January 19, 2012

For Alexander Libby, it's always showtime

Ever since he was a kid growing up in Freeport, the Cheverus alum has aspired to a career in show biz. Look at him now.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Alexander Libby simply loves putting on a show. Always has. It doesn't matter what the show is or what he's got to do to help get it done.

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Alexander Libby poses with a poster for “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” at the Nordica Theatre in Freeport, where he recently hosted a private screening.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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The Freeport native and Cheverus High School graduate certainly proved his passion for show biz during the filming of the new Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock film "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," opening nationwide on Friday.

As the assistant to director Stephen Daldry (Daldry says Libby was more like a co-producer), Libby's chores ranged from listening to every available phone message left by people trapped in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, to cutting out hand puppets and teaching Hanks how to use them.

"His job was helping me be organized and organizing the film around me. He had huge responsibilities, from all the research to helping cast actors and keeping actors happy, just moving the whole thing forward," said Daldry during a phone interview from San Francisco. "The whole organization comes down to our shoulders -- mostly Alex's shoulders."

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" is already garnering serious critical buzz. Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, it tells the story of an inquisitive 9-year-old boy (newcomer Thomas Horn) who searches New York City for the lock that matches a key left behind by his father (Hanks), who was killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

One of Libby's jobs on the film was researching the horrific events of Sept. 11. Part of that research included listening to every available phone message left behind by people trapped in the World Trade Center.

"It's really tough listening to those. You hear the first one and you're floored, then your realize there are a couple hundred more. You have to try to desensitize yourself," said Libby, 28.

He also had to watch every available video of people jumping or falling out of the towers.

"A big part of the (film) is the kid's imagination. He imagines his father falling through the sky. We tried to do it tastefully," said Libby. "You really have to be as versed in the reality as possible. The only reason to do this movie is if you can give something back to the families."

As Daldry's assistant, Libby was involved in major decisions, including casting. He said Hanks and Bullock, who plays the father's widow, were fairly easy picks, based on their acting skill and their reputations as being easy to work with.

But finding a 9- or 10-year-old child to play the central character was tougher. Casting people and others involved with the film probably looked at 3,000 boys, all across the country.

They sought out Horn for an audition only after producer Scott Rudin saw him compete, and win big, on a kid's version of "Jeopardy!" But Horn had never acted. It came down to him and one other boy, with Horn eventually winning the part.

"After we saw Thomas, Stephen went out for a smoke -- he smokes a lot -- and I went with him," Libby said. "He looked at me and said, 'You think we've found him, don't you?' I said, 'I know we've found him.' "

During filming, mostly in New York, Libby was impressed with Hanks' professionalism and "team player" attitude. In one case in particular, Libby remembers Daldry giving Hanks a new six-page monologue to memorize the night before the scene was to be shot.

"Some celebrities would say, 'I'm not doing this, come back to me when I have the proper amount of time to learn it,' " said Libby. "But he (Hanks) never said anything. He just learned it and was ready the next day."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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As a teenager, Libby started his own theater company in Freeport. Since then, he held a variety of stage-manager-type jobs on Broadway and elsewhere before signing on as assistant to director Stephen Daldry two years ago.

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Director Stephen Daldry, pictured on the set of “Extremely Loud,” said Libby had “huge responsibilities” from start to finish in the production of the film.

Warner Bros.

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Libby praised star Tom Hanks for his “team player” attitude.

Warner Bros.

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