Based on the classic children’s book of the same name, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day follows 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences the most terrible day of his young life. But then, things get even worse and Alexander finds himself watching his upbeat parents (Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell), older brother (Dylan Minnette) and sister (Kerris Dorsey), and even the little baby of the family (Zoey and Elise Vargas) going through a string of events so terrible that they make up the baddest of very bad days.
During a conference at the film’s press day, co-stars Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner talked about having input into the character’s family life, why Miguel Arteta was the right director for this job, working with Dick Van Dyke, encouraging your kids to have the whole range of emotions, having a very bad day during filming, what they hope families get out of this movie, and how they hope this film brings more live-action family films. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
JENNIFER GARNER: Steve and I are parents. Not together, but apart.
STEVE CARELL: And we’re the best parents.
GARNER: Yeah, we definitely know what we’re doing. We just piped up and made our thoughts known.
CARELL: If anything rang false to us, we would speak up. But more often than not, things felt like they would feel in our house.
GARNER: Yes, for sure. This is basically a day at my house.
Steve, how was it to work with Miguel Arteta again on this, after doing an episode of The Office together?
CARELL: I’d worked with Miguel on The Office, and I thought he was a great director for the show. He handled the characters and the comedy of it, but also the subtleties within the inter-personal relationships between all of those characters. So, to translate that to this kind of movie was a really good move on Disney’s part, frankly. He brings a subtlety and a specificity to the things that he works on. For a movie like this, it could have very easily been straight down the middle and nothing else. I think he was able to find a very human quality to it, which is one of the reasons I love working with him.
GARNER: He can do whatever he wants. He’s Dick Van Dyke. It was such a total thrill to try to conceive, for my kids, that I was with Chim Chim Cher-ee at work. That was so exciting. It was a great day. The only thing that was odd was that I was there without the rest of the family because we were such a unit, the whole time we made the movie. I wished we were all there.
What do you think the key is to being a great mother?
GARNER: Have I cracked what it is to be a great mom? No. But, the great thing about being a parent is that every day is a fresh start. You always can say, “Today we’re going to try this.” And if it goes horribly, you say, “Today, we’re throwing that out and we’re trying this.” That’s part of what I like about being a mom, in general. But, I have enjoyed this new world of playing moms. This little kid who’s mom is a teacher at my child’s school said, “Mrs. Affleck is a lot like my mom. She gets to have a lot of other kids.” And I feel that way. You form those relationships.
Is there a danger in being too positive, like the Coopers are?
GARNER: Oh, for sure! Your kids need to be allowed to have a bad day, and you need to show them that it’s okay to have a whole range of emotions. You should have them all. You should have range and anger and sadness, so there’s a lot of room for joy and happiness, as well.
How do you lift up your kids’ spirits when they’re having bad days?
CARELL: My wife and I go through this, from time to time. Part of the challenge for us is not being overly sensitive to our kids having good or bad days. You could drive your kids crazy by saying, “Are you okay? Is everything all right? Please tell me what’s going on.” Sometimes you might just be having a quietly and privately bad day, and you just want to work through it yourself. You don’t want to have your parents trying to make it better because, ultimately, we’re not going to be there to make it better. The toughest part for us is holding back from always trying to make it perfect or ideal. You have to allow them to make new friends and to deal with things and to get past whatever it is because life will give you twists and turns. For my wife and I, the challenge is to not make every day the best day possible because it’s not realistic.
Did you ever have a very bad day, during the filming of this?
GARNER: There’s always a day where you look around and say, “This is the nadir of the making of this film.” We had a day that was outside and really hot, and we had the same thing, all day.
CARELL: We were filming a movie and got hot. That’s sad.
GARNER: We had the right perspective. Thank you, Steve.
Steve, what was it like working with so many kids?
Since you’re both parents, what do you hope families get out of this movie?
GARNER: That’s a great question. I do feel so excited that we get to be a part of a real family movie that’s going out into the world. This is a movie that teenagers should like. And I brought my five-year-old along when I saw it, and she loved it, too. Her favorite was the kangaroo. This is a film that families can see, and I hope, at the end of it, it will make you feel more like a family and remind you that, whatever happens, you’re all going through it together.
This movie harkens back to the live-action Disney family movies that we grew up on. What does it meant to you to be the leaders of a new generation of live-action Disney family movies?
CARELL: I hope this does set a trend. That was one of the reasons that I was interested in doing it. I don’t want to say it’s a throwback because there’s a derogatory implication there. But these kinds of live-action family movies aren’t done as often as they used to be. I was excited because it’s a new take on that genre of movie. It’s a director that’s not necessarily known for mainstream movies, who is giving a different spin to it. So, I hope it is a trend that continues. I know my kids can’t wait, and all of their friends care. I took my son aside the other day and said, “Do you think your classmates really want to see this?” And he said, “Yeah! Apart from you being in it, they’re really excited about it.” It looks like something they want to see, and that was exciting to hear.
Was this a book that you read to your children?
GARNER: Yeah, it’s a mainstay at our house, for sure. My kids are over it, actually. Everyone is talking about it and talking about the movie, and my kids have seen the movie. It’s off of our list, for now. I’m sure that this is not the way that this answer should be. But it’s going to come back around, don’t worry.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day opens in theaters on October 10th.