Intensely private but insanely famous actors like Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller tend to greet any question about their private lives with some trepidation, but each has a few solid nuggets of wisdom to offer when it comes to dealing with in-laws.
After all, in addition to each of them being a father-in-law and a son-in-law in real life respectively, the two just had their third go-around for the Meet the Parents franchise, Little Fockers, which is built on the difficulty of maintaining the in-law bonds.
“I haven’t told this to my children, but I would if I could think of it,” De Niro confesses. “Just look at the parents of the person you’re with or interested in and know that you’re not only getting into it with them, but also how they behave, how they are and how you have to interact with them for hopefully the rest of your life.
“You’re not just marrying the person — you’re attaching yourself to the family for better or worse.”
Stiller, too, as a son-in-law, notes the ever-tenuous relationship with in-laws that must always be maintained.
“I try to be my best possible self with my father-in-law and I think I’m OK at it but it’s definitely one of those relationships where you’re aware that the relationship is there, but we’re pretty friendly,” he says. “I think if you’re a good husband, that makes you a good son-in-law.”
As for on-screen roles, the two have managed to keep their on-screen dynamic fresh, considering that Little Fockers takes place once Stiller’s character and his wife have had twins.
Though Greg Gaylord Focker (Stiller) seems to have had a few years of being on solid ground with his demanding father-in-law, taciturn ex-FBI agent Jack Byrnes (De Niro) we rejoin the family right when that legendary ‘circle of trust’ might be broken.
“I felt like (it was exciting) to see Jack and Greg’s relationship evolve to where Greg’s gotten to the point where he’s a little more confident in himself and then having to deal with this situation of Jack losing confidence in him and how he reacts differently,” Stiller says.
De Niro adds that in contrast to dramatic roles, working on Little Fockers was a chance to loosen up.
“When you’re doing comedy I have less restrictions or constrictions,” he says. “There’s just more room for having fun.