Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to interview along with some fellow bloggers, Miguel Arteta. The director of the movie Alexander and The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that premieres today in theaters. I had a great time and learned a lot from this award winning director.
Here’s a picture we all took with Miguel:
Without further a do.. Here’s all the dirt from the movie:
Bloggers: There are a lot of children in the film. Was this your first time working with Children?
Miguel Arteta: I’ve worked with children before but this is the first time directing a family movie. I’ve done independent movies and moving into a Disney Movie was quite a change.
Bloggers: Did you find it challenging (working with kids)?
Miguel Arteta No, I love that. Ironically I am trying to only do stories where I feel that I am putting my heart into it. I am thinking when I was younger I was more complicated and a little more unhappy and so those movie were good but I got married a year ago and a half ago and I am happy. So this Disney movie was a better fit. And the message of Alexander is about appreciating your family and not taking it for granted and that’s something that’s been happening in my life. Specially since I got married I get along with my family so much better.
Bloggers What was your favorite part of this movie?
Miguel Arteta: My favorite part about this movie is when the kid wishes his family a terrible day because he thinks that they don’t understand him and the next morning is the day from hell. They wake up and coordinating all those things at the same time you know, the brother is sick, the sister is sick, the diapers go down, the oranges fall down, the mother stubs her toe.
Bloggers: Completely relatable. A day in our lives
Miguel Arteta: Shooting the baby peeing was pretty fun.
Question: How many takes did it take?
Miguel Arteta: Ah, he was quite willing
Bloggers: You give him a bottle of orange juice?
Miguel Arteta: We actually had special effects for that one because baby Trevor is played by 2 baby twin girls
Bloggers: Oh really?
Miguel Arteta: They were the same girls you saw in the movie “Neighbors” . You need twins because you have to change them from scene to scene. I actually thought that Zoe and her sister were very believable as boys. I’ll start campaigning from them seeing how they can interpret a person from the other side.
Blogger: I never knew they were girls
Miguel Arteta: So they did their jobs. They were really special. They were so adorable and I think they helped everyone become a family.
Blogger: Was the green on the face put on or she actually eat it?
Miguel Arteta: most o the time she had sugar water but we really had one difficult scene where we had to see her on camera actually putting on the marker and it was really hard to get a one year old to do it. She would play with any toy other than the marker. Steve Carell was waiting for an hour just to deliver his lines until she picked up the marker and started to do it. Finally it worked out because our costume person was like “I love this baby I want to be the person that convinces her to put on the green marker in her face” He went before the camera and marked his whole face over and over and the baby was finally like “Oh I get it! This is going to be fun.
Blogger: So she actually painted her face with the marker?
Miguel Arteta: yeah on camera yes. It was hard because Steve has to deliver some lines and everybody in the crew was cheering
Blogger: I thought maybe she got it in her mouth but you put on the paint on her face
Miguel Arteta: Well we put it for most of the scenes but we needed her to do it for this one scene. It wasn’t a real marker, it was sugar water.
Blogger: How long were you on production? How long did it take to film the whole movie from beginning to end. Did they approach you or did you approach them?
Miguel Arteta: from when I got envolved until I was finished it was less than a year which is great for our movie. We shot for 40 days and it was the most hectic time of all. You know they say don’t work with children and animals and we had screaming babies, we had car crashes, fire and every animal you can think of. Um, but it was a lot of fun because it made all the actors, Steve and Jenn look more like a family. They really have to be together to deal with all the insanity we were throwing at them every day.
Blogger: There’s a scene at the end with the Australian dancers. How did you manage it from the PG part the stripping?
Miguel Arteta: Oh, The Thunder from Down Under?
Blogger: Yeah! They start the music and the guys started dancing, you know being this a family film how did you navigate not going overboard or the innuendo?
Miguel Arteta: we were excited about throwing one last surprise and the Thunder from Down Under are great. I am actually a big fan of Project Runway and I had seen the actors there and they were really sweet guys. There’s nothing X rated about them and they were really really sweet. And I kind of had a feeling that you know as long as they didn’t strip at all it would be a really fun sweet surprise and they are all authentic Australian guys.
Blogger: This is based from a children’s book that I remember read to as a kid. What was the real challenge of turning this book into a kid’s movie? Have you read the book? What was your impression?
Miguel Arteta: I never read the book, I read it last year and I loved it. I understand why it became a classic. It’s most honest than most children’s books and I loved that about it. It’s a book that sort of tells kids, if everything is not going your way it might be ok to feel bad for a little while. You don’t have to be a good sport every minute of the day and I think it’s quite a relief from kids. There were something really authentic about this book than other children’s books I kinda wanted make a family movie that was really funny and it feels more real and everything started from there. The cast, you know, I really wanted to find a kid that didn’t feel like a Hollywood kid and Oxembold is very natural and he’s like a sweet underdog. That I think was the most important thing to keep. You know it’s very easy to turn this movie into one you’ve seen before, that feels very forced. Just for the kids I wanted to feel like something that would work for kids and adults and would feel a little more honest.
Bloggers: What was the challenge about getting Oxembold who is Australian to lose his accent
Miguel Arteta: You know in the book the story is about an American kid who is obsessed with Australia for no good reason. You know randomly he just happens to love all things Australian and it was an irony that the one kid that I feld was really natural was the Australian kid.
Bloggers: So it was a coincidental that the actor was Australian?
Miguel Arteta: yes it was and you know at the end of a scene he says “Good Day Mate!” to the Thunder from Down Under in Australian accent and it was really funny, he was waiting the whole 40 days to say it.
Bloggers: What kind of a challenge was getting him to speak with American Accent? I didn’t detect an accent at all.
Miguel Arteta: He’s very good and he had a musical ear for sure. Accent I think either you have a musical ability or you don’t so when we started he was 80% there, but everyone wanted to make sure it was perfect so we brought in a really wonderful voice coach just to take the edge off. But if he hadn’t had the natural ability in the amount of time we had we couldn’t have taken him on. But you know, he was very clever and very excited about it. I think he’s going to have a very special career.
Bloggers: How long did it take to learn the American accent really well?
Miguel Arteta: He has about 3 weeks and he worked really hard
Bloggers: did he have a big Australian accent when you met him?
Miguel Arteta: He does in real life but like I said he had a natural ability, even in his audition tape he was 3/4 all the way there so I could tell he had a facility for it. But you know, there’s so many actor from Australia and they don’t have that ability. It’s amazing, if you have it, you can just turn it on. Just like me I sound just perfectly American
Bloggers: Speaking of natural abilities, Steve Carrel has a natural comedic ability. How much of the scenes were ad libbed and how much was controlled since this is a Disney film?
Miguel Arteta: they gave us a lot of freedom you know, for comedy it is really important to have a relaxed set and let the actors bring something of what they do to it. Steve brought a lot to it, not only to his wonderful improv moments. For example there’s one moment where his older son got in trouble for knocking down trophies at school and he goes to pick him up and the son starts to apologize and he interrupts him by making silly noises and faces. That just came out of the blue and it was just an honest moment. There are so many things he brought on but he also thought about the story a lot. He was really helpful for me in terms of shaping the movie. He’s a sweetheart. I worked with him in The Office and he’s such a gentleman. I also think he’s immensely talented and he does the kind of comedy that it’s very difficult to do because it comes out of being lovely and being a nice guy which is really hard. It’s a lot easier to make comedy out of being sarcastic and he has this ability out of niceness just to be funny. He makes it look easy and other comics really appreciate him because of that.
Bloggers: What about Jennifer? Is she genuinely funny?
Miguel Arteta: she’s very sweet and authentic and really funny. I had loved her in 13 going on 30 and she had been really funny there and she doesn’t get called to do comedy much so I was pretty excited to bring her to do this. She had done all her stunts and she was all up for physical comedy, like riding the bike and crashing. Stubbing her toe. She’s wonderful. This is my first Hollywood movie and a lucked out by having 2 of the nicest movie starts in the world. Jennifer knew everybody’s name on day 2. It was very genuine. She’s really just a sweetheart.
Bloggers: How did you get Dick Van Dyke to do the movie?
Miguel Arteta: it was pretty amazing to be able to sit with somebody he knew Walt Disney pretty well. I was really starstruck. Growing up “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was my favorite movie and I couldn’t believe on a Sunday morning when I got a call from Dick Van Dyke checking in. I think Sean Levy worked with him during a few scenes of “Night at the Museum” and he helped us get him and I was really happy for many reasons. Not only does he have this long tradition with Disney. But what I was talking before about the kind of comedy that Steve Carrel does, he’s kind of the grandfather of that. His comedy never came from a bitter place. It was always out of sweetness and niceness and I feel there’s a correlation between Dick Van Dyke came and Steve Carrel.
Bloggers: Do you have any teenagers in your family that you relate to?
Miguel Arteta: I don’t. My niece just turned 21
That was it! Alexander and The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day premieres today in theaters!