By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are three of the funniest actors in Hollywood and have worked with each other in various comedies over the years. Stiller and Vaughn co-starred in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “Dodgeball” and Stiller and Hill shared a scene in “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”
They star in the sci-fi comedy “The Watch,” in which they play small town Ohio residents who take it upon themselves to protect their community against a mysterious outside threat that has killed a security guard at their local Costco. They are joined by newcomer Richard Ayoade, a British comedian and director, who has a quirky sense of humor. The comedy, directed by Akiva Schaffer initially was titled “Neighborhood Watch” but was changed in deference to the Trayvon Martin shooting death at the hands of Neighborhood Watch member George Zimmerman in February.
Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade recently sat down together to talk about their new R-rated comedy in which they play these oddball characters who take it upon themselves to defend themselves—and their town—against aliens.
Front Row Features: For Ben, you’ve known all these guys for some time, and this is the third time you’ve worked with Vince. Did your previous association with them make it easier to do?
Stiller: I love working with these guys. It’s great to work with the people who make you laugh and who are funnier than I am. Vince and I had a really fun time working on “Dodgeball” together and it was exciting to have a chance to do something again with him. It had been a while for us, so it was exciting to have a chance to do something new together, and being in a totally different kind of relationship too. I’m just a fan of these guys. I met Richard a little bit because we had been able to be executive producers of his feature film “Submarine.” Jonah and I did a scene in the “Night in the Museum” together and we had so much fun doing that. We were really looking forward to work together again.
Hill: He had fun.
Stiller: We had fun. You said you had fun, too.
Hill: Yeah, yeah, whatever. I’m joking. We had an amazing time.
Stiller: They are all just really funny guys, so and when you’re a fan of somebody that really helps. Especially with a movie like this, it was important for us to have fun with each other and make it seem like you want to hang out with these guys. So we were actually enjoying it, the process.
Front Row Features: Each of your characters doesn’t change that much compared to a lot of modern comedies. Is it nice to lock into a character and stick with it throughout?
Stiller: The fun thing for me is to be a part of a movie where you don’t have to worry about being in R-rated film. You can have a lot more freedom. In terms of the structure, I think that these characters were who they were, and I don’t think it was about having it all sort of tied up in bow at the end. It was more about these guys hanging out and how they affected each other. It wasn’t about teaching lessons or anything. There is sort of an emotional connection these guys do have by the ending and showing up for each other. I feel like (emotional thread) is there sort of underneath the surface, but it’s not too sappy or anything.
Vaughn: The fun of it is that all the characters are kind of unique in their own ways, struggling with their own things, and this kind of larger circumstance will kind of bring them all together. You kind of earn more of the friendship with the characters that are all kind of conflicted first, or they all seeing things differently but, ultimately, I think you really earned a friendship or an understanding between the characters. So it’s more about them kind of being faced with something extraordinary versus just them growing in their personal lives.
Front Row Features: Was it important to keep the CGI to a minimum so as not overwhelm the comedy?
Stiller: We did end up using CG for some of it and at some point it’s actually a hybrid of a guy (“Pan’s Labyrinth’s” Doug Jones) in a suit and CGI.
Front Row Features: Is it nice to make people laugh while also fighting off aliens in action scenes?
Stiller: The movie first and foremost is a comedy, so the should be believable, and you should believe the aliens, but just enough that you can have the fun of the movie. When people come to a movie like this, they want to laugh and they are not necessarily looking for us to be these kick ass-bad ass hero guys. They want to feel like it makes sense for the movie, and the comedy of it. Just sort of finding that tone that makes it feel real enough to these guys in that situation.
Front Row Features: Vince, you play an overprotective dad of a teenage daughter. Did being a father in real life help you find this character?
Vaughn: My daughter is 20 months old now, so I’m a long away from that. (He laughs.)
Front Row Features: Ben, your character has a very intense, Tom Cruise-style of running. Was his style of running something you were aiming for while making this movie?
Stiller: Tom Cruise’s running has a huge impact on the world. I mean, let’s face it, culturally, everybody wants to run like Tom Cruise. I think (my character) Evan is probably a Tom Cruise fan, and when he sees his moment to run after the alien, he goes into his full Cruise-mode.
Front Row Features: Jonah, you proved you had dramatic chops in “Moneyball.” Why did you return to comedy? Do you prefer one genre to the other?
Hill: I could not have had better time making this movie with these groups of guys. I really like doing both dramas and comedies. They are both really different. This was the hardest I’ve ever laughed while making a movie. On a drama set, that generally is not the case. These guys are people who have made me laugh for a long time, people who I’ve learned a lot from watching their movies before I was ever in movies.
Stiller: When you were a child?
Hill: Yeah. When you guys were in your 40s, I was like four or five or whatever. (He laughs.) No, I really love these guys. Ben and Vince are very important people to me from learning about comedies growing up and stuff. So, to get to work with them was great. Akiva, Richard and I were friends beforehand, so it was a great experience.
Front Row Features: Richard, you’re a bit of newcomer to film. How did you like working with these guys?
Ayoade: I like these fellas’ comedies a great deal. I think Buster Keaton is pretty good, and that whole deadpan thing he does. Yeah, those five people are pleasing to me. I’ve never been in a film before, so I feel uniquely unqualified to participate in this. My wife said, and she’s right, it’s going to look like I won a competition to be in a film with movie stars. And there were several days when I was like, “Why are Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill looking at me? Oh, I’m in a scene with them. I ought to start trying to act back.”
Vaughn: Richard is so funny. He brought such an original voice and great ideas and is just funny in the movie.
Front Row Features: For Vince and Ben, with news of “Anchorman 2” coming out, I was interested in you would be interested in reprising your roles from the first film.
Stiller: Yeah, sure. I would show up for that.
Vaughn: Yeah. Me too.