The Cooper House from “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”Mar 25th, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
Sometimes I become obsessed with a location because I love the movie that it was featured in. Other times I just like the look of a particular place and am desperate to see it in person. And other times still I read something about a filming site that completely transfixes me despite the fact that I have never actually seen it onscreen. Such was the case with the Anywhere, U.S.A.-style residence where the Cooper family – Ben (Steve Carell), Kelly (Jennifer Garner), Alexander (Ed Oxenbould), Anthony (Dylan Minnette), Emily (Kerris Dorsey), and Baby Trevor (Elise and Zoey Vargas) – lived in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. While doing research for a Los Angeles magazine post about Vroman’s Bookstore’s appearance in the 2014 family flick, I came across these production notes and was shocked to read that a re-creation of a real home in South Pasadena had been constructed for the shoot. Interest piqued, I immediately rented Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on iTunes and, in a stroke of good luck, found the South Pas pad almost immediately.
As it turns out, the Cooper home is located on Buena Vista Street, a place that I am very familiar with thanks to its many appearances onscreen. While watching Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’s opening scene, I immediately recognized the mansion visible behind the Cooper family’s van as Lady Heather’s (Melinda Clark) house from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. So I did some Google Street View-sleuthing in the same area and found the Cooper’s residence just a half a block east of Lady Heather’s house. (Patrick Gates’ home from National Treasure is located directly across the street from the Cooper dwelling and the the Liar Liar house can be found two blocks north.)
Of the Cooper home, production designer Michael Corenblith said, “We imagined that this is a family of birds that live in this beautiful cozy little nest that has been created from all of the nicest little branches and twigs and pieces of colored ribbon and fabric. But there are just too many birds for the nest. This family is bursting at the seams, so the idea was to craft an environment for them that would really convey that idea to the audience.” He then set about looking for a “quaint” house to film in.
He found the perfect spot at 1037 Buena Vista Street. Corenblith said, “It was exactly the right house for this family. It had the right scale, it had the right vibe, window scape and was built in the right period. It had a lot of things we really liked, but ultimately, it was going to be too small to actually shoot the movie inside.” So he decided to have a replica of the residence built at Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Newhall. The “home” took five weeks to construct.
The production notes state, “The exterior of the home – complete with backyard and select interior sets – was built in one area of the studio lot, while the upstairs interiors resided on soundstages elsewhere on the lot.” Corenblith did an amazing job designing the interiors! I am in love with the Cooper’s kitchen. With the bright windows, light-colored cabinetry and large center island, it reminds me a lot of Cupcakes and Cashmere’s Emily Schuman’s kitchen.
I cannot believe that the backyard and pool shown in the movie were set re-creations! Had I seen Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day prior to reading the production notes, I would have bet money on the fact that the home’s actual backyard was used.
Corenblith explained that the need to build the backyard replica and interior sets stemmed from the scene involving the crocodile. He says, “We follow the crocodile through the house and out the back into a swimming pool. The path this crocodile takes from the front door, through the house, out the French doors in the back, and directly to a swimming pool was nothing we found in the real world. That was one of the big factors that mandated the design of this configuration.”
Corenblith even had the rear side of the home re-created for the shoot. You can see what the actual back of the house looks like in the aerial view pictured below. It is strikingly similar to what was built.
From the way the production notes were written, I originally thought that no filming whatsoever had taken place at the South Pasadena house. It became apparent while watching the movie, though, that the front exterior of the real home was used in a few scenes and in several establishing shots.
The residence looks exactly the same in person as it did onscreen. The unique trees in the front yard are absolutely breathtaking!
In real life, the residence, which was originally built in 1949, boasts two bedrooms, two baths, 2,022 square feet, and a 0.37-acre lot.
It’s no stranger to the silver screen, either. In 1983, the very same home was used as Arnie Cunningham’s (Keith Gordon) Rockbridge, California residence in Christine, though it looked quite a bit different at the time.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Cooper house from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is located at 1037 Buena Vista Street in South Pasadena. Patrick Gates’ home from National Treasure is located across the street at 1030 Buena Vista Street. Lady Heather’s house from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is located at 929 Buena Vista Street. The Liar Liar house can be found one block north at 1004 Highland Street.