Ben Stiller, Rebel Wilson, Dan Stevens, Ricky Gervais Talk Fun Times Shooting 'Night at the Museum 3'
- Category: Interviews
- Created: Tuesday, 23 December 2014 14:55
- Published: Friday, 26 December 2014 11:48
- Written by Lupe R Haas
Who needs journalists when the cast of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUEM: SECRET OF THE TOMB are entertaining enough with their back-and-forth funny banter at the recent press conference promoting the third film in the Night at the Museum franchise. Shooting the film in London must have been a riot with comedic geniuses like Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, and the late and great Robin Williams reprising their roles with newcomers Rebel Wilson and Downtown Abby's Dan Stevens joining the fun.
Ben Stiller takes the show on the road with our favorite historical characters meeting new figures in a quest to save the magic before it disappears forever. The cast and director Shawn Levy sit down for a Q&A about their experience working together once again, and if there will be a fourth Night at the Museum.
Q: Did you gentlemen, especially Shawn and Ben, Ricky, did you have any idea, when you did the first Night at the Museum eight years ago, that the series would be so, so popular? And why do you think it is so popular with adults and children?
Shawn Levy: Well, I don’t think you can ever go into making a movie and presume that it would ever be this popular. I mean, it’s some kind of fantasy that something you create will be embraced to this extent. So no, we knew we had a really great idea at the core of this, but the way that it was embraced worldwide and to this extent was this incredibly fantastic surprise. And as for why, I don’t know. Ben, what do you think?
Ben Stiller: I have no idea. You never know. You make movies, you do your best and you hope they connect. What I mean by that is that every time you go out, you hope something’s going to connect and you have an idea of why you think it might connect. And this movie, I thought when I read it, this is an idea I would love to see and something that made me feel connected with my childhood and fantasies I had as a kid, of things coming to life. So it’s nice that that thought process actually connected with, you know, the rest of the world. It doesn’t always happen.
Q: One thing I really liked about, especially this third film, is the way it comes full circle, among other things, a father and son story. I feel like that’s a big part of the film and the heart of the film.
Shawn: That was a conscious decision. I remember early on, like years ago, it’s been five years since our last movie and a couple years ago, Ben and I talked and discussed, you know what, I think it’s important to recentralize this father and son story because it grounds all the zany activity in something relatable and in those dynamics between parent and child. So yeah, that was a very conscious decision to kind of place that back at the heart of the story.
Q: Rebel and Dan, you’re newcomers to the family here. So what was it like jumping into the rhythm of this team that’s sort of been doing this for quite a while?
Rebel Wilson: It was good once the hazing was over. That was quite brutal. Especially Ben, he just has a lot of weapons. No, I’m just kidding. There was no real hazing! I was a little bit intimidated to come into such an amazing ensemble of actors. I was pretty scared before I had to do my first scene with you.
Ben: Really, I couldn’t tell.
Rebel: I tried to be like, super confident and be like, “Hey Ben…” But like really inside, I was like, “Oh, my god.”
Ben: I was actually amazed at how confident and self-assured you were on the set, not knowing you. Walking into that situation, take it upon yourself to try things and feel free to throw stuff out there, and you seem to really have no problem with that.
Rebel: Even though it was like, below zero degrees, I just had no problem improvising for very long amounts of time.
Q: And how about you, Dan?
Dan Stevens: You know, it was obviously a little daunting stepping out there, but it’s also a wonderful thing to have two movies ahead of you, so even if Lancelot didn’t know what world he was stepping into, I kind of did. And I loved the first two movies and so I knew what world I was thrown into.
Q: Well, your doppelganger is hilarious.
Rebel: And sexy.
Q: Very sexy, there you go! There’s a ringing endorsement. How long did it take you to get made up as La and did you sort of do scenes with yourself?
Ricky Gervais: He’s made up now. He’s like that naturally! This is him. He’s been waiting to do that for ages. He just does that.
Ben: Yeah, it was like three hours the first time. It was fun because there’s a freedom there. You know, I love the cavemen from the first two movies. Those guys are the same guys from all three films and they’re a great bunch of actors. So it was fun to bond with them and hang out and just kind of like, learn from them a little bit.
Ricky: Who’s the guy without the teeth?
Rebel: He’s amazing! He’s always in character!
Ricky: I just love how we were watching him jump around and we were going, “You’re amazing, you’re amazing,” and he went, “Ah, I’m 48.” [Laughs]
Ben: That’s the funny thing. We all aged as actors, but the creatures are supposed to not age, so that’s the interesting thing, is everybody gets to sort of get frozen in time.
Rebel: If you look closely at Sacagewea, you might notice a diff...no! She looks great.
Ben: It was great to have a chance to jump into that. And then doing the scenes was just like, we figured it out. It’s a weird thing where you have to sort of figure out which character is doing more of the action in the scene and then you do that character first. And then Shawn is an actor, I don’t know if you guys are aware that Shawn is an actor…
Shawn: There is a reason why I switched to directing in my early twenties.
Ben: And it’s the reason why YouTube is so much fun.
Ricky: Tell me the credits!
Shawn: Zombie Nightmare!
Ricky: And what was it, Beverly Hills…
Shawn: “Beverly Hills 90210”
Ricky: Oh, that’s amazing.
Shawn: Liberace Behind the Music. Before Matt Damon!
Ben: So Shawn can act and he enjoys getting that going. He’s always done, in the movies, where he’s played the creatures, the off-camera creatures, and that’s what we did with the La scenes, so he would be me and I would be La. I’d be La, he’d be whatever. And then we’d figure it out. It was really fun.
Q: I guess you guys all have memories of museums that maybe are meaningful. I remember when I was a kid and I had a natural history museum in my town. Can you talk about your experiences and the things you discovered when you were at the museums? You didn’t get to go to New York, but...
Rebel: Sadly, no. We just have a lot of bush in Australia. We actually don’t have any museums! We did have one theme park and then they closed that down.
Ricky: Good tourist poster, isn’t it? “Come to Australia, we have a of bush.
Q: Besides her museum experiences, I wanted to hear about her kissing experience with whichever one you ended up with.
Rebel: Well, I was like, when Shawn brought up the idea of maybe I kiss La in the movie, great. So Shawn yells, “Action,” and I come in, and I don’t know whether you remember this, Ben, but you pushed me away because you didn’t think it was a real take. And you didn’t want me to ruin your prosthetics. It was at like, four a.m. in the morning.
Q: Really? Did you feel rejected in that moment?
Rebel: Yeah, I was like, really rejected. And then Shawn was like, “Yeah, that was a real take.” You thought it was just rehearsals, and I went in very passionately.
Ben: I do remember! Well, there was so much energy there and I wanted to harness it on camera. I actually feel like we pushed the envelope in terms of…
Rebel: There were some very sexy outtakes. Too hot for PG.
Q: Yeah, what happened to your poor museum question? It got lost in the depths.
Ricky: I love museums. I’ve always loved museums.
Q: There’s a usable quote. Ricky Gervais: “I love museums.”
Ricky: Yeah, do that. Now you’ll have two.
Q: Ben, I wanted to ask you if you could say something about working with Robin Williams for his last film.
Ben: Well, I always was excited to work with Robin because I’ve always been a fan of his since I was a kid, since I was about twelve, thirteen when “Mork and Mindy” came on. So I never got over that element, working with him on any of the movies. It was just always such a thrill for me. He was amazing, he’s a genius. But for me, the thing that I take away from working with him is that he was so kind and generous to everybody. Like, every single person that would come up to him in any way. It was pretty amazing to watch and he set a really high bar for that, and he was a really genuine person.
Q: For the cast, do you all have a scene that you weren’t in that makes the film special to you? Something that you really like about the film that you weren’t in.
Dan: I think the scene with Ben and Dexter at the end of the movie is quite…it’s one of the most moving scenes I’ve seen in cinema, let alone in the movie. It’s one of the most special scenes between a man and an animal in cinematic history, I think. I think that’s a beautiful scene.
Ricky: The second kiss wasn’t even scripted. Ben didn’t have to go in for the second kiss, it wasn’t in the script. It felt right, didn’t it?
Rebel: That was really lip-on-lip.
Ben: Oh yeah. We both had our shots, so…
Q: Are there plans in the works already for a fourth film, and Rebel, will you be back?
Ricky: We’re actually going straight to the fifth.
Ricky: The fourth is going to be awful, so we’re just going to do our fifth.
Rebel: We’re just going to do fifth and seventh. I’m just filling in in between lengths at home.
Shawn: Right now there is no such plan. We really felt like this movie is about letting go, and it brings a certain closure for these characters, and so I suppose I can’t predict whether thatresolution will change, but no, right now, really this whole year, I’ve just been focused on telling this final story as well as I possibly can. No plans for beyond.
Q: Ben, when you did the first movie, the museum actually had overnights, which I thought was pretty cool. So talk about how that was fun for you at the time, and if you’re doing it again for this one.
Ben: Yeah, I’ve never done it myself, but it seemed like a really fun and cool thing, and I think that they--do they still do them?
Shawn: Yeah, they do them here and they do them all over the country now.
Ben: Yeah, I met Martin Scorsese once and he said he did the overnight.
Q: How come you didn’t do it?
Ben: Well, maybe I will if I can get a part in one of his movies, I don’t know.
Q: Since this is in fact the last one, what I want to know is what you will miss the most about Crystal?
Shawn: Crystal? Crystal, who plays Dexter? I’ve always marveled at the fact that even though these movies have the most insane cast of brilliant stars and talent, I have seen men, women,children push their way through movie stars in the movie to get a selfie with Crystal. No one is immune. This happens! That monkey has a strange hold over people, so I’ll miss how she seems to inspire grown adults to act like fools because they’re so smitten.
Owen Wilson: Well, you know there’s something about a monkey in little trousers that just kind of everyone’s a sucker for.
Q: Your microphone…
Ricky: Yeah, say that again. One more time! [Laughs] That’s another thousand dollars, though.
Q: With so many great comedians, do you challenge each other to make the other person crack and who’s the worst one for breaking?
Ricky: That’s my job. That’s my job.
Shawn: Is that not self-evident already?
Rebel: Ricky laughs really loud.
Ricky: If something’s funny, I laugh.
Owen: Sue me.
Ricky: And if I say the thing that’s funny, I laugh at that as well! My main job is to make other people laugh so it looks like they’ve ruined the take. That’s my main thing. I try and do stuff that maybe the director doesn’t see, just one little thing, make them fall apart. So that’s my main job. Most of my scenes have been with Ben over the three movies, and it’s seemed to be--it’s a funny relationship with McPhee and Larry Daley. That’s without prosthetics, so thanks to the technical department. I’m the boss, I’m older and I’m meant to be the grown-up but it’s reversed because I’m such an idiot, I’m such a child that he takes the role of adult, and it’s such a lovely dynamic between us.
Ben: But he definitely tries to make people laugh. Me, in particular, when we do those scenes together. And actually, there’s a moment that for some reason isn’t in the final movie, where you say, “I’m an automaton,” and you start doing this like, robot character.
Ricky: The more ridiculous they get--I feel like I have to go big to make you laugh.
Ben: But the commitment to it and how long it would go on is just so--[laughs]
Ricky: It’s ridiculous. It is ridiculous. But what’s amazing about this job is, when I had normal jobs, if I mucked around and things like that, the boss said, “Stop muckin’ around,” whereas the boss here says, “Brilliant, do it again.” It’s just the greatest job in the world for me, mucking around.
Q: With the special effects, because it’s been eight years and there have been so many huge leaps in CGI, did that make doing this third film easier or were there still challenges to make it the hardest one of the three films?
Shawn: Well, I wanted this movie to have more action and scale than the other two. And visual effects have evolved to a point where they can deliver on that. So for me, though, every movie I make, every year you have to reeducate yourself on the technology because it’s changed. Even stuff like the MC Escher sequence, that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever even--it was so, so hard to figure out. And it took us five months to figure out how to do an action sequence in a three-gravity environment, and so it just became this great challenge. I had to reeducate myself on the ‘how’.
Ricky: Isn’t even harder? Because everyone’s doing such great stuff that you have to keep raising the bar. So it’s nearly impossible now to surprise people with it.
Shawn: That’s why I think for this--these movies, to the extent that they work, it’s that hybrid. It is a comedy, it’s also adventure, it’s also visual effects, and we’re not going to be one thing. We’re going to kind of be this strange alchemic blend of these things.
Ben: I think it’s harder, in a way, because you’re having to worry about that. When you’re doing those visual effects sequences or these action sequences, how much of it is going to hold the audiences’ attention because when they come to see a comedy, people have a very specific idea in their head that they want to laugh. So that’s put out there and you can’t really go away from that for too long, then you lose the tone of the movie. So that’s another element that Shawn always has to be thinking of.
Ricky: I think the most important thing is, wherever technology goes and how amazing it [gets], people want to be told a story. You’ll never lose that. You could be bored stiff with special effects, but a human interest story with two people sitting down and talking is always going to be around. This has got both.
Shawn: And that’s what brings you back to the heart, which is the father and son.
Q: What surprises, Rebel as being the newcomer, and Ben from the beginning, what are surprises or challenges that you faced doing the role?
Rebel: The biggest challenge in filming was the freezing temperatures because we were really outside in the snow filming. But for me, it’s just--
Ben: Where did you grow up?
Ben: It’s wasn’t that cold. We were in London. It was like, kind of cold.
Rebel: That to me is like--and I was wearing like, five layers of clothing in the movie which meant I couldn’t sit down properly because it would gather here, you just couldn’t bend in a ninety degree angle. So I would kind of perch like this, drink things. But like, more in terms of coming into the ensemble and just like, knowing so many great and iconic comedians were part of it, I just felt a little bit of pressure. I just wanted to do my best and represent a bit of girl power in the movie, so that was fun.
Ben: We were excited to have both Rebel and Dan and what they brought. Watching the process happen, especially with Dan, you know, watching you sort of find your way, it was really fun to see. It was finding the character, really, because the tone is so specific and not easy to define. He’s a real guy but he’s also--he has a sense of humor and this irony about things but still playing it for real. It was fun to watch you do that and see your confidence grow.
Ricky: And you brought a bit of girl power.
Rebel: Yeah, with that hair.
Ben: Did you feel that, though?
Dan: I did, I was nervous that first week, but actually, most of that first week was me on the horse in Trafalgar Square, so I had enough to worry about there. And then by the time we got up to Vancouver--
Shawn:You have to share that anecdote about in Trafalgar Square with the trainers.
Dan: Oh yeah! So that night, it’s pouring with rain, it’s London, of course it is. You know, I was anxious enough as it is. Trafalgar Square has a lot of marble floor and the trainer came round, checked all the bridle and everything, said, “Yeah, right. Everything’s fine. It is raining, it’s wet underfoot. If you fall, you will break your neck.” And, “Action!” So yeah, there’s a lot to be scared about. That particularly. But no, I think my confidence did grow and I think that learning to improvise like that with world-class improvisers really--and you know, learning to get more and more playful. And I think by the last week, Shawn couldn’t really shut me up. But at the beginning, it was sort of very--stuck to the script.
Shawn: And you soon learned that in this franchise, there is such little respect for the script.
Dan: So little respect for the script and the director! [Laughs] In that sense, play is really really encouraged on the set, and it was wonderful to see. I hadn’t really been on a set like that.
Shawn: He’s got a lot of energy, this guy.
Q: Can you guys relate to your characters in any way?
Ricky: Definitely. I love McPhee. I like him because we’re all a bit socially awkward deep down, and I like the fact that he’s--and like all of us, he wishes he was a bit cleverer than he is, a bit more articulate. He wishes he was articulate, he wishes he was witty, and he tries too hard. And all he wants is a bit of a hug. So I’ve always liked those sort of characters. I quite like him. You want to go, “You all right? Just chill out.” And he’d go, “Yeah?” He’s alright. I like him.
Ben: As a dad, I can relate to Larry. Just being a father and especially over the eight or nine years that we’ve been doing the movies and watching my kids get older. That protective things you have for your kids. And also, Larry’s relationship with all the creatures in the museum is sort of a fatherly one too. For me, the reason I did the movie was because when I read the script I thought this was the coolest thing ever, if I was ten years old I would love this. I actually love it as an adult. I grew up going to museums, so for me it’s always been a real thing.
Q: And what about La?
Ben: I definitely relate to La. La’s me in the morning.
Q: And what about you and Steve Coogan? Let’s hear about that relationship.
Owen: Well, do we have time for that? All my scenes were always with Steve and we had a great time working together and I think it’s sort of what these guys were talking about, the sense of play and fun and the way Shawn encouraged and you felt confident to try things. I know that we certainly did. And for me, I wouldn’t see, really--I’d see Shawn, but I wouldn’t see any of these guys when I was doing the scenes, so for me it’s always been kind of like Steve and I doing a movie together. I’m always surprised when I show up and see these guys.