babyfever," which opened in Los Angeles on April 13 and will open nationally May 6, the Friday of Mother's Day weekend, will appeal to men as well as women, Jaglom believes, since many men, especially baby boomers, have strong feelings about their children.
"I've always been in touch with my feelings," Jaglom says. "Even as a kid I cared more about what was going on inside me than football and business and money and war and all the things that men use to divert themselves from their internal emotions. My natural friendships started developing with women."
Originally trained as an actor, Jaglom began his behind-the-camera career as an editorial consultant on Dennis Hopper's 1969 classic, "Easy Rider." Since then, he has written and directed 10 films, many of which he has starred in as well. He distributes and finances his films independently, and thinks of himself as "the luckiest man in Hollywood" because he has complete creative control over his work.
Jaglom co-wrote "Babyfever" with his wife, actress Victoria Foyt, who also stars in the film as Gena, an Angst- filled woman who hears her biological clock ticking. The film's story line revolves around a baby shower.
Though Foyt had already given birth to the couple's daughter when the film was made, both she and Jaglom had experienced baby fever themselves.
"I spent a couple of years feeling very insecure every time a woman would stroll by with a nice stroller and a beautiful baby," said Foyt, who is 32. Jaglom, meanwhile, says he heard his "psychological clock" ticking. Both were searching for the right person.
In the spring of 1990, Jaglom received one of the postcards Foyt had sent out to promote her performance in a play. He threw it out, then searched through his trash can, found it and called her, without really knowing why. "It was meant to be," says Foyt. "We both knew instantly that it was right." They were married in October 1991, and their first daughter, Sabrina, was born a month later.
Though "Babyfever" taps into a wide range of women's opinions about having children, it offers no definite conclusions. "Since I'm a man, I don't really presume to know the answer," Jaglom says. "It (the film) opens up the issue. There's a terrible tendency to put it all off."
The film opened the issue for the cast so effectively that it caused an outbreak of real-life baby fever on the set. Two of the actresses in the film, Frances Fisher and Tracy Brooks Swope, have already given birth, and a third, Denise Osso, is expecting. All three became pregnant after shooting the film, as did Foyt again; she is expecting a boy in June. Jaglom now has two films in post-production, neither of which, atypically, focuses on women's issues. "A House in the Hamptons," which will be released next winter, is about a New York theatrical family, and "Lucky Ducks," a sequel to his 1980 "Sitting Ducks," is a comedy about what men want.
But after them, Jaglom is planning two films centered on women, although he says he's not concerned about being typecast. "That's a nice type," Jaglom says. "I make films about women and their issues--that's half the population. They're really films about human behavior."