Ben Stiller Made an Embarrassing Mistake While Filming a Steven Spielberg Movie, 'I Screwed it Up'

Ben Stiller is a well-known name in the world of movies. However, no one is immune to making mistakes. That’s exactly what happened to Ben Stiller early in his acting career. Unfortunately, his mistake happened right in front of legendary director Steven Spielberg as Stiller was acting in one of his movies. 

Ben Stiller played a prisoner of war in a Steven Spielberg movie

In an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Stiller spoke about an experience he had early in his career working with Spielberg. The Tropic Thunder actor was cast as a prisoner of war in Empire of the Sun. It was one of the first jobs he had and Stiller recalls Spielberg asking him to lose weight for the role. However, Stiller may have lost too much weight as the director thought he was sick. 

“He basically cast me in the movie and he said ‘I think you’d be great for this part. Do you think you could lose some weight because you’re supposed to be in a prison camp,’” Stiller explains. “So I showed up at the set. I had lost about 28 pounds and he looked at me and he said, ‘Are you OK?’ and I said, ‘You told me to lose weight. You’re Steven Spielberg.”’

Stiller said he had a small role in the movie with only 2 lines or so. He still managed to make those lines memorable, at least for himself, because he made a critical mistake. 

Steven Spielberg yelled at Ben Stiller while filming ‘Empire of the Sun’

Empire of the Sun (1987) tells the story of Jamie Graham (Christian Bale), an English boy living in Shanghai who is held as a prisoner of war by Japanese invading forces during World War II. While the movie was not a box office success for Spielberg, it did receive positive reviews. It was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Film Editing. 

During one of his scenes, Stiller explains that he made an embarrassing error in front of Spielberg. Stillers talks about a long Steadicam shot that follows Bale as he comes back into the barracks. Stiller is then supposed to offer him a chocolate bar but says the line wrong. It isn’t until after that that he makes an awkward gaffe. 

“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,” Stiller tells Meyers. “Then, I just hear out from where the monitors are ‘What?’ and I was like ‘I’m sorry. I screwed up my line’ and then I hear Steven Spielberg say ‘You never yell cut!’”

Ben Stiller learned from his mistake and has had a successful Hollywood career

Stiller has become a star in his own right through his acting in films like Meet the Parents, Dodgeball, Night at the Museum, and There’s Something About Mary. He followed in Spielberg’s footsteps by becoming a director himself. He has directed several hit films including Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Currently, Stiller is an executive producer and director of Severance, a new TV show from Apple. The series stars Adam Scott and follows a group of workers whose memories have been divided between their jobs and personal lives. The show is currently streaming on Apple TV+. 

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