Extraordinary Cast Brings 'Alexander' Characters To Life

Sep 24, 2014
Walt Disney Pictures' big-screen adaptation of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” required just the right family. “We assembled possibly the world’s loveliest family,” says director Miguel Arteta. “We wanted the audience to have fun, but also to feel this family’s warmth.”

The cast, adds the director, brought so much warmth to the big screen because they felt it on the set. “They all ended up falling in love—with each other,” says Arteta. “We had that spirit that you hope to get—but you don’t always get. The bond you see is real.”

Filmmakers cast a wide net to fill the role of the title character—casting directors saw more than 500 kids. “We had to find just right person to play Alexander,” says Arteta. “We didn’t want a typical child actor. Alexander needed to be the underdog. He’s like the one kid in the otherwise-perfect family portrait with his eyes closed.”

The director enlisted his wife to help scan hundreds of audition tapes. “The moment this Australian kid actor, Ed Oxenbould, came on, we both saw something special. He’s super smart, sweet and generous.”
It was the actor’s likability and his ability to empathize that won him the role of Alexander. “He’s a 12-year-old every-man,” says screenwriter Rob Lieber. “He has an understated charm to him and I think that’s what Alexander’s all about.”
The incomparable Steve Carell fills the shoes of Alexander’s dad, Ben Cooper, who kicks off the film as a stay-at-home dad hoping to rejoin the ranks of the employed. But when he lands a huge job interview, he’s unable to line up a babysitter in time and is forced to bring baby Trevor with him—which isn’t exactly the first impression he’d hoped to make. “He’s been unemployed for seven months,” says Lieber, “so he has a lot riding on this opportunity.”

Adds Arteta, “He’s the ultimate optimist, but this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day tries his patience to the point that he finally freaks out. It’s a lot of fun to see a sunny character like that finally lose it.”

Jennifer Garner was called in to portray super mom Kelly Cooper—a force of nature. Shouldering the breadwinning duties for the family, Kelly secretly craves more time with her family. She starts her terrible day behind schedule and finds herself battling a potentially career-ending publishing snafu. “It’s a big moment in her career,” says Lieber. “There’s a celebrity reading that day, and a rather unfortunate misprint is discovered at the last minute. Everything goes wrong.”

Even Alexander has to admit that big brother Anthony is a “total winner,” which can’t be easy. Dylan Minnette was tapped to portray to successful teen, who pretty much has it made in life—just ask him—till the bad day strikes and his reflection reveals what may be his first zit—ever. His perfect life continues to unravel—highlighted by a driving test that doesn’t exactly go as planned. The film, says Arteta, showcases Minnette’s comic abilities. “I don’t think he realized how funny he was,” the director says of the actor. “But he came in and really committed to what was happening, and in doing so, he was hilarious. He even made Jennifer Coolidge, who’s a comic genius, really laugh.”

Kerris Dorsey was cast as Alexander’s sister Emily, an aspiring actress who’s looking forward to her debut as Peter Pan in the school play. “It’s probably the biggest day of her middle school life,” says Lieber, “but she wakes up with a horrible cold.”

Unwilling to let a cold keep her from performing, Emily turns to cough medicine—again and again and again. “She ends up flying around the stage for her school play and destroying everything,” says Arteta. “Kerris is quirky, yet grounded, and she makes it feel real. She makes you laugh and also feel for the character at the same time.”
Twins Zoey and Elise Vargas crawled up to the plate to portray the youngest Cooper—baby Trevor. Even Trevor suffers a bad day—no Cooper is spared—when his beloved bumblebee pacifier is unwittingly destroyed. Trevor finds little solace in a green marker, despite valiant efforts.

Arteta says that like Alexander, he’s decided bad days are pretty much unavoidable. “I have a lot of bad days when everything seems to go wrong—the fridge door swings too fast and knocks over a bunch of glass bottles making me late for every appointment thereafter. I seem to have a lot of those days. I think I’m the right director for this film.”

Opening across the Philippines on Oct. 15, 2014, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.

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