New heist makes Stiller’s wallet fuller
Tom Cruise isn’t the only one pulling off big feats on the big screen – Ben Stiller is scaling the heights in Tower Heist, writes Peter Mitchell
WITH budget conscious Hollywood studios slashing the amount they pay actors to star in films, Ben Stiller, 46, is one of a handful of actors who still commands $10 million-plus paydays to lead a movie.
The star of classic comedies including There’s Something About Mary, Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, Stiller earned a reported $15 million to play Josh Kovacs, the building manager of a luxury Manhattan apartment tower who hatches a plan to rob a crooked businessman who lives in the penthouse, in the new action-comedy Tower Heist.
His co-star, Eddie Murphy, who plays street thug Slide and a member of Kovacs’ gang of thieves, pocketed $7.5 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 is full of praise for Ratner, who is almost as well known for his party boy lifestyle as his films.
‘‘The way he does it is like unlike anybody else. He has such an enthusiasm,’’ Stiller says.
‘‘He will get you to do things that 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 directorwriter-producer hats in Tropic Thunder, or in Tower Heist, where he is credited 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
BEN Stiller has discovered his star power is not always enough to get Hollywood studios to green light his films. 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 road block after road block. ‘‘It has been a slow process,’’ says Stiller. ‘‘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 maths formula and the people that make those decisions have trouble looking outside the box these days in this economic climate.’’ developing the script. We worked on it for almost nine months before it came together. We had a lot of disagreements,’’ he says.
‘‘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 multimillionaire residents have every whim catered for. 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 (played by 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 in to the penthouse and find $30 million they believe Shaw has hidden.
Tower Heist is screening now.
Ben Stiller (left) and Casey Affleck star in the hit holiday crime comedy Eddie Murphy plays an ex-con