Filmmaker Noah Baumbach was thinking about making a movie about brothers who were raised in different roles and naturally gravitated toward Ben Stiller to play one of them.
Stiller had already starred in two of Baumbach’s films, and the two had a good relationship.
Not long before that Adam Sandler had reached out to the filmmaker about working together. As it happened, Stiller and Sandler — who had long known each other — had reconnected and were also talking about working together.
“So we all got together for lunch and had this fairly wide-ranging conversation about our lives and ideas of what could be in this movie,” says Baumbach. “Then I took a year or something and wrote the script,” he adds with a small laugh.
The film is “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” which opens in limited release Friday and will also stream on Netflix.
In it, Dustin Hoffman plays Harold Meyerowitz, an elderly sculptor who never received the acclaim he thought he deserved and made his living as a well-regarded professor. Sandler is his son Danny, a middle-aged man in the midst of a divorce. Whatever promise he had as a musician in his youth is gone, and Danny is a disappointment to Harold, although the old man won’t directly say that.
Stiller is Matthew, a very successful business manager and Danny’s younger half-brother. Harold is on his fourth marriage. So Mathew was raised by Harold and his third wife, while Danny and his sister, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), mostly lived with Harold’s second spouse.
Baumbach says it was helpful to have Sandler and Stiller in mind while writing the film. When he finished the script, the first person he sent it to was Hoffman. At first, the iconic actor turned down the role.
Eventually, Hoffman, who turned 80 this summer, was persuaded to play the iconoclastic old man.
“Dustin is somebody who I’ve had great feelings for since I was a kid,” says the filmmaker. “His movies feel like parts of my life especially…