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Ben Stiller on making movies and recovering from a broken heart

Ben Stiller - REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Ben Stiller on making movies and recovering from a broken heart

Ben Stiller on making movies and recovering from a broken heart

Hollywood funnyman, Ben Stiller shares with MiNDFOOD’s Michele Manelis the ups and downs of his love life and how he finds joy in making movies.

Love triangles have been a constant theme in Ben Stiller’s cinematic career. Now directing the upcoming TV series, Escape from Dannemora, based on the 2015 true story about two prison inmates, portrayed by Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano, whose escape is orchestrated by a married prison employee, played by Patricia Arquette, with whom they are both sexually involved. Arquette was previously in a romantic entanglement with Stiller and Tea Leoni in the 1996 comedy, Flirting With Disaster.

But according to Stiller, the laughs were purely for the screen. Privately, he was recovering from a broken heart.

“It’s interesting when you go back in time what you retain from the experience. When we were shooting Flirting With Disaster, I remember having broken up with my girlfriend (then-fiance Jeanne Tripplehorn, who now stars in Criminal Minds) and I was a little bit at sea. Josh Brolin was in the movie and Josh befriended me. He taught me how to ride a motorcycle, he took me skydiving, and we went and shot guns together,” he laughs. “I think he was just being nice trying to take my mind off it. We were shooting the film in Arizona, and after Josh taught me how to ride I bought a motorcycle, rode it back to L.A., kept it for about 5 years, and then I sold it,” he says. “But I remember having a great time bonding with Josh on that movie.”

Stiller’s first directorial effort was the cult hit, Reality Bites, in 1994. He says, “It was the first movie I ever directed and the excitement of doing it was amazing, but what I learned on that movie working with Winona (Ryder), who was a really big star at that time, was the power she had. It was incredible to watch. She could really help get things done and watching her use that power was a real lesson for me.”

When looking at Stiller’s extensive litany of films, Tropic Thunder stands out as one of his funniest. “That’s ten years ago now.” He shakes his head. ‘Wow. Crazy. I have to say I have great memories making that movie. Just the group of people being together (which included Robert Downey Jr and Jack Black). Everybody was so committed and it was such a crazy idea,” he laughs.

Going further back through memory lane, he waxes nostalgic, “In 1989 I had a really small part in a movie called Next of Kin. It starred Patrick Swayze, and I got killed in the first 20 minutes but because of the way that the movie was scheduled I had to be in Chicago for like 4-1/2 months just because of that one scene. I was so happy to be there, I think it was my second job, and I was the 10th guy on the call sheet. And I couldn’t believe how nice to me Patrick Swayze,” he says. “He had a motorcycle, again I don’t know why this is another motorcycle story, but he would ride around Chicago and go to blues bars. One day he took me on the back of his bike and said, ‘Come on, we’re going out to hear some blues!’” he laughs. “He was really nice. I was just an actor starting out and he didn’t have to be nice to me. I remember later on, just before he passed away, having a conversation with him because we weren’t really friends but anytime we’d see each other we’d talk. We had a good conversation about how great that experience was and I’ll always remember that pretty fondly.”

But did Brolin’s unusual heartbreak remedy of encouraging Stiller to jump out of a plane, ride a motorcycle, and shoot guns help him get over his breakup? “Yeah, actually,” he laughs, “but we got back together, which was great, and then we broke up a year later.” In summing up his relationship, he says, “You should see Albert Brook’s film Modern Romance [about a couple who are constantly breaking up and reconciling].

Meanwhile, Stiller and wife of 17 years, Christine Taylor, (who starred with him in movies including the Zoolander and Dodgeball franchises) ended their marriage in May last year but remain on friendly terms. Hopefully he’s not sufficiently traumatised to jump out of any more planes.

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