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Ben Stiller all laughs at American Cinematheque gala

November 15, 2012|By Glenn Whipp
  • Ben Stiller received the American Cinematheque Award on Thursday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Ben Stiller received the American Cinematheque Award on Thursday night… (Frederick M. Brown )

The American Cinematheque celebrated the career of Ben Stiller on Thursday night, presenting the man that Eugene Levy called the "ultimate hyphenate" its 26th American Cinematheque award in an evening long on laughs and clips packages.

"It's nice to get an award for nothing specific," Stiller said at the end of the ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. "It's like there's no single one thing you did, but when you add it all up, there's something there."

That cumulative something was feted by the likes of Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Jennifer Aniston, each of whom introduced footage focusing on a specific aspect of Stiller's career. There was Stiller the hero, the funnyman, the filmmaker. President Bill Clinton turned up in a video tribute to Stiller's humanitarian work in Haiti, efforts Clinton described as "inspirational and, more important, persistent."

The barrage of clips was, at times, a bit wearying. But, mostly, it served as a reminder of the breadth and quality of Stiller's work as a filmmaker and actor, a career Katzenberg characterized in three words -- "perfection, prolific and planner."

Katzenberg remembered Stiller telling him he wanted to make the first "Madagascar" movie for his kids. "At the time, Ben didn't have any kids," Katzenberg said. "But sure enough, by the time 'Madagascar' came out, he had two."

Other participants noted Stiller's commitment to detail, with Patton Oswalt noting that Stiller flew him to a "town with no vowels" in Iceland for a scene in the upcoming "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," a scene that required him simply to be on the phone. Filmmaker Judd Apatow, remembering his time working on the early '90s MTV sketch comedy program, "The Ben Stiller Show," said he still has "never worked as hard" in the ensuing years.

Black and Ferrell took different approaches, with the former pretending, at first, to be eulogizing Stiller ("What? He's not dead? Then what the hell are we doing here?") and the latter waxing poetic on a specific part of Stiller's anatomy.

The evening's funniest moment may well have come when William Shatner, via video, asked, "Has anyone ever done a DNA on Ben? Because he's got the musculature that I've got." Later, Stiller's mother, Anne Meara, appearing on screen with husband Jerry Stiller and Ben's sister, Amy, built on the joke, asking Ben to "please give Bill Shatner my love."

Receiving the award for an evening that benefits the nonprofit American Cinematheque, Stiller, 46, thanked one and all, looking, at once, backward and forward, telling presenter Levy, "When I was younger, I wanted to be you. Now that I'm older, I just want to be me, younger."

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