NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

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Actor Ben Stiller has starred in a wide range of movies, from big comedy hits like Meet the Parents and its sequel, Meet the Fockers, to indie films like The Royal Tenenbaums and Your Friends and Neighbors. In Noah Baumbach’s new film, Greenberg, Stiller takes a darker turn, playing Roger Greenberg, a 40-year-old ex-musician who’s just had a mental breakdown. After recovering in a hospital for several weeks, Greenberg agrees to house-sit at his brother’s place in Los Angeles. Alone in L.A. while his brother’s family is on a long vacation in Vietnam, he tries to reconnect with some old friends and meets a new one — his brother’s personal assistant, Florence, a singer in her early 20s who is also trying to figure her life out. Stiller tells Fresh Air host Terry Gross that to play Greenberg, he had to figure out what was behind the character’s breakdown. “You know, [Greenberg’s] a guy who hasn’t really gotten to where he wanted to be in life and hasn’t been able to accept that,” Stiller says. “And he’s very critical of everybody else in the world, and he’s really probably too smart for his own good. So when the movie picks up, he’s sort of at a place where he has to accept some things in his life that he’s denied for a long time.” Both funny and sad, Greenberg is more tinged with rue than many of Stiller’s earlier films, which include high-concept comedies like Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, as well as gross-out laugh riots like There’s Something About Mary. Stiller says he gravitated toward comedies from the time he was in high school. “[At first] I wanted to be a serious actor, but when I was about 17, [I saw] SCTV, which was really a changing point for me,” he says. “That type of humor and that tone of what they were doing and that parody — that sort of show-business satire really hit home.”

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