The son of two comedians, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, perhaps Ben has comical talent run in his blood. Born in New York City on November 30, 1965, Stiller was making films by the time he was ten, cathartic 8 mm epics in which he got even with the schoolyard bullies who tormented him. He went on to attend U.C.L.A. and began appearing in films, including Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun (1987). In addition to winning larger roles in such films as Fresh Horses (1988), Stiller continued to make comedy shorts, including the 1989 Elvis Stories, a spoof of obsessive Elvis fans featuring John Cusack. One of his shorts, a Tom Cruise parody called The Hustler of Money, won Stiller a spot as a writer and player on Saturday Night Live in 1989. His stint on the show was short-lived, but led to his own MTV vehicle, The Ben Stiller Show. Featuring the likes of Janeane Garofalo and Andy Dick, the show was eventually dropped, first by MTV and then by Fox, but Stiller did pick up an Emmy for comedy writing in 1993.
The following year, he made his feature-film directorial debut with the twentysomething angst comedy Reality Bites, in which he also starred alongside Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke. The film was a relative critical and commercial success; unfortunately, Stiller's next directorial effort, 1996's The Cable Guy, was a flop. A black comedy that cast Jim Carrey as the psychotic title character, the film failed to register with critics and audiences, many of whom couldn't stomach the idea of Carrey playing such a dark character.
After a part in the Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore, Stiller bounced back with a starring role in David O. Russell's Flirting With Disaster (1996). The relatively positive reception afforded to that comedy helped to balance out the relative failure of Stiller's other film that year, If Lucy Fell. It was not until two years later, however, that Stiller truly stepped into the limelight. Thanks to starring roles in three very different films, he emerged as an actor of versatility, equally adept at playing sensitive nice guys and complete jerks. In the smash comedy There's Something About Mary, he could be seen as the former type of character, earning permanent notoriety for various scenes featuring misplaced bodily fluids and mangled genitalia. He then did time as a not-so-nice guy in Neil LaBute's Your Friends and Neighbors, playing a philandering theater instructor. Finally, he starred in Permanent Midnight, earning critical acclaim for his portrayal of a heroin addict.
Now possessing solid footing in Hollywood, Stiller went on to star in Mystery Men (1999) as the leader of a group of unconventional superheroes. He also had a supporting role in The Suburbans, a comedy about the former members of a defunct new wave band and the following year starred as a rabbi who happens to be in love with the same woman as his best friend, a Catholic priest (Edward Norton), in the well-received romantic comedy Keeping the Faith. As busy as he was, Stiller's biggest hands-down success in 2000 was no doubt Meet the Parents. A disastrously humorous tale of Murphy's Law's interference with unfortunately named bad-luck magnet Greg Focker's (Stiller) initial meeting with his new fiancée's parents, Meet the Parents scored big at the box office and on home video, prompting many to eagerly anticipate a speculated sequel, Meet the Fockers. In 2001, Stiller brought one of his most popular MTV Music Awards Show incarnations to the big screen in the outrageously silly male model comedy Zoolander. Successfully teaming with Owen Wilson to take stupidity to new heights, Stiller's portrayal of a staggeringly dim but irresistibly handsome catwalk legend struck a chord with audiences looking for pure escapism, and a spin-off television series was soon rumored to be in development.
In 2001 Stiller once again teamed with Wes Anderson alumni Wilson for the widely praised comedy drama The Royal Tenenbaums. Cast as the estranged son of eccentric parents who returns home after receiving news that his father is dying, Stiller infused his unmistakable comic touch with an affecting sense of drama that found him stading his ground opposite such dramatic heavies as Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston. Though his work in 2002 offered little more than a few cameo performances and some vocal contributions to various animated children's shows, the busy comedic actor was back on the big screen for the 2003 comedy Duplex. Though the film pared Stiller with Hollywood heavyweight Drew Barrymore as a couple willing to go to horrific extremes to land the much-desired eponymous living space, reviews weren't kind and the comedy died a quick death at the box office. Stiller's next film - the romantic comedy Along Came Polly fared considerably better, despite unfavorable comparisions to such obvious forerunners as There's Something About Mary. Nonetheless, it was hardly a blockbuster.
If collaborations with such capable female co-stars as Barrymore and Jennifer Aniston failed to ignite the screen and reap profits at the box-office, few would question the potent chemistry between Stiller and longtime friend/co-star Wilson - and in 2004 the dynamic comedy dou returned to the big screen with director Todd Phillips' celluloid recycling job Starsky & Hutch. Though Stiller and Wilson would seem the ideal pair for such a conceptually rich re-imagining of 1970s television, reviews were once again lackluster and the film struggled to make a profit. Of course Starsky & Hutch actually finished in the black, which is a lot more than can be said for Stiller's next film. With Stiller opposite Jack Black, and released a mere two months after Starsky & Hutch, the oft-delayed Envy flopped hard. Luckily, Stiller kept them coming and finally scored a bonafide hit in 2004 with the sports comedy Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
Ben Stiller goes un-funny
Hollywood's funny man Ben Stiller has stripped his comic image as he goes onstage as a covert racist in Neil Labute's latest play "This Is How It Goes".
The "Meet The Fockers" star will be seen blurting a string of controversial racist epithets in the play that is vouched to have audiences squirming in their seats, reported the New York Post.
"I was suggesting to the director that he might want to put some hockey glass up before the last scene," Stiller joked after a benefit performance for a select well-heeled audience here.
Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor Expecting Second Child
Hollywood funnyman Ben Stiller and his wife Christine Taylor are expecting their second child this summer.
The 39-year-old 'Meet The Fockers' actor and Taylor, 33, who co-starred with Stiller in 'Dodgeball' and 'Zoolander,' already have a two-year-old daughter named Ella.
The couple got married in May 2000.
Ben Stiller: DodgeBall
The title for Ben Stiller's latest comedy has proved apt, with DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story being the States' sleeper hit of the summer. He stars alongside wife Christine Taylor and Vince Vaughn in the unashamedly silly laugher, playing hilariously over-the-top gym owner White Goodman, a pumped-up prima-donna who'll stop at nothing to acquire downtrodden gym Average Joe's. With Starsky & Hutch and Along Came Polly already worldwide hits this year, there are three more Stiller movies to come in the next few months: Envy, Anchorman, and Meet The Parents sequel Meet The Fockers.
When we see you for the first time on-screen, it looks like you've either been working out like crazy in the gym, or they've done remarkable things with CGI...
It's wearing the spandex unitards - they're unforgiving! I had to work out, but my character is so ridiculous, I don't think it would have mattered if he'd had a pot belly - he's just so obsessed with himself. Yeah, I worked out, but I just did whatever I had to do to fit into the singlet.
We don't really have dodgeball here in England. Were you worried that the film might not play so well overseas?
I thought that people might not get the film's name, because obviously it is an American thing. But the movie itself is a story about underdogs and it's a sports movie. In the States the thing was that it was a sports movie but about a silly sport. Hopefully the idea of the characters translates, and they're going through this experience that you can relate to. I don't think you ever know if anything is going to translate anywhere, though. When you're making the movie, you hope it's going to be funny but you can't think about anything else.
This is the third movie you and Vince Vaughn have collaborated on in 2004 (following Starsky & Hutch and Anchorman). Are you actively looking for projects to do together?
It was not the way I envisioned working with Vince, but I've wanted to work with him for many years, since Swingers. We've known each other since then, but nothing came together until this year when, all of a sudden, the Anchorman thing just happened - but I didn't even know Vince was in it when I agreed to the cameo.
Was there any sport at school which you were hopeless at?
Every sport! I never played any sports in school, ever.
As producer, was it your idea to hire Rip Torn as Patches O'Houlihan?
We were lucky enough to get Rip Torn, who's an incredible actor - so funny. I went to New York with Rawson [Marshall Thurber], the director. We met a bunch of really interesting people for that part, but Rip was the perfect guy to play that role. He has such great comic timing, and you also believe him. He wasn't playing the funny version, he was just playing the guy for real.
In many ways White Goodman is comparable to another of your characters, Derek Zoolander. Is that the type of character you enjoy playing?
I never really saw the correlation between the two guys until somebody pointed it out, but I guess they're both very narcissistic. Derek's more innocent and good-hearted. I think Derek Zoolander's narcissism is based on the fact that he really does love himself; I think White actually hates himself.
So are they alter egos of each other?
Maybe, I don't break it down like that. I don't think it's that complicated!
In Starsky & Hutch, you play the good guy and Vince is the villain. Was it a conscious decision to swap here? And is it hard to play a comedy villain?
No, it wasn't a conscious decision. Dodgeball and Starsky & Hutch both came together at more or less the same time. But I didn't see White as a comedy villain; I just thought he was a funny character. The fact that he was the bad guy? Whatever. Rawson had written a really funny, over-the-top character, who was very different from what Vince did in Starsky & Hutch, which was much more reality-based. For me, in Starsky & Hutch Vince's character grounds the movie, in the same way that his character in Dodgeball grounds the movie... basically, Vince is a much more realistic actor than I am, that's what I'm trying to say. He grounds any movie I'm in!
Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson: "Starsky & Hutch"
In casting the new comic version of the TV series Starsky and Hutch, you couldn't ask for a more ideal acting duo than Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, close friends off screen since Wilson starred in the Stiller-directed Cable Guy. In Starsky and Hutch they play initially unwilling partners in the seventies-set action comedy.
Question: What was it like jumping on a naked Chris Penn?
Stiller: He's a big guy, a big guy -- a very solid guy. I was actually really excited to work with Chris because I've known his work for years. I was really happy that he did the movie. But, it was fun, in the moment, to get a little physical
Question: Why were you so keen to do this?
Stiller: I just had a great time doing it, I loved the show growing up, it was one of my favourite shows as a kid. It was really different for me to be able to do this sort of genre, it was a chance to get out of that genre a little bit and yet still do it in a way that made sense comedically. So it was just fun -- it was a fun time. I worked with Owen -- I love working with Owen, you know...
Question: Were you nervous to meet the real guy (Paul Michael Glaser)?
Stiller: I was nervous, yeah, definitely. I got to sit down with Paul before we started shooting. He was great. He was so supportive and really into the idea. He had seen Owen and I do, I guess do something on the Oscars a couple years ago and had thought we had good chemistry in it and got behind the idea of us doing the movie. He was just totally supportive. That really made a difference to me, it kind of gave me the freedom to go off and do whatever.
Question: At what point did it become a comedy or parody?
Stiller: I don't think we ever looked at it as a parody. I think our characters take it pretty seriously in the movie. I don't think we're ever doing jokes that are commenting on the genre -- I know that, for me, was the way to look at it was that these guys are in a serious movie.
Question: Did you ever betray that for the sake of a great joke?
Stiller: Not in my mind. It's tone is what the tone is, but in my mind [the physicality] that's Starsky's routine that he does to warm out and get his body going in his '70s sort of work out thing.
Question: Owen, were you also a fan of the show?
Wilson: Yeah, that was the first cop show that I was into, was that and then 'Magnum P.I.,' then 'Miami Vice,' but 'Starsky & Hutch' sort of began it.
Question: Was there a childhood fantasy involved in trying to relive those days?
Wilson: Yeah, I've had and it seems like, in other movies kind of played like, I played an astronaut in 'Armageddon,' I played a soldier...
Question: What is it about each other that keeps drawing you back? And what is going to take to get a "Heat Vision and Jack" (the never-aired pilot Stiller directed featuring Jack Black and Owen) on one of your DVDs?
Wilson: Ah, 'Heat Vision and Jack'...
Stiller: I don't know. We just enjoy each other's company and have fun working together and I think as long as people allow us to work together, it'll just keep on going -- I think.
Wilson: But I think even if people didn't allow us, I'd like to think that we'd be in the Marina doing community theatre.
Question: What kind of play would that be?
Wilson: It would probably be maybe a one-man show, and Ben would play a supporting role.
Question: Ben, what made you decide to bring the 'Do-it' character back?
Stiller: For years, actually, we were looking for a way to do that. To tell you the truth, originally in 'Zoolander,' the part that my dad played was going to be that character with me playing that character, but we could afford to do it with the visual effects, so we changed it. But it's been one of those things that I've wanted to do for a long time.
Question: So this was a character that you did before?
Stiller: I did it on the show about 10 years ago.
Question: Did you put a lot of your own stuff into this?
Stiller: I guess so, I mean, Todd wrote the script and he did a great job and it's sort of his own tone. I guess that's what I thought was interesting because I think 'Zoolander' was obviously more of my own sensibility and this was working with Todd's sensibility, but I think Owen and I brought whatever it is we are as people to the characters -- but it's through Todd's eyes.
Question: Are you more comfortable, Owen, doing buddy comedies -- because you seem to have almost carved a niche for yourself as almost a...
Stiller: The uber-buddy
Wilson: Yeah, it does seem like I always ... in buddy movies there are always sort of specific beats that you end of hitting and there's sort of the break-up and then getting back together and those scenes are always kind of funny for me to film.
Question: Will you and Jackie work together again?
Wilson: You never know, Jackie did 'Around the World in 80 Days' and I worked a day on it with Steve Coogan as the Wright Brothers with Luke. It's always great to work with Jackie.
Question: How much leeway did you have in the script in interpretation and improv?
Wilson: I think they did a good job. Todd met with Vin and me before filming and we would talk about the script and he would go write up new stuff based on whatever ideas we might have come up with.
Question: Was the Disco dance off a tribute to "Zoolander"?
Stiller: I don't know, that was more of Todd's idea, I just went along with it -- obviously that had more of a '70s influence to it.
Question: What is it about doing dancing?
Stiller: It just happened co-incidentally that last couple movies that I did -- it just happened to happen, I'm not seeking it out.
Question: Can you talk about the voice you're doing for "Madagascar"?
Stiller: It's kind of very similar to my own voice. It's going very well. I mean it's an interesting process in terms of doing that. Are you talking about what the process is like?
Question: What do you think that will make a great family movie and why were you interested in it?
Stiller: I now have a child, so... when I started working on the movie, my wife was pregnant. The child is now 2, when the movie comes out my child will be 3. It's one of those processes that goes on so long that, as you go along with it, you sort of... I think those kind of movies, once you have a kid you have a whole new appreciation for them because you see how much your children enjoy them. I think that was the main motivation for me to want to work on it.
Question: Owen, what voice are you doing in "Cars"?
Wilson: It's a voice kind of similar to my own. The character that I play is a car, a race car that is kind of talkie and is going to learn his lesson and Paul Newman is going to do a voice in it -- we had a lot of great people doing voices in it.
Question: How long have you been working on it?
Wilson: They take forever to do, so it's been a couple years now and I think it's going to be a least two more.
Question: Have you seen any of the animation yet?
Wilson: Just stuff that they showed me when I went in, but it won't be the final stuff.
Stiller: I've seen animation on mine.
Question: Did you have any input on it?
Stiller: No. You just look at what they do -- it's incredible what they do, how they approach it. It's mind boggling to me, the process that they go through.
Question: How much time did you have to spend in the water for the new Anderson picture, "The Life Aquatic"? Were you in submersibles at all or did you actually have to get in the water?
Wilson: It was one of those things like every movie that's always kind of a big crisis; 'Oh, you need to go over to Italy and you gotta go and do all this diving. You're going to have to go get certified, but you can't be certified in America, it won't work there...' And then you go over there and you hardly do any diving.
Stiller: So the Italians are really tough on the certification?
Wilson: Yeah (laughs)
Question: Why is that film being shrouded in such secrecy?
Wilson: I wasn't aware that it was. Really? I didn't know that. I play a guy named Ned Plimpton... (Ben leans over and whispers in his ear) Oh, ok... You know what? I'm not going to be able to talk about it, someone has advised me that if I answer that question, in a court of law, they can prove that I had knowledge. No, it's kind of inspired by Jacques Cousteau and Bill Murray plays a Cousteau character. It's not that secret. [I play] Ned Plimpton. I fly for Air Kentucky and I may or may not be Bill's son.
Question: In Starsky,, how committed were you guys to the period detail? And do you think there is a difference between the '70s cop show and something today?
Stiller: Yeah. I watched a lot of the episodes just to get inspired, to get a vibe for what they were doing and I think the feeling of a lack of irony or cynicism; characters take themselves really seriously and what they do very seriously and sort of not worrying about political correctness as much as we do now, their attitude towards women.
Question: Do you have a different memory of the '70s than they actually were like?
Stiller: Do we? I don't know. I think through movies and television we have idealized them in a way because the culture has turned them into sort of the new fashion of the retro '70s and all that -- it's impossible for it not to get turned into something it wasn't because the reality is that you're taking all these elements like the television, the clothes and the music and all these things and they may get idealized in our minds on some level no matter what it is, so it can never be what it was. But I grew up in the '70s and the elements that I remember from it are loving these shows and these guys taking themselves really seriously and thinking that was ok.
Question: What memories do you have?
Stiller: I think it was a freer time -- there was so much less media, so much less saturation of satellite television, electronic games -- you know, it was Pong, it was very low tech. I grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the '70s and there were block parties and it was multi-cultural and it was the aftermath of Vietnam and people were sort of into Earth Day and saving the planet -- it was very genuine and real and sort of connected to something, I think. My parents were very, sort of, progressive, so...
Question: With the cameo in Anchorman (starring Will Ferrell), and Dodgeball with Vince Vaughn -- there seems to be this community of comedians where you're always in each other's movies...
Wilson: Well, I think that the first time I worked with Ben was on 'Cable Guy.' And then he also sent me and Wes a really nice note about 'Bottle Rocket,' he liked that movie and I like being in 'Cable Guy' and it's just sort of people that you get along with and have the same sort of sense of humour or find funny in. So Will is in this movie I did in Austin with my kid brothers -- yeah, it does seem like there is an overlap, and I'm getting ready to be in a movie with Vince Vaughn. The movie that Vince and I are doing is called 'The Wedding Crashers.' [With Will] I didn't write it, Luke wrote it and my older brother [Andrew] directed it in Austin, it's called 'The Wendell Baker Story' and Luke plays that character and Will Ferrell plays someone who is kind of competing with him for this girl, Eva Mendes.
Question: Friendship between the two cops made the TV show distinctive, so can you talk about how you played with that for the adaptation?
Stiller: Yeah, I think, it was based on their relationship and their chemistry. In the original show, they really did look after each other and cared about each other and I think the humour came from them enjoying poking at each other. I think in this movie, we had to find our own relationship and adapt the movie to that, because I think that was the key for the show working was that it worked on the basis of their relationship. So I think our relationship is a little bit different, so we sort of adapted it a little bit towards that. The idea of having the movie be about the beginning of their association, so you could have a little more tension -- that was something I think we had more of than they had in the show.
Question: The relationship is a little gayish -- were you careful not to go to far in that direction?
Stiller: But a lot of that stuff that you might think is kind of like a parody they actually did in the show. They did wear shoulder holsters in the locker room, they did console each other -- there's an episode where Hutch's girlfriend gets murdered [Owen: Oh yeah!] and Starsky hugs him and he breaks down... it's all stuff we took from the show, so it really wasn't...
Question: You were attracted to this first..
Stiller: Me? I went to the studio and said, 'What do you think of doing a movie?'
Question: And what made you think Owen would be the perfect Hutch?
Stiller: Yeah, after a couple of other people fell out and Brad Pitt was unavailable...
Question: Were you concerned when you were making this that it would evolve into just another buddy comedy?
Wilson: I would say that I was more afraid that it would be just this big of spoof, that you can't really hook into the story and that it would be sort of like a skit, making fun of stuff. So it was nice when I saw the movie to see that it is funny and we have funny stuff, but it there is stuff that kind of, I thought, kind of works and a lot of that is having Vince Vaughn as the villain, who is every time we cut to him instead of having some kind of stock villain, it was somebody who is charismatic and fun to watch and doing funny stuff.
Question: What does Vince Vaughan add?
Wilson: In this movie, he kind of gives what could be a tricky part of the story -- because it's the villain and he makes it into a believable ... and more than that, because it's 'Starsky & Hutch,' it's a funny kind of take on it.
Stiller: I think there's a whole vibe to the movie that I find sort of... I find it hard to describe and we had a hard time to hone in on when we were making the movie when you talk about the tone on it -- the idea of those things that you're talking about, the generic aspects of the buddy comedy, the aspects that might make it seem like a parody or whatever, I felt like the idea was always to ride the line where you embrace all those clichés because that's what it is, and yet to find a reality in it where you care about the characters, but also, the clichés are that it is the most generic 'Starsky & Hutch' plot that you could find. And that's the thing that works for me on that level, that it is that and it is hard to describe it, but yet it is fun to watch that if you have an affinity for what the show was. And Vince brings his brilliant persona.
Question: What surprised you about Snoop Dogg?
Stiller: Nothing really surprised me, it was great to work with him and it was so much fun to see what his world is and how he approaches the work -- he takes it really seriously. It's fun.
Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston Talk About "Along Came Polly"
He plays it safe, she’s a free-spirit. He carefully plans out his life, she goes with the flow. Get the picture? Ben Stiller (‘Reuben’) and Jennifer Aniston (‘Polly’) play the two opposites who are attracted to one another in the romantic comedy, “Along Came Polly,” directed by John Hamburg (“Safe Men”).
Ben Stiller and writer/director John Hamburg had previously teamed up on “Zoolander” and “Meet the Parents.” Hamburg wrote those scripts without a specific actor in mind, but admits he did think of his friend Stiller when it came to the character of Reuben.
“I was trying to write a romantic comedy and I had these characters in my mind. For the most part, I really did just try to write and not picture any actors in the roles because I like to write these people until they become real to me. But I had worked with Ben on several movies before, and the more I wrote Reuben, the more I thought that Ben was the perfect guy to do it. I think every day I imagined him doing different scenes,” recalls Hamburg.
As for casting the role of Polly, Hamburg was impressed with Aniston’s comedic skills and was a big fan of her work on “Friends,” “The Good Girl,” and “Office Space.” “I met with her and it just felt really right. I knew that she would have the ability to play the scenes opposite Ben and keep up with him in terms of comic ability and comic timing, but could also play the dramatic scenes. Jennifer brought so much to Polly, stuff that only she could create, and she is funny and sublime.”
Pairing up for interviews to promote their work in “Along Came Polly,” Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston set the record straight on working with ferrets, working off of one another, and chemistry.
How do you go back and forth between dramatic roles and comedic roles? How do you prepare?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I don't know. Life can be dramatic and funny all in the same day. With “The Good Girl,” I was also going back and forth from “Friends” to that in one day. So I don't know. I think you just step into the building and that other stuff kind of goes out the door.
So there’s not really any difference in preparation?
JENNIFER ANISTON: It is the material. If you work from right in here [stomach], which I know Ben does just because he's so natural and so good.
BEN STILLER: I have been doing a lot of comedy lately, so I don't feel like I have been volleying back and forth for a while. But I think you kind of approach it the same way. You have an awareness of what the tone of whatever it is you are doing. But just coming from trying to be real in the moment. You're aware if you're in a comedy. I think choices can go a different way, which are more darker, but I think it's basically approaching it the same way.
Jennifer, I don't know if you are aware of this, but you are in “Ferrets Magazine” this month.
JENNIFER ANISTON: I didn't even know there was a ferret magazine. That is very exciting. You know, I feel sad for the ferret because I wasn't a big fan of the ferret. It's not the warmest, cuddliest…
BEN STILLER: I don't feel bad for the ferret.
JENNIFER ANISTON: It bit you, that's why. But yeah, of all the animals out there to work with, a ferret wouldn't be my first choice. But you know, I hope I pretended as though I really liked it.
You were bitten?
BEN STILLER: I was bitten by the ferret, yeah. I didn't do anything, I swear. It was really weird. We were doing this final scene where I come running after [Jennifer]. I'm holding the ferret and I also had just gotten a root canal the day before, so maybe it sensed that. I was holding it up [and] they are weird because... Do they have spines? Because he did this crazy turn-around thing and he literally attached himself to my chin. And then he didn't let go. He was holding on to my chin. It was this surreal thing, where it's like, “Okay, the ferret's on my chin.” Then I had to go and get a rabies shot.
JENNIFER ANISTON: Who wouldn't?
BEN STILLER: But I didn't provoke it at all. Their teeth are sharp like razors. They are rat-like creatures, let's just face it.
JENNIFER ANISTON: It's just a big rat at the end of the day.
Can you talk about the physical challenges in "Along Came Polly?"
JENNIFER ANISTON: Wasn't he great in his salsa? That's what was so great about this job is I just laughed the whole time. Cracking up is fun, but you're not supposed to.
BEN STILLER: The salsa thing was, I just took classes for a while and worked with a choreographer and tried to be as good as I can possibly be. Which, of course is not that great, so luckily that worked for the script. It's fun to have something specific to work on. The racquetball scene was one of those things that we shot it all day and the first hour you thought, "This is great. This is gonna be so cool." Then after an hour of playing racquetball - most people don't play for more than an hour, even professional racquetball players - those last 11 hours of the day were just torturous and horrible.
I think it is fun to have specific things to work on.
Especially in the context of a movie like this where the guy's trying to be good and he's not really that good. That takes a lot of pressure off. You know you just try as hard as you can and know your best won't be good enough, which will be good for the movie.
JENNIFER ANISTON: I, however, was supposed to be a really good salsa dancer. I took two [classes]. I was supposed to take more but I didn't. It was good. Thank God we got that. We had two days in New York shooting and then the next bit for me was all of the salsa dancing. And it was five days straight. My feet looked like raw meat. It was just disgusting. I don't know how those dancers do it, but it was so much fun. Then right after we shot those six days, I broke my toe. So thank God we took care of all of that stuff. I limped through the rest of the movie.
How did you break your toe?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I stubbed it. It was stupid - absolutely ridiculous. I stubbed it on an ottoman that no longer is there and that was five months of that. But it was fun. I loved learning how to do it. I think it is an incredible dance and it was fun. And the ferret, as far as that, the woman was like, "He doesn't bite." She kept saying that. That was a mislead. But it didn't bite me for sure and I did manhandle it quite often. But Ben just had that unfortunate moment.
Are you ever sent scripts where you are asked to play the femme fatale? Would you play one?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I absolutely would play one. I am trying to think... Yeah, there have been, but they were not great.
How did you two work on getting that onscreen chemistry?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I don't think you 'get' that. I think that just has to be there.
Did you think about that?
BEN STILLER: I don't think about that. I know that at the end of the day, you hope that there is something there that works. It is fun to watch them together and you believe them as two people who would be in a couple, or be attracted to each other, or are just fun to watch together. But you can't just go for that result. There is nothing you can do about it.
I knew that we both kind of enjoyed each other's company and laugh together and have fun together. Jennifer is just a great person to hang out with and is [an] extremely giving, fun, good person. But as far as how that translates to what people are watching on the screen, it is like anything else with what you are doing as an actor. I don't think you can be thinking about that because you can't control it. It is something you can't force.
JENNIFER ANISTON: You'd probably get a review [where] you'd hear something like it was a very self-conscious performance.
BEN STILLER: It's something that you can't force, so often you just have to hope that it's there. The director is sort of aware of watching what's going on and trying to foster whatever it is between the two actors while it's happening.
Jennifer, can you pinpoint one key comic element in Ben's work that you find particularly striking and Ben can you do the same thing for Jennifer?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I can tell you one thing off the top of my head: You know when you are listening to Jazz and they are just all over the place and it is unexpected? That is sort of like Ben. Ben does things that you sort of. [You] expect a line or you hear it or you read it on the page and if you're reading your lines and you know the scene, you can sort of anticipate what will be happening. That just never happens. It's always an interesting, which is why I think I laughed all the time while we are filming. He just surprises me and it is just unexpected all the time. That is why he is unique and real. It's always real.
There is never a moment when you feel he is playing comedy. That's what I hate about a lot of comedies. When you're hitting a line or making it funny, he just pulls it right out from the truth.
BEN STILLER: I'd say that Jennifer's just, there's so few… How do I say it? I don't want to say that there are so few women who are good at comedy. That sounds like a really sexist thing to say, but she really is one of the few actresses that I know where she has such impeccable timing as a comedienne/actress, and I don't mean that in a bad way. She really listens and she has timing in terms of knowing. I don't think that it comes out of a premeditated thing. It's just in her bones. She knows when to say it and when to not say anything. She just takes things in and she listens in a way that's very real too, I think. [She has] just incredible timing, which I think is a real gift.
Can you talk about the challenge of working with a naked Hank Azaria?
BEN STILLER: Hank, of course, transformed himself into this frightening creature. I couldn't stop staring at his pecs, which is great because when he turned around, I didn't have to look at his butt because I was thinking about his pecs so much. Boy, I don't know. It was really fun. Talking about people cracking you up. Hank just cracked me up constantly. He's just so ridiculous. There was one scene in particular where he takes Debra [Messing] off to go on the boat and he comes over and I tell him, “Just take care of her because she's like the most important thing in my life,” and we just could not get through it. I couldn't get through it. What am I saying? He just kept on. He's really one of the funniest people on earth. It was fun to watch him come in with his bronzed physique and the ridiculous wig and do his thing.
Did you have a butt double?
BEN STILLER: I wish I had. I wish I had.
Ben, have you finished “Starsky & Hutch?”
BEN STILLER: Yes, we finished it. It's coming out in March and it's a comedy. It was really fun. I had a great time doing it. I think that Todd Phillips did a great job of writing it and directing it and Snoop Dogg is in it playing Huggy Bear. For me, it was a chance to do something a little bit different, which I really enjoyed.
How was it different?
BEN STILLER: I guess, well, in not playing the neurotic, accident-prone guy. It was just fun. I loved that show. I loved the tone that Todd set up for the movie, which is sort of hard to describe.[It’s] not a spoof in any way, but it does take place in the '70s and is in the time that the show was done. But it's not making fun of that era. The way that Todd describes it, which I think is kind of apt, is that it's as if this was the first pilot that they did for “Starsky and Hutch,” and then they recast. That's kind of what the tone of it is. It was really fun. I had a great time.
Jennifer, what was the highlight of working on "Friends?"
JENNIFER ANISTON: I think it is going to be one of the hardest things. It already is one of the hardest things. We have three shows left and we are all just like raw nerves over there and emotional. Nobody really knows what to do. We are just a little bit out of our bodies. It's hard. 10 years of this incredible group of people and it is weird that it is ending because it doesn't seem like it really needs to, but it does. And so yeah, six months from now, the highlight was the whole damn thing. It is the greatest experience I have ever had. I probably will never have an experience anything close to this ever again.
Matthew Perry got to meet Mary Tyler Moore recently. She is doing a play in New York and she said to him, "I know that your show is coming to an end..." And he said to her, "Yeah, how did you do it? How did you survive?" And she still hasn't gotten over it. So yeah, my future looks good, but it's hard.
Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor and Stephen Root on "Dodgeball"
Ben Stiller’s tongue was firmly planted in his cheek while answering questions at the World Premiere of “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” Maybe that’s because Stiller’s been in so many films recently, the red carpet must feel like a second home to him right now. At least this time wife Christine Taylor had the ‘joy’ of sharing in the questioning as she co-stars in “Dodgeball” with Stiller. While Taylor does play the film’s love interest (both Stiller and Vince Vaughn’s characters have the hots for her), she also gets to kick some serious butt as the only female dodgeball player on the Average Joes team.
Stiller, Taylor and Stephen Root joined their fellow “Dodgeball” cast members and special guests for the June 14, 2004 World Premiere of “Dodgeball.” Gracious even after putting in more time treading red carpets than most upscale doormen do, Stiller and Taylor addressed the on-set dodgeball accidents and how their work together in this movie affected their lives at home.
INTERVIEW WITH BEN STILLER AND CHRISTINE TAYLOR:
Did you get the chance to put the hurt on your husband while filming this movie?
CHRISTINE TAYLOR: I wish I did. No, he put the hurt on me. You know what? I wish I had the physical strength but no, I just made him feel sorry for me – and my face. He hit me several times. The times he was supposed to hit me, he missed. The times he was supposed to hit Vince [Vaughn], he hit me. Not a lot of great aim, but a lot of great strength.
Ben, your character has a really retro look. Will feathered hair make a comeback?
CHRISTINE TAYLOR: Oh yeah.
BEN STILLER: Yeah, all the way. Big feathers and frosted, mullet styles, and Fu Manchus.
Did you feel terrible about throwing balls at your wife?
BEN STILLER: (Smiling) No, the character hits her with the ball, but no, it’s all make believe, it’s all computer generated. There were no real balls used in the making of the film at all – of any type.
Do you know anyone like your character?
BEN STILLER: Thankfully no. You know, the influence is sort of like any late night infomercial person out there who has a voice level octave below normal.
After you hit Christine in the face with the dodgeball, how’d that conversation go at the dinner table?
BEN STILLER: It actually happened at the dinner table. You know, we took the court home with us at the end of the day. You know what? It was fine. After two weeks I got to sleep in the bedroom again and we’re in therapy now.
That’s a hurdle for any relationship.
It is a hurdle but sometimes getting the balls out can help.
INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN ROOT:
Which dodgeball team do you play on?
I’m one of the Average Joes. It’s hard to believe that I would play a nerd, but I am playing a nerd in this film. Actually my character Gordon comes up with the idea of playing in a dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas to get money to help save our gym. Basically the film wouldn’t exist without me.
What was your initial reaction when you read the script?
Whether or not I could survive the actual dodgeball training we did. We did like three weeks of playing dodgeball before we started. We did about one month of shooting. It was tough. It was real hard.
It’s a great script and a lot of great people involved – it was a lot of fun.
Did you suffer any injuries?
We were all iced up and hamstringed out by the end of it, but it was worth it.
Who has the best arm?
Chris Williams – Vanessa’s brother. He’s got an incredible arm, it’s really amazing. Hopefully you’ll see it in the film.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a little bit in Will Ferrell’s “Anchorman” coming up in July. I play a drunken anchor guy. And I’m doing “King of the Hill,” we’re in season nine of that.