In a letter in the current issue of The New Yorker, Owen Wilson defends on- and off-screen buddy Ben Stiller from getting pushed around by movie critic/big bully David Denby. (Click on the picture of the pals to see a scan of the letter or read the transcription below.) Unsurprisingly, Wilson's is a much more eloquent (and funny) response than the full-page attack ad that Rob Schneider unleashed on the LAT's Patrick Goldstein last week. Note especially Wilson's subtle invocation of the threat of violence, and contrast with Schneider's near-promise of bloodshed. In any case, we're witnessing a hot new trend being born in Hollywood—we're sure dozens of actors are learning how to write so they can publicly dress down unkind critics.
I read David Denby's piece on Ben Stiller with great interest (The Current Cinema, January 24th & 31st). Not because it was good or fair toward my friend but exactly because it wasn't. I've acted in two hundred and thirty-seven buddy movies and, with that experience, I've developed an almost preternatural feel for the beats that any good buddy movie must have. And maybe the most crucial audience-rewarding beat is where one buddy comes to the aid of the other guy to help defeat a villain. Or bully. Or jerk. Someone the audience can really root against. And in Denby I realized excitedly that I had hit the trifecta. How could an audience not be dying for a real "Billy Jack" moment of reckoning for Denby after he dismisses or diminishes or just plain insults practically everything Stiller had ever worked on? And not letting it rest there, in true bully fashion Denby moves on to take some shots at the way Ben looks and even his Jewishness, describing him as the "latest, and crudest, version of the urban Jewish male on the make." The audience is practically howling for blood! I really wish I could deliver for them—but that's Jackie Chan's role.