Movie analyst Shane A. Bassett interviews Ed Oxenbould, Australian leading star of the big budget Disney family movie ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY and an upcoming new M. Night Shyamalan film.
After an interesting audition, a young Aussie child actor is picked to headline a potential Hollywood blockbuster. The character is an American kid who worships Australia, so cue plenty of Down Under references right down to having a jar of vegemite on the breakfast table. Talking with Ed, it is clear he is a smart kid who loves to act, just like his Uncle Ben Oxenbould has for over 30 years.
Shane A. Bassett – Congratulations on a fine show in a pretty good movie. I remember hearing when you first scored the role and was very happy for you. What was the audition process like?
Ed Oxenbould – Thank you so much. It was mainly just my agent sending through a script with a little information. I didn’t even know who the director was because originally it was going to be a different director. I didn’t know when it would even start filming. I did know Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner were attached to it – that was a big reason I wanted to go for it. Sending a little short film is all I really did, made in our living room with Mum and Dad. It didn’t feel like an audition at all, very relaxed.
SAB – Do you remember your first day of filming for Walt Disney Studios?
EO – I do, we filmed at a Pasadena High School with about 200 kids, Steve and Jen, I didn’t know anyone on the crew really – it felt so weird everybody watching you. Intimidating and a little bit of pressure is how I felt.
SAB – Did Mickey Mouse ever visit the set?
EO – (Laughs) I wish, but he didn’t.
SAB – Did you give the filmmakers any ideas of what Australian things to include in the film?
EO – A little bit, but it was mainly up to them as that key theme was always in the book (the 1970s children’s book). When you see the film you see my bedroom is decked out in all this Australian merchandise, me and my mum actually brought that with us because you can’t actually find too much of it in America. There was a debate if we should pronounce “emu” the Aussie way or the American way. I definitely did have to explain some things to people, like there are no kangaroos on Bondi Beach and we don’t like crocodiles or ride emus to work and so on.
SAB – I noticed in the credits you had a dialogue coach – how hard was the accent for you?
EO – It’s not overly challenging, I watch lots of American films and television so I knew the basics. It needed work, though, so that’s what she did, pronouncing letters, especially “R,” the position of your tongue when saying certain words. It was another thing to worry about when acting.
SAB – When the cameras were not rolling were you talking normally as an Aussie kid?
EO – (Laughs) Yes I was, and everyone could understand me.
SAB – The car in the movie was falling apart. Was that a real one made or close-ups or trick photography?
EO – When we were driving it was a real car, then they took the doors off. When we were filming inside it was a stunt car like a movable set.
SAB – How was working with Steve and Jennifer as your screen parents? Did you become close?
EO – Yes, you spend so much time with each other, they were such good fake parents; not better than my own of course (laughs). They were so funny, a dream casting for me to have as screen parents.
SAB – Were there many practical jokes played on set or mischief?
EO – Some, there was tons of down time. Steve and Jennifer actually went to the same university about ten years apart called Dennison. For about a week, Steve bought all this Dennison merchandise and just gave it to people then slightly make them wear it. Eventually everyone was sitting on Dennison chairs or beach towels, everyone picked up on it except Jennifer who it was intended for. That was funny and went on for three weeks. She did not even notice it.
SAB – You wear an awesome Darth Vader T-shirt in the film – did you keep that or go back to wardrobe?
EO – I didn’t keep it, that sucks, I wanted it.
SAB – Are you going to keep acting or pursue other interests as you get older?
EO – Keep going. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but now that I have done Alexander, Paper Planes (an Australian family adventure) and The Visit (an upcoming thriller by M. Night Shyamalan), I now know I want to do much more acting in a variety of roles.
SAB – I really like your screen sister Kerris Dorsey (Ray Donovan). She’s a rare young talent. Did you hang out with her or your screen brother Dylan Minnette?
EO – Yes, all the time – we had a great friendship. I love both of them to death, so nice, creative, musical and incredible talents.
SAB – Do you get much advice from Uncle Ben?
EO – (Laughs) Not really. He’s the best uncle, just funny and good to be around.
SAB – You mentioned The Visit; what can you tell me about that film?
EO – Can’t tell you anything, I am sorry. Nothing.
SAB – Ok, what about the director? How was it working with M. Night?
EO – He was incredible, an intense experience, but fun. That’s all I can say mate.
SAB – No worries mate, thanks for your time, Paper Planes looks like a good old-fashioned Aussie yarn.
EO – Such a great experience, lots of fun on set, the cast were the coolest, I learned from Sam (Worthington) just by watching. It’s a cool family movie that is different and no American accent this time (laughs).