That time I walked Ben Stiller to his meeting
by Jason Benoit, Esq.
I don’t really have a ton of celebrity stories. I’ve never quite been the starstruck type. Aside from the one time I got stuck in an elevator with Todd Phillips and made him chuckle. I don’t even care if it was a pity chuckle, it was still a chuckle.
My girlfriend, on the other hand, has no shame. She’ll knock a child aside to get a photo with her favorite celebrity – YOLO, right?
I’m sorry I just typed YOLO. I feel dirty about my life and my writing now.
She once shoved aside Taylor Swift to get to Aaron Rodgers. I think that’s the definition of a keeper.
I, however, despite having met a number of actors and directors throughout my time working in the industry, have literally never asked for or posed for a photo with any celebrities. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not without a couple good stories still.
And like any good story, they all come with lessons.
The year was 2004. I was a sophomore in college and due to someone else’s unfortunate family health issues, managed to step in and replace them on an internship at Fox proper. I would be interning for one of the Senior Vice Presidents, Debbie Liebling. Debbie had a pedigree from her days running Comedy Central. This was my first internship so naturally I was about as green as they come.
At the time, Debbie’s office was in production on the movie Dodgeball. Ben Stiller was producing and starring along with Vince Vaughn. Principal photography had already been completed by the time my internship began. The production was thick in the weeds of post production and had some reshoots upcoming.
The first thing I learned about my internship was read. Everything.
Dodgeball was the first script I read. It also became my favorite.
Now, there’s all sorts of rumors and stories people hear about celebrities. About the notorious producer who throws staplers at his assistants, to the movie star who refuses to drink Diet Coke if it has condensation on the can. Some of these are more fact than fiction, sadly.
Debbie’s office was in the same wing of the Admin Building as Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos. Upon my arrival that morning into the office, I was informed that Ben Stiller would be arriving today for a big meeting and that there was a certain protocol. Ben would park in front of the building but he required someone to meet him at his car and walk him to Jim’s office.
I, naturally, was excited that I would be said handler. I was also genuinely confused why a man who had been to this building dozens of times, and to this office, would need someone to walk him from his car to said office. I mean, it’s not exactly a maze or anything.
But, I met Ben at his car. And I proceeded to lead him down the long hallway. Now, what do you do when you’re walking a movie star down a very, verrrry long hallway? You try and start up some small talk. But Ben was not having it. He said nothing to me. And at one point he literally stopped in the hallway, his attention taken by a large marketing display for… yes, Dodgeball.
He stood there for a good two minutes, hand on his chin, deep in contemplation. Then, finally, began moving again. Just as we reach Jim’s office, Ben turns to me and finally responds to a question I literally asked him at the very beginning of our trek down the longest hallway in human history.
“I’m sorry, did you ask if I wanted something to drink?”
“Um, sure, I’d love some coffee.”
Great, I can get coffee. People drink coffee.
Okay, most people drink coffee. I, however, do not drink coffee. At which point I panic. Debbie’s assistant wasn’t in the office. We did not have coffee in the office, it turns out. There was no kitchen nearby. There was a commissary… all the way across the lot. I stumble into a boardroom and find coffee, likely left over from a meeting that morning. I literally steal the entire tray – coffee, cups, stirrers, creamer, milk. I took the whole damn thing.
And then, trying to balance this entire tray, waddle precariously back into the head of Fox Studios’ office. With the entire coffee tray. Which I proceed to set down on the table in front of Ben Stiller. He looks at me, probably shocked that someone didn’t just pour him a normal cup of coffee and bring it to him, and says, “Wow, you’re really thorough.”
I walked out of that office, chest puffed out, super proud of myself. Only to later realize that it wasn’t necessarily a compliment. However, the moral of the story, when in doubt, be thorough.
Or, you know, start drinking coffee and just ask the guy, “How do you like your coffee?” That probably would’ve worked just as well, but then we wouldn’t have this fun little story of me looking like a total doucher in front of one of my comic idols, now would we?Tags: 20th Century Fox, Ben Stiller, Breaking into Hollywood, Coffee, Debbie Liebling, Dodgeball (film), Entertainment industry, Hollywood, Hollywood internship, Jason Benoit, Jim Gianopulos, Life lesson