Ben Stiller

The actor and director Ben Stiller shows his talent speaking in Spanish in his latest movieTower Heist. We went to New York to talk to him about his career and his interest in the Spanish language. To our surprise he was able to answer a few words in our language and confessed to us that in his next movie he will, again, speak Spanish. At 45 Stiller has become an international star thanks to his sense of humor and his talent to understand his audience.


Q:  You had some lines that were in  Spanish, how is your Spanish?

A: Is not fluent. I do understand a little bit and I can say a word here and there. I’m working on this new movie and I have some more lines in Spanish. I definitely want to learn Spanish 

Q: For what movie are you learning Spanish?

A: Neighborhood Watch that’s coming up and I’m excited about that.  It should be fun.  It’s got a great cast.  It’s a rated R comedy about aliens coming to the suburbs with Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade. 

Q: Can you keep a conversation in Spanish?  (Speaks Spanish)

A: No.  (Laughter) You speak to fast in Spanish 

Q: Why are you interested in Spanish?

A: Many people in this country speak Spanish. My kids speak Spanish. I would love to understand what they say when they talk in Spanish (laughs) 

Q:  What was it like to work with Eddie Murphy as an actor and a producer in Tower Heist?

I really had been a fan of Eddie’s for a long time, I mean we are pretty close in age, but he’s been a star for so long, and so kind that I feel like I grew up watching him as a teenager, in my 20s, even though we are close in age.  And so he’s kind of iconic, and I think he’s extremely talented and one of those guys who has sort of a mystique about him, you don’t really know who he really is and he has this ability to go really big and broad but he also is a really good actor and so working with him, I was a little bit kind of wanting to, it’s that thing where you are not totally comfortable with somebody because you don’t know them in the beginning and you are kind of being on your best behavior, (laughs) you want to try and do your best, because you respect him and that was a sort of good place to come at from the beginning I think, we started to, I think we both sort of were respectful of each other, but also, didn’t really know each other, and it was interesting for the movie because that was sort of a little bit of the dynamic of the movie too. 

Q:  Do you think you never could escape becoming an actor when it comes to your background?

A:  I don’t know.  I don’t know if it’s about escaping or not because this was something—for me, it was never really about being an actor.  It was more about being wanting to be a filmmaker – making movies and directing. The acting was something that I enjoyed also but I was never focused on that.  I mean I guess I was when I was younger in addition to the directing but…

Q:  Did you ever think about something else non-showbiz?

A:  I thought for a little bit about archeology.  {Laughing}  I know it sounds silly but…

Q:  Why is that?

A:  Because I like history.  As a kid, I loved history.  That’s why I did Night at the Museum movies because I grew up going to the Museum of Natural History and loved going and looking at all those dioramas in the past and all that stuff and Ancient Egypt.  I was interested in that.

Q:  What drew you away from it?

A:  Well, I never really was that committed to studying like that.  As a kid, I was not a great student.  I loved movies more so I think when I saw Jaws when I was 10, I was like that was what I wanted to do. 

Q:  How about your kids?  You were surrounded by only people working in show business more or less.  Will you be disappointed if they don’t end up working in that business or would you be happy?

A:  Oh yeah.  You know what? I really don’t have a preference. Either way I’d be happy as long as they’re happy doing what they want to do.  I mean I’d be sort of thrilled if they ended up doing something outside of show business.  I think that’d be kind of novel in our family.  {Laughing}

Q:  You are pretty active on Twitter, how has that changed the dynamic with the fans?

A: It’s a really interesting thing, I’m a pretty private person, so I’m not one of those people who are like sort of like comfortable saying, my wife and I are going on a date, and I feel like Twitter, that’s the most interesting kind of Twittering, is when people are telling you things about your life that you are interested in, but I kind of don’t feel that comfortable with that, so it’s kind of interesting when and I don’t feel comfortable like in terms of doing work for our foundation and trying to spread the word about the need in Haiti or I work with Project ALS, we are trying to find a cure for ALS, things like that, we do charity work, or social causes, that’s a really great way to connect with people, and I find it fun, it’s fun a lot of times, it’s fun to get the feedback from the fans and people, fans and not fans, (xxxx-laughs) it’s crazy, there are a lot of insane people out there in the world.  (Laughter)  Or at least insane Twitterers, but overall, it’s great to be able to say hello to somebody in Russia, or something like that, or connect with somebody, follow with somebody that you find interesting, even if they are famous or not famous.  

Q:  What would you say if any is the key to your success?

A: I honestly do not have any insight into that.  (Laughter)  Honestly I don’t, I mean I feel very fortunate to have a career and have opportunities, I love doing what I do and but how that works, the path I think for me is sort of a constant with me is that I’ve always enjoyed what I do and I’ve always sort of worked at it and felt when times weren’t happening, I would just sort of try to find a way to do what I wanted to do, to create somehow.  But I think this is such a crazy business, there’s no formulas for it at all, cause there’s so many talented people who don’t work as much as they should, and I don’t know how that balance works and how that, I sort of think it’s just the luck of the draw.  

Q:  And maybe it has to do with the characters that you have played.

A: Well I think any actor in terms of movies, if you are in movies that connect with people, that’s what allows you to keep making movies, that people go to the movies, so it’s being able to work with people that I think are making films that are, that connect with people.  And characters, all I ever try to do when I’m playing a character is try to find whatever the connection is that I have personally with that character, whether it’s a little bit or a lot, and that’s where we go from trying to find the reality, even in a silly movie.  

Q:  Do you still have to fight for some roles or do you’re in the position now to pick and choose basically?
 A:  You know I think anybody who’s an actor, if you’re going to be in other people’s movies, you’re at the mercy of how people see you.  If you want to go outside of the box with something, then you do have to put that out there, if you’re interested in it, you know or if somebody, it depends.  It’s not like there’s a movie and there’s a director and something you’re interested in and you put yourself out there for it.
Q:  So you’re still nervous to get rejected sometimes when you really wanted the role?
 A:  Yeah, I guess.  It’s a strange thing because once you have options, it’s up to you which way you want to go.  So if you’re willing to put yourself out there, it’s great.  Some people are going, “You know want.  I’m just happy to do my thing.”
Q:  Speaking of that, how do you feel about aging as a comedy actor?   Do you see any difference 10 years ago?
 A:  Why, do you?  {Laughing}  What are you trying to say?
Q:  At a certain age, for women, it gets difficult than for men to do comedy.
 A:  Well, at any age for an actor.  I mean actor, talking about being at the mercy, is as you grow older, as you change as a person that affects the roles that you play.
Q:  In comedy in particular?
A:  I think in movies.  I mean in movies, there’s an age range of roles.  For women, it’s much harder I think across the board anyway. It’s just harder because there’s less interesting roles written for them.  For actors, you know, it’s just a natural thing because it’s just always been in movies.  When you’re young, you play younger roles; when you’re middle aged, you play middle aged roles; when you’re older, you play older roles; and who goes to see the movies and who plays lead roles in movies obviously is determined but that’s just part of life.  I think that’s something you just have to accept.  It’s not you’re going to spite against but that’s just the reality of movies too.
Q:  You met with a Norwegian Crown Princess do you remember that?

A: Yeah. 

Q:  Can you just talk to me a little bit about how that experience was to meet her? 

A: Well, she was very nice (laughter) I was talking to her, we were sitting at the table, and she was nice, she was saying, yeah, I had just gotten to New York, and it’s been a crazy week here and we were talking about CGI I guess, what was going on, and I didn’t know who she was and I said oh that’s great and so what do you do?  She goes, I’m the Princess of Norway.  (Laughter) Oh, that’s cool.  (Laughter)  She didn’t lead with that, she didn’t tell me.  And I was like, I should have checked her name on the name thing, oh yeah, Princess of Norway.  She was beautiful and she was really nice, but she was really unassuming, and it was funny, I had told my wife right after, I was like, I had this conversation with this woman, she was really nice, then she told me she was the Princess of Norway.  Now usually in New York if somebody tells you that you think they are insane, (laughter) like a bag person or something, but she was definitely the real thing.  No, she was very nice. 

Q:  Did you meet the Princess of Spain?

A: No, I think it was just her.