Interviews: Stiller & Wilson Talk Starsky & Hutch


Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson star in the big screen version of Starsky & Hutch, which is about the origins of the charismatic crime-fighting duo. Stiller plays the tightly wound Detective David Starsky who is thrown together with Wilson’s easygoing Detective Ken Hutchinson on their first high-stakes case. recently got a chance to talk to the two, who have teamed up six times now, at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina Del Rey.

Was Starsky & Hutch part of your youth?

Ben Stiller: Yeah I was like ten years old when it came on the air. I was the target demographic I think. And we would play it all the time. Doing the movie, for me it was sort of impetus, it would be so much fun to do this because I used to do it for fun when I was a kid.

What is the trick of parodying something that already was kind of a parody in it’s day? Do you play it straight?

Owen Wilson: I think we didn’t go into it thinking we were going to make a parody of Starky & Hutch. I didn’t really think of the show as a parody. I remember thinking it was really cool. And it didn’t seem like they were spoofing what it was like to be cops. It felt kind of serious. Obviously this is like funny. When you go back and watch the show now, there is funny stuff in it kind of, but a lot of it is the nature of it being in the seventies and it’s kind of different now. But we just kind tried to honor what David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser created and make it a little but funnier.

What do you have to honor when you are playing Starsky & Hutch?

OW: For me as David Soul, I also sing in the movie so that’s part of honoring him. An homage to him ’cause the song that I sing was “Don’t Give Up On Us Baby” was a big David Soul hit. And then I guess you can’t really ask separately from Starsky how we interact together ’cause that’s what it seemed like when they showed up on the day to do their scene. They seemed they picked up where they left off and how good it is to see them play off each other.

Did David Soul and Michael Paul Glaser have any comments on how you played them?

OW: I felt when David Soul showed up, and I also spoke to him on the phone from England, that he seemed OK with it. Kind of gave me cast approval, I like to think. Maybe I’m kidding myself.

There was talk that David Soul and Michael Paul Glaser were upset because they thought that this was going to be a dumb action movie. Then there were negations and they ended up making cameos in the film. Did you get any feeling of that?

OW: No, I heard of that, because it was when I first became aware that we were going to do this, that there was what you were talking about. But by the time we started, they were going to be in the movie and it seemed like they kind of came to terms with it.

When in production did David Soul and Michael Paul Glaser do their cameos?

OW: Right towards the very end. So we already had a chance, Ben and I, to kind establish our chemistry so we weren’t too kind of outclassed by them.

BS: It was pretty intimidating for me.

There is comedic chemistry between the both of you. How do you know you have that chemistry together?

OW: I wait for the reviews to come out. (Ben Stiller laughs) I feel I have chemistry on every single movie.

BS: If I was waiting for that I’ll still be waiting. (Owen Wilson laughs) It’s just sort of who you feel comfortable with and have fun working with. The thing that I know with Owen is that he makes me laugh whenever I am around him. Sometimes not intentionally but that’s what part of the fun is, (Laughs) we kind of have fun together. Now I don’t know if that necessarily translates to having other people having fun watching it. But if people allow you to keep working together I guess that is something that says OK. I kind of feel we would want to work together even though nobody would want us to work together which is always kind of a good guide.

How hard is it to keep a straight face when the two of you are doing scenes together. How many takes does it take?

OW: I remember even on Meet The Parents there was something like on the outtakes of where it was very hard for me to keep a straight face as I’m telling Ben that his fiancee was like a real tomcat.

BS: The thing about Owen is like a lot of time is you work with somebody else and they crack you up. And the thing with Owen is that he cracks himself up a lot. And so it’s the other actor waiting for him to stop laughing at his own jokes.

What was your favorite scene in this movie to shoot?

OW: The scene where we go to, and this is from the original Starsky and Hutch, to interrogate this girl and she starts changing while we start talking to her. That was a fun scene.

BS: We weren’t actually cracking up we just didn’t want it to end. That’s where a real life situation sort of over takes the reality. It was funny. It was such a ridiculous scene. What I love about that scene it was just so unmotivated. There was just no reason why a girl would do that except in the 70’s reality of Starsky and Hutch.

Ben this was the first time that you had a chance with gun play. Did you go train with anybody?

BS: Yes and no, I did take classes, I don’t know what I’m doing with a gun. I went with some guy from the SWAT team of the LAPD who was very good and kind of gave instruction shooting real bullets which kind of helped when shooting the blanks because I think you have a real respect for the gun when you are shooting those real bullets. I don’t like guns. I came in kind of intimidated by them. So it was good. It was fun to learn.

OW: You could of fooled me.

Ben driving the Ford Grand Torino car in the movie looked like you were driving the car. Was that you really driving?

BS: I had a really great stunt driver named Cory Eubanks who happens to be Bob Eubanks son who is also one of the best stunt drivers in the business. He’s like in his mid 40’s, But he started out on The Dukes of Hazzard when he was a teenager. So he is really great. He gave me some lessons. We went out to a parking lot for a couple of days and he showed me how to reverse 180’s and stuff like that. So I felt confident. I never actually did the reverse 180’s on camera, because that is really dangerous. But it was fun to just know that I could attempt them. And I had a lot of fun driving the car. And I know Owen did to sitting next to me.

Ben you are family man now. Does your wife appreciate that?

OW: I kept making that point to him because I would try to encourage him not to drive. And I would say what you just said, you are a family man? It didn’t seem to get through.

BS: Well, I feel like on a movie set it’s such a controlled environment where like the stunt guys are there and they will tell you what’s safe to do and what’s not safe to do. And they say go ahead, go for it and giving you instruction it’s kind of a great way to be able that funs stuff in a very supervised atmosphere.

OW: Yeah, I remember doing a scene with Ben in the car. We kind of peeled around this corner. We finished and I go that was kind of close with the lady with the carriage. And he’s like what lady? He hadn’t even seen her as he kind of fish tailed around.

BS: Right, that’s because I was focused on the road. I was focused on what was in front of me which is what they told me to do. (Laughs)

Do you ever think of collaborating behind the camera together with Ben directing and Owen writing?

OW: Well, usually we are talking about acting stuff too.

BS: It just seems everything I work on to direct usually there is a part for Owen that pops up somewhere. It’s not like I’m trying to do it. It’s just like the kind of stuff I like in that way. I go, ‘Owen would be really funny doing that’. So I think we just have the natural sort of infinity for the same type of material.”

Ben, this is another character that you have played who is an uptight guy. Does it make you more like that in real life or less like that in real life. Do you get rid of those impulses?

BS: It’s interesting, I don’t know. I don’t analyze my own life that way so maybe you have to ask somebody else in my life if I’m really like that.

OW: I would say Ben, there is not that much identification between the way that Starsky sort of begins the movie as this kind of uptight guy and Ben in real life. Maybe there is something to the fact I’m from Texas. So Ben won’t accuse me of being more laid back and not accuse me of taking things as seriously. And sometimes I resent that because he kind of positions himself as a workaholic and everyone else is just kind of like. (Laughs)

BS: No I just expect sometimes like there is a looseness that Owen has, like a looseness.

OW: If you loose the looseness you lose 80% of what I am about.

BS: Things like learning your lines (Owen laughs) or showing up on time falls under the category under looseness with Owen.

Is there going to be place for Owen in The Meet Parents sequel?

BS: If he plays his cards right maybe (Laughs)

OW: I’m on the edge of my seat too for that question.

BS: Right now there is something in there, yeah I think there is. I think he has to show somewhere.

Are you excited that Dustin Hoffman is playing your father?

BS: I am very excited about it. The thing that I am most excited about, because I read the script, is his part in the movie is really, really funny. And I think in a sequel it has challenges, especially in a comedy sequel. I’ve never done a sequel. So the challenge is how do you make it funny again so it’s just not more of the same? And the cool thing in the script is that there is this new character that is different and great for De Niro to play off of. That I think will the freshness to the movie. So I’m really excited about that.

Has Barbra Streisand signed on to the sequel yet?

BS: I’m hoping that Streisand thing happens. I’m really hoping.

Owen, can you turn away from writing movies and just concentrate on acting?

OW: Well it seems every movie even that you act in ends up you do some writing on or at least coming up with ideas. But yeah kind sitting down, kind of conceiving an idea from start to finish I haven’t done that in a while. It would be nice to try it again. It’s sort of like having a term paper though. It’s something that I don’t get excited about. Sitting in a room for three months trying to create something. But it’s fun when you get on a role. It’s great to finish something obviously that’s more personal.

Ben, is your next movie that you are going to direct, What Makes Sammy Run, going to happen?

BS: I hope so. It’s just sort of gaining some momentum right now. It’s been a long project for me, it seems like it’s not the easiest movie to get made.

Do you think it’s having trouble getting made because of the nature of the book?

BS: Sure, a little bit yeah, I know that’s what the reception the book had when it was written in 1940. Budd Schulberg was sort of ostracized from Hollywood. But as Budd approaches his 90th birthday in March, it’s pretty incredible what the guy wrote that has lasted and is really still relevant.”

When you guys do a comedy you tend to improvise it. When do you come up with what you are going to do?

BS: I said Owen likes to keep it very fresh. He approaches the scene on the day and keeps his thoughts sort at bay until he looks at the script in the morning and I think there is something a value to that because you don’t obsess over it to much, and you don’t break it down to much. I think you have to understand how it’s going to work for you as the character and we are constantly both sort of coming at with our ideas sometimes budding head a little bit.

OW: That’s part of the process.

BS: That’s what makes it interesting. I think that you have to have sort of different opinions. And our characters are at different places and have different places. So it sort of works for that.”

So is the director referee or do you guys decide between yourselves?

OW: The director was sort of the referee. Ben accused me of having bought the referee. (Ben laughs) Paid him off.

BS: Owen will bond with Todd and they sort of would gain up about opinions they would have about a scene. And Todd’s opinion was definitely the final say.

OW: Ben could ask me what I thought about something. And I would say, ‘what does Todd think?’ Todd would tell us what he thinks and I would say that’s right.

BS: Right, it’s really funny how that would happen sometimes.

Ben does that mean you would obsess on a scene days beforehand?

BS: I’ll think about it beforehand. Not say beforehand. Just think about it. I don’t go home and lock myself up in a room or anything. Its just part of process when you read the script you think, ‘OK, how am I going to approach this? How does this make sense?’

Who do you bounce the ideas off of?

BS: The director, definitely will talk with Owen about it. Once I can direct Owen’s attention to the script, if he’s not in Eastern Europe shooting some action movie somewhere. That’s the process. It’s always different with everybody you work with. It’s always a different dynamic.

What was it like working with Snoop Dogg?

OW: He’s kind of funny, laid back, but his music seems a bit angrier than he is in real life. He’s real easy to get along with and you find out he coaches his son’s football team, he’s a family man.

BS: I’d been a fan of his music before and it’s interesting to see what his lifestyle is like and how he approaches his work. I wasn’t really surprised but fascinated. He was a fun guy to hang around.

Starsky & Hutch opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, March 5.