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Ben Stiller Branches Out Under Baumbach

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Some pretty serious talent is coming together under the direction of writer/director Noah Baumbach – the man who brought the world Margot at the Wedding, The Squid and the Whale, and the script for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He’s assembled a strong team for his next untitled project which began production last week in Los Angeles.

At the forefront is Producer Scott Rudin (Oscar winner for No Country for Old Men), Producer Jennifer Jason Leigh (the multiple award-winning actress whose story concept the film is based off), and of course Baumbach himself who has shown several times that he’s a talented writer and strong director.

And under all that dramatic talent, is Ben Stiller.

The film, being made for Focus Features, will focus on a disillusioned man who begins a friendship with his brother’s assistant while housesitting for him. Yes, this concept sounds about as basic as it gets, so I’m hoping that more story details emerge or that Baumbach’s usual talent will shine through what seems like a pretty bland description.

I’m on the fence as to whether this film will actually stretch Ben Stiller as an actor, but it does seem like he has the ability to move out of his own element a bit – that element being pretending to eat the severed head of a director that just got blown up or having some wacky toilet trouble when he’s trying to impress a first date. Luckily, he’ll be surrounded by Rhys Ifans who just signed on for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Greta Gerwig from Hannah Takes the Stairs, Mark Duplass who is coming off his own success at Sundance, Juno Temple from Atonement, and the gorgeous Brie Larson.

So basically there’s a heap of talent involved in this, but not much else to show so far. The story description is pretty dull, but it’s hard to imagine that a bad film could result from so much creativity being pooled together, especially under Baumbach’s watch. Still, production just started last week, so we’ll have a long time to wait and see. Baumbach also wrote the script for The Fantastic Mr. Fox which is currently in production with Wes Anderson at the helm.

What do you think? Are you a fan of Noah Baumbach’s work? Is it obvious that I am? It should be.

A veteran of writing about movies for nearly a decade, Scott Beggs has been the Managing Editor of Film School Rejects since 2009. Despite speculation, he is not actually Walter Mathau's grandson. See? He can't even spell his name right.

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