Under the Circuit: Ben Stiller


Most Known For: “There’s Something About Mary,” “Zoolander,” “Tropic Thunder”

Snubbed For: “Tropic Thunder”

Ben Stiller is one of the biggest comedy stars of his generation. He has been at the center of some of the funniest movies of this century. But it’s not Stiller’s acting chops that have been surprisingly ignored by the Academy, but rather his writing that has gone unrecognized.

The son of comedy legends Gerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Stiller has lived up to his famous parents. His career got started in the 90s, first with his own sketch comedy show, “The Ben Stiller Show.” It was short lived, but Stiller quickly made his mark as a comedy star with roles in “Heavyweights,” “Happy Gilmore” and “The Cable Guy.” His star would sky rocket, though, after starring in “There’s Something About Mary.”

Once he became a proven commodity, Stiller was able to write his own films. To this point he has only done so twice, but he succeeded both times. His first screenplay was “Zoolander,” which he based on a couple of TV shorts that featured his Derek Zoolander character. Though not a hit when it first came out, “Zoolander” has become a comedy classic with countless quotable lines. Far to silly to have any real shot with the Academy, but a great comedy script nonetheless.thunder1

It would be seven years until Stiller came out with his second screenplay, but it was certainly worth the wait. “Tropic Thunder” was a sharp and rich satire of the film industry disguised as a ridiculous action/comedy. It’s an outrageous send-up on everything Hollywood has to offer, including the idea of Oscar bait movies, which “Tropic Thunder” certainly was not. That didn’t stop them from nominating Robert Downey Jr. however for his supporting turn, but even in a weaker year for Original Screenplay, “Tropic Thunder” and Stiller couldn’t find any love.

Stiller also has stepped behind the camera for both of his screenplays, and also took on directing duties for the third time with 2013’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Though there was some small pushes for the latter, Stiller’s directorial work has never been a major threat, though he certainly has the capabilities.

Despite his strong work behind the scenes, Stiller is primarily known as an actor. While he hasn’t given a performance that I would necessarily call snubs, Stiller has shown on more than one occasion his talent as an actor. Whether it be in David O. Russell’s “Flirting with Disaster,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” or Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg,” Stiller has shown that he has range beyond his crazy comedy creations, but none found a place at the awards table.

greenberg-gall3Will that change next year when he reunites with Baumbach on the upcoming “While We’re Young?” The role should be a nice fit for Stiller, but a March release date is tough to overcome. Outside of that, the only other film Stiller is actively developing is the long awaited “Zoolander 2,” but like its predecessor, highly doubtful it’s something that Academy will seriously entertain.

Stiller isn’t someone who seems to be chasing the awards though but he continues to mix indie with the big budget comedies with broad appeal. One of these days Stiller could find a role that from one of the those fields that finds a niche in the Academy, but it’s not something he seems to actively be thinking of. He does usually find his way to the Oscars nearly every year though, as one of their most consistently funny presenters.

Stiller will next be seen in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb,” opening in theaters Friday, Dec. 19.