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Ben Stiller (Director / Writer / Actor) - Tropic Thunder
Ben Stiller was born in New York on 30 November 1965 to comedians Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. Stiller made his big screen debut in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun . He also directed Back to Brooklyn for MTV, which so impressed the network that they gave him his own show, The Ben Stiller Show . In 1994 he directed Reality Bites and his first big budget directing job followed - Jim Carrey's The Cable Guy . In 1998, There's Something About Mary propelled Stiller into the ranks of Hollywood's A-list. In recent years, Stiller has starred in hit movies including Keeping the Faith  and Meet the Parents . Reviewgraveyard.com caught up with Stiller as Tropic Thunder, which he wrote, directed and starred in, was released on Blu-ray and DVD...
Reviewgraveyard: I understand that you tried to get the military details as near to reality as possible. How did you go about that?
Ben Stiller: Well Dale Dye is the man when it comes to military advisers for movies. We worked with him both for authenticity in the scenes of the movie within the movie, but also for his stories about training actors for movies that he’s done, because that was really a lot of the basis for the movie itself was.
We e-mailed for a while to get ideas and get stories of things that had happened with him, what he’d done with actors, what he’d experienced. That was part of the writing of the script.
RG: Do you get a sense of enormous power wielded by action directors when you signal the setting off of pyrotechnics all over the place?
BS: Yeah, we had to build this bridge that we blew up for real, we had a couple of big explosions in the movie, and there’s a real excitement that goes along with that because you really only have one take for these things.
And the preparation that goes into it... At that point, when you’re dealing with something like that, there’s a lot of guys on the set who do that for a living, and are very good at it. You sort of turn it over to them. And all you do is give your input for what you want for the movie, and you try to get that as close as you can. But really once you’re in that world you’re dealing with experts.
RG: Do you think that explains why some action directors are egomaniacs?
BS: Oh sure, it is a little bit of playing God, ‘I’m going to build that and then I’m going to blow it up!’.
RG: You famously sent up Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear in Risky Business; was his dancing here a case of him returning the favour?
BS: Not in that way, I did a Tom Cruise impression on this TV show I did and Tom saw that back in the day and we sort of bonded over that. But he is a really great dancer, and that Risky Business dance is sort of iconic so it was really fun to be able to do another dance that I feel is pretty amazing in the movie.
He is a great dancer, and it’s a different kind of dancing too, so it was really fun to have that in the movie. He allowed me to throw out some direction, but he came in with a really well choreographed routine. The guy’s just on it.
RG: There are potentially controversial aspects to the film, but these have not caused too much of a problem due to its even handedness. Was that an easy balance to strike?
BS: I think it’s important when you’re making a movie like this, and you know you’re going to have some issues that might be edgy you really have to be clear on what your point of view is and where you’re coming from.
So that also bears itself it out when you’re screening the movie, so as we were editing the movie and we were screening it for people I’d get feedback from how people were taking things. We really had to be aware of that when we were making the movie.
RG: In terms of the spoof trailers, they must have been fun to make, has anyone suggested they might like to make any for real?
BS: I do feel like The Fatties could be a real franchise for Jack Black is he ever wants to go in that direction. But nobody else has been in touch with me about Scorcher or anything like that. But I’m available, for the post apocalyptic action movie.
It’s a crazy business, just in terms of the environments you work in and the way people get treated and the pressure that actors are under on big budget movies and all that stuff. I think it indirectly affects everything.
RG: Were you developing this when you worked on Extras with Ricky Gervais?
BS: I started working on this thing about 10 years ago. We had a first draft of the script about 10 years ago, so it’s been a long process.
RG: Interesting that both expose the foibles of stars behaving badly, yet he ended up with a TV series while you have a big hit movie?
BS: He did okay.
RG: You’re just worked with him again on Night At The Museum 2, haven’t you?
BS: Yes, he’s incredible, I’m a big fan of his.
RG: Interesting that some actors appear as themselves, like Jon Voight and Tobey Maguire. Do you find that a lot of serious actors love the chance to poke fun of their own persona?
BS: For sure. People asked early on if I was worried about offending anyone, actors have such a great sense of humour about ourselves, I think, because we see the ridiculousness of the business.
I don’t think anyone takes themselves that seriously, even the most serious of actors. There’s just so much in this world that is so crazy that people enjoy being able to make fun of that when you’re in it.
RG: Thank you for your time.
Tropic Thunder is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment from 26 January 2009.
Click here to buy Tropic Thunder on Blu-ray for £16.98 (RRP: £26.99)