In conversation with the cast of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Catching up with the ensamble cast of the successful comedy series which includes Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ben Kingsley, Dan Stevens and Rebel Wilson.
Ben Stiller, right, poses for a selfie with a fan at the European premiere of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. Hannah McKay / EPA
Ben Stiller, right, poses for a selfie with a fan at the European premiere of Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. Hannah McKay / EPA

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is the third film in the successful comedy film series that began in 2006. We caught up with director Shawn Levy and stars Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ben Kingsley, Dan Stevens and Rebel Wilson in London, where the new film is set.

Shawn, what was it like returning to this fictional world you created eight years ago?

There’s something about the blend of this wondrous ‘what if’ that gets brought to life in these movies. The new film also has humour and a warmheartedness that are winning and compelling. I am very conscious of the privilege to create these worlds and these adventures.

Ben, this franchise has done more than entertain – it has increased visitor numbers at the Museum of National History and the Smithsonian Institution. Now it’s set to do the same for the British Museum.

I love what these movies are about. They have become a part of our culture. It’s really fun to go to a museum and see that they have a night programme. I have a lot of people – adults – who tell me, ‘I had a sleepover at the museum with my kids.’ And I’ll say, ‘Great. Did anything come to life?’

Owen, let’s talk about your returning character – the cowboy Jedediah – and his unlikely partnership with the Roman centurion Octavius (Steve Coogan).

There’s a brashness to Jedediah that sort of chafes the gentility of what Octavius represents. There has been an arc to our relationship – we started off sort of as adversaries, and now it’s evolved into more of a team. We’re practically a buddy comedy within a funny family movie.

Steve, because Jedediah and Octavius are diorama miniatures, your scenes were filmed against green screen, without the other actors on set.

In some ways, it was like becoming a child. Even though we have to concentrate, it is like playing. And that’s the best thing about the job – you get a license sometimes to not grow up.

Dan, for one of the film’s most memorable scenes, production closed down London’s ­Trafalgar Square as your character, Lancelot hurtled through in full armour, riding a horse. What was that like?

Just to shut down Trafalgar Square is a feat in itself, but to have a horse run through it was a little daunting. It was really fun, though I was a little sore ­afterwards, especially in that suit. After four months of filming, I think I’m a couple of inches shorter than when I started. The suit weighed about 50lbs [22.6kgs] – it was a workout.

Rebel, tell us about your character Tilly, a night guard at the British Museum.

Tilly has been sitting in her booth for three years, and she doesn’t get many customers at her gate. But on this particular night, she gets a lot of action. When Tilly sees Larry [Ben Stiller’s character], she’s like, ‘Oh my God, another security guard!’ and she wants to have a chit chat. And when she feels deceived by him, Tilly goes on the attack with a hammer.

Shawn Levy: Rebel is one of the funniest actors around. She saw an opportunity to come in and just murder it and, in a kind of surprise twist, plays a romantic storyline unlike we’ve seen ­Rebel do.

Sir Ben [Kingsley], everybody here has talked about how honoured they are that you’ve joined the ensemble. What was it like acting opposite the other Ben?

If you can do comedy, you can do anything, and I really loved working with Ben [Stiller]. He’s very generous, a great leading man, and I think it’s a sign of confidence in the franchise that when you’re a new guy on the set, you’re welcomed with graciousness. This was a very buoyant set to be on. But it was never complacent, because you can’t be complacent with comedy.”

• Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is in cinemas now

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: December 17, 2014 04:00 AM

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