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Dodgeball - I learned that not exercising, for a long period of time, and then running and stopping a lot, without stretching, is a bad idea



Feature by: Jack Foley

FIRST, it was irritable bowel syndrome and an inability to dance, in Along Came Polly, and then it was a ridiculous perm and over-sized cardigan in Starsky and Hutch.

Now, it’s a handle-bar moustache, over-sized physique and inflatable cod-piece for Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, the latest in a long line of outrageous comedy personas that have been created by Ben Stiller this year.

As egotistical gym owner, White Goodman, Stiller is in over-drive, playing a self-obsessed fitness freak, who will stop at nothing to take over a rival gym, owned by Vince Vaughn’s charismatic under-achiever, Peter LaFleur.

Yet, as LaFleur fight back, the rivalry between the two is forced to come to a head during a Dodgeball tournament, a completely ludicrous game in which teams of six throw a ball at each other, aiming to strike each opponent as hard as they can (Bulldog is the UK equivalent). Needless to say, the movie aims low for its laughs.

In order to prepare for the part, however, Stiller confesses to having played lots of ‘dodgeball with eight-year-olds’, to keep his fitness levels up, as well as working out in the gym.

"Wearing a spandex unitard can be unforgiving, so yeah, I had to work out and did whatever I had to do to get into the singlet," he explained, at the London press conference, held at the Dorchester Hotel.

As a result, the sight of the ‘super-buff’ Goodman even came as a surprise to Stiller’s wife and co-star, Christine Taylor, who confessed to breaking into fits of laughter whenever they filmed a scene together.

"I feel like I came off as the most unprofessional actress.. and I don’t think he [Ben] helped matters, to be honest with you," she explained. "I think he went out of his way to make me laugh even more, and I couldn’t keep a straight face.

"But I keep saying, if someone can find me a White Goodman-type character walking this earth, I’d love to encounter him, face-to-face, because I can’t believe that anyone exists on that level."

For Taylor, the physical demands of the project came as quite a surprise, particularly when her own husband ‘accidentally’ threw a ball in her face during filming.

But then Dodgeball did mark her first film since having a baby, a year and a half earlier.

"It’s so exhausting, because you’re not doing one motion - you’re bending, you’re picking up, you’re throwing, and you’re taking hits, and I kept saying, ‘guys, guys, take it easy on me, I just had a baby’."

Co-star, Vaughn, also learned the hard way, and was glad to be able to take the opportunity to impart some advice while at the same press conference.

"I learned that not exercising, for a long period of time, and then running and stopping a lot, without stretching, is a bad idea," he joked.

For Vaughn, the character, Peter LaFleur, marks the latest in a long-line of smooth-talking, ultra charismatic performances he has delivered over the years, starting out with Swingers, and coming up-to-date with Old School.

But the actor, who exudes the same sort of free-flowing charisma off-screen, confessed to being more than a little baffled about the cool tag surrounding him, especially when dubbed ‘a sort of Dean Martin for the new millennium’ by one eager journalist.

"Even from the beginning, with Swingers, I always felt that the success of the film was really because of the innocence that was in the movie. Those guys weren’t really that cool, and sadly this was based on me and Jon [co-writer, Favreau]. I think there’s something universal in going through a break-up, not having your confidence, and trying to get back out there and connect with people.

"I mean, we were playing out of work actors, which we were, who play a lot of video games, and no one really hooked up with girls in the film, so we were sort of surprised that the characters were seen as cool. In fact, the last scene in the movie, is where I sort of think the girl’s hitting on me and really she’s talking to a child.

"If there’s any cool in it, I think it’s because there’s kind of a geekiness to it that most people can relate to; kind of an awkwardness."

The one thing that Vaughn did admit to finding cool, however, was the opportunity to finally work with Stiller - even though, on the face of it, Dodgeball marks the third time, this year, that they have appeared in the same film - Starsky and Hutch and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, being the other two.

"I’ve always been a big fan of Ben’s, for a long time, starting with the show that he did, and when we were younger, we did a short for MTV, a comedy sketch," he recalled.

"I had a cameo in Zoolander, and we didn’t have a lot to do together with Starsky and Hutch, so this was the first time, in a film, that we were actually having scenes together, and so it was a lot of fun for me."

And fun is something that Stiller maintains was the biggest motivating factor in agreeing to do the picture - even though its success was by no means guaranteed.

"That was the most rewarding thing of the whole process - we were all there because we wanted to be there; we did a read through of the script before we all started to make it, and that was sort of the motivation to just go-ahead and say, ‘let’s do this’," he revealed.

"We didn’t know how it would be received, or whether people would get Dodgeball, even in America, we were just going off our gut feeling that this would be a really fun experience. So to me, the biggest lesson was that following that feeling resulted in a really great experience."

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