Stiller hits new heights

It’s crime time for one of the world’s best known com­edy ac­tors, writes Peter Mitchell

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES -

BEN Stiller shakes his head as he looks out the win­dow of a 34th floor Man­hat­tan ho­tel suite to the mad­ness on the streets be­low.

‘‘ It’s chaos,’’ says the 46- year- old star of clas­sic come­dies in­clud­ing There’s Some­thing About Mary, Zoolan­der and Tropic Thun­der.

The streets around the ho­tel are grid­locked be­cause more than 100 world lead­ers have flown in to New York to at­tend the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly, an an­nual event that al­lows easy ac­cess for US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and other heads of state in their mo­tor­cades to zip around the city but a headache for mil­lions of other Man­hat­tan­ites.

‘‘ Last night I went to din­ner and Obama was hav­ing din­ner next door,’’ Stiller says. ‘‘ The whole of Park Av­enue, from 79th to 74th, was shut down. ‘‘ It was crazy.’’ When it is sug­gested to Stiller that Obama, Aus­tralia’s UNGA rep­re­sen­ta­tive For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd and other world lead­ers in town should catch the sub­way and leave the NYPD- led mo­tor­cades to big Hol­ly­wood stars like him­self, he of­fers a smirk. ‘‘ Of course,’’ he agrees. Un­like many of the world lead­ers in town, Stiller’s ap­proval rat­ing with the pub­lic is sky high. With bud­get- con­scious Hol­ly­wood stu­dios slash­ing the amount they pay ac­tors to star in films, Stiller, 46, is one of a hand­ful of ac­tors who still com­mands $ US10 mil­lion- plus pay­days to head­line a movie. In his new ac­tion- com­edy, Tower

Heist, Stiller earned a re­ported $ US15 mil­lion ($ 14.8 mil­lion) to play Josh Ko­vacs, the build­ing man­ager of a high­rise lux­ury Man­hat­tan apart­ment tower who hatches a plan to rob a crooked busi­ness­man who lives in the pent­house.

Stiller’s Tower Heist co- star Ed­die Mur­phy, who plays street thug Slide and a mem­ber of Ko­vacs’ gang of thieves, pock­eted $ US7.5 mil­lion.

The movie was di­rected by Brett Rat­ner, the out­spo­ken film­maker of the

Rush Hour com­edy fran­chise who, be­fore up­set­ting the Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences with con­tro­ver­sial com­ments, was set to pro­duce the next Os­car cer­e­mony with Mur­phy as host.

Stiller has worked with some of the best di­rec­tors and pro­duc­ers in Hol­ly­wood and was full of praise for Rat­ner, who is al­most as well known for his colour­ful, party- boy life­style as his movie- mak­ing.

‘‘ The way he does it is un­like any­body else,’’ Stiller ex­plains. ‘‘ He has such an en­thu­si­asm. He will get you to do things other di­rec­tors can’t.

‘‘ Like, he’ll do 30 takes and you won’t know why. It’s not like it’s Stan­ley Kubrick telling you to do it. It’s Brett Rat­ner.

‘‘ But, the thing is he comes off as a guy who is like a char­ac­ter, is so vi­va­cious and al­ways has beau­ti­ful women around and is al­ways on his Black­berry but when it comes down to mak­ing movies he re­ally cares.

‘‘ His en­ergy some­how gets you through all the stuff.’’

Stiller is heav­ily in­volved in each film he makes, whether he is wear­ing the di­rec­tor-writer- pro­ducer hats in Tropic Thun­der, or in Tower Heist , where he is cred­ited only as an ac­tor.

Stiller met with Rat­ner for months be­fore cam­eras be­gan rolling on Tower Heist.

‘‘ We had a lot of dis­cus­sions when we were de­vel­op­ing the script,’’ Stiller said.

‘‘ We worked on it for al­most nine months be­fore it came to­gether.

‘‘ We had a lot of dis­agree­ments. I would say, ‘ I think it should be this’ and he would say, ‘ No, I think it should be that’.

‘‘ But, we al­ways agreed what the tone would be.

‘‘ I re­ally didn’t know what would hap­pen when we got on the set but on the first day it was great be­cause he just loves to shoot. ‘‘ He loves to get into the shoot­ing.’’

Tower Heist shows the in­ner work­ings of one of Man­hat­tan’s elite apart­ment build­ings, with Stiller’s Ko­vacs in charge of the tower’s many em­ploy­ees and en­sur­ing all of the multi- mil­lion­aire res­i­dents have ev­ery whim catered for.

Don­ald Trump’s Cen­tral Park prop­erty, Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel and Tower, was used in the film.

Ko­vacs is forced to bring to­gether a team of prop­erty em­ploy­ees and petty thief Slide, to rob pent­house owner and shady busi­ness­man Arthur Shaw ( Alan Alda).

Shaw had conned Ko­vacs into in­vest­ing the re­tire­ment sav­ings and pen­sion plans of the tower’s staff mem­bers with his com­pany but it is re­vealed Shaw is the mas­ter­mind of a Ponzi scheme.

When Shaw is ar­rested, Ko­vacs and his gang use their knowl­edge of the build­ing to break into the pent­house and find $ 30 mil­lion they be­lieve Shaw has hid­den.

Just like the grid­lock out­side, Stiller has dis­cov­ered his star power and track record is not al­ways enough to get Hol­ly­wood stu­dios to green light his films.

I re­ally didn’t know what would hap­pen when we got on the set but on the first day it was great be­cause he just loves to shoot

Stiller, along with Owen Wilson and Will Fer­rell, are keen to make a se­quel to

Zoolan­der, their 2001 clas­sic com­edy spoof­ing the mod­el­ling in­dus­try but have been hit by road­block af­ter road­block.

‘‘ It has been a slow process,’’ says Stiller, who is mar­ried to ac­tress Chris­tine Tay­lor with daugh­ter Ella, 9, and son Quin­lin, 6.

‘‘ We wrote a Zoolan­der 2 script last sum­mer and ev­ery­one wants to do it.

‘‘ I want to do it. Will wants to do it. Owen wants to do it. I’m just wait­ing for the stu­dio to get their act to­gether on it.

‘‘ I feel that for any movie I have been a part of, the strong­est con­nec­tion I have with the au­di­ence is on Zoolan­der.

‘‘ It was one of those movies that didn’t make a gazil­lion dol­lars but has this fol­low­ing.

‘‘ I think some­how the stu­dio might not get the con­nec­tion the fans have with the movie be­cause it didn’t trans­late into box of­fice dol­lars. They don’t get what is the other vis­ceral con­nec­tion peo­ple might have with the movie.

‘‘ I lit­er­ally think they look at it as a math for­mula and the peo­ple who make those de­ci­sions have trou­ble look­ing out­side the box these days in this eco­nomic cli­mate.

‘‘ It is too bad be­cause I feel a lot of peo­ple want to see it and we want to do it.’’

TOWER HEIST

Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas

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