The simmering tensions between the hapless male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his father-in-law, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), come to a boil in the third instalment of the “Meet the Parents” franchise: Little Fockers. This time the gloves are off, quite literally. What follows is a classic fight scene – on a bouncy castle.
“Everything leads up to a party for Greg’s kids and by then Jack is convinced that I’m having an affair and he’s so upset with me that he punches me in the face,” explains Stiller. “And so we get into this fight that goes on and on – we shot it for about two weeks, full on “Raging Bull” style.”
Getting punched in the face by DeNiro is something of dream come true for Stiller. Stiller first got to realize that long held ambition of acting with his hero back in 2000 when he led a brilliant ensemble cast in “Meet The Parents,” with De Niro playing his girlfriend Pam’s (Teri Polo) overbearing father, the intimidating former CIA operative Jack Byrnes.
“As a kid I dreamed of working with Robert De Niro but did I ever imagine myself having a knock down, dragged out fight in a bouncy castle with Robert De Niro? No, I did not. But I have to say it was a lot of fun. It’s fun to do that stuff anyway but with Bob he’s just so good at it.” Throughout the trilogy, Stiller and DeNiro have engaged in classic battles around a dinner table, in a swimming pool, and during a game of backyard football. But this boxing match scene took on an added significance given DeNiro’s history playing Jake LaMotta.
Throughout their three movies together, Stiller and DeNiro have done many of their own stunts, including this latest epic fight sequence. “Bob is in incredible shape, he really is. I think in this movie he’s in better shape than he’s ever been,” said Stiller. “He came in and did all of his stunts and I was so impressed with how physically conditioned he was.” “Meet the Parents” was a huge critical and box office success and four years later, the sequel, “Meet The Fockers,” introduced Greg’s eccentric, unconventional parents Roz and Bernie (played by Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman), into the highly combustible mix as two vastly different families tried to come to terms with the daunting prospect (especially for Jack) of being joined by marriage.
Now comes “Little Fockers,” the third, eagerly awaited instalment of one of the most successful film franchises in comedy history. Greg and Pam are now married and the proud parents of five year-old twins and at first, there’s an amiable truce between Greg and Jack but, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t last.
“At the beginning Greg and Jack are getting along well,” explains Stiller. “And a lot of that has to do with the fact that Greg and Pam are living in Chicago so there’s some space away from the grandparents, which I think always helps familial relationships. Greg has sort of earned Jack’s trust.”
It is, he says, a natural place to pick up on the story of a young couple and their extended families. “In the first film the relationship between Greg and Jack was obviously very tense and in the second it was about Greg having to introduce his parents into the mix.” As a young married couple, Greg and Pam find themselves in a very familiar place– they’ve got kids, they’re trying to make ends meet financially, and they have the normal stress of married life to deal with and that’s affecting their relationship.
“In ‘Little Fockers’ Greg and Jack start out in a good place but events conspire to send them back to the positions they go to when they’re stressed out.” This time around Jack is also worrying about his health. He’s suffered a mild heart attack but typically, for the secretive former spy, he’s kept that information from everybody in the family, except Greg.
“Jack starts to worry about whether he’s going to be around and who is going to oversee the family,” says Stiller. “He starts to question Greg a lot more because he wants to know if he is the one who can look after the family and be the ‘Godfocker’ and take care of everybody.”
With the two families gathering together to celebrate the young Focker twins’ birthday, the uneasy alliance between Jack and Greg is placed under heavy strain when the ever suspicious Jack suspects that his son-in-law, who now heads up the nursing department at the local hospital, might be having an affair with a beautiful young drugs rep, Andi Garcia – played by Jessica Alba, a newcomer to the films.
“Greg has moved up and gotten as far as you can go in the nursing world, and I meet this young, sexy drug rep who is selling an erectile dysfunction drug called Sustengo,” said Stiller. “It’s part of her job to be young and sexy and try to get people to buy the drugs and she sort of gets a thing for Greg – and you’re not quite sure if it’s genuine or she’s just being flirtatious to try and get him to buy the drugs.” In actuality, Greg is just trying to work and she offers him the chance to sell the drugs to doctors and to give talks on the benefits of Sustengo for patients. Greg needs the extra money because they’ve got a new house and they’re doing renovations.
“My character doesn’t want Jack to think that he is in trouble money wise so he doesn’t tell anybody about this sideline,” said Stiller. And Jack starts to suspect that there’s something going on between Greg and Andi. Greg is juggling a lot of things and let’s say complications sort of develop from that.”
“Little Fockers” is released and distributed by United International Pictures through Solar Entertainment Corp. Showing on January 8, 2011