AP: Were you aiming to be a director as early as "The Ben Stiller Show"? Many credit the 1992-93 sketch series as hugely influential to comedy since.
Stiller: It was always what excited me the most. We'd have a sketch that was a parody of a Scorsese movie or something like that, or something that all of sudden became its own little movie. I remember one sketch we did that was a restaurant where they were serving human beings. It was like a 'Soylent Green' sort of thing. We had been canceled and we knew we were canceled, and we were shooting our last episode. It was this 11-page sketch that was a little sort of horror movie. I remember having one of the best experiences on the show doing that one. It was like making a little movie.
AP: Do you ever wish you limited yourself more to directing?
Stiller: It's not something I think about in terms of: 'Oh, if I had just not been an actor, people would think of me as a director, or take me more seriously, or something like that.' I've always enjoyed directing, and that's always been something that I've known in my head that that's where I see myself ending up, anyway.
AP: Even when you haven't directed, you've surrounded yourself with ensembles and been a strong voice in shaping the films.
Stiller: What I learned early on when I started being the main character in movies, I realized that there's a responsibility with that in terms of what the audience is going to see. An audience doesn't delineate who produced that, or who directed that. They're like, 'Oh, I'm going to go see Ben in a movie.' There's a responsibility that I felt I had, to varying levels of success (laughs) in that process - unless I was going into a world of a director, someone like Noah, where I felt, 'This guy had such a specific sensibility.' . . . I feel like I learned from those experiences. I have a different approach going into movies now.
AP: How so?
Stiller: Sometimes I went against the grain more. Now, I wouldn't. At a certain point, you can push and push, and you don't get the result that you want and it doesn't help the person that's trying to make the movie. That, for me, has been the learning experience over the years.
AP: You've long aimed to make a movie of George Saunders' "CivilWarLand in Bad Decline." What are you interested in doing now?
Stiller: Just different kinds of movies that I'm not necessarily in. I think that opens up (laughs) the casting possibilities. I look forward to doing that, just something I feel passionate and connected to. I would love to do something that's not necessarily comedic. But I also don't want to go and do something that's ultra-dark and serious just to do that.