13-year-old Ed Oxenbould is the star of Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and I was fortunate to speak with him recently about what is his breakout role in Hollywood. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here.
Matt: You’re the star of this big Hollywood movie but many might be surprised to know you grew up here in Australia. Can you tell us a little about your background?
Ed: I’m a Sydney boy, I grew up in Bondi and it was pretty incredible to be part of an American film. I thought I might be visiting America as a tourist one day but to be working there never crossed my mind.
Matt: How old were you when you made Alexander?
Ed: 12 years old.
Matt: Can you tell us a little about the audition process? I’m guessing there were a lot of kids up for the role.
Ed: Yeah, around 500 American kids so when I got the call, it was mind blowing. All that was going through my head was “what am I going to do, what am I going to do?” I hadn’t even learned an American accent at that time. It was crazy.
Matt: How long was the process? How many auditions did you have to go through?
Ed: A lot. I started out by doing an audition tape in my living room with a video camera. My parents are both actors so they read some of the lines. We sent it away and got some good feedback. They then flew us over to Los Angeles to meet the director which was amazing. Me and my mum were treated really nicely and we flew over business class. It was like a dream.
Matt: Did you know some of the other kids that you were up against?
Ed: Not really. I think if I had of been in America it would have been different because I would have been going physically to the office but in the end it was kind of good because I didn’t really know my competition.
Matt: Did director Miguel Arteta ever give you feedback about what it was that got you over the line and made you stand out from all the others who were auditioning?
Ed: He only really told me after I got the role and that he thought I was natural and not too over-the-top and fake. He just thought I was like a real kid.
Matt: We know that scenes are shot over a few weeks and the finished product is heavily edited. How many lines do you normally have to learn at once to shoot a particular sequence?
Ed: It really depends on the project that you’re working on. I’ve done three feature films now and they’ve all been completely different. We had a lot of time to film Alexander and so we only did between 2 and 4 scenes a day. You didn’t need to learn that much. Then, I did an Australian film in Western Australia where you had to learn a lot because there wasn’t a lot of time. We were doing up to 10 scenes a day.
Matt: For someone who is so young, how easy is it? Do you have your own tricks to remember certain pieces of dialogue?
Ed: I’m lucky enough to have a photographic memory. I picture it in my mind and go through it over and over again with my parents. I’m really lucky that they’re both actors because they motivate me a lot.
Matt: You’ve already mentioned the American accent that you have to use in this film. Do you use a dialect coach? How do you get that down pat?
Ed: When I was doing my auditions, I based my accent on things I’d seen like The Simpsons and American films. It was pretty rough at that time. When I got the role, I was given this amazing dialect coach, Susan, who taught me everything to make it sound really authentic… like a lazy Californian.
Matt: There are scenes here where you’re tripping over and setting stuff on fire. Is there any stunt and safety work involved in a movie like this?
Ed: Yeah, definitely. There were quite a lot of stunts and it was kind of funny because we had the stunt coordinator from Avatar. There were scenes where we were tripping over skateboards and he was acting like we were falling out of buildings. He was great and really funny. There’s a lot of safety as well. Like in that scene where I’m lighting stuff on fire, there were fireman and policemen to make sure nothing went wrong.
Matt: Do you have someone who does your stunts for you? Or do you get asked to do that sort of stuff yourself?
Ed: They ask you and they ask your parents if you’re comfortable. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity so I said yes to most things.
Matt: Do you have a parent who is with you on the set at all times?
Ed: Yep, by law you have to have one.
Matt: Is there a certain number of hours you can work each day?
Ed: It’s about 9 and a half hours if they have to go over that and do overtime then they can get special contracts or maybe even do it illegally (laughs).
Matt: You’re hanging out with an experienced cast that includes Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner. What sort of things do you get to learn working alongside them?
Ed: You learn a lot from just watching them. You lean comedic timing and you learn how to behave on set. I also learned from Miguel and then Dylan and Kerris – my other co-stars.
Matt: Do you get to spend any time with them off the set?
Ed: Yeah. We obviously spent a lot of time together on-set but me, Dylan and Kerris had such a special bond that we hung out together a lot off set. Even though we were working together for 9 and a half hours each day, we didn’t get enough of each other so we’d go out, hang out, have dinner together and just sit down and talk. I loved those two.
Matt: This is a film that will surely open a lot of doors for you. Have you been getting more scripts and going along to more auditions?
Ed: Yeah, things have been coming through since I did Alexander. I was lucky enough to get an M. Night Shyamalan film called The Visit. That probably wouldn’t have happened if not for this. It’s a horror film coming out next September. More scripts have been coming through too so it really has changed my life.
Matt: Are you still based in Australia now or are you now living in Hollywood?
Ed: I’m still technically living here but we spend a lot of time now in America. The plan is to eventually move over to Los Angeles whether it be in 2 years or 10 years.
Matt: What have you got in the works? When will we see you next on screen?
Ed: The Visit is out in September but before that there’s Paper Planes which is coming out in January. It’s an Aussie film with Sam Worthington that was directed by Robert Connolly which was great.