BEN STILLER doesn't really do ‘ebullient’. I’ve met him before and he can be a little dour, in the way of off-duty comedians, speaking in mild, slightly over-chewed sentences from which all judgments have been carefully removed. “You have the worst tweets!” people complain when he goes on Twitter to talk about his charitable foundation in Haiti, “Be funny!” But towards the end of a long press day at the Crosby Street hotel in Soho, New York, Stiller is, if not ebullient, them as effusive as he gets — sat forward in his seat, knees together, green eyes alight, as he speaks animatedly about his new film, an adaptation of James Thurber’s classic tale of a daydreamer, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. “I feel like my own life experience up to this point is more connected to this than anything I’ve done before—” he says intently “— where I’m at in my life, being the age that I am, the questions that come up, people start to die. You start to feel your mortality.” He pauses. “Really uplifting stuff,” he says and laughs a quick, jabbing laugh — hahhaha. “To me it gets more real. Everything gets more real.”
Now 46, his hair striated at the temples with a little grey, Stiller is no more obsessed with the passage of time than the next man negotiating the forest of middle age. But in the modern-day Shangri-La that is Hollywood — where even 25-year-olds fret about their frown lines — time seems to fly by even more cruelly. There’s so much new stuff — new shows, new movies, new, funny people to stay on top of. Recently Stiller was watching old Star Trek episodes with his daughter, something he loves to do — “because she will actually sit and watch them with me,” he says, “to humor me.” — and he dropped the fact that Scotty once came on The Ben Stiller Show, the MTV sketch program that first launched his career in 1990. His daughter hasn't seen much of her dad’s work, outside of Night at the Museum, so he showed her the sketch where James Doohan is buried beneath an avalanche of Trekkie arcana by Stiller: “On the enemy within episode were you beam down that little dog, I don't understand, why did the dog survive then when it came back it turned into two different things?”. Doohan can’t get a word in.
“She was like ‘daddy you look so different! look at your hair!’,” he says, with an expression that could be a smile. “It puts a whole different perspective on things. Everything goes so quickly. Suddenly my daughter is six, seven…. All of that informed the movie, and the process of making the movie. Just on the level of wanting to make the kinds of movies I’ve always been wanting to make in my head.”
Dec 8, 2013
INTERVIEW: BEN STILLER
From my interview for the Sunday Times:—