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'Very Bad Day' Director Talks Family and His First Disney Film

When you walk into a room to meet the director of a major studio’s latest film, the last thing you expect is to be offered a beverage or a snack by the very person you are there to interview. But that’s exactly what happens when you meet Miguel Arteta, director of Disney’s newest release, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that Arteta was brought up by a Peruvian father and a Spanish mother while living in places like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and several other Latin American countries. Or, perhaps, much like the film, he’s just a very warm and lovely person to get to know.

The film stars Jennifer Garner (Kelly) and Steve Carrell (Ben) as parents to Alexander (played by Ed Oxenbould), Anthony (Dylan Minnette), Emily (Kerris Dorsey) and baby Trevor. Bella Thorne is also part of the cast as eldest brother Anthony's girlfriend, Celia.

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Photograph by Disney Enterprises, Inc.

(Pictured above: Director Miguel Arteta and Ed Oxenbould ("Alexander") on the set of "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.")

“Alexander” will not only be Arteta’s first major studio release, but also his first family film. He’s best known for directing smaller, darker independent films such as “Chuck & Buck,” “The Good Girl,” “Cedar Rapids” and “Youth In Revolt.” While it may sound like a gigantic and confusing leap to go from those films to a Disney film, after talking to Arteta, it feels like he’s right where he belongs.

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Q: You grew up living all over Latin America. Can you tell me what elements of your upbringing or your family did you infuse into the making of this family film?

Miguel Arteta: As Latinos, we are definitely family oriented people so that was easy to bring in. I tried to make it [a] warm feeling on the set. I did a lot of dances and I'd be cheering them on [at the end of a take] because you have to be a cheerleader. I think as Latinos, we have that kind of energy and it can be very contagious and I think that was helpful.

Q: Steve Carrell’s character, Ben, has a lot of “fatherly” adages like “steering the ship with positivity.” What are some of the adages from your parents you hear in your head when you’re having a bad day?

Miguel Arteta: My father used to say, “A lo hecho pecho.” Growing up, I didn't know what it really meant, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that's good advice — what's done is done. He also used to say “if you have nothing nice to say then don't say nothing” and boy, is that a helpful thing as I've gotten older! A little bit like Alexander [in the film], I'm realizing I didn't appreciate my family as much as I should have. As I've gotten older and a little bit happier, I'm starting to realize how lucky I am. I'm at that stage in my life where I'm starting to realize how lucky I am with my family and all those things that my father used to say were pretty helpful. I think when you add up all the advice that he was giving —and I thought he was a very dark guy — but really, the kind of the message he was giving is just try to bring a little brightness into the world.

Photograph by Disney Enterprises, Inc.

(Pictured above: 'Very Bad Day' Director Miguel Arteta.)

Q: You’re best known for your darker, smaller independent films, why take on a Disney family film?

Miguel Arteta: It would seem absurd on paper. I come from these dark independent movies, but it was good and it was mutual. Disney was looking for someone with a good independent background because they wanted this film to feel a little more authentic. They usually make animated movies, not live action movies, so they wanted it to feel more grounded and real. So, they were looking for someone like me and I've been doing this for 18 years, so I just want to find stories that I could put my heart into.

Q: So you related to Alexander’s character and the storyline?

Miguel Arteta: This is a story that I can relate to right now! I'm really trying to make amends with my family and show them that perhaps I was wrong not to appreciate them as much and that was the arc of this kid, Alexander, he goes from thinking “you guys don't get it” to “oh my God, I'm so lucky to have you around,” so it felt like a natural fit.

Q: What do you hope people, especially kids today, get out of seeing Alexander?

Miguel Arteta: My goal is that people will come out of this movie and say, “this is so funny,” but there's also something lovely about it; I love that family. I want it to have that feeling. I’m hoping that that lovely feeling is enough to make people love it even though it doesn't have those harsher aspects of modern life. It's meant to be a movie that makes you feel warm about your family, so I'm hoping that carries through.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” opens on October 10th, 2014 and is rated PG.

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