Ben Stiller

DodgeBall

Interviewed by Alana Lee

“I was hopeless at every sport! I never played any sports in school, ever ”

The title for Ben Stiller's latest comedy has proved apt, with DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story being the States' sleeper hit of the summer. He stars alongside wife Christine Taylor and Vince Vaughn in the unashamedly silly laugher, playing hilariously over-the-top gym owner White Goodman, a pumped-up prima-donna who'll stop at nothing to acquire downtrodden gym Average Joe's. With Starsky & Hutch and Along Came Polly already worldwide hits this year, there are three more Stiller movies to come in the next few months: Envy, Anchorman, and Meet The Parents sequel Meet The Fockers.

VIDEO EXCLUSIVES: BEN STILLER...

Can't be bothered to read the interview? Hit the two links below to see Ben's views on playing an unlikeable character, working with Vince Vaughn, the problem with comedy sequels, and being part of the 'Frat Pack'...

Clip 1: Landing DodgeBall and working with Vince Vaughn

Clip 2: Comedy sequels and being part of the 'Frat Pack'

When we see you for the first time on-screen, it looks like you've either been working out like crazy in the gym, or they've done remarkable things with CGI...

It's wearing the spandex unitards - they're unforgiving! I had to work out, but my character is so ridiculous, I don't think it would have mattered if he'd had a pot belly - he's just so obsessed with himself. Yeah, I worked out, but I just did whatever I had to do to fit into the singlet.

We don't really have dodgeball here in England. Were you worried that the film might not play so well overseas?

I thought that people might not get the film's name, because obviously it is an American thing. But the movie itself is a story about underdogs and it's a sports movie. In the States the thing was that it was a sports movie but about a silly sport. Hopefully the idea of the characters translates, and they're going through this experience that you can relate to. I don't think you ever know if anything is going to translate anywhere, though. When you're making the movie, you hope it's going to be funny but you can't think about anything else.

This is the third movie you and Vince Vaughn have collaborated on in 2004 (following Starsky & Hutch and Anchorman). Are you actively looking for projects to do together?

It was not the way I envisioned working with Vince, but I've wanted to work with him for many years, since Swingers. We've known each other since then, but nothing came together until this year when, all of a sudden, the Anchorman thing just happened - but I didn't even know Vince was in it when I agreed to the cameo.

Was there any sport at school which you were hopeless at?

Every sport! I never played any sports in school, ever.

As producer, was it your idea to hire Rip Torn as Patches O'Houlihan?

We were lucky enough to get Rip Torn, who's an incredible actor - so funny. I went to New York with Rawson [Marshall Thurber], the director. We met a bunch of really interesting people for that part, but Rip was the perfect guy to play that role. He has such great comic timing, and you also believe him. He wasn't playing the funny version, he was just playing the guy for real.

In many ways White Goodman is comparable to another of your characters, Derek Zoolander. Is that the type of character you enjoy playing?

I never really saw the correlation between the two guys until somebody pointed it out, but I guess they're both very narcissistic. Derek's more innocent and good-hearted. I think Derek Zoolander's narcissism is based on the fact that he really does love himself; I think White actually hates himself.

So are they alter egos of each other?

Maybe, I don't break it down like that. I don't think it's that complicated!

In Starsky & Hutch, you play the good guy and Vince is the villain. Was it a conscious decision to swap here? And is it hard to play a comedy villain?

No, it wasn't a conscious decision. Dodgeball and Starsky & Hutch both came together at more or less the same time. But I didn't see White as a comedy villain; I just thought he was a funny character. The fact that he was the bad guy? Whatever. Rawson had written a really funny, over-the-top character, who was very different from what Vince did in Starsky & Hutch, which was much more reality-based. For me, in Starsky & Hutch Vince's character grounds the movie, in the same way that his character in Dodgeball grounds the movie... basically, Vince is a much more realistic actor than I am, that's what I'm trying to say. He grounds any movie I'm in!