Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian press conference

Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria and Ricky Gervais are in attendance to discuss the sequel to the 2007 hit…

Ben Stiller and Ricky Gervais in Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian.

In this second instalment of the Night at the Museum saga, Larry faces an epic battle at the Smithsonian Museum. At the press conference, we faced an epic battle just to get Ben Stiller to look interested!

As we all waited in anticipation inside Claridges Hotel, for the ‘talent’ (industry speak for those answering questions) to arrive, we all wondered who would exactly turn up. We all agreed that Ben Stiller would be there and that we all thought he is great; we also agreed that the rumours surrounding Hank Azaria being here were also probably true, but who would be the third? I betted on Steve Coogan myself, but we were soon to find out that it was none other than Ricky Gervais!

Thus, Ricky Gervais came into the conference first, looking like he needed a good wash and a shave, then Hank Azaria casually waltzed in wearing a very cool looking suit (he had shaved), and then walked in…Ben Stiller. Now Stiller was not what I expected (“What did you expect” you say?), well I was expecting a reasonably stocky, yet handsome guy we all know and love from movies such as There’s Something About Mary, Zoolander and the wonderful Tropic Thunder, but what I saw was a painfully thin, pale man. No, he didn’t look well at all true believers.

No sooner had they all sat down, then it was straight to business, no messing!

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The host asked the trio the first question….

There is a line in the movie that says “Happiness is doing what you love, with the people that you love”, do you all endorse that?”

“Definitely, I think that was the whole idea behind the movie” Ben Stiller piped up chirpily, “We had to think of a new way to begin the movie as the other one ended so happily. Here Larry becomes successful and has all the problems that come with success and that it is this that is drawing him away from his true happiness”, after a brief pause he then added to me what seemed like someone speaking from their own experience, “Success doesn’t necessarily mean happiness”. There was then an uneasy pause that was quickly filled up by Ricky Gervais to ease the clichéd whistling wind…

“I did it for the money” Ricky smirked, to which everyone laughed (though he probably meant it!).

“If you mean did I fall in love with Ben and Ricky during shooting, then the answer is yes I did” sneaked in Hank Azaria so as not to be left out.

We were then told that it was open season for us to shout out those questions…..so we began…..

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Had Ricky Gervais asked his writing partner Karl Pilkington about his insights into the prospect of a museum coming to life, probably a surreal subject he’d like?”

“Well we were chatting about it as well about the English and St George’s Day. Karl was annoyed as to why St George was made a Saint because he said if he killed dragons today he’d have PETA onto him and everyone would ask him why he killed that dragon. I had to point out to him that the Dragon  was a metaphor and not real, to which Karl said why was I was more than happy to believe in dinosaurs but not dragons, so I had to explain to him that I did believe in dinosaurs mainly because of fossil evidence! But to answer your question, this movie wouldn’t faze him at all”.

What that had to do with the question, you have about the same idea as me!

Quickly following up on this opportunity, Ricky eagerly pointed out that he had lots of Dictaphones on his part of the desk and Ben not so many… “Look” said Ricky, “I’ve got loaaaads and you’ve only got one….that’s what you get for coming in last!” Stiller worked hard to crack a smile.

The next question was to Hank Azaria….

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How many voices did you have to go through before you settled on the ones you went with for Abraham Lincoln and Kahmunrah?

“Well I just used a few voices just so they had something to animate Abraham Lincoln to, but I soon found that the voices I tried that were dignified for him were funny, but the funny ones I tried were just silly, but I just got so addicted to doing his voice that I didn’t want it to stop so we just settled on the one I did in the movie”.

He then confirmed my suspicions that he based Kahmunrah’s voice on 20th Century Horror actor Boris Karloff (who played the iconic version of the monster in  Frankenstein in 1932).

“We tried a bunch of different versions for Kahmunrah, but for a laugh I said what would it be like if Boris Karloff had tried it? And I still can’t believe that we ended up using that!” At this point I was praised for my knowledge of movie history and that I was the only one it seemed to have noticed this!

“I just did a Reading accent” spoke up Ricky (this is where Gervais originates from), “and I think I nailed it”. Hank Azaria then mentioned how convincing Ricky’s accent actually was.

Then the inevtiable question…

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If all goes well with this movie will there be a Night At The Museum 3 or doesn’t it get any bigger than this?

“Well that all really depends on if anyone wants to see another one after this and what it would be about. I think it would be all about how bigger we could get this, and of course it would be great to work with these two guys again”, but no sooner had Ben finished, than Ricky was quick to point out a subject for NATM3

“It could be about a normal museum where nothing comes to life, its all about the admin” this made us all laugh including Hank Azaria but not, it seemed, Ben Stiller. Although he did say rather lamely that it sounded “Great”. The next question was again put to Ben.

Have you had any other jobs you did that weren’t as glamorous before you went into Hollywood?

“Yes, I was a bus boy and then a really bad waiter. I waited on Dudley Moore once but I was really interested in what he was talking about, so I think I annoyed him because I was hovering around him. I then worked in a camera store, I’ve also worked as an assistant scuba diving instructor and all these jobs helped me in my career.

He then made a remarkable confession…….”I was actually very interested in Archaeology but I was a poor student and didn’t get any good grades so I couldn’t get to go to College or University”. So he IS mortal after all then kids!

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Hank then poured salt onto Ben’s wounds by telling him that he had been a waiter too, but a very good one! he continued…

“I found that I was so bored that I would try on different accents with the customers as if you spoke like everyone else they would look right through you”. He then proceeds to put on a funny Italian accent, “Are you fineeeeshed with dis??”. He then tells us that he has been fired from every job he has ever had except acting. “What about you Ricky? What have you done?” Hank asks.

“Well” he sighed, “I worked in an office”. Now THAT was a nice comeback! Touché I thought.

What was it like working with the other actors in the movie?

Ben was quick to jump in…

“Well after a long time of just acting in green screen and running away from nothing, so it was great to actually have these guys come on set and I could actually act with someone. There were also people on set like Christopher Guest who is a comedy legend that we all admired, and we all loved having them on the set. And having Ricky and Hank here was great too”. This was the only time I saw Stiller seem enthusiastic about being here.

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What was it like to be slapped by that monkey then?

“You know what” said Stiller jokingly, “I resented that monkey, I’d much rather have worked with Ricky”, to which Ricky jokingly confronted Ben… “Oh  thanks, you’d rather work with me than a monkey. Great” To which they both giggled.

If they were able to take only one thing from any museum that they thought was cool, what would it be?

Ricky was the first to answer…. “Well I’d steal a collection of Egyptian mummies from the British Museum as I don’t steal from other countries” he joked.

Stiller was the next to speak… “Well I went to Egypt and I saw some mummies too so I would take those with me. That’d be cool”.

Hank went for something a little more exotic… “I’d go for the Hope Diamond” he said with a glint in his eye.

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The movie has lots of waxworks, so do they find them at all creepy?

“Well I’ve been asked to do a few of those, including a chocolate waxwork, but I just couldn’t be bothered to sit there for three hours” Ricky commented. “I just can’t see the point in going to see waxwork dummies and someone saying how much they look like the person they are meant to be, and all you can do is say…..yer they do don’t they?  So no I don’t find them creepy at all”.

What did he think of the ones in the movie though?

Ricky continued, “The ones in the movie are the best I’ve ever seen, they were so life like, the eyes and everything”.

Stiller agreed…. “Yes, there is one of Hank that was made before he came on the movie and I think I e-mailed it to him to say that it was bald. But I think its an honour to be asked to have a waxwork of yourself”.

Hank then nodded at Stiller and spoke up….

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“I was creeped out with the image of myself in wax, it was really scary, you actually felt like you could talk to it or something. I actually tried too” This was getting rather weird now I can tell you.

Quickly the subject was changed by the next question, which this time was aimed at the whole panel…

If you could choose any inanimate object to come to life what would they choose?

“Wow, that’s a good question, give us two and a half hours and we’ll get back to you” laughed Ricky, but was soon interrupted by Mr Azaria’s answer….

“I think I would choose a car, yes, a talking car! You could have arguments with it and, you know, you could make up adventures together”… but Ricky was soon onto where he was going with this…

“Look, do you want a talking car or do you just wanna be Knight Rider”, once again everyone laughed. But suddenly, Ben Stiller decided enough was enough Ricky, it was his turn!

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“Wow, I think what we all really mean is that we would all like to bring David Hasselhoff back to life!” laughter erupted from the panel as a subdued looking Hank Azaria calmly says in a monotone voice, “Yes, we would all very much like to bring David Hasselhoff back to life”.

Wow, could the world possibly cope with TWO Hasselhoff egos? I didn’t want to think about it.

“Man, that would be too much”, points out Stiller! I did have to agree with him!

At that point it was time to head off back to the prairie and tend to the cows. The Q&A was over.  Move along people…..

After leaving the plush setting of Claridges, I was feeling quite surprised about how much I had liked Ricky Gervais and that if it wasn’t for his much needed, light-hearted comments, it would have been quite a sombre affair (though Hank Azaria did try and keep up with Ricky’s wacky take on the interview).

Even though Ben Stiller did eventually try and be more light hearted towards the end, I couldn’t help thinking in my head as I walked to the tube station, the comment he had made about success can’t bring you happiness, and how he looked as though he really did mean it by the sad look on his face (although granted, the international promotional tour must be very gruelling). That said, I still wouldn’t mind him throwing me a few million quid of his money… just so I can see if it’s true!

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Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian is on general release from 20th May. Our review is here.