It’s likely that you’ve embarrassed yourself at some point in your career. It’s unlikely, however, that you’ve ever embarrassed yourself in front of one of the world’s greatest living directors, but that’s exactly what Ben Stiller did while working with Steven Spielberg.
The comedy star worked with Spielberg on the 1987 war movie Empire of the Sun. While Stiller only had a small part in the film, he was very excited to be working with the man who invented the summer blockbuster, especially as it was one of his first movie roles. Unfortunately, Stiller’s inexperience would be his undoing, as he admitted to Seth Meyers while appearing on his late-night show.
“It was really exciting ’cause I was a huge Spielberg fan,” Stiller explained, adding that his big line came at the end of a particularly tricky steady-camera shot that had taken a very long time to get right. Just as Spielberg finished the shot, Stiller went to deliver his line, and he flubbed it. Now you may be wondering if that’s it? But that’s not the embarrassing bit.
“After like three or four minutes of this shot, I say my line,” Stiller explained. “I’m supposed to say, ‘Hey, kid, would you like a Hershey bar?’ And I screwed it up, and I said, ‘Hey, kid, would you like a chocolate bar?’ And then I went, ‘Oh, damn. I’m sorry. Cut.’ And then silence.”
Did you spot what he did wrong? Actors aren’t supposed to yell “cut”, only the director. While it might seem like a small thing on a big-budget movie set, every minute can cost literally thousands of dollars and having to reset a shot after someone yells “cut” is very expensive.
“I just hear, from out where the monitors are, ‘What?’ [I said] ‘I screwed up my line,'” Stiller continued. “And then I hear Steven Spielberg say, ‘You never yell cut!’ And of course, my hero, my idol, I’m realising I just did the most embarrassing thing ever.”
Thankfully Stiller’s rookie mistake didn’t hold him back too much. He’s gone on to become a huge star in his own right starring in countless comedies, and leading the Night in the Museum family movie franchise.