DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY - Q&A with Ben Stiller
Wearing a black shirt and jeans, Ben Stiller looks in good shape. He should do. His latest film, DODGEBALL, has already taken $87 million at the US box-office, capping off a year where he has also found great success with ALONG CAME POLLY and STARSKY AND HUTCH. Son to legendary comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Stiller has always looked destined to become a major funny-man. He joined seminal comedy troupe SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE for a brief period, before branching out with his own sketch show series THE BEN STILLER SHOW in the early Nineties. In Hollywood, he made his name initially as a director - with defining Gen X film REALITY BITES, to Jim Carrey vehicle THE CABLE GUY and the hilarious ZOOLANDER, in which he took the title role as a not-too-bright male model. But, after being seen in dark dramas PERMANENT MIDNIGHT and YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBOURS, it was his role as the luckless Ted in the Farrelly Brothers' gross-out comedy THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY that sent him into the stratosphere. Since then, roles have come in KEEPING THE FAITH, MYSTERY MEN, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS and smash hit MEET THE PARENTS, for which Stiller is currently filming the sequel, MEET THE FOCKERS.
You're a big Star Trek fan, apparently. Was working with William Shatner in DODGEBALL an all time career-high?
Yes, it was incredible. I'm such a big fan. It was just fun. I didn't really want gush too much around him. It was my suggestion. I think Ross will admit that he's not as a big a Star Trek fan as I am. I think it's such a cool group of cameos in the movie - I think it's the only film where Lance Armstrong, Chuck Norris, William Shatner and David Hasselhoff all appear together. It was really fun to work with them.
Did you ever go to Star Trek conventions?
I used to! I've got some Star Trek memorabilia. I've been to his house, actually, a couple of times. He has Monday night football gatherings, so I would silently look around...I'm quite happy when I'm there.
Was it a difficult film to make physically?
The throwing the ball is hard, because those balls are so big - they're quite hard to control. It's just exhausting playing games. It takes so much energy. It's a game for kids, and you start to feel it in your joints and knees, in your late-Thirties. It's a lot of lateral movement. After three or four minutes, we'd all get exhausted and it wouldn't look that good, so we had to break it up. It was three and a half weeks just shooting the Dodgeball games.
What do you think about White, your character?
The character was supposed to be such a ridiculously self-involved gym-rat. The leotards and spandex accentuate that. I used to go the gym a lot. I don't think going to the gym and comedy go that well together. You know what I mean? You can't be that self-involved and be that funny too - unless you're playing a character that's supposed to be self-involved.
Was White based on anyone specifically?
No one specifically, but just that mentality...that American obsession that we have with physical appearance and outwardly trying to look a certain way or change yourself. It's a certain sort of person that exists...it's all liposuction, implant surgery...everything is artificial within, and that's very prototypical.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
It was a really relaxed atmosphere because it was a low-budget movie - well, low budget for a studio movie. Nobody really wanted to make the movie except Fox, and the last thing I was looking to do was make another movie, because I had done so many movies in the last couple of years. But Rawson Thurber had written a really funny script, and brought it to our production company...it's the first movie that Red Hour Production Company has produced on its own. It felt like it was our little project that we were working on together. Everybody in the movie...the Average Joe's guys, some I knew, some I didn't...a couple of those guys, it was their first movie, and they were getting a chance to do something. Justin Long, it was his first big role. Hank Azaria's a friend, Vince Vaughn is a friend...
You're credited as a producer. Are you very hands-on?
As I was the producer, you have to be a part of it until, literally, it's out in the theatres. At least, that's how I am about it. I can't really relax about it, until you feel like it's as good as you're going to get it for what it is under the circumstances you have. But I enjoyed that. It felt like it was our project, and working with Christine and Vince was fun...
Do you see drama and comedy as mutually exclusive?
To me, the serious dramas that I like have humour within them. You look at great actors, and they have a sense of humour about their work. I'm thinking of someone like Robert De Niro, who obviously is funny. But any of his serious roles, he always has humour in them. I don't think there's a delineation other than I would personally like to branch out and do other things. But I'm not putting any pressure on myself and I almost made a conscious decision...that I wasn't going to make a conscious decision about having to do serious roles last couple of years. I find what I'm doing now challenging in its own way. And it is...or at least for me it was in the moment. Now I'm in a place where I'm ready to mix it up a little. Actually, I'm in a place where I'm ready to take some time off. That's the biggest thing.
How do you find balancing your work-life with your home-life?
You're always working at it. The way to get the balance right is to stop working for a bit. I am [going to do that] personally. After this movie - which I'm in the middle of, this MEET THE PARENTS sequel, which is going for another three or four weeks - I'm going to take some time off. I love to direct, and that's what I want to focus on.
Would you ever consider directing a sequel to your male model comedy ZOOLANDER?
I would love to do a ZOOLANDER sequel. There are a couple of obstacles - one is the studio hasn't asked! That's the biggest one! I'm waiting for them to ask; I don't want to go to them. The other, bigger obstacle is that Drake Sather, who created the character, passed away, really tragically. He was a really good friend of mine, and it's hard for me to figure out how to do it. He created the character, then me, John Hamburg and him wrote the script. So that's frustrating to me that he's not there, because he was the heart and soul of all the shorts and the script. I think John and I could address it, but that really took the wind out of my sails for a bit.
Question & Answer Text Copyright Twentieth Century Fox