Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston Talk About "Along Came Polly"

Ben Stiller Jennifer Aniston
Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston star in "Along Came Polly.". Universal Pictures

He plays it safe, she’s a free-spirit. He carefully plans out his life, she goes with the flow. Get the picture? Ben Stiller (‘Reuben’) and Jennifer Aniston (‘Polly’) play the two opposites who are attracted to one another in the romantic comedy, “Along Came Polly,” directed by John Hamburg (“Safe Men”).

Ben Stiller and writer/director John Hamburg had previously teamed up on “Zoolander” and “Meet the Parents.” Hamburg wrote those scripts without a specific actor in mind, but admits he did think of his friend Stiller when it came to the character of Reuben.

“I was trying to write a romantic comedy and I had these characters in my mind. For the most part, I really did just try to write and not picture any actors in the roles because I like to write these people until they become real to me. But I had worked with Ben on several movies before, and the more I wrote Reuben, the more I thought that Ben was the perfect guy to do it. I think every day I imagined him doing different scenes,” recalls Hamburg.

As for casting the role of Polly, Hamburg was impressed with Aniston’s comedic skills and was a big fan of her work on “Friends,” “The Good Girl,” and “Office Space.” “I met with her and it just felt really right. I knew that she would have the ability to play the scenes opposite Ben and keep up with him in terms of comic ability and comic timing, but could also play the dramatic scenes. Jennifer brought so much to Polly, stuff that only she could create, and she is funny and sublime.”

Pairing up for interviews to promote their work in “Along Came Polly,” Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston set the record straight on working with ferrets, working off of one another, and chemistry.

How do you go back and forth between dramatic roles and comedic roles? How do you prepare?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I don't know.

Life can be dramatic and funny all in the same day. With “The Good Girl,” I was also going back and forth from “Friends” to that in one day. So I don't know. I think you just step into the building and that other stuff kind of goes out the door.

So there’s not really any difference in preparation?
JENNIFER ANISTON: It is the material. If you work from right in here [stomach], which I know Ben does just because he's so natural and so good.

BEN STILLER: I have been doing a lot of comedy lately, so I don't feel like I have been volleying back and forth for a while. But I think you kind of approach it the same way. You have an awareness of what the tone of whatever it is you are doing. But just coming from trying to be real in the moment. You're aware if you're in a comedy. I think choices can go a different way, which are more darker, but I think it's basically approaching it the same way.

Jennifer, I don't know if you are aware of this, but you are in “Ferrets Magazine” this month.
JENNIFER ANISTON: I didn't even know there was a ferret magazine. That is very exciting. You know, I feel sad for the ferret because I wasn't a big fan of the ferret. It's not the warmest, cuddliest…

BEN STILLER: I don't feel bad for the ferret.

JENNIFER ANISTON: It bit you, that's why. But yeah, of all the animals out there to work with, a ferret wouldn't be my first choice. But you know, I hope I pretended as though I really liked it.

You were bitten?
BEN STILLER: I was bitten by the ferret, yeah. I didn't do anything, I swear. It was really weird. We were doing this final scene where I come running after [Jennifer]. I'm holding the ferret and I also had just gotten a root canal the day before, so maybe it sensed that. I was holding it up [and] they are weird because... Do they have spines? Because he did this crazy turn-around thing and he literally attached himself to my chin. And then he didn't let go. He was holding on to my chin. It was this surreal thing, where it's like, “Okay, the ferret's on my chin.” Then I had to go and get a rabies shot.

JENNIFER ANISTON: Who wouldn't?

BEN STILLER: But I didn't provoke it at all. Their teeth are sharp like razors. They are rat-like creatures, let's just face it.

JENNIFER ANISTON: It's just a big rat at the end of the day.

PAGE 2: The Salsa Dance, Chemistry, and Broken Toes

ADDITIONAL “ALONG CAME POLLY” RESOURCES:
Interview with Hank Azaria and Debra Messing
"Along Came Polly" Photo Gallery
"Along Came Polly" Trailer, Credits, and Movie News

Can you talk about the physical challenges in "Along Came Polly?"
JENNIFER ANISTON: Wasn't he great in his salsa? That's what was so great about this job is I just laughed the whole time. Cracking up is fun, but you're not supposed to.

BEN STILLER: The salsa thing was, I just took classes for a while and worked with a choreographer and tried to be as good as I can possibly be. Which, of course is not that great, so luckily that worked for the script.

It's fun to have something specific to work on. The racquetball scene was one of those things that we shot it all day and the first hour you thought, "This is great. This is gonna be so cool." Then after an hour of playing racquetball - most people don't play for more than an hour, even professional racquetball players - those last 11 hours of the day were just torturous and horrible.

I think it is fun to have specific things to work on. Especially in the context of a movie like this where the guy's trying to be good and he's not really that good. That takes a lot of pressure off. You know you just try as hard as you can and know your best won't be good enough, which will be good for the movie.

JENNIFER ANISTON: I, however, was supposed to be a really good salsa dancer. I took two [classes]. I was supposed to take more but I didn't. It was good. Thank God we got that. We had two days in New York shooting and then the next bit for me was all of the salsa dancing.

And it was five days straight. My feet looked like raw meat. It was just disgusting. I don't know how those dancers do it, but it was so much fun. Then right after we shot those six days, I broke my toe. So thank God we took care of all of that stuff. I limped through the rest of the movie.

How did you break your toe?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I stubbed it.

It was stupid - absolutely ridiculous. I stubbed it on an ottoman that no longer is there and that was five months of that. But it was fun. I loved learning how to do it. I think it is an incredible dance and it was fun. And the ferret, as far as that, the woman was like, "He doesn't bite." She kept saying that. That was a mislead. But it didn't bite me for sure and I did manhandle it quite often. But Ben just had that unfortunate moment.

Are you ever sent scripts where you are asked to play the femme fatale? Would you play one?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I absolutely would play one. I am trying to think... Yeah, there have been, but they were not great.

How did you two work on getting that onscreen chemistry?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I don't think you 'get' that. I think that just has to be there.

Did you think about that?
BEN STILLER: I don't think about that. I know that at the end of the day, you hope that there is something there that works. It is fun to watch them together and you believe them as two people who would be in a couple, or be attracted to each other, or are just fun to watch together. But you can't just go for that result. There is nothing you can do about it.

I knew that we both kind of enjoyed each other's company and laugh together and have fun together.

Jennifer is just a great person to hang out with and is [an] extremely giving, fun, good person. But as far as how that translates to what people are watching on the screen, it is like anything else with what you are doing as an actor. I don't think you can be thinking about that because you can't control it. It is something you can't force.

JENNIFER ANISTON: You'd probably get a review [where] you'd hear something like it was a very self-conscious performance.

BEN STILLER: It's something that you can't force, so often you just have to hope that it's there. The director is sort of aware of watching what's going on and trying to foster whatever it is between the two actors while it's happening.

PAGE 3: A Naked Hank Azaria, "Friends," and "Starsky & Hutch"

ADDITIONAL “ALONG CAME POLLY” RESOURCES:
Interview with Hank Azaria and Debra Messing
"Along Came Polly" Photo Gallery
"Along Came Polly" Trailer, Credits, and Movie News

Jennifer, can you pinpoint one key comic element in Ben's work that you find particularly striking and Ben can you do the same thing for Jennifer?
JENNIFER ANISTON: I can tell you one thing off the top of my head: You know when you are listening to Jazz and they are just all over the place and it is unexpected? That is sort of like Ben. Ben does things that you sort of. [You] expect a line or you hear it or you read it on the page and if you're reading your lines and you know the scene, you can sort of anticipate what will be happening. That just never happens. It's always an interesting, which is why I think I laughed all the time while we are filming. He just surprises me and it is just unexpected all the time. That is why he is unique and real. It's always real. There is never a moment when you feel he is playing comedy. That's what I hate about a lot of comedies. When you're hitting a line or making it funny, he just pulls it right out from the truth.

BEN STILLER: I'd say that Jennifer's just, there's so few… How do I say it? I don't want to say that there are so few women who are good at comedy. That sounds like a really sexist thing to say, but she really is one of the few actresses that I know where she has such impeccable timing as a comedienne/actress, and I don't mean that in a bad way. She really listens and she has timing in terms of knowing. I don't think that it comes out of a premeditated thing. It's just in her bones.

She knows when to say it and when to not say anything. She just takes things in and she listens in a way that's very real too, I think. [She has] just incredible timing, which I think is a real gift.

Can you talk about the challenge of working with a naked Hank Azaria?
BEN STILLER: Hank, of course, transformed himself into this frightening creature.

I couldn't stop staring at his pecs, which is great because when he turned around, I didn't have to look at his butt because I was thinking about his pecs so much. Boy, I don't know. It was really fun. Talking about people cracking you up. Hank just cracked me up constantly. He's just so ridiculous. There was one scene in particular where he takes Debra [Messing] off to go on the boat and he comes over and I tell him, “Just take care of her because she's like the most important thing in my life,” and we just could not get through it. I couldn't get through it. What am I saying? He just kept on. He's really one of the funniest people on earth. It was fun to watch him come in with his bronzed physique and the ridiculous wig and do his thing.

Did you have a butt double?
BEN STILLER: I wish I had. I wish I had.

Ben, have you finished “Starsky & Hutch?”
BEN STILLER: Yes, we finished it. It's coming out in March and it's a comedy. It was really fun. I had a great time doing it. I think that Todd Phillips did a great job of writing it and directing it and Snoop Dogg is in it playing Huggy Bear. For me, it was a chance to do something a little bit different, which I really enjoyed.

How was it different?
BEN STILLER: I guess, well, in not playing the neurotic, accident-prone guy.

It was just fun. I loved that show. I loved the tone that Todd set up for the movie, which is sort of hard to describe.[It’s] not a spoof in any way, but it does take place in the '70s and is in the time that the show was done. But it's not making fun of that era. The way that Todd describes it, which I think is kind of apt, is that it's as if this was the first pilot that they did for “Starsky and Hutch,” and then they recast. That's kind of what the tone of it is. It was really fun. I had a great time.

Jennifer, what was the highlight of working on "Friends?"
JENNIFER ANISTON: I think it is going to be one of the hardest things. It already is one of the hardest things. We have three shows left and we are all just like raw nerves over there and emotional. Nobody really knows what to do. We are just a little bit out of our bodies.

It's hard. 10 years of this incredible group of people and it is weird that it is ending because it doesn't seem like it really needs to, but it does. And so yeah, six months from now, the highlight was the whole damn thing. It is the greatest experience I have ever had. I probably will never have an experience anything close to this ever again.

Matthew Perry got to meet Mary Tyler Moore recently. She is doing a play in New York and she said to him, "I know that your show is coming to an end..." And he said to her, "Yeah, how did you do it? How did you survive?" And she still hasn't gotten over it. So yeah, my future looks good, but it's hard.

ADDITIONAL “ALONG CAME POLLY” RESOURCES:
Interview with Hank Azaria and Debra Messing
"Along Came Polly" Photo Gallery
"Along Came Polly" Trailer, Credits, and Movie News