A stellar sequel

A stellar sequel

Ben StillerWhat are the blessings and challenges faced when approaching a sequel to a hit film?

People have an expectation from a sequel but they don’t want to see the same thing. They want it to be better, which it should be. You should try to make a better movie always. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t. All you can do is work on the script as much as possible and only do it if you think you can reach that goal. I thought the script was better and I thought it was exciting to have all the actors coming back and the new actors who were getting on board. For me, it was a chance to do something a little different because the character I’m playing, Larry, has moved out of being the night guard who doesn’t know what he’s doing and in wonder and awe of all of this stuff happening. Now he’s used to it and he’s left it behind.

Doing the first one was an exploratory process because we had no idea how the movie was going to turn out. Knowing what worked and understanding the characters and all that, like you do in any sequel, it’s good going in because there’s a little bit of a head start there.

How else did you and director Shawn Levy want to evolve the Museum story further?

Now there’s actually somebody else to interact with me through most of the movie, which is Amy Adams playing Amelia Earhart. Amy is such a good actress. She’s got this period, Katharine Hepburn-esque, fast talking style and panache. It was great to be able to work with her. There’s actually a little bit of a romantic thing going on between Larry and Amelia, which is nice.

What goes through your mind during some of the more effect-driven moments in the film?

It depends on the moment. When you are working with good actors, everybody’s invested in the reality because they’re good actors. That’s what I learned on the first one. You have to commit to something that’s not there, to reacting to something that’s not there and trust that it’s going to be seen believable and real. Working with the dinosaur a lot, or the lack of a dinosaur, was very educational for me. It’s always fun to see the finished product and realise, ‘Wow that really looks real!’

Having that knowledge in my head and doing scenes in this film with the squid, or the cherubs or other things that aren’t there, that you don’t see, you just invest in it. It’s actually fun because you can use your imagination a lot more and you don’t have to commit to anything specific because they’re going to do all of the animation later.

Does your own family look at you in a different light when you do films like Night at the Museum?

It’s a nice connection to have with them. It’s an interesting area with your own kids because they are kids and you want them to enjoy the fantasy of movies. But then as a parent, you want them to understand what you do so that you can explain when you are leaving to go to work and why you are going away.

Every parent has to somehow try and make their kid understand why they are going to work and it’s always a painful thing because you know kids don’t get it and really, there’s no reason why they should. Any justification is, ‘Well I have to go away to work to do this’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah. But I want you stay.’

I bring them to the set so they can see what it is that I’m doing. And on the one hand, they’re sort of like, ‘Oh wow!’ because they are young and they get that it’s a movie. But on the other hand, it’s like totally destroying the illusion for them, so that daddy can have you understand what he does and you won’t be mad at him when he goes away to work.

Which Ben Stiller do you prefer? The PG Stiller of films like Night at the Museum or the R-rated man from Tropic Thunder?

I love directing and that’s always been what I’ve loved the most. But doing a movie like this is so much fun because there’s a lot less responsibility. It’s great to be able to do both. And how often do you get a chance to work with these actors and these environments, and these sets and do a scene with a squid? To work with a giant squid, up close and personal, that’s once in a lifetime.

How about a European vacation in the next Museum film?

I’m up for a European jaunt that would be good. The Louvre could be good or the British Museum. There’s got to be some other place to explore and come to life.

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