Ben Stiller

     
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Real Name: Ben Stiller
Birthday: 11/30/1965 
Place of Birth: New York, New York
Education: University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, film, 1983-1984

 

Biography:

With early roles on "Saturday Night Live" and MTV, Ben Stiller's fast career path may be somewhat out of the ordinary for most Hollywood actors.

Ben used his connections to land his first professional acting job in the 1985 Lincoln Center revival of John Guare's dark comedy "The House of Blue Leaves"  During its run, he made a little comic film with the play's cast (which ended up airing on "Saturday Night Live"). In 1987, he played again, the role of the son, Ronnie Shaughnessy, a  papal assassin, for the play's PBS "American Playhouse" production. 

In that same year, he also made his film acting debut in Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" with Christian Bale, and his television writing and acting introduction in a ten-minute short lampoon of Martin Scorsese's "The Color of Money" for NBC's "Saturday Night Live", in which he offered a shocking caricature of Tom Cruise. He then stayed as a primary cast member and apprentice writer on "SNL" for about a year. 

In 1989, Stiller was given his own half-hour comedy variety show on MTV called "The Ben Stiller Show". A prototype to his more complex network effort, the series suffered from music video interruptions and the lack of proper format that would have allowed him to show off his extensive talents. He also continued working in films, playing supporting roles in such assorted duds and uninspiring films as "Hot Pursuit" (1987, with his father), "Fresh Horses" (1988), "That's Adequate" (1989, with his parents and sister Amy), "Next of Kin" with Helen Hunt (1989), the Bette Midler weeper "Stella" (1990) and "Highway to Hell" (1992).

A career saving point came when Fox television signed him for "The Ben Stiller Show" (1992-93), a sketch comedy program with an accent on pop culture lampoons. A moving parody combining "The Munsters" and "Cape Fear" to create "Cape Munster" (which featured him skillfully creating a mix of Robert De Niro and Eddie Munster) was a good representation of the show's bold comedy. Other sketches, featuring roasts of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Cruise, The Pig-Latin Lover, the amusement park Oliver Stoneland and the evil sock puppet Skank made the show one of the coolest and funniest on television, but it was canceled in its first season. Nonetheless, the comedian shared a writing Emmy for his hard work.

The actor moved to the big screen as a filmmaker making his feature directorial bow with "Reality Bites" with Renee Zellweger and Ethan Hawke (1994), an old-twisted romance marketed as a "Gen X" comedy. Ben co-starred with Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke, he played a disturbed, workaholic music TV exec who occupies one point in the love triangle. The film received some encouraging press, especially for Ryder's performance, and the director was applauded for his talent with actors, but his command of storytelling was considered unstable by some critics. 

Though periodically quite handsome on camera, Stiller has tended to bolster or lampoon his looks. As a sketch performer, he delighted in mocking such reputed studs as Cruise and U2's Bono. One film role had him playing an insufferable fitness guru, the bad guy, in the low-grade Disney comedy "Heavyweights" (1995). This project was notable for reuniting him with Judd Apatow.

He returned to the director's chair for "The Cable Guy" (1996). Though budgeted at a dreadful $40 million (half of which went to its top star), this Jim Carrey and Jack Black vehicle failed to offer a change as the rubber faced comic played a dark, more intimidating variation of his usual personality. Though the film has its share of fans, "The Cable Guy" proved to be the first flop of Jim Carrey's career as a superstar and postponed Ben's directing work.

Also in 1996, Been took t hit starring role in "Flirting with Disaster" with Patricia Arquette, a straightforward romantic lead. He also brought wild energy to his portrayal of a conceptual artist with designs on Sarah Jessica Parker and Scarlett Johansson in the disastrous romantic comedy "If Lucy Fell". He finished out the year with a turn in fellow "SNL" alumni Adam Sandler's feature vehicle "Happy Gilmore", as the eerie operator of a nursing home.

1998, however, proved to be his break away year as a performer. He began with an inconspicuous role as the partner of an investigator in "Zero Effect", directed by Jake Kasdan. Next he played a man worried by his high school prom date who hires a private detective to track her down in the Farrelly brothers' low-brow surprise blockbuster "There's Something About Mary" with sexy Cameron Diaz. 

Stiller was not the studio's first choice for the role and had to wrestle for it. But he proved to be just the thing, willing to go to any lengths for the part. He captured the clumsiness of a klutzy young teenager (especially when he caught his private parts in his zipper on the night of the prom) and the odd, pitiful adult version of the same character. As an actor, he was willing to undertake potentially uncomfortable scenes and mine them for their humor. He next played a sneaky college professor who has an affair with his best friend's wife in Neil LaBute's "Your Friends and Neighbors" and ended the year with a role portraying drug addicted screenwriter Jerry Stahl in "Permanent Midnight" with Owen Wilson.

he actor was then cast alongside longtime friend Janeane Garofalo in "Mystery Men" (1999), a poor comedy centered around a band of hopeless superheroes. He came back the following year with a starring role in the romantic "Keeping the Faith", playing a rabbi who finds himself falling for the same childhood friend (Jenna Elfman) his best friend (Edward Norton as a Catholic priest) is also in love with. That same year he had a box-office hit with "Meet the Parents", starring as a man driven to fear by the overbearing father (Robert De Niro) of his fiancée (Teri Polo). That brand of comedy struck a nerve with a large audience, and Ben proved that he could play a lovable loser, as he had in "There's Something About Mary", but a creditable screen partner of Robert De Niro. 

He returned to the big screen in 2001 as a director and actor, directing and starring in "Zoolander" with Owen Wilson and David Duchovny, a spoof of the modeling world. Released shortly after the catastrophic events of September 11th, the film lost some of its comedic kick but would find life as a cult favorite. He rejoined his "Zoolander" enemy and frequent co-star Owen Wilson in "The Royal Tenenbaums", a wonderful comedy co-written by Wilson and director Wes Anderson and starring Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson, as a family with great potential that little by little falls apart as they separate. The actors portrayal of anxiety plagued widower Chas featured some of the movie's most candidly moving scenes and gained the performer critical reviews.

In 2002, after a cameo in Jake Kasdan's comedy "Orange County" with Jack Black, he appeared onscreen in "Run Ronnie Run", a feature variation of a popular sketch from the  HBO comedy series "Mr. Show Starring Bob and David". He next co-starred with Drew Barrymore in the dud "The Duplex" (2003), a black comedy about the length one will go to in order to rent the perfect apartment in New York City, directed by Danny DeVito. He rebounded with a somewhat humorous and unassuming hit comedy "Along Came Polly" (2004), in which he played a risk assessment expert who, after his wife cheats on him during their honeymoon, learns to take chances when he falls for a free spirit (Jennifer Aniston).

Stiller had an hilarious recurring stint on the 2004 season of the HBO sit-com "Curb Your Enthusiasm" playing himself as bedeviled by Larry David when the two are tapped to co-star in a stage production of Mel Brooks' "The Producers," and then he took the role of television cop Dave Starsky in the parody 2004 version of the ABC police drama "Starsky & Hutch" opposite his common partner Owen Wilson. While only mildly entertaining, that film was head and shoulders above his next effort, "Envy" (2004), an epic backfire co-starring Jack Black and directed by Barry Levison. Unfunny and confused in the extreme and pleading the question why so many talented people agreed to make the film, "Envy" also relied too heavily on the most played out elements of his familiar comedic personality.

The actor was a little more amusing as the mustached White Goodman, the unfeeling and undereducated head of the Purple Cobras team, in the sports comedy "Dodge Ball" with Vince Vaughn (2004). By this time, Ben Stiller was clearly reputable as a inside figure in what many characterized as a comedic Rat Pack style elite of actors who frequently teamed up and/or worked in each other's films - the group also included Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson and actor Steve Carell. The actor bounced back with ease at the end of the year with another role as Gaylord "Greg" Focker in the fashionable comedy sequel "Meet the Fockers" with Robert De Niro (2004), which added his character's faithful parents (played by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) into the family. 

He then gave his unique voice to “Madagascar” (2005), Disney’s animated tale about four zoo animals who escape and accidentally find themselves in Africa where the city folk struggle to endure in the wild. His next project was "A Night at the Museum" with Robin Williams (2006), a family comedy about a night security guard in the Museum of Natural History who innocently unleashes a curse that brings to life the bugs and animals on display.

The actor comedian started out 2007 with a starring role in the romantic comedy "The Heartbreak Kid" (2007), about a newlywed man who believes he's just gotten hitched to the perfect woman encounters another lady on his honeymoon. Next was the comedy action "Tropic Thunder" (2008) with Jack Black, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey and  Tobey Maguire where through a series of freak occurrences, a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying. Next was "The Marc Pease Experience" (2008) about a former high school musical star, Marc Pease, who finds himself still living in the past, eight years after graduating.

He then teamed with Chris Rock for the sequel "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (2008), the sequel of the first movie, the New York Zoo Animals, Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo. 2008 was the year of sequels for Stiller with his second film "Night at the Museum 2: Escape from the Smithsonian" (2008), and finally ""Hardy Men" (2009), starring Ben and Tom Cruise. The Hardy Boys" detective novels date back to 1927, though a variety of ghost writers using the pen name of Franklin W. Dixon kept Frank and Joe Hardy perpetual teenagers. "The Hardy Men" would have them finally grown up, but up to their old tricks once more.

He wrapped his year in the comedy "Greenberg" (2010), about a New Yorker who moves to Los Angeles in order to figure out his life while he house-sits for his brother, and soon starts a relationship with his brother's assistant

Education

  • University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, film, 1983-1984

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