Did you know that before she became an actress, Jennifer Garner wanted to be a librarian or a children’s book author? It’s true. And her love of children’s books hasn’t diminished — especially the one that her latest movie, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, is based upon.
“I could pretty [much] recite it to you,” said Garner, when we spoke to her at Vroman’s Book Soup in Burbank. Garner took a break from shooting one of the film’s scenes, which involved her making a hurried bike ride to the bookstore to try and prevent Dick Van Dyke (playing himself) from reading an embarrassingly misprinted book.
Garner said she grew up with the book by Judith Viorst, which was published in 1972, and her love of the book made her want to be involved in movie adaptation.
“I mean bringing a kid’s book to life, to me, there is nothing better,” said Garner.
In the film, Garner gets a chance to experience what it’s like to work in the children’s book world, as her character Kelly Cooper is an executive at a children’s book publisher. Kelly is mom to four kids — Anthony (Dylan Minnette), Emily (Kerris Dorsey), baby Trevor and, of course, Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) — and wife to Ben, played by Steve Carell.
Even if you’ve never read the book, you can guess from the title that the Coopers might go through some trials and tribulations – let’s just say they aren’t having an amazing, super easy, wonderful day.
The film starts with Alexander waking up with gum in his hair and quickly spirals, as Kelly’s latest book is printed wrong, Anthony fails his driver’s test, Emily messes up the school play and Ben gets stuck bringing Trevor to a job interview. Garner, as a mother of three and wife to actor Ben Affleck, could relate to the ups and downs that come with family life.
“This movie is my life, so I really do understand it,” said Garner. “I’ve never played something that felt more like my life than this film.”
And just like real life, not every moment in the film is scripted. Producer Lisa Henson talked about how Carell and Garner were able to improvise on their roles — most of which seemed to stem from their own lives as parents.
“They add little parental bits to the script. Like they may be coming from experience,” said Hensen. “Everything [all the situations in the film] is based on something. Or [is] kind of a situation that could happen to a regular family.”
While some of the bad things are a little outrageous — when’s the last time you had to deal with an escaped kangaroo? — the message is still clear: you can’t appreciate the good days without the bad days.
“I think all kids need to know it’s okay to have a bad day. It doesn’t define you,” said Garner. “It doesn’t mean your life is horrible, grownups have them, too. You’re still loved even if you are in the middle of your horrible, awful, very bad day.”
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day hits theaters October 10th.