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Ten Things We Learned From The New Yorker’s Ben Stiller Profile

Actor Ben Stiller attend the
Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

There’s a massive Ben Stiller profile by Tad Friend in this week’s New Yorker, and in addition to driving home the “Ben Stiller is an intense, prickly dude” message, the article also includes many interesting tidbits. The article is loosely tied to the production of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which Stiller directed and stars in.

• Stiller nitpicked the hell out of Night at the Museum. According to screenwriter John Hamburg, Stiller asked, “Why am I friends with Atilla the Hun, if I’m friends with the cavemen? What’s the rationale?”

• Friend creates the celestial theory of comedy. “Comedy stars usually get only ten years to twinkle before they become a red giant (Adam Sandler) or a white dwarf (Bill Murray) or go supernova and vanish entirely (Mike Myers).” Interesting!

• The CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment claims to be tired of sequels. Tom Rothman says in the story that “The movie business cannot only make comic books and sequels … at a certain point, probably now, you run out.”

• The secret to destroying the aliens in Stiller’s upcoming The Watch? “You can only kill these guys if you shoot them in the dick,” says Vince Vaughn.

• Ben Stiller got 2009’s The Marc Pease Experience swept under the rug and barely released. “‘Paramount could have put the movie out there as the next big Ben Stiller movie,’ Stiller says, ‘but that would have been fooling the audience.’” Instead, his agent Nick Stevens called Paramount and “ask[ed] the studio to weigh the short-term loss of limiting the film’s release against the long-term relationship with [Stiller].” The movie was released in ten theaters for one week. Cold.

• These are people The New Yorker says “were big stars ten years ago [but] now are not”: Keanu Reeves, Mel Gibson, Demi Moore, Tom Hanks, Reese Witherspoon, Russell Crowe, Nicolas Cage, and John Travolta. Ouch.

• Robert Downey Jr. is great. ” … This business, from the studios’ point of view, is about whore stewardship,” he says.

• Stiller still has one big regret about Zoolander. “I do regret the end-title sequence [the studio] wouldn’t let me do, even though it was only $60,000 — this thing of Will Ferrell dancing. God, do I regret that,” he says.

• Stiller was looking for unusual faces for Mitty.

[After each audition, Stiller] and his casting director, Rachel Tenner, would exchange a quick verdict: “droopy dog” (good); “crazy mannequin” (good but not great); “a not-gay Paul Lynde” (very good); “character-y” (bad); “thyroid eyeballs” (good); “looks like he would have turned you in during the war” (superb).

• George Saunders really wanted to get CivilWarLand in Bad Decline made into a movie (Stiller tried for many years to do so). “It was the reverse of the cliche about the pandering movie gut and the noble fiction writer, because I would absolutely have sold out to get the movie made — added car chases, a puppy cluster, whatever.” Puppy cluster!

Ben Stiller Is a Fan of ‘Thyroid Eyeballs’