Alexander may have had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, but the red carpet premiere of Disney’s movie adaptation of Judith Viorst’s children’s classic was anything but, with stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner and Ed Oxenbould (in the titular tween role) all smiles as they entered Hollywood’s El Capitan for Monday evening’s screening.
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” scribe Rob Lieber used the 1972 illustrated story about a boy for whom everything goes wrong (from gum in his hair to lima beans for dinner) as a jumping-off point to craft characters that “stayed consistent with the theme of the book.”
“It’s about a kid who always feels like he has a dark cloud over his head, it’s about feeling like you’re the only one having a bad day, and I thought that was a really universal concept,” said Lieber. “So then I just said, ‘OK, so what’s unexplored in this book?’ There’s the family and we don’t know much about them. There’s Australia which (Alexander) keeps referencing, and I just went from there.” (Coincidentally, Oxenbould, who speaks with a perfect American accent in the movie, is from Australia).
A father of two small kids, Lieber was inspired by every day, real-life challenges when penning the script.
“The chaos of trying to get through the day is basically sort of the chaos that I tried to channel for the movie,” he said.
Director Miguel Arteta (“Youth in Revolt,” “The Good Girl”) also had a personal connection to the film’s running theme of pandemonium on the homefront.
“I based (the film) on growing up in a Latin American family of six in Puerto Rico and the mayhem and insanity that that is,” said Arteta. “It was my hope to make a family movie that everybody was happy to go to. It’s a throwback to the great live action family movies that Disney used to do in the ’60s. We wanted to bring that back.”
Working with Garner and Carell was also a “huge draw” for Arteta, who previously directed both Garner in the 1999 Fox “Party of Five” spinoff “Time of Your Life” and Carell in a 2006 episode of NBC’s “The Office.”
“My idea was to cast such lovely people that it felt more authentic than the typical family movie,” said Arteta, “and that hopefully the chemistry would remind you of your family.”
The “Alexander” afterparty at video game haven Dave & Busters’ Hollywood & Highland location was definitely family-friendly, where guests could play Pac Man and air hockey for tickets and prizes, snack on mac and cheese and chicken fingers and create their own digital flip books.
“Alexander” producer Shawn Levy, who just came off directing “This is Where I Leave You,” brought three of his four daughters to the premiere.
“The challenges of life that this family faces are very contemporary,” said Levy above the ding-ding of video games. “I like that very old school and of-our-moment blend, and it helps when the relatable adults are played by Steve and Jen because they’re stars but don’t they feel very familiar and human? With Carell and Garner I feel like I know them — we are like them and they are like us – and I think it anchors the movie. It’s a love letter to family.”
(Pictured: Ed Oxenbould, Kerris Dorsey, Dylan Minnette, Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner and director Miguel Arteta at the Hollywood premiere of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”)