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June 2004
DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story: An Interview with Christine Taylor

By Todd Gilchrist

DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story: An Interview with Christine Taylor

Christine Taylor has appeared in many of Ben Stiller's films in past years, including "Zoolander" and his hilarious, failed television pilot "Heat Vision and Jack", and with good reason: she's married to the comedian. Ironically, her latest on screen pairing with her hubby is as his adversary, in the upcoming comedy "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.". Taylor plays Kate Veatch, a loan officer overseeing the foreclosure of Average Joe's Gym, run by Vince Vaughn's Peter La Fleur. Stiller is the coiffured White Goodman, who plans to turn the gym into a parking lot. Taylor recently spoke to Blackfilm about working alongside her husband, and balancing a career in Hollywood with a normal family life.

So how does it feel to steal the movie from the stars of the film?

CT: Yeah, like I can steal the movie from Ben.

How did you get involved?

CT: Well, I'd just had Ella, our daughter, and I remember vividly Ben saying to me I've got this script sent to my company. First time writer-director. He didn't tell me it was about dodgeball. He said it was called Underdogs and the writer-director wants me, meaning Ben, as the villain, Vince as the hero and you as the girl. And I was like, really? I had been out the loop for so long, I'd just had a baby. I was just so not in that mode, and he said 'I'd love for you to read it and get your feedback.' Obviously he has his company that is very collaborative and you know lot of scripts come in his direction. I read it and fell absolutely in love with it. I was so complimented. You know it was sort of the 2004 version of of all the 80s movies that I grew up on that I loved, "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Meatballs" all these silly comedies where sort of the underdog triumphs and, you know, to me the appealing part was that, number one that Ben was not the leading man that was getting the girl and number two, that the girl was not necessarily 'the girl'. There were some differences, she's got some other things going on.

Was it fun to play Ben's nemesis? He said you were attracted to his hair and spandex.

CT: He jokes, but in a weird way...

Did you like his unitard?

CT: To me, he's my husband, he can't look bad in anything. That being said, I loved being the nemesis. I loved it. I loved being repulsed, and it was just a great experience all round. I mean, we had a blast. It was just a very different dynamic than "Zoolander". Very different because this is the first movie we did together since having our daughter so there were endless challenges personally, and when we did "Zoolander" we were newly married, so it was sort of an extended honeymoon.

He said it's very therapeutic for you to work together.

CT: It is. I think for sure it is, and I think that there were consequences afterward when it came to Ella, because spending a year and a half with her as a full time mom who is there everyday and with her everyday, and then you're suddenly on the set and at work. Even though I had my mom, who is a wonderful and lovely and has a beautiful and unique relationship with Ella, when we finished the movie, which was close between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we had such a tough time because the minute I walked out of the room Ella thought I was gone for 12 hours. If I walked out to change she was coming after me and grabbing my hand. You know, you live and you learn and you figure out what works best, and to us this movie was worth it. It was worth it for me to work, and it was a script I fell in love with and it was all of the characters from Ben, Vince, myself to all of the supporting characters. The Average Joes team, Rip Torn, Gary Cole, Jason Bateman. I mean, fantastic people that were a treat to work with every day.

How was it not only just being surrounded by all these men, but also men in skimpy clothes?

CT: I had a few skimpy outfits, let's put it that way.

At least you didn't have a gag in your mouth.

CT: Exactly. Thank God. That always made me laugh. That was my running joke. I thought you know, in the script, we had to make a choice to wear these costumes and then that character decides to go the extra mile and put a gag in his mouth. I think in the real world, if that happened, we would have gone the very bare minimum, but he put the gag in and Vince wore the 'Daddy' necklace and I wore spikes coming out and fishnets and you know, that always made me laugh but that's what movies are. So, it was fun. I'm' not gonna lie to you. It's fun being the girl, you know, guys are great when you're the only girl. They pay you lots of attention and it's nice. And it's a really lovely group of guys. Now, the skimpy outfits, especially them in the S and M gear. I think one of them was saying to me when we came out, they're like, you know what, it's funny with all of us in it, but with you, it's different, like you're wearing the spandex and it's true. They were wearing the clothes for the joke, and I knew when we wardrobed it and feathered it that it was more about them.

How was the dodgeball?

CT: Awful. Awful, awful, awful. I wish I could say that I got good. I wish I could say that the dodgeball that you see in the film is the dodgeball that I actually played in real life but it's not even close. I am awful.

Did you play as a kid?

CT: I did, I played in junior high. I don't know how much 'playing' I did because they were co-ed teams, I was 12 years old and the boys would always pick the boys first and then take the remaining girls. Then the game started, they would get you out. So we didn't play that much and when you're thirteen or twelve and you have a lot more energy, a lot more cardiovascular endurance, and I was winded and tired. These games last five or six minutes and you're using muscles and it was hard; I'm just going to say it was hard.

Ben said he hit you in the fact a couple of times.

CT: Oh yes. I feel like I got back at him though. Not me personally but I feel like he got a great revenge because there were two big hits. The first one was the first day when Ben did his dodgeball boot camp and he was so over zealous and just like any of the guys, the minute we started practicing and they all got the ball in their hand they reverted back to being twelve. I'm not joking. Like they had no pity on any of us, they were throwing as hard as they could and they were terrible with precision with great strength, they were very strong. Um, and all I would ever do is just sort of hide behind them so I would end up sort of the last two or three in the game and I remember since Ben and I were on opposing teams during the practices and this is when I go back over it, it happened in all of five seconds but when I go back over it, how it went down in my head I saw Ben, who is left handed, who is very, who has big hands, so he could grip the ball really well and get a really good grip to throw it which um, not all of us had and they would take... Actually when we started shooting we would either use dummy balls that were more fluffy and not like nerve balls, they were a little tougher, and they would take some of the air out of balls for us but Ben didn't need that, his hands are big and this was very early in rehearsal. I just remember seeing him winding up with this ball, across from me, we were both mid court, winding up, winding up, he has this little stutter step, throwing the ball, and me in my mind, in my head when I go back over it, I remember thinking, 'that's not gonna hit me, there's no way that's gonna, oh my god I'm gonna get hit' and he got me square on the cheek and the ear. When you get hit, the pain isn't as much as the shame. You are mortified. You don't want people to come over and you don't want pity. You want to walk it off like a trooper. So I just remember saying, 'you know I'm gonna get a Gatorade, I'm cool' and I pretended that my daughter called on the cell phone and I remember saying. I'm gonna pack in early and I had red speckles on my face from the dodgeball and Ben was super sweet. Then the second, that was the first hit, the second hit happened while we were shooting when he was supposed to hit Vince, then the cameras were rolling. It was a full stadium with the crew, the cast, hundreds of people. Ben had practiced, him and Vince in rehearsal, probably six, seven times he'd hit him every time, Ben's precision, oh my goodness it's just incredible, he has proven that to me when he hit me in the face, and he um, of course the cameras role and I'm. It was Ben, Ben here, Vince here and me right here and I was very focused on Vince, not even thinking that Vince would move and I might get hit. Not even thinking. And I just found out from Vince about two weeks ago, he finally admitted it that he, which was one of the hardest things too, because you didn't understand the person, the anticipation and the flinching and me, it's very hard when you know a ball's coming at you to not move, or flinch or squirm and Vince openly admitted that he knew the ball was coming from Ben, 'I'm not saying I did, I'm just saying I might have anticipated, and I think I moved'. And I said, OK, well there you have it. He moved forward by half an inch, the ball went behind him and nailed me straight in the face. The whole crowed booed, to Ben.

Does comedy come naturally to you?

CT: You know what? My family's always been really funny. I feel like comedy's hard. I feel like it's so important. I feel like in a relationship it's something Ben and I thrive on and think you know, coming naturally? Maybe. I think it does. I think it does. I'm not saying it's not completely difficult on camera but I think it does come naturally. I like to be silly. Sillier than Ben I think.


CT: A little bit. In real life.

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