Shawn Levy

Director, 'Night at the Museum' franchise

The first two comedy hits Shawn Levy helmed — “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “The Pink Panther” — grossed more than $150 million apiece, spawning sequels Levy was happy to let someone else direct. Not so “Night at the Museum.”

“No question, this feels the most my own,” Levy says of the latter franchise. For the sequel, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” Levy stuck to his core strategy of “gluttonous casting,” explaining that, “A family film with an injection of edgy talent like Ricky Gervais and Steve Coogan allowed the first movie to cut through the noise.”

This time, he nabbed scene-stealers Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest and Jonah Hill. Working with star Ben Stiller also taught Levy to loosen the actors’ reins, letting the movie find its comedic voice in scenes like the security guard smackdown between Stiller and Hill, which the duo improvised.

The results: a stellar $70 million opening weekend (nearly $30 million more than the original) and an impressive $380 million worldwide take to date. Breaking $100 million for the third time with family fare earned Levy the chance to try more adult comedy, with his casting strategy still intact — just ask Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco, Mark Ruffalo and Ray Liotta, all of whom are onboard for “Date Night.”

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