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Sundance 2012: Ben Stiller Revisits 'Reality Bites'

Ben Stiller Sundance Reality Bites

First Posted: 01/23/2012 5:21 pm Updated: 01/23/2012 5:21 pm

It's been 18 years since Ben Stiller made his directorial debut at Sundance Film Festival with the '90s cult classic "Reality Bites." And it has been almost that long since he has watched the flick in its entirety.

When Stiller screened the film for an audience at this year's Sundance festival in Park City, Utah on Sunday night -- a crowd comprised mainly of Generation X-ers who felt uncomfortably old celebrating the film's anniversary -- one thing made the actor cringe.

"I'm still trying to come to grips with the size of my hair," Stiller said during a panel conversation
with producing partners Stacey Sher and Michael Shamberg following the screening, which was organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Universal Studios. "It's weird to see the movie after all this time. I look at certain choices I made and it is interesting to see what makes you cringe and what doesn't."

One scene in particular he wishes he would have tweaked involves a close-up shot of Stiller bullying Ethan Hawke's disaffected slacker-philosopher character, Troy Dyer, as the pair's love triangle with Winona Ryder's Lelaina reaches a fever pitch.

"It was that close-up scene where I say, 'I know what she needs,'" Stiller said, cringing a little at the memory. He added, "I felt like sometimes it went towards the cheesy side ... Overall it was a good feeling watching it, besides it being depressing to watch the aging process onscreen."

Stiller revealed that the movie, which was made for just $4 million, could have gone in a completely different direction. When they first tested it with audiences they were hoping the love triangle would be resolved differently -- with Winona Ryder ending up with Stiller instead of Hawke.

But there was never any question that Stiller would play the foil to Hawk's goateed guitar player. He admitted he couldn't have cut it in Hawke's role.

"Being Ethan Hawke was never an option," Stiller said. "My character developed as we talked about the movie. And I felt like it was important to have a character who represented another side of that generation."

Almost two decades since its release, the film still holds up on the big screen and is oddly prescient about the ways in which we document our lives today. Ryder's character, Lelaina, is a struggling documentary film maker who videotapes her recently graduated friends as they struggle to find jobs during the mid-90s recession and try to come to terms with being adults.

But Stiller did note that there would have been some major differences in the narrative if the film had been made in 2012.

"If Lelaina had wanted to make a documentary about her friends she would have shot it and just posted it on YouTube," he said. "People today find their lives fascinating and they want to document everything."

The movie actually satirizes the rise of reality television in 1994, and little did they know the reality genre would take off, spawning everything from "Teen Mom" to "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." The working title for film was actually "The Real World," but while in production MTV green-lit the first season of its now long-running show "The Real World," forcing them to change the title to "Reality Bites."

The panel agreed that it was a touch ironic to both make a studio movie about the commoditization of dissent among Generation X-ers and also to screen it at a film festival that has turned into one large gifting suite for celebrities. Stars are able able to pick up swag through the festival, with brands doling out everything from Sorel boots and Superdry jackets to DL1961 jeans.

Remembering when the movie first screened at Park City's Egyptian Theatre, Shamberg said, with a touch of wistfulness, "I remember nobody gave you free stuff at Sundance back then."

Check out photos of celebrities at Sundance 2012:

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  • Sundance 2012

    Lil Jon and Redfoo of LMFAO attend the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, a nightlife event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actors Laura Prepon and Danny Masterson attend Open House at Bing Bar held at Bing Bar during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Aaron Paul attends Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Angela Kinsey (L) attend Day 2 of T-Mobile Google Music Village at The Lift on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Producer Peter Jackson (L) and Damien Echols attend Day 2 of T-Mobile Google Music Village at The Lift on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Paris Hilton,and Redfoo of LMFAO perform at the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, a nightlife event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Roberto Zincone, Malin Akerman, and Jamie Chung attend the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, a nightlife event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Donald Faison attends Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Nate Parker, actress Laetitia Casta, director Nicholas Jarecki, and actor Richard Gere attend day 1 of The Variety Studio at The 2012 Sundance Film Festival at Variety Studio on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Rapper Lil Jon attends the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, a nightlife event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Cuba Gooding Jr.(R) and guest attend Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Cuba Gooding Jr. and Aziz Ansari perform at Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Drake and Quincy Jones attend Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Ben Flajnik attends Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Aubrey Plaza attends Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Aziz Ansari and Drake attend Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Will Forte attends Comedy with Aziz Ansari and a Drake Performance presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Maria Menounos attends Day 2 of T-Mobile Google Music Village at The Lift on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Director Quentin Dupieux and actress Alexis Dziena attend the 'Wrong' Premiere and party at Fuego Pizzeria during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Rebecca Hall attends the 'Lay the Favorite' premiere during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival held at Eccles Center Theatre on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actresses Laura Prepon and Rebecca Hall attend the 'Lay the Favorite' premiere during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival held at Eccles Center Theatre on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Bruce Willis during an interview at the 'Lay the Favorite' premiere during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival held at Eccles Center Theatre on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor James Marsden attends the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, a nightlife event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Lake Bell attends the 'Black Rock' premiere during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival held at Library Center Theater on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Kate Bosworth attends the 'Black Rock' premiere during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival held at Library Center Theater on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Skylar Grey performs at the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, a nightlife event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Allison Janney attends the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, a nightlife event at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Emma Roberts attends the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, an exclusive four-night concert series at Sundance to celebrate the launch of the new Google Music Magnifier program on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Emma Roberts attends the T-Mobile Presents Google Music at TAO, an exclusive four-night concert series at Sundance to celebrate the launch of the new Google Music Magnifier program on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Musician Tyler Hilton attends Day 2 of Nintendo 3DS Experience Lounge on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Michael Cera attends Day 2 of Nintendo 3DS Experience Lounge on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    (L-R) Actress Cheryl Hines and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. attend Day 2 of T-Mobile Google Music Village at The Lift on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actors William H. Macy (L) and Corbin Bernsen (R) attend The 'Lay the Favorite' Official Cast and Filmmakers Dinner presented by Bing at The Bing Bar on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Megan Park attends SOREL At VEVO PowerStation & SOREL Suite featuring The Fresh Lounge Presented by Continuum Entertainment Group at 427 Main St. on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Nolan Gould attends SOREL At VEVO PowerStation & SOREL Suite featuring The Fresh Lounge Presented by Continuum Entertainment Group at 427 Main St. on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    (L-R) Rapper Lil Jon, musician Cisco Adler and Snowboarder Jeremy McCassy attend Day 2 of Oakley Learn To Ride Fueled by Muscle Milk and Lounge on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: Rapper Lil Jon attends Day 2 of Oakley Learn To Ride Fueled by Muscle Milk and Lounge on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress AnnaLynne McCord attends Day 2 of the Puma Social Lounge at T-Mobile Google Music Village at The Lift on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actors Anne Heche (L) and Lou Diamond Phillips attend day 1 of The Variety Studio at The 2012 Sundance Film Festival at Variety Studio on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Malin Akerman attends Day 2 of Nintendo 3DS Experience Lounge on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Scott Wolf attends Day 2 of Nintendo 3DS Experience Lounge on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: (C) Actor Nolan Gould and the Snow Sugar Girls attend Day 2 of Chefdance Cafe at 427 Main St. on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 21: Actress Liv Tyler attends the Stella Cafe At T-Mobile Google Music Village At The Lift - Day 2 - during the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Sigourney Weaver attends the Stella Cafe At T-Mobile Google Music Village At The Lift - Day 2 - during the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Tinsley Mortimer attends Day 2 of T-Mobile Google Music Village at The Lift on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Geoffrey Arend and actress Lizzy Caplan attend Day 1 of The Variety Studio at The 2012 Sundance Film Festival at Variety Studio on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Martin Starr attends day 1 of The Variety Studio at The 2012 Sundance Film Festival at Variety Studio on January 21, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Elijah Wood DJ's at the 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' dinner held at Acura Studio on January 20, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Emma Roberts attends the 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' dinner held at Acura Studio on January 20, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actress Ari Graynor attends the 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' dinner held at Acura Studio on January 20, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

  • Sundance 2012

    Actor Chris Messina, Director Lee Toland Krieger, Producer Quincy Jones, writer/actor Will McCormack and actor Eric Christian Olsen attend the 'Celeste and Jesse Forever' dinner held at Acura Studio on January 20, 2012 in Park City, Utah. (Getty)

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