He may not look like the archetypal leading man, but these days Ben Stiller is carrying films by himself. One of Hollywood's best comic actors, the New Yorker is today a big box office draw earning $10 million a movie as well as writing and directing. He's also a popular guy on the Hollywood scene where his gentle ribbing of celebrities goes down a storm.
Born on November 30, 1965, to two of America's best-loved comedians, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Ben had funny business running through his veins. This was evident from an early age when he and sister Amy would perform plays at home, with Ben squeezing into Amy's tights for the Shakespeare pieces. And at just ten years old, he was making home movies on his Super 8 camera.
After a spell at UCLA (he later dropped out), Ben made a name for himself as an actor, appearing in Steven Spielberg's 1987 critically acclaimed Empire Of The Sun.
But comedy was still calling and, after Saturday Night Live
producer Lorne Michaels clocked a spoof of The Color Of Money,
that Ben had written, with him in the Tom Cruise role, the young funnyman spent a year on the long-running TV comedy show.
By 1992 Ben had his own programme, but it wasn't all roses. The Ben Stiller Show,
with the comedian hosting alongside Janeane Garofalo and Andy Dick, received poor ratings and, despite winning an Emmy, it was axed after a year.
So, out of work, but not ideas, Ben changed tack. A series of guest appearances on TV shows such as Friends
and The Larry Sanders Show
enabled him to direct Reality Bites,
the definitive movie for the slacker generation.
Ben's next job was directing Jim Carrey
and Matthew Broderick in The Cable Guy
which, although garnering a certain amount of critical acclaim, performed poorly at the box office. But just around the corner was a role that would propel the comedian into the big league.
There's Something About Mary
was the perfect showcase for Ben's comic talent and had the media dubbing him the "next big thing" even if it had been an 11-year journey from his celluloid debut.
Ben has proved his worth in serious roles, but it is his comic acting that has endeared him to cinema audiences. All his film funnymen have been, in essence, the same character: that of the underdog who comes out on top Meet The Parents,
for example. And Zoolander,
which he wrote, produced and directed as well as starred in, was a popular hit.
After being linked with actresses Jeanne Tripplehorn and Calista Flockhart
, Ben married Wedding Singer
actress Christine Taylor on May 13, 2000, in a ceremony in Hawaii. The couple have two children, Ella Olivia who was born in 2002 and Quinlin Dempsey who followed in 2005.