Ben Stiller once bombed an audition for hit movie set in Alabama – AL.com

Ben Stiller once bombed an audition for hit movie set in Alabama – AL.com

Ben Stiller nearly found himself apart of Alabama film lore, but it wasn’t meant to be, at least after his final audition for a future Oscar-winning film set in the state.
Stiller appeared on recently retired NBA player JJ Redick’s podcast “The Old Man and the Three” to promote his Apple TV+ show “Severance” and discuss his love for the NBA.
The conversation focused on his movie career, with Stiller telling stories about hits like “Along Came Polly,” “Heavyweights” and “Meet the Parents.” Redick asked him if the “DodgeBall” and “There’s Something About Mary” star remembered which movies where he bombed the auditions early in his career.
Without hesitation, Stiller answered “My Cousin Vinny,” the 1992 Joe Pesci comedy about two New Yorkers accused of murder in rural Alabama while on their way back to college who call in the help of one of their cousins, a loudmouth lawyer with no trial experience.
When asked which part, Stiller clarified the Mitchell Whitfield role of Stan Rothenstein, not Ralph Macchio’s part of Vinny’s cousin Bill Gambini. Redick’s cohost Tommy Alter asked Stiller to explain his definition of bombing.
“It means I went into the audition, and…the feedback I got was that, ‘He tanked.’ The producer said, ‘He tanked. He got nervous and was stiff and it was really bad,’” Stiller said. “It could not have been more definitive feedback. Watch the clip above (starting at 8:02).
Redick then asked Stiller to describe the audition process, which the actor said has mostly shifted to a remote format because of the pandemic, wherein actors tape themselves or participate in Zoom callbacks. But in Stiller’s auditioning days in the early 1990s, actors would visit a casting director’s office, usually in Los Angeles or New York, where he and other actors (”a bunch of guys who were like your type”) would act opposite a reader in front of a video camera. “If you get a callback, maybe the director is there. If you do well, maybe they call you back, and they bring the lead actor.”
Stiller said he also auditioned for a 1990 film “White Palace” starring Susan Sarandon, but James Spader got the part. He said he made it far enough in the process to read with Sarandon. “I remember that feeling of being in that room, this little casting office, and sweating and just feeling self-aware. It was awful, awful.”
Stiller, also an accomplished filmmaker, also revealed he was in talks to direct “Good Will Hunting,” written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who would win the Oscar for best original screenplay. “I was like, ‘Who are these two guys, and why do they think they should be starring in their own movie?’” Stiller said, laughing. “I don’t think I even entertained it, because it was like, if I’m going to cast this thing, I’m going to pick my own actors.”
But he never forgot the brutally honest feedback he got for “My Cousin Vinny.”
“I ran into the producer years later who brought it up to me, who said, ‘Hey remember when you went in for that callback? You were so bad. You tanked it.’”
Stiller found his footing as a comedic actor, appearing in a string of hit movies including “There’s Something About Mary,” “Zoolander,” “Meet the Parents,” “DodgeBall,” “Night at the Museum” and “Tropic Thunder.” His films have grossed more than $2.6 billion at the box office.
Mitchell Whitfield also enjoyed a successful acting career. He would later famously portray Barry Farber, Rachel Greene’s ex-fiancé” on the NBC sitcom “Friends,” along with appearing in several other films and TV shows, including providing the voice of “Donatello” in the 2007 film “TMNT.”
Set in Alabama but filmed exclusively in a handful of small towns in Georgia, this hilarious courtroom comedy earned Marisa Tomei best supporting actress in one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history. The film made $64 million against a budget of $11 million, and it currently holds a 87 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
“My Cousin Vinny” is currently streaming on HBO Max.
READ: Alabama’s 10 greatest Oscar triumphs, from ‘Forrest Gump’ to ‘Get Out’
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