Movie Interview by Susan Hodgetts
The classic look is the order of the day as Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller stride in dressed in black, Aniston in a low cut elegant black dress, Stiller smart in black shirt and trousers. Mariella Frostrup strikes up the conversation.
John, where did the idea for the movie come from, why did you go back into the director’s chair, and why did you cast Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston?
JOHN HAMBURG: The movie started on a vacation I took out to the island of St Bart’s in the Caribbean with my girlfriend. We were sunning ourselves on the beach and a very handsome naked Frenchman walked by us and my mind started spinning. I thought the worst thing that could happen to me on this vacation would be that my girlfriend would run off with this guy – and it went from there.
The movie got you back into the director’s chair, you directed your first movie and then wrote…
JOHN HAMBURG: Yes I directed my first movie which was an independent and then I got to learn a bit more about the Hollywood movie making system. [I then] got a chance to work with some really great directors and work on some projects that I was really proud of. Then I thought it was time to make another movie.
Then Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston came on board your movie?
JOHN HAMBURG: There are very few people now I think who have an amazing acting ability and comic ability, and these two are at the top of their tree in terms of combining their talents. I just thought putting the two of them together would make for a really interesting romantic comedy.
How was Polly a different character to play?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Well Polly is definitely a free spirit, kind of has a fear of commitment, likes travelling a lot and sort of avoiding love with all that she has. Then when she meets Reuben, Ben’s character, that all kind of gets thrown to the wind.
JOHN HAMBURG: [Reuben’s] a guy with a set plan and it all gets turned upside down so he’s forced to rethink. What was his life is now different and then he meets this girl who he thinks could not at all be the woman for him, and she ends up being that woman.
Jennifer, you get to display some awesome waitressing skills, were you ever a waitress?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Yes, I did waitress and I wasn’t that great but I loved it. I loved interacting with people and I love food, breakfast, lunch and dinner, so all of those things combined, I liked my job. I was a little klutzy, that’s all, forgetful, sort of like Polly.
Ben, what’s the riskiest thing you’ve ever done in your life?
BEN STILLER: I’ve done some weird things like I jumped out of an airplane once with somebody attached to my back, just for fun. I’d actually broken up with a girlfriend and I was sort of trying to discover [myself]… Yeah [and] I took flying lessons.
Describe your worst ever date?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I think we block those things out! But the most disastrous date, not so much a disaster but just uncomfortable for both parties involved, the guy was trying very hard and I think he thought it would be charming to take us first to a Japanese massage parlour and start the date off that way. You know doing a two side-by-side massage and there were two of them walking up and down our backs holding on to our ropes. I don’t know why I even let myself sit down on the table to begin with but I couldn’t, I was a little nervous, I couldn’t say no. I was scared of him I guess but I didn’t go on to the dinner party, so that was pretty much a disaster and I never saw that person again.
BEN STILLER: I don’t have a worse date – I just hated dating.
JENNIFER ANISTON: Yeah, dating’s not fun.
BEN STILLER: It took so much energy, putting this idea of yourself that’s an impossible version of [you]. It takes a lot of energy to keep that up. I always looked forward to the time when I didn’t have to do that any more, so, I got married.
Are you pleased to be in London?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I love London and there was nothing more exciting than when we came here and shot our show [FRIENDS] and saw how many fans we had here -that made us feel really, really good. Unfortunately we’re only here for a short amount of time so we can’t go and draw and see and play and do all we can do here but I love it. I’m happy to be here.
BEN STILLER: I’m very happy to be here, I wish it were for a little bit longer. I’m actually gonna come back in a couple of weeks [to promote STARSKY & HUTCH]. I love British humour, I’m a big fan. It seems like on television here your comedy series are much more interesting…
JENNIFER ANISTON: FRIENDS…
BEN STILLER: Yeah, as well as that. I’m like a big fan of Steve Coogan and Ricky Gervais.
JOHN HAMBURG: I live in New York and I was born and raised in New York so I just love being in cities where there’s tons of energy, people walking around, the theatre and that kind of stuff, so I absolutely love it here.
What preps are you making for this year’s Oscars?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Oh the Oscars? Yeah cos we’ve been nominated for this film [laughter] so no, nothing. I get ready to watch it. I’m not going. Are you?
BEN STILLER: I am going but that’s because I’m presenting a very prestigious award – Best Animated Short and Live Action Short.
Jennifer, it’s been said of you that on the big screen you bring the small screen with you. Do you make any distinction between your film and TV work?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Gosh I hope so, I don’t know how to answer that. I would hope that I do, yeah. It’s hard not to bring yourself to whatever work you do, because it’s you. I try to, the parts I’ve chosen have not been extreme steps away from…this part I’ve done for 10 years. It’s going to be hard to get that out of people’s minds. I think whenever they see anything else that I do, because it’s been a consistent character I played for 10 years, that’s something I’ll probably hear a lot and I’ll just keep trying to do my job as good as I can, and hopefully that will go away.
Ben, did you ever have a best friend like Sandy (Philip Seymour Hoffman)?
BEN STILLER: He’s much better at basketball than Sandy is. It’s really fun cos we’ve never seen Philip Seymour Hoffman in this kind of role, this kind of comedy.
Would you like a friend like that?
BEN STILLER: I’ve never had a friend like the guy you can’t really take anywhere, I have a lot of friends who maybe wouldn’t mesh with other friends, but never anyone who wouldn’t mesh with anybody. But I was very happy to work with Phil Hoffman, cos I think he’s an incredible actor. I think it’s great to see him doing something light and funny in this movie and I think John saw that all the way when he was writing it so I think that was cool.
Jennifer, did you go salsa dancing to prepare for your part?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Yeah I loved it, I never salsa danced before and I fell in love with it. I haven’t done it since but I would if the opportunity arose.
Ben, tell us about the comedy duo of you and Robert DeNiro in MEET THE PARENTS and is there going to be a sequel?
BEN STILLER: Yeah, we actually are gonna start working on that, John’s writing it right now and we’re gonna be shooting it in the spring. I don’t think I turned him into anything, I think he’s always been funny. I think his work has a sense of humour about it, I think any really great dramatic actor has a sense of humour.
Tell us about Hank’s [Azaria] naked Frenchman character?
BEN STILLER: Hank is just one of the funniest people there is, that was one of the fun things about doing the movie, just trying not to crack up whilst he did his thing. I think he kept on doing what he was doing [on purpose]. His goal was to try and crack us up.
JENNIFER ANISTON: I don’t know if there was ever a clean take really.
JOHN HAMBURG: Very few! There was a lot of cutting in that!
BEN STILLER: He’s just so funny and his accent is so ridiculous. But we were in Paris and they really didn’t care for it.
JENNIFER ANISTON: Yeah, they got defensive.
BEN STILLER: I think it was a little too close to home.
The character of Joey from FRIENDS is getting his own spin off sitcom. Jennifer, will you be making a guest appearance?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Well, I don’t think so, but if I was asked by Matt [LeBlanc] to do a spot on it, of course I would, I would do anything for him.
Jennifer will you do a movie with Brad [Pitt]?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I don’t think in the near future, it would be too much of a show in another way, but maybe years down the line if anything comes along, of course we’d love to. But not now.
I heard you didn’t get on too well with your furry co-star Ben…
BEN STILLER: No I was fine with the ferret. I just had an issue. I got bitten by the ferret at one point in a scene and then I had to get a rabies shot or tetanus shot so I talked about it, you know I did a talk show and I made a joke about it, and then [the ferret people] they wrote me like a thousand e-mails about how ferrets….
JENNIFER ANISTON: I think you ruined their careers is what they were saying.
BEN STILLER: Well whatever, but the ferret people are touchy people, I don’t have a problem with ferrets, it’s their owners…
Jennifer how hard is it to follow the success of FRIENDS?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I loved FRIENDS so much and I don’t know how you follow that act. Any opportunity I have today has come from FRIENDS, and I will love it and no other job will compare to that. No one can ever say I won’t go back to doing that ever, that would be silly, but for right now I feel like I’ve done it. I feel like I’ve spent 10 years, 15 years actually doing it, and I’m excited to venture in to this new arena and try this, producing and everything else that I can try to explore.
What’s Brad’s favourite movie of yours?
JENNIFER ANISTON: THE GOOD GIRL is his favourite.
JOHN HAMBURG: (Shrugging) Ok, whatever Brad.
Do you want to do more films like THE GOOD GIRL?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I would love to do more films like THE GOOD GIRL, but I don’t kind of plan it out that way, it’s whatever comes and whatever’s right at the time. There are some that are out there that I’m contemplating and I feel really lucky that I got that opportunity granted me – that took me out of the box. It’s so easy to be boxed into one part and one part only so yeah, I want to do more of everything.
How difficult was it trying to create your character for this movie Jennifer?
JENNIFER ANISTON: Oddly enough trying to create a character [for this movie] I had thoughts in the back of my mind “that can’t be Rachel, that can’t be Rachel,” so the most challenging thing, well it came kind of easily, it was based on a girlfriend of mine so I just made fun of my girlfriend and it was really easy, I mean I didn’t make fun of her, she’s adorable, but I just imitated her. She loved it.
Ben, do you always have a plan like your character and do you like throw pillows? [Refers to a specific scene in the movie]
BEN STILLER: I don’t have a plan in terms of my life, a basis to go off. I’m not really that connected to it. I keep things a little bit loose. We do have throw pillows. My wife puts them on every day and I take them off. I’m not a fan of throw pillows.
How was it baring your bum at the end Ben?
BEN STILLER: It was very quick, John promised me he would cut it out of the movie if it didn’t get a laugh, right?
JOHN HAMBURG: I did promise that yes.
BEN STILLER: But I don’t know cos I’ve never stayed for the end. Also I was told later on I could’ve had a double and nobody told me that…
John how was making this movie for you?
JOHN HAMBURG: The whole process was just very fulfilling for me because we had a great cast on the movie. You know I wrote the movie but just every day I learnt these guys movements so much better, so that for me was really fun.
JENNIFER ANISTON: My favourite part again was just the whole process – the company, the crew were fantastic. It was fun every single day and working with Ben was just fantastic and surprising, and you know I just felt like I was better for it.
BEN STILLER: Me too, I liked everybody in the cast and John is a great person and just a pleasure to work for. He creates a really genuinely good atmosphere and makes everybody feel appreciated.
Any favourite scenes?
BEN STILLER: I really enjoyed working with Alec Baldwin, so I really liked the scene we had in the bathroom together, cos I’m a big fan of his and I’d never had a chance to work with him. Then just working with Jennifer it was just consistently fun, every time we’d do a scene I felt like she’s so there and so present and there’s so much coming back.
JENNIFER ANISTON: Yeah we had a lot of fun.