Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are becoming the Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau of our generation. “Starsky and Hutch” marks their sixth film together since 1996’s “The Cable Guy,” which Stiller directed. “The Cable Guy” bombed, with box office receipts low enough to nearly bury Jim Carrey’s career, let alone that of a first-time director, but Stiller survived and came through the experience with a perfect comic foil for his nebbish characters. Stiller always plays the fastidious, slightly neurotic goody-two-shoes while Wilson plays the handsomely roguish devil’s advocate, out to make Stiller’s life difficult. Strange thing is, they’re really not acting all that much.
In real life, Wilson still has that easy Texas drawl and spacey way of phrasing that continues to make him such a lovable onscreen airhead. Stiller is a little more relaxed. A little. Ever so slightly. The Hatchet sat down with the long-time onscreen duo to hear what they had to say about acting, their new film “Starsky and Hutch” and their peculiar relationship.
Why they work with close-knit professional family:
Owen Wilson: I think it’s trying to find like-minded people and especially when you’re doing funny stuff, or even dramatic stuff, you want to find people that you believe in. I’ve been lucky. I met Ben, I think, my first year when I came out to Los Angeles. So I’ve worked with him a lot and then I’ve continued to work with my brothers, and Wes Anderson.
Ben Stiller: I just can’t find anybody else to work with. I keep trying.
Working with Snoop Dogg in “Starsky and Hutch”:
OW: Snoop was great to work with. I think that days, I know, when I’d look at the call sheet and see that Snoop was working, you could sort of count on that being a fun day and having a more sort of “Cheech and Chong” element.
BS: He was great. He kind of lives a totally different lifestyle and he enjoys who he is. He is totally comfortable in his own skin. I really enjoyed being around him. He’s just a very warm guy. I thought he was great in the part.
The Original Starsky and Hutch Cameo:
OW: It wasn’t so much a cameo. It was “This is the original Starsky and Hutch, and they’re the reasons why we have a chance to make the movie.” (It’s) because of the TV series that they did that became such a phenomenon. So it wasn’t that we were trying to kind of sneak it in. We wanted people to sort of see these guys and see how great they are.
What makes a good script:
OW: I think what I look for in scripts a lot of the time is who is going to be involved, if it’s people that I think are good. Then (I look at) the character that I’m going to play, if it’s something that I think I could do, make funny or be believable in.
BS: He told me he wanted to do it because of the three-way kiss
OW: Well, there is also that. That’s what I looked for in the “Starsky and Hutch” script.
BS: So you basically look for any sex scene with multiple partners in a script. That’s kind of what attracts you to a role?
OW: That’s why I signed up for “Zoolander,” the orgy scene with the-
BS: With the goat.
OW: The goat and the dwarf, and…
The best part of the ’70s:
OW: I think that part of it was the attitude of Starsky and Hutch. They were very quick to sort of rough up a thug, and it was kind of a looser attitude towards relationships and towards the way men and women interacted. That was kind of nice.
BS: Yes. I think that was fun, the not-politically-correct attitude those guys had back then. You could just be a cop and be a tough guy and not worry about offending anybody. That was kind of who they were. It’s fun to try to be like that.
The chemistry that drives their films:
OW: Well, I think that the reason why that TV series seems to have been such a phenomenon is that David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser had this sort of great give-and-take, this kind of natural chemistry. Hopefully the fact that Ben and I have worked together a lot and that we’re friends in real life, hopefully we kind of have our own rapport that’ll help the movie.
BS: I think Owen is kind of a laidback guy in real life. I don’t know if I’m as sort of by-the-book. I don’t think that, am I? Tell me I’m not.
OW: No. You’re not as anal-retentive as Starsky is.
BS: But I think we both sort of tried to kind of take a little bit of our real sort of vibe with each other, whatever. I think it just kind of came out just because this kind of movie, you’re trying to keep a real thing going on.
Homoerotic elements in their movies:
BS: How about fun? Homoerotic, fun, you know – same thing.