Not since Charlton Heston told a "dirty ape" what to do with his stinking paws has an actor been so tormented by a monkey. While not exactly the kind of abject captivity that Heston endured in Planet of the Apes, the slapping match Ben Stiller went through with Crystal, the Capuchin monkey _ for a second time _ was torture enough.
"I really dislike the monkey," Stiller said during an interview with co-stars Hank Azaria and Amy Adams at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, where some of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian was filmed.
"There's no way to feel great about having a monkey slap your face on any level," Stiller continued, adding that the trainer would be off-camera shouting "Get him! Get him! Hit him harder! Hit him harder! And then they give it a treat." Azaria could tell Stiller was dreading the scene because he arrived on the set "despondent."
"I've never seen you so sad that day and nothing could cajole you out of it," Azaria told Stiller. "It was really the depths of depression over 'monkey day."'
"'Monkey day' is never a good day," Stiller replied. "You start to question your life and your career." Stiller says it was a much better being slapped by Adams in the movie because "there's a kiss that comes before and after." Adams says that was the one scene that made her laugh so hard she ruined take after take, which meant "we had to start over and I was slapping and laughing and kissing and laughing" (which Stiller quipped "happens a lot in my marriage").
While Adams and Azaria say they loved playing with the monkey on their own, they weren't without their own complaints: Both hated their wardrobe.
As Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah, Azaria wears a tunic that other characters ridicule throughout the film as a skirt. Azaria says "it was highly uncomfortable, very binding," which prevented him from being able to sit down. They also gave him a codpiece that was stuffed with cardboard and metal to make it bigger, but more painful.
His headdress started out as metal and Azaria says it "weighed more than the table we're sitting at now." The crew had to keep redesigning it to make it lighter. Adams, who played aviator Amelia Earhart, had to contend with the crew redesigning her jodhpurs so they'd be tighter and tighter. She says the breeches were made of wool with "absolutely no stretch," which made them hard to run in, adding that she "ripped more than one pair in the back."
Despite the suffering, Stiller's character, museum guard Larry Daley, still learned the key to happiness by the end of the movie: friendship, not money. Stiller's personal key to happiness? "Sugar and being in the moment and maybe just a little bit of alcohol." Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian opens nationwide Friday.