Ben Stiller’s work ethic is contagious.
Stiller, whom BAFTA/LA is honoring with the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy, has the uncanny ability to take on multiple things at once and do them all well.
“He runs extremely hot when he’s working, and you definitely have to run as hot as he does,” says Justin Theroux, who wrote “Tropic Thunder” with Stiller. “There’s definitely no being lazy. He’ll call at 12:30 at night, saying we need to (fix something) by tomorrow. But it’s always for the betterment of the overall thing.”
This year saw not only the release of his big acting project “Tower Heist,” but also “30 Minutes Or Less” and “The Big Year,” both produced by Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld’s company Red Hour. And there’s plenty more where that came from: five upcoming films including “Zoolander 2” (penned with Theroux) and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” a Red Hour film that Stiller will direct and star in.
Stiller also kept it in the family, producing a Web series for Funny or Die featuring his parents (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara) discussing topics du jour.
“I’ve worked with a lot of gifted, hard-working people,” says Cornfield, “and he’s at the top of my list.”
When they met 12 years ago, their relationship was built on mutual comedic taste and a promise of frankness. “Even if we agreed on something, we each knew we could be wrong about it,” Cornfield says.
Theroux contends there is little ego in Stiller’s work.
“A lot of times, if you write for someone who’s also the star, they just want to increase the size of their part, but he’s really magnanimous in the way he writes,” Theroux says.
Stiller will regularly cut things, even for himself, if they don’t service the film. “He’s good at keeping things as lean as they can possibly be,” Theroux adds.
That’s a hell of a task given the sheer volume of projects Stiller touches, all in various stages of development. Plus he wears multiple hats: In some cases he’s writing, directing and producing; others he’s simply acting, as in the upcoming Noah Baumbach pic “While We’re Young.”
Luckily, he might run hot, but it’s a precision heat.
“He’s got an astounding ability to focus on something; when giving something total attention, he gets a tremendous amount of stuff done,” Cornfeld says.
And the more Red Hour grows, the more defined its Hollywood niche.
“Our films have emotional honesty, no matter how eccentric the manifestation of those emotions,” Cornfeld says. “Like, Derek Zoolander is a narcissistic idiot, but the emotions he’s going through are real. We try to hold on to that.”
Bard barbs inspire teens
David Yates | Helena Bonham Carter | Warren Beatty | Ben Stiller | John Lasseter