Interviews: Stiller & Aniston on Along Came Polly


Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston star in the new Universal romantic comedy Along Came Polly, from writer/director John Hamburg. Stiller portrays risk-averse Reuben Feffer, whose best-laid plans for life and love zoom wildly off track when his wife (Debra Messing) dumps him on their honeymoon for a scuba instructor (Hank Azaria). Stunned, humiliated and in the grip of acute indigestion, Reuben plans to play it safer than ever. But a chance encounter with an adventure-craving, globe-trotting friend from middle school (Aniston) shoots him into a whirlwind of extreme sports, spicy foods, ferrets, salsa dancing and living in the moment. recently joined a conversation with Stiller and Aniston about the film:

How do you volley the dramatic roles with these hilarious roles?

Jennifer Aniston: Life can be dramatic and funny and all in the same day. With ‘The Good Girl’ I was also going back and forth from ‘Friends’ to that, in one day. I think you just kind of, you step into the building and that other stuff kind of goes out the door. It’s the material, you kind of just cut work. If you work from right in here (indicating heart), which I know Ben does just because he’s so natural and so good. I think there’s that difference between coming from here (heart) and then here (brain) you think too much.

Ben Stiller: I’ve been doing a lot of comedy lately so I don’t feel like I’ve been volleying back and forth for awhile. But I think you kind of approach it in the same way, though. I think so. I mean you have an awareness of what the tone of whatever it is you’re doing is, but it’s just coming from trying to be real and in the moment and you’re aware if you’re in a comedy, I think, sometimes choices can go a different way which are a little bit darker. But I think it’s basically approaching it the same way.

Jennifer, you’re on the cover of Ferret Magazine. Can you talk about working with the ferret?

JA: I didn’t know there was a Ferret magazine. That’s very exciting. You know I feel sad for the ferret because I wasn’t a big fan of the ferret. You know, it’s not the warmest, cuddliest.

BS: You don’t have to feel bad for the ferret.

JA: I did. There was a scene where we’re running down the street and this poor thing, remember…

BS: I don’t feel bad for the ferret.

JA: It bit you, that’s why. But yeah. Of all the animals to get to finally work with, a ferret wouldn’t be my first choice. But you know, I hope I pretended as though I really liked it.

BS: Yeah, ferrets are strange.

You were bitten by the ferret?

BS: I was bitten by the ferret.

JA: Of all people.

What did you do?

BS: I didn’t do anything. I swear. It was really weird because we were doing this final scene where I come like running after you and I’m holding the ferret. Do you remember the…

JA: I do remember it.

BS: And I also had just gotten a root canal the day before so I was little sensitive there. But I was holding him up like this or whatever, and they’re weird because do they have spines? Because he did this crazy like turn around think and he literally like attached himself to my chin. And then he didn’t let go. He was holding onto my chin and it was like this surreal thing where it’s, ‘Okay the ferrets on my chin.’ And then I had to go get a rabies shot.

JA: Yeah. Who wouldn’t?

BS: But I didn’t provoke him at all.

Aren’t their teeth like razors?

BS: They’re teeth are sharp. They’re sharp like razors.

Jennifer, you’re committed to the TV show. How picky can be with movie scripts that are out there? And what are examples of some of the things you don’t want to do?

JA: Well things I don’t want to do are the things that I’ve already done that I regret. So I look out for the sort of cliche romantic comedies, sort of very formula, you know. The thing I’m attracted is really just, I mean, and I’m sure everybody, hopefully is, is just good writing. And the story that’s based somewhat in reality. If it’s too much of a gimmick of the guy wants to, pretends to be the husband to send the fake letter to get the girl and he was there the, you know all of those sort of gimmicky things I avoid. But, sometimes you don’t really know. You think you’re making a great choice and it’s just not. What was the first question about the show?

How picky can you be given your availability is limited?

JA: Well yeah, it’s hard. But after, in a couple of a weeks, I won’t have that problem anymore.

Ben, having played this sort of neurotic, accident prone character in a number of movies, how do you keep it interesting?

BS: I don’t know. I kind of just take it on a case by case basis. And I really felt the script for this was good and I like working with John Hamburg. So I didn’t really kind of look at it in that way. But if you’re trying to tell me something. Um, I don’t know. You know, I think you just take it on a case by case basis. And for me, it was exciting to work with the people in the movie. And I thought the cast was great in this film, to work with Jennifer and Phil Hoffman. If the material and the project seems like a good thing, that’s how I look at it.

Can you guys talk about the physical challenges of doing comedy?

JA: Wasn’t he great in his salsa?

How did you stop from laughing?

JA: It was not easy. That’s what was so great about this job is that I just laughed all the time. Cracking up is usually when it’s fun, when you’re not supposed to.

BS: You know the salsa thing was, I just took classes for a while, working with the choreographer and tried to be as good as I possibly could be, which, of course, was not that great, so… luckily that worked for the script. And it’s fun to have something to focus on and something specific to work on. And the racketball scene was just, you know it was one of those things that we shot it all day and the first hour you’re like, ‘Oh this is great. This is going to be so cool.’ And then after an hour, of course, of playing racketball, most people don’t play for more than an hour even professional racketball players, so those last 11 hours of the day were torturous and horrible. But it’s fun, I think it’s fun to have some specific things to work on. Especially in the context of the movie like this where the guy’s trying to be good but he’s not really that good. That takes a lot of pressure off because you know you can try as hard as you can and know that your best won’t be good enough, which will be good for the movie.

JA: I, however, was supposed to be a really good salsa dancer.

BS: But that came naturally to you, you just moved.

JA: It was, yeah.

BS: You didn’t take a single class.

JA: I took two. I was supposed to take more. But I didn’t, but it was good. Thank God, we got that. It was the first six days, no we had two days in New York shooting, and then the next bit for me was all of the salsa dancing and it was 6 days straight. My feet looked like raw meat. I mean it was just disgusting. I don’t know how those dancers do it. But it was so much fun. And then right after we shoot those 6 days, I broke my toe. So thank God we took care of all that stuff.

How did you break your toe?

JA: Oh I stubbed it. I was just stupid. It was absolutely ridiculous on an ottoman that no longer is there. Oh yeah. And, that was six, five months of that. But it was fun. I loved it. I loved learning how to do that, I think it’s an incredible dance and it was fun. And the ferret as far as that, the woman was just like, ‘No, he doesn’t bite.’

BS: She did. She kept saying that.

JA: Yeah, yeah. No. That was a mislead. But it didn’t bite me for sure. And I did manhandle it quite often. But Ben has had that unfortunate moment.

Do each of you do something in your day to day life that similar to these characters. Ben, what are you detailed orientated about? And Jen, what’s the last thing you did that said, ‘What the hell’ and just go with it?

BS: I’m not neurotic about germs or, I like eat food off the floor if something drops, I mean quickly. I don’t have that issue. I guess, I don’t know, but you know, I’m not a great dancer, so that’s probably the closest.

JA: Really? I heard you were a good dancer.

BS: No. I don’t dance in public anyway.

JA: Free spirit, I don’t know. I mean I’m pretty controlled, I have to say. There were aspects of Polly that are very similar to me in terms of indecision and commitment. I’m trying to think of the last time I just said, ‘What the hell,’ and did something crazy.

BS: Maybe you can’t talk about it.

JA: Maybe I can’t talk about it, that’s probably why nothing’s come rushing to the front of my brain.

Jennifer, can you talk about how you think the ending of ‘Friends’ may be? And what will have been the highlight for you of the ‘Friends’ experience?

JA: I think it’s going to be one of the hardest things. It already is one of the hardest things, I mean we have three shows left and we’re all just like raw nerves over there and emotional. Nobody really knows what to do. We’re just a little bit out of our bodies. And it’s hard. It’s just ten years of this incredible group of people and it’s weird that it’s ending because it doesn’t seem like it really needs to, but it does. I mean, so yeah, in six months from now the highlight was the whole damn thing. I mean it was just the greatest experience I ever had and I’ll probably will never have an experience anywhere, anything close to this ever again. And speaking to people, Matthew Perry got to meet Mary Tyler Moore, she’s doing a play in New York. And she said to him, ‘I know that you’re show is coming to an end.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, how did you do it? How did you survive?’ And she said she still hasn’t gotten over it. So I think my future looks good in terms of, you know. And same with Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, all these people who have had shows that are… Danny just did our show and he said, ‘There’s not a day that you don’t still think about it.’ There’s just that family. That thing is unlike anything else. Unlike any movie.

This is a screwball romantic comedy. I wonder Jennifer if you could pinpoint the comic elements of Ben’s work that you find particularly striking and if Ben could do the same thing for Jennifer?

JA: I, I know the one the thing off the top of my head, he always will do something that is just, he’s like, I don’t even know how to explain it. You know how when you’re listening to jazz and they’re all over the place it’s unexpected.


JA: A riff, sure. Ben just kind of, he does things that you sort of expect a line or you hear it and you read it on the page and then, you kind, you know if you’re reading your lines and your looking the scene and sort of fake anticipate what will be happening it never happens, it’s always an interesting. Which is why I think I laugh all the time while we’re filming. Because I’m not very professional. It’s just unexpected all the time. And it’s why he’s unique and real. And its always real. There’s never a moment where you feel like he’s playing comedy. That’s what I hate about a lot of comedies is when you’re hitting a line or making it funny. He just pulls it right out from the truth and it’s brilliant.

BS: I’d say, I was, Jennifer’s she just, there’s so few, I don’t know, how do say it. I don’t want to sound, no I don’t want to sound like, ‘Oh there’s so few women who are good at comedy.’ You know it sounds like a really sexist thing to say. But she really is one of the few actresses I’ve known who, she has such impeccable timing as a comedienne/actress. I don’t mean that in a bad way.

JA: And I don’t take it in a bad way.

BS: But she really listens and she has timing in terms of knowing what, and I don’t think it comes out of a pre-meditated sort of thing, it’s just in her bones. And she knows when to say it and when to not say anything. And she just takes things in and she listens in a way that’s very real too, I think. And just incredible timing, which is, I think, a real gift.

Ben, have you finished ‘Starsky and Hutch’?

BS: Yeah, we finished it and it’s coming out in March. And it’s a comedy. And it was really fun. I had a great time doing it. I think Todd Phillips did a great job writing it and directing it. And Snoop Dogg is in it playing Huggy Bear. It was, for me, a chance to do something a little bit different which I really enjoyed.

In what way?

BS: Well, you know, I guess not playing the neurotic, accident prone guy. And it was fun. I love that show. I love the tone that Todd set up for the movie which is sort of hard to describe. It’s not a spoof in anyway, but it does take place in the 70s. And it’s in the time that show was done. But it’s not making fun of that era. It’s kind as if, the way that Todd describes, which I think it kind of apt, is he says it’s as if the first pilot they did for ‘Starsky and Hutch’ and then they recast. And that’s kind of what the tone of it is. It was really fun. I had a great time.

Can you talk about the challenge of working with a naked Hank Azaria?

BS: Well, you know, Hank, of course, you know transformed himself into this frightening. . .

JA: Demi-god.

BS: Yeah. It’s just, this creature, that was, I couldn’t stop staring at his pecks. Which was great because then when he turned around, I didn’t have to look at his butt. Because I was thinking about his pecks. Boy, I don’t know. It was really fun. Hank really, talk about people cracking you up. Hank just cracked me up constantly. You too, all of us. Because it was so ridiculous. There was one scene in particular where he takes Debra off to go on the boat and he comes over and I tell him you know, ‘Just take care of her because she’s like the most important thing in my life.’ And we could not get through it. I couldn’t get through it. What am I saying, he’s just really one of the funniest people on Earth. So it was fun to watch him come in with his bronze physique and the ridiculous wig and do his thing.

Did you have a butt double?

BS: I wish I had.

Ben, is there anything you won’t do for comedy?

BS: I guess not. I am embarrassed. I am. What can I tell you. I don’t know. I mean I just really, again, it’s that kind of take it on a case by case basis with each project and John Hamburg is a guy who I really respect and have worked with before and we’ll have discussion about scenes like that, that are difficult sometimes personally for me to approach. And we talk about it and figure out what’s right for the movie and if it’s really worth it. Usually the discussion is like, ‘Well we’ll try and if it doesn’t work, it won’t be in the movie.’ And then it’s always in the movie. One of those things. But yeah, the hardest thing for me in this movie probably was the bathroom scene and the scene with the guy – the basketball scene with the guy, because John insisted becoming Stanley Kubrick for that moment, so we had multiple takes til we got it right.