Few in Hollywood can perform with consistency on both sides of the camera the way Ben Stiller can.
If Zoolander didn’t establish that, Tropic Thunder certainly confirmed Stiller’s dual talent, underscored by Robert Downey Jr.’s supporting-actor Oscar nomination for his obsessed Tropic Thunder thespian.
Besides being multi-faceted, the 44-year-old is also bankable, which is another rare commodity. Stiller movies have earned more than $1.5 billion US world wide.
From time to time, Stiller wades into the more tempered humour pool to challenge himself in emoting territory removed from his more exaggerated comedy comfort zone.
That would be the case in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, which opened in select theatres last Friday.
In the movie, Stiller plays the title character, a neurotic New York underachiever who suffers a breakdown. After treatment, he hangs out at this brother’s L.A. home, ostensibly house-sitting while the family goes on an exotic vacation.
After boredom sets in, Greenberg tries to re-connect with some old rock ‘n’ roll band mates, including Ivan (Rhys Ifans), who seems to have as many issues as his former sidekick.As they struggle with their past and their presents together, Greenberg develops a new relationship with his brother’s just-out-of-college assistant (Greta Gerwig), who seems to be almost as lost as Greenberg.
To tell you that Baumbach (who co-wrote Greenberg with wife Jennifer Jason Leigh) previously put together Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and The Whale, and Margot at the Wedding, is to explain Greenberg, the movie.
It falls somewhere into that milieu, mixing comedy with drama as awkwardly as the characters deal with their individual shortcomings. And that was exactly the challenge Stiller decided he needed.
“I really love Noah’s movies, and would have done anything he sent over to me,” says Stiller. “He had written such a layered character and movie, and it was intriguing, and not the kind of material I get that often.”
Originally, Baumbach had written the part for a younger actor, but re-wrote the role when Stiller showed interest in it.
With the screenplay adjustment, the actor embraced his Greenberg persona as defined by Baumbach’s re-modelling. So Stiller jumped in with both feet, defining a cynic who’s apathetic and doesn’t care.
“Greenberg’s trying to get through life, because things haven’t really worked out the way he wanted them to,” notes Stiller.
Opportunities have passed him by, as the film so deftly underscores, “but he tries to rationalize his lack of momentum” with sarcasm and a temper. “He’s probably too smart for his own good,” agrees Stiller.
“But everybody struggles with their own sense of themselves,” he adds. “Playing this guy gave me a real appreciation for what I have, because it’s very easy to focus on what you don’t have.”
Still, he says he’s fortunate his director is just plain “articulate” in showing specific details of all the characters.
“It’s really interesting how people react to Greenberg,” reports Stiller. “All the reactions seem to be very visceral; audiences are moved by it or it makes them uncomfortable.”
He’s also thrilled to work with the dog in Greenberg, who had previously played Delgado in Beverly Hills Chihuahua. “I was familiar with his work, because I have kids,” he says. “So there was a respect.”
Next up for Stiller is a return to the mainstream with Meet the Little Fockers, which opens next Christmas. In it, Stiller’s frazzled husband copes, ironically, with kids.
“It was great to re-connect with Robert De Niro,” the actor says. “It’s always exciting to be around him. He understands his persona, and has an amazing sense of humour.”
Meanwhile, Stiller is in the early stages of developing a sequel to Zoolander as writer and director. “We are working on a script right now, so the idea is to have something to shoot next year,” Stiller says.
The 81st Oscar nominations came with some surprises up its sleeve this morning, snubbing the year’s biggest film and finding room for smaller performances.
The Dark Knight, the second-largest-grossing movie of all-time, was left off the Best Picture list in favour of a list of critical favourites that include Slumdog Millionaire, the little movie that could. Slumdog, which won the Golden Globe earlier this month, also garnered nominations for adapted screenplay and for director Danny Boyle. In all, it got nine nominations.
The Reader, a post-Holocaust drama about the love affair between an older woman and a young man, was a surprise inclusion because of its controversial subject matter. It also won a Best Actress nomination for Kate Winslet, who had earlier won the Supporting Actress award at the Golden Globes. Winslet had been touted as a possible Best Actress nominee for the acidic 1950s drama Revolutionary Road, but she and co-star Leonardo DiCaprio were snubbed, as was the movie itself.
Joining Winslet in the Actress category was Melissa Leo, star of the well-received but decidedly small drama Frozen River. She’s going up against Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, Angelina Jolie in Changeling, and Meryl Streep in Doubt.
It was a good day overall in the Jolie household: husband Brad Pitt, who ages backwards as Benjamin Button, was also nominated, along with Mickey Rourke, the comeback kid, who won the Golden Globe for his portrayal of an over-the-hill wrestler in The Wrestler. Frank Langella, who played Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, and Sean Penn, as the gay politician Harvey Milk in Milk, are joined by longtime character actor Richard Jenkins, the star of another small but much-loved movie The Visitor.
The supporting categories also were filled with unexpected names. The Supporting Actress nominees included favourites Marisa Tomei as a stripper in The Wrestler and Penelope Cruz as an angry wife in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but also Amy Adams as the innocent nun and Viola Davis as the mother of a boy who may have been abused, both in Doubt, along with Taraji P. Henson, another surprise for her turn as the adoptive mother of Pitt’s character in Benjamin Button.
The supporting actor nominations were headed by the favourites, the late Heath Ledger, as the evil Joker in The Dark Knight and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a priest who may or may not be a child abuser, in Doubt. But the rest of the list showed a tendency for the Academy to take chances: Josh Brolin as the conflicted politician in Milk, Robert Downey Jr., performing in blackface as a method actor in Tropic Thunder, and Michael Shannon as the mentally ill intruder in Revolutionary Road, the only major award for that movie.
The Quebec movie The Necessities of Life, which was on the short list for Best Foreign Film, did not make the cut.
The nominations for the 81st Annual Academy Awards:
The screenwriter for “Tropic Thunder” will pen the sequel for Iron Man 2.
IGN recently had the chance to chat with actor-turned-screenwriter Justin Theroux for the DVD release of Tropic Thunder, during which time we got to ask him about writing the script for Iron Man 2.
One might think that a huge Hollywood production such as Iron Man 2 might not allow Theroux to be as loose and open to changes in the writing process as working on a comedy might allow, but the scribe disputes that notion. “Iron Man is just a unique character in the comic book world. He can get away with being incorrigible, slightly awful, funny, sexist at times. He has a very high threshold for things that he can do and get away with,” Theroux explained.
He continued, “So in a weird way it’s a lot of fun writing for him and it’s not like writing a more stoic superhero part. Obviously, you have the story elements and the action elements and all those gears of that you want to make sure are well oiled. But within that you can have a lot of play.”
Theroux — who starred in films such as Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Mulholland Dr., and Miami Vice before making the leap to screenwriting with last summer’s Tropic Thunder — was a fan of the character before landing the job of scripting the Marvel sequel. In particular, he was “a big fan of the [Matt] Fraction series, but it was only when Robert [Downey Jr.] got into the skin of that guy that it made total sense. Because Robert is so good at just sliding things between the cracks and finding moments. It’s just such a great anti-hero.”
The scribe says don’t expect Iron Man 2 to be a more fantastical or comic book-y film than its predecessor in order to prepare viewers for seeing Tony Stark alongside characters such as Thor and the Hulk in Marvel’s live-action version of The Avengers.
Iron Man 2, Theroux insists, “can’t really go crazy. It has to live within the same world Tony lives in, which is the world of technology. So it can’t get too far afield. It’s not really our job to suit all the other characters. Our first concern – Jon [Favreau]‘s first concern – is that we raise the level on Iron Man 2 and make sure the audience gets exactly and more of what they wanted before in a really satisfying story that’s really fun and playful. As good a movie as possible. And after that we’ll think about ways that we can plug in other elements that might exist in other films or other worlds.”
Based on Ann Brashares’ best-selling series of novels, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2″ catches up with four lifelong friends whose story began with “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Now in college and embarking on separate paths for the first time, each will feel the freedom, separation, love, and challenging life lessons that mark their individual journeys toward adulthood. Though miles and worlds apart, they strive to stay in touch and share their new experiences and triumphs with heart and humor and, now more than ever, come to value the immeasurable power of their friendship.
Tropic Thunder (Action) – Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte; Directed by: Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller directs and stars in a high-concept action comedy about a film crew struggling against Murphy’s Law during the production of a big-budget war film, and just what happens when the actors become possessed by the bravura of their onscreen counterparts. Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Steve Coogan, and Nick Nolte co-star in this DreamWorks production.
Wall E (Animation/Adventure/Sci-Fi/ Family) – Cast: Fred Willard, Jeff Garlin, Ben Burtt ; Directed by: Andrew Stanton
What if mankind had to leave Earth, and somebody forgot to turn the last robot off?
Academy Award®-winning writer-director Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo”) and the inventive storytellers and technical geniuses at Pixar Animation Studios (“The Incredibles,” “Cars,” “Ratatouille”) transport moviegoers to a galaxy not so very far away for a new computer-animated cosmic comedy about a determined robot named WALL•E.
300 (Action) – Cast: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Rodrigo Santoro, Andrew Tiernan, Andrew Pleavin; Directed by: Zack Snyder
Based on the epic graphic novel by Frank Miller, “300″ is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy, drawing a line in the sand for democracy. The film brings Miller’s (Sin City) acclaimed graphic novel to life by combining live action with virtual backgrounds that capture his distinct vision of this ancient historic tale.
Fly Me to the Moon (Family/Animation) – Cast: Trevor Gagnon, Philip Daniel Bolden, David Gore, Christopher Lloyd, Kelly Ripa, Nicollette Sheridan, Ed Begley, Jr., Adrienne Barbeau, Tim Curry, Robert Patrick, Buzz Aldrin; Director: Ben Stassin
Luke Wilson (‘The Royal Tenenbaums,’ ‘Old School’), Academy Award® nominee Adriana Barraza (‘Babel’) and Radha Mitchell (‘Finding Neverland’) star in a modern day fable about the unexpected wonders of the everyday from director Mark Pellington (‘U2 3D,’ ‘The Mothman Prophesies’). ‘Henry Poole is Here’ tells the funny, poignant and uplifting story of a disillusioned man who attempts to hide from life in a rundown suburban tract home only to discover he cannot escape the forces of hope.
Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) just wants to disappear. Shattered by circumstances beyond his control, he offers full price on a cookie cutter house in a drab, middle-class, L.A. neighborhood through his perky realtor Meg (Cheryl Hines). But just as he settles in to his indulgent isolation with a case of vodka and all the junk food he can eat, his neighbor, a well-meaning busybody named Esperanza (Adriana Barraza), drops by with a plate of homemade tamales and a whole lot of questions.
Despite his desire for solitude, Henry can’t help noticing Dawn (Radha Mitchell), the beautiful young divorcée next door and her daughter Millie (Morgan Lily), an eight-year-old amateur spy who hasn’t spoken a word since her parents’ break-up.
Henry’s self-imposed exile is shattered when Esperanza discovers a mysterious stain on Henry’s stucco wall that is seen to have miraculous powers. She begins leading pilgrimages to the “holy site” and invites church officials, including her pastor, Father Salizar (George Lopez), to inspect the apparition.
Although Henry remains skeptical, he finds himself gradually drawn back towards life, especially after his silent friendship with Millie brings him closer to Dawn. As news of the apparition spreads throughout the neighborhood and his feelings for Dawn grow, Henry realizes his plan to live out his days in quiet desperation is going to be much harder than he ever imagined.
Release date: August 15th, 2008 Genre: Action/Comedy Director: Ben Stiller Studio: DreamWorks Pictures Producer(s): Ben Stiller, Eric McLeod, Stuart Cornfeld Screenplay: Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux, Etan Cohen Cast: Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Brandon T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Steve Coogan, Bill Hader, Nick Nolte Official Site:tropicthunder.com Rating:R for for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material Available film art:Tropic Thunder movie posters
Synopsis In the action-comedy “Tropic Thunder,” Ben Stiller plays pampered action superstar Tugg Speedman, who is cast in the biggest, most expensive war movie ever produced. He sets out to Southeast Asia with a “Who’s Who” of celebrity co-stars. They include Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), an intense, three-time Oscar-winning actor; Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), star of the popular gross-out comedy franchise “The Fatties”; multi-platinum hiphop-star-turned-entrepreneur-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson); and first-timer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). Soon after the production begins the actors are thrown into a real-life situation and are forced to become the fighting unit they’re portraying, in order to find a way out of the jungle in one piece