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May 23rd, 2019

Jennifer Garner, Steve Carell Interview, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day

Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner team up as parents for the worst day imaginable in Disney’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” the big screen adaptation of Judith Viorst’s 1972 children’s classic book. When 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) wakes up to discover gum stuck in this hair, the rest of the day goes downhill fast as his bad luck spreads quickly to every member of his family. Directed by Miguel Arteta from a screenplay by Rob Lieber, the family comedy features a talented ensemble that also includes Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, and twins Zoey and Elise Vargas.

At the film’s recent press day, Carell and Garner talked about how they drew upon their experience as parents, the human quality Arteta brought to the film, how the actors became a family on set, what it was like working with the great Dick Van Dyke, Garner’s take on being a good mom and viewing every day as a new opportunity, the challenge of dealing realistically with life’s twists and turns when they throw your kids a curve ball, how the film represents a new generation of live-action Disney family movies, and how Garner hopes it will bring families together.

Here’s what they had to say:

QUESTION: Steve and Jennifer, as parents, did you have a lot of input into the movie about what it’s really like with a family?

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, “At my house, we totally wouldn’t do this.” That’s how it went.

CARELL: I think it was just a matter of if anything rang false to us, we would speak up. But more often than not, things felt like they would feel at our house.

GARNER: Yes, for sure. This is basically a day at my house.

Q: Steve, your background with Second City taught you that the relationship between the characters is what makes the scene, and then there’s also that tight bond that formed between “The Office” cast members. How did those two elements translate into your working relationship with Miguel Arteta?

CARELL: I think a lot of it has to do with an ensemble. I’d worked with Miguel on “The Office” and I thought he was a great director for the show. He had a handle on the characters and the comedy of it, but also the subtleties within the interpersonal relationships between all of those characters. To translate that to this kind of movie I thought was a really good move on Disney’s part frankly, because 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 completely broad and nothing else. He was able to find a very human quality to it, which is one of the reasons I love working with him. In terms of the ensemble and the Second City nature of it all, that’s how I felt and Jenn spoke to that briefly before. We did feel like a unit, and very quickly we all became friends. It sounds like such a cliché, but we did feel like a family of sorts and had a lot of fun together that way. That’s the way I like to work, in an ensemble, where everybody feels they’re an equal part.

Q: Jennifer, can you talk about working with the great Dick Van Dyke and what’s it like to have an American icon screaming at you on screen?

GARNER: He can do whatever he wants. It’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 was so exciting. It was a great day. The only thing that was odd was that I was there without the rest of these guys. We were such a unit the whole time we made this movie that I felt a little bit like, “I wish we were all here.”

Q: The mother you play in this movie is very different from the one you played in “Men, Women & Children” or in “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” What do you think is the key to being a great mother?

GARNER: Have I cracked what it is to be a great mom? No, but that’s the great thing about being a parent. It’s 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. I have enjoyed this new world of playing moms. This little kid whose 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.” You do feel that way when you form these relationships.

Q: Is there a danger to 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 the whole range of emotions. You should have it all. You should have rage and anger and sadness so there’s a lot of room for joy and happiness as well.

Q: Steve, what was it like working with so many kids after “The Office”?

CARELL: It was the worst. I know in print that will play really well, because you can’t read irony in print. It was great. They’re so much fun, including the babies that were in this movie, who we all fell in love with. I had nothing but love for these special kids.

Q: As parents, how do you lift up your kids’ spirits when they have bad days and show them that it’s not so bad?

CARELL: My wife and I go through this from time to time, and part of the challenge for us is not being overly sensitive to our kids having good or bad days. You can drive your kids crazy by saying, “Are you okay? Is everything alright? Please tell me what’s going on.” Sometimes you just might be having a quietly and privately bad day and you just want to work through it yourself and 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 make it ideal, or if they get assigned a class that doesn’t have their best friends in it, to allow them to make new friends and to deal with it and to get past it. 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.

Q: Did you have one horrible, no good, very bad day while making this film?

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 shot the same thing all day, and the baby was crying.

CARELL: We were making a movie and it got hot. That’s sad.

GARNER: But we also understood. We had it in perspective. Thank you, Steve.

CARELL: Right under the bus.

Q: This movie harkens back to the live-action Disney family movies that Disney used to make all the time and that we grew up on. What does it mean to you to be the leaders of a new generation of live-action Disney family movies?

CARELL: I hope you’re right and that this does set a trend. That’s one of the reasons why I was interested in doing it. I don’t want to say throw back because there’s sort of a derogatory implication there, but you’re right. These kind 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. I hope it is a trend that continues, because I know my kids can’t wait. You don’t care, but they do, 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.” That wasn’t the draw. It looked like something they wanted to see. So that was exciting to hear.

Q: Since you’re both parents, what do you hope families get out of this movie when they walk out?

GARNER: That’s a great question. I do feel so excited that we get to be part of a real family movie that’s going out into the world. This is a movie that teenagers should like, and when I went to see it, I brought my five-year-old along and she loved it, too. Her favorite part was Steve and the kangaroo. I do feel that this is a film that families can see, and I hope at the end of it that it makes you feel more like a family, and it reminds you that whatever happens, you’re all going through it together.

Q: The movie is based on a book. Do you remember reading it and is this a book that you read to your children?

GARNER: Yes, it’s a mainstay in our house, for sure. My kids are over it actually at this point because everyone’s talking about it. They’re 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 this answer should be going, but it’s going to come back around. Don’t worry.

Disney’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” opens in theaters on October 10th.


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