One of Ben Stiller's great strengths as an actor is his ability to convey the exasperated embarrassment that people feel on a daily basis, even as Stiller's onscreen circumstances spiral out into farce. No film greater captures Stiller's everyman ability like "There's Something About Mary," the 1998 comedy that found the actor, now 47, struggling with everything from his zipper to his masturbation habits. The film's most famous moment features Stiller's character's semen, his earlobe and Cameron Diaz's hair.
"My big thing with that scene was that I argued with [directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly] all during the shot, asking how he could not feel it on his ear?" Stiller said of the "hair gel scene" in an interview with David Carr for the New York Times. "I was lobbying them to have a back story that the character had somehow, like, lost sensitivity in his ear, like he had gotten hit as a kid or something. They finally told me it doesn’t matter, and I should quit thinking about it."
Not that Stiller really expected anything less. "I just remember thinking it was either going to be really funny, really good and different, or the worst movie ever," Stiller told the New York Times in 2010. "That's what I remember thinking: This will be really embarrassing. It was embarrassing, but the movie is funny, too. It's funny to watch with an audience, just to watch the same beats get the same laughs, which is a credit to the Farrelly brothers."
Stiller's new film, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," is out in theaters on Christmas Day. There are no hair gel jokes. For more on that feature and Stiller's career, head to the New York Times.