Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler play rival siblings in ‘Meyerowitz Stories’
NEW YORK — As warring half brothers in Friday’s “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler’s years of estrangement climaxes with a down and dirty tussle.
There aren’t any stunt players here, just the two stars, both 51 and in, well, fighting shape.
“I did write these brothers specifically for Adam and Ben,” said filmmaker Noah Baumbach, an Oscar nominee for his 2005 autobiographical screenplay for “The Squid and the Whale.”
Sandler plays Danny, the eldest child of Dustin Hoffman’s Harold Meyerowitz, an egocentric much-married artist. Danny, who hasn’t worked for his entire adult life, is being divorced by his wife, feels eternally ignored by his dad and adores his college-age daughter.
Stiller’s Matthew is the opposite. He’s the family’s fabled success story as an L.A. money manager to celebrities such as Adam Driver’s Randy. Matthew has been in self-imposed West Coast exile from his family until Harold gets sick and is hospitalized.
“When I sent some people the script early on, they assumed that I had them flipped, thinking Ben would play Danny and Ben is Matt,” Baumbach said.
As a writer-director, “I wanted to talk about families and the stories they tell about themselves.”
Sandler’s Danny, he points out, “feels like a failure but he’s an amazing father. Matt is a success — he makes money. But he isn’t an ‘artist’ so he feels like a failure.”
Stiller has now made three films with Baumbach, including “Greenberg” (2010) and “While We’re Young” (2014).
His approach to playing the often abrasive Matt opposite Sandler’s underdog, limping Danny took a cue from reality.
“I guess Adam and I have known each other for a good 20-something years,” Stiller said. “For me, I took a little bit from that relationship just because while we’ve known each other for a long time we haven’t spent a lot of time together.
“Making this movie is actually the longest time we’ve spent together, and it was kind of like the movie a little bit. That was a good place to start.”