Ben Stiller biography

Ben Stiller

Date of Birth: November 30, 1965

This New York native was born into the business—both his mother (Anne Meara) and his father (Jerry Stiller) are actors. If his father's name rings a bell, that's because you may have seen him on a little show about nothing that became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time—Seinfeld, playing George's father.

Stiller grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side, immersed in his parents' show business lifestyle. He and older sister Amy picked up acting by copying mom and dad. At 10, Stiller made his professional acting debut in a guest appearance on Kate McShane, a series that featured his mother in the title role. It was also that year that he got his hands on that most familiar of celebrity childhood relics, the Super 8 camera, and, enlisting sis as his all-purpose production assistant, began making movies.

Fast forward to 1983. Stiller only lasted nine months as a film major at UCLA before deciding college had little to offer him. Back to New York and back at home, Stiller mooched off his parents, applied himself to acting classes, and hired an agent over the course of the next year. In 1985, he snared a role in a Broadway revival of John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves, an enormously successful production that ultimately garnered four Tonys. During the show's run, Stiller followed a whim and shot a short satirical documentary whose principal subject was fellow Blue Leaves cast member John Mahoney. Well-received by his castmates, Stiller followed it up with a 10-minute parody of Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money called "The Hustler of Money" with Mahoney playing the Paul Newman role to Stiller's Tom Cruise. A copy eventually wound up in the hands of the producers of Saturday Night Live, who bought the rights and aired it in 1987. That same year, Stiller also made his feature-film acting debut in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun.

A season of Saturday Night Live followed in 1989, and shortly thereafter Stiller got behind the camera for an MTV comedy special, Back to Brooklyn. Network execs liked his work so much that they offered the him a weekly show, and The Ben Stiller Show appeared in its original cable-access incarnation in 1990. Though MTV's interest was fleeting, Fox picked up the show for its 1992 fall lineup, and Stiller revamped the cast to include then-unknowns Janeane Garofalo and Andy Dick. Ultimately though, Stiller's show was dumped by Fox as well.

The frustrated comic then focused his efforts on forging a career in film. Directing Reality Bites, Stiller also ironically played a shallow careerist yuppie on the corporate fast track at the MTV-esque In Your Face network. Co-starring Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke, it did not do well at the box-office, but became a cult favorite.

Lingering buzz from the film helped Stiller secure his next job as director of the 1996 Jim Carrey-Matthew Broderick vehicle The Cable Guy. He followed it that same summer acting in the lead role of the indie film Flirting With Disaster and in 1998, he had his first big success as an actor with the sleeper hit There's Something About Mary.

Hot on the heels of the Farrelly Brothers' comedy came writer-director Neil LaBute's Your Friends And Neighbors; permanent midnight, in which he portrayed heroin-addicted writer Jerry Stahl; Mystery Men, in which he played Mr. Furious; and The Suburbans, a comedy about one-time teen rockers who reunite for a comeback tour.

2000 began with a mixed bag of roles: as a corrupt undercover cop in Black And White; co-headlining in Edward Norton's directorial debut Keeping The Faith; and as Greg Focker, a nurse about to ask for his girlfriend's hand in marriage from the future father-in-law from hell (Robert De Niro) in Meet the Parents. He wrote and starred in the box office and critical success Zoolander (2001), in which he played a clueless male model, followed by The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), in which Stiller worked with his good friends Owen and Luke Wilson. He would reteam with Owen Wilson for the hit action comedy Starsky & Hutch (2004) but first appeared with Drew Barrymore in Duplex, an off-color comedy that was ignored at the box office and Along Came Polly (2004), playing a man afraid to take risks but who has to find courage when he falls in love with Polly, played by Jennifer Aniston. When Along Came Polly opened, it became the first film to knock the box office smash The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) from its five-week hold on the No. 1 spot. In 2012, Stiller reprised his role as the voice of Alex the lion in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012). He voiced the character for the series' previous films as well. Stiller also appeared on the big screen in the 2012 comedy The Watch about a group of fathers who start a neighborhood watch group and end up having to fend of aliens. He then starred in several films including While We're Young (2016). He can most recently be seen in Zoolander 2 (2016).

In 2008 Ben won a Hollywood Film Award for Tropic Thunder (2008), which he directed, co-wrote and starred in. He was nominated for a People's Choice Award in 2010, as Favorite Comedy Star.

In May 2000, Ben married actress Christine Taylor, who played Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch movie (1995) and Matilda Jeffries in Zoolander. They have two children: Ella Olivia, born April 10, 2002 and Quinlin Dempsey, born July 10, 2005.

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