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Devoted Daughter Keeps Vow With 'Trading Mom'

May 07, 1994|JUDY BRENNAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Welcome to Tia Brelis' bedtime story.

It's called "Trading Mom" and it's a grown woman-child's gift to her mother, a mom she can no longer hold except through a cherished memory and tribute.

Tia's mom, Nancy Brelis, divorced and mother of four, used to read stories to Tia and her siblings every night. Sometimes she would make them up. And sometimes she would ask for their input. Then, one day in 1966, she began weaving her best story, with contributions from her kids, into a book called "The Mommy Market." Tia was so proud of her mother's book that after years of promising to turn it into a film someday, she finally kept that promise, though not before her mother's death three years ago at 61.

The resulting film, "Trading Mom," directed and written by Brelis and produced by Rafaella De Laurentiis (daughter of Dino), opens next week. The Trimark film stars Sissy Spacek, Maureen Stapleton, Anna Chlumsky and the late Andre the Giant, and tells the story of three children who have had it with their single mom and her demands. Wishing for a different mom, they visit their mysterious neighbor (Stapleton), who tells them of an ancient spell that can make people vanish.

Eventually they put it to the test; their mother disappears and they head to the Mommy Market, a sort of one-stop shopping mall for the mother of kids' dreams. Problem is, the three mothers bought on trial don't quite work out, making the kids appreciate just what they originally had.

Tia Brelis, 38, was pregnant with her second child (her husband is Universal executive Casey Silver) when she first approached De Laurentiis about producing the $4-million movie. She was pregnant with her third when Spacek accepted the role as the mother and filming was set.

"My mom got to see several drafts of the script before she died (of lymphoma cancer)," she says. "I just wish she could be here to celebrate it today. You know, it was her first book and she sat down and wrote it in three weeks.

"It had always been this great thing I loved. The story came about because we used to tease her and say we would trade her in at the mommy market. But I was upset by it when I read it as a mother, because in her book it was about children who had no mother at all, which I changed. My mom said I corrected the flaw in the story, but any change I made I always felt it was almost sacrilegious."

And there was another tribute to her mother as well. "I got all of my mother's grandchildren in the film--just bit parts, cameos, but they're in there. It was my gift to her."

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