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Ben Stiller

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Ben Stiller
In the black and white image, Stiller is facing the camera. He has his right arm crossed in front of him and left hand raised to his chin, with the pointer finger right below his lips. He is wearing a black suit.
Stiller photographed by Jerry Avenaim in 2006
Born Benjamin Edward Stiller
(1965-11-30) November 30, 1965
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor, comedian, director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1975–present
Spouse(s) Christine Taylor (2000–present; 2 children)

Benjamin Edward "Ben" Stiller (born November 30, 1965) is an American comedian, actor, writer, film director, and producer. He is the son of veteran comedians and actors Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.

After beginning his acting career with a play, Stiller wrote several mockumentaries, and was offered two of his own shows, both entitled The Ben Stiller Show. He began acting in films, and had his directorial debut with Reality Bites. Throughout his career he has since written, starred in, directed, and/or produced over 50 films including Heavyweights, There's Something About Mary, Meet the Parents, Zoolander, Dodgeball, and Tropic Thunder. In addition he has had multiple cameos in music videos, television shows, and films.

Stiller is a member of the comedic acting brotherhood colloquially known as the Frat Pack. His films have grossed more than $2.1 billion domestically (United States and Canada), with an average of $73 million per film. Throughout his career, he has received several awards and honours including an Emmy Award, several MTV Movie Awards, and a Teen Choice Award.

Early life

Stiller was born in New York City. His father, Jerry Stiller, is Jewish; his mother Anne Meara, who is of Irish Catholic background. Meara converted to Judaism after marrying Jerry Stiller(though the family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas). Stiller's parents frequently took him on the sets of their appearances, including an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show when he was six. He admitted in an interview that he considered his childhood unusual: "In some ways, it was a show-business upbringing—a lot of traveling, a lot of late nights—not what you'd call traditional." His sister, actress Amy Stiller, has made appearances in many of his productions, including Reality Bites, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and Zoolander.

He displayed an early interest in film making and made Super 8 movies with his sister and friends. At 10 years old, he made his acting debut as a guest on his mother's television series Kate McShane. In the late 1970s he performed with the New York City troupe NYC's First All Children's Theatre, performing in several roles, including the title role in Clever Jack and the Magic Beanstalk. After being inspired by the television show Second City Television while in high school, Stiller realized that he wanted to get involved with sketch comedy.

Stiller attended the Cathedral School in and graduated from the Calhoun School in New York in 1983. He started performing on the cabaret circuit as opening act to the cabaret siren Jadin Wong. Stiller then enrolled as a film student at the University of California, Los Angeles. After nine months, Stiller left school to move back to New York City. He made his way through acting classes, auditioning, and trying to find an agent.

Acting career

Beginning career

Stiller landed a role in the Broadway revival of John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves, alongside John Mahoney; the production would garner four Tony Awards. During its run, Stiller produced a satirical mockumentary whose principal was fellow actor Mahoney. His comedic work was so well received by the cast and crew of the play that he followed up with a 10 minute short called The Hustler of Money, a parody of the Martin Scorsese film The Colour of Money. The film featured him in a send-up of Tom Cruise's character and Mahoney in the Paul Newman role, only this time as a bowling hustler instead of a pool shark. The short got the attention of Saturday Night Live, which aired it in 1987, and two years later offered him a spot as a writer. In the meantime, he also had a bit part in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun.

In 1989, Stiller wrote and appeared on a season of Saturday Night Live as a featured performer. However, since the show did not want him to make more short films for the show, he left after five shows. He then put together Elvis Stories, a short film about a fictitious tabloid focused on recent sightings of Elvis Presley. The film starred friends and co-stars John Cusack, Jeremy Piven, Mike Myers, Andy Dick, and Jeff Kahn. The film was considered a success, and led him to develop another film entitled Back to Brooklyn for MTV.

The Ben Stiller Show

MTV was so impressed with Back to Brooklyn that they offered Stiller a 13-episode show in the experimental "vid-com" format. Entitled The Ben Stiller Show, this series mixed comedy sketches with music videos and parodied various television shows, music stars, and films. It starred Stiller, along with main writer Jeff Khan and Harry O'Reilly with occasional appearances by his parents Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, and sister Amy Stiller.

Although the show was canceled after its first season, it led to another show entitled The Ben Stiller Show on the Fox Network in 1992. The Ben Stiller Show aired 12 episodes on Fox, with a 13th unaired episode broadcast by Comedy Central in a later revival. Among the principal writers on The Ben Stiller Show were Stiller and Judd Apatow, with the show featuring the ensemble cast of Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick, and Bob Odenkirk. Both Denise Richards and Jeanne Tripplehorn appeared as extras in various episodes. Throughout its short run, The Ben Stiller Show frequently appeared at the bottom of the ratings, even as it garnered critical acclaim and eventually won the Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Variety or Music Program" after it was canceled.

Directorial debut

After a few minor film roles in the early 1990s, such as Stella, Highway to Hell, and a cameo in The Nutt House, Stiller devoted his time to writing, fund raising, recruiting cast members, starring in, and directing Reality Bites. The film was produced by Danny DeVito (who later directed Stiller's 2003 film Duplex and produced the 2004 film Along Came Polly). Reality Bites debuted as the highest-grossing film in its opening weekend and received mixed reviews.

He joined his parents in the family film Heavyweights, in which he played two roles, and then had a brief uncredited role in Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore. Next, he had lead roles in If Lucy Fell and Flirting with Disaster, before tackling his next directorial effort with The Cable Guy which starred Jim Carrey. Stiller once again was featured in his own film as twins. The film received mixed reviews, but was noted for paying the highest salary for an actor up to that point. Jim Carrey received $20 million for his work in the film. The film also connected Stiller with future Frat Pack members Jack Black and Owen Wilson.

Also in 1996, MTV invited Stiller to host the VH1 Fashion Awards. Along with SNL writer Drake Sather, Stiller developed a short film for the awards about a male model known as Derek Zoolander. It was so well received that Stiller developed another short film about the character for the 1997 VH1 Fashion Awards and finally remade the skit into a film.

Comedy career

In 1998, Stiller put aside his directing ambitions to star in There's Something About Mary alongside Cameron Diaz, which accelerated Stiller's acting career. That year he also starred in several dramas including Zero Effect, Your Friends & Neighbors, and Permanent Midnight. Stiller was invited to take part in hosting the Music Video awards, for which he developed a parody of the Backstreet Boys and performed a sketch with his father, commenting on his current career.

In 1999, he starred in three films, including Mystery Men, where he played a superhero wannabe called Mr. Furious. He returned to directing with a new spoof television series for Fox entitled Heat Vision and Jack, starring Jack Black, however, the show was not picked up by Fox after its pilot episode and the series was cancelled.

2000 would be a better year for Stiller as he starred in three more films including one of his most recognizable roles, as a male nurse named Greg Focker in Meet the Parents opposite Robert De Niro. The film was well-received by critics, grossed over $330 million worldwide, and spawned two sequels. Also in 2000, MTV again invited Stiller to make another short film and he developed Mission: Improbable, a spoof of Tom Cruise's role in Mission: Impossible II and other films.

A crowd of people is all looking towards a man at the center who is signing a hat. The crowd is attempting to hand him posters to sign and others are taking pictures using cameras and cell phones.
Stiller signing autographs before a screening for Tropic Thunder at Camp Pendleton on August 3, 2008.

In 2001, Stiller would direct his third feature film, Zoolander, which focused on the character Derek Zoolander (played by Stiller) that he developed for the VH1 Fashion Awards. The film featured multiple cameos from a variety of celebrities including Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, Lenny Kravitz, Heidi Klum, and David Bowie among others. The film was banned in Malaysia (as the plot centered on an assassination attempt of a Malaysian prime minister) while shots of the World Trade Centre were digitally removed and hidden for the film's release after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

After Stiller worked with Owen Wilson in Zoolander, they joined together again for The Royal Tenenbaums. Over the next two years, Stiller continued with the lackluster box office film Duplex and several cameos in Orange County and Nobody Knows Anything!. He also guest-starred on several television shows, including an appearance in an episode of the television series King Of Queens in a flashback as the father of the character Arthur (played by Jerry Stiller). He also made a guest appearance on World Wrestling Entertainment's WWE Raw.

In 2004, Stiller appeared in six different films, all of which were comedies, and include some of his highest grossing films. They include Starsky & Hutch, Envy, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, an uncredited cameo in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Along Came Polly, and Meet the Fockers. While Envy only grossed $14.5 million worldwide, his most successful film of the year was Meet the Fockers, which grossed over $516.6 million worldwide. In 2005, Stiller would begin his first attempt at a computer-animated film with Madagascar, which performed so well at the box office that it resulted in a sequel released in 2008.

Ben Stiller in November 2010, photographed by Jiyang Chen

In 2006, Stiller had cameo roles in School for Scoundrels, and Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, for which he served as executive producer. In December, Stiller starred in the lead role of Night at the Museum. Although not a critical favorite, it earned over $115 million in ten days. In 2007, Stiller starred alongside Malin Åkerman in the romantic comedy The Heartbreak Kid. The film earned over $100 million worldwide despite receiving mostly negative reviews. Tropic Thunder, a film he directed, co-wrote, and co-produced, and in which he starred with Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black, was released on August 13, 2008. In May 2009, he starred with Amy Adams in the sequel Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian. In 2010, Stiller made a brief cameo in Joaquin Phoenix's mockumentary I'm Still Here and played the lead role in the comedy-drama Greenberg. Stiller again portrayed Gaylord 'Greg' Focker in Little Fockers, the second sequel to Meet the Parents. Stiller had planned to voice a character in Megamind, but later dropped out while still remaining a producer.

Upcoming projects

For 2011, Stiller will join Eddie Murphy and Alan Alda in Tower Heist about a group of maintenance workers planning a heist in a residential skyscraper. Filming began in November 2010.

Stiller, along with Tom Cruise, is attached to a comedy adaptation of The Hardy Boys entitled The Hardy Men. It has also been revealed he will star alongside Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl in Buggs P.I., which is set to be released in 2011.

The Frat Pack

Stiller is the "acknowledged leader" of the Frat Pack, a core group of actors that has worked together in multiple films. The group includes Jack Black, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd. Stiller has been acknowledged as the leader of the group due to his multiple cameos and for his consistent use of the other members in roles in films which he produces and directs. He has appeared the most with Owen Wilson, in ten films including: The Cable Guy (1996), Permanent Midnight (1998), Heat Vision and Jack (1999 television pilot), Meet the Parents (2000), Zoolander (2001), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Starsky & Hutch (2004), Meet the Fockers (2004), Night at the Museum (2006), and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009). Of the 35 primary films that are considered Frat Pack films, Stiller has been involved with 20, in some capacity. He is also the only member of this group to have appeared in a Brat Pack film ( Fresh Horses).

Personal life

Stiller is facing the camera and smiling. He is wearing a baseball cap and a blue shirt with a white t-shirt underneath.
Stiller in December 2008.

Ben Stiller dated several actresses during his early television and film career including Jeanne Tripplehorn, Calista Flockhart, and Amanda Peet. In May 2000, Stiller married Christine Taylor, whom he met while filming a never-broadcast television pilot for the Fox Broadcasting network called Heat Vision and Jack, which starred Jack Black. The couple appeared onscreen together in Zoolander, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and Tropic Thunder. He and Taylor reside in Hollywood Hills and have a daughter, Ella Olivia, born April 10, 2002, and a son, Quinlin Dempsey, born July 10, 2005.

Stiller is a supporter of the Democratic Party and donated money to John Kerry's 2004 U.S. Presidential campaign. In February 2007, Stiller attended a fundraiser for Barack Obama and later donated to the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaigns of Democrats Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton. Stiller is also a supporter of several charities including Declare Yourself, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation. In 2010, Stiller joined Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Robin Williams, and other Hollywood stars in "The Cove PSA: My Friend is... ", an effort to stop the slaughter of dolphins and protect the Japanese population from the toxic levels of mercury found in dolphin meat.

In a 1999 interview with GQ and later in a 2001 interview with, Stiller was quoted as saying that he has bipolar disorder, an illness he said that ran in his family. In interviews in November and December 2006, Stiller claimed that this earlier interview's comment about the disorder was false. In one interview he clarified, "I said jokingly in GQ that I was, like, crazy, and it came out as: Ben Stiller, bipolar manic-depressive!"

Stiller frequently does impersonations of many of his favorite performers, including Bono, Tom Cruise, Bruce Springsteen, and David Blaine. In an interview with Parade, he commented that Robert Klein, George Carlin, and Jimmie Walker were inspirations for his comedy career. Stiller is also a self-professed Trekkie and appeared in the television special Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond to express his love of the show, as well as a comedy roast for William Shatner. He frequently references the show in his work, and named his production company Red Hour Productions after the original Star Trek episode " The Return of the Archons".

Awards and honours

  • Stiller was awarded an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Variety or Music Program"for his work on The Ben Stiller Show.
  • He has been nominated twelve times for the Teen Choice Awards and won once for "Choice Hissy Fit" for his work in Zoolander. He also was nominated by the MTV Movie Awards thirteen times and won three times for "Best Fight" in There's Something About Mary, "Best Comedic Performance" in Meet the Parents, and "Best Villain" in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.
  • Princeton University's Class of 2005 inducted Stiller as an honorary member of the class during its "Senior Week" in April 2005.
  • On February 23, 2007, Stiller received the Hasty Pudding Man of the Year award from Harvard's Hasty Pudding Theatricals. According to the organization, the award is given to performers who give a lasting and impressive contribution to the world of entertainment.
  • On March 31, 2007, Stiller received the "Wannabe Award" from the Kids' Choice Awards.
  • On May 31, 2009, Stiller received the MTV Generation Award, at the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. It is the ceremony's top honour.
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