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Ben Stiller Brings Goodness into ‘Goodness’

hollywoodexclusive1Ricky Schroder admits he's feeling pretty homesick these days, as he's learning to adjust to life half a world away.

"I moved to Barcelona, Spain six months ago with my wife and four kids. It was my wife's dream to live abroad for a year," reports the actor-director who grew up before America's eyes on "Silver Spoons" before graduating to such big-boy fare as "NYPD Blue."

"I supported it and we made it happen. We'll be back in June," adds Schroder, who is commuting back and forth to the United States for work.

"It's hard for me. The food I find particularly challenging. It's a different taste. I'm living in the middle of the city and I've never had that much noise around me," adds the nature lover and former ranch owner, "but my wife and kids love it. They're all learning Spanish. I'm doing a lot of reading, getting in shape, writing scripts and getting a lot of quality time in with my kids. We have one kid going off to college so this is the last time we'll all be together before he takes off."

Schroder is proud of his latest film, "Blood Done Sign My Name," which is currently in theaters. "This is only one tale of one unsung hero who fought the good fight," he notes of the movie about how the death of a black man led to Dr. Ben Chavis becoming an important part of the civil rights movement. But similar events, he says, "happened all over the country ... I think this movie should be a celebration of how far we've come as a nation since then. We have our first African-American president. With my kids and their friends, race isn't an issue. Hopefully, that will continue with the generations to come. Obviously, there's still work to be done, but I feel good about how far we've come. This movie carries a strong message and I hope people feel the impact of that lesson."

GOODNESS, INDEED: Ben Stiller is in the thick of preproduction on his "Help Me Spread Goodness" flick that marks a turn toward the serious side for him both as a director and as a star. It marks more than that, too. The dramedy — about a divorced Chicago banker who travels to Nigeria after falling prey to an e-mail scam — will take audiences into a world Stiller himself has come to care about deeply.

Last year, Stiller ventured to Africa to witness Save the Children's Rewrite the Future educational campaign, visiting with kids at several projects geared toward helping young people help themselves.

"As a person, and seeing what's going on in the world, there's only so much you can take before you go, 'I've just got to try to do something,'" he told People magazine at the time, "whether it seems cynical or not."

Now "Help Me Spread Goodness" is en route to the cameras, with funding from Participant Media, a production firm that requires that its films carry a message of social change and awareness. Stiller's character encompasses exactly that, as he goes from self-interested and clueless, to stunned and overwhelmed by the poverty and con games he finds in Lagos, to enlightened and caring.

Among the roles being cast now is the lead part of a British international relief worker named Serena who arranges micro-financing for women in desperate poverty to start subsistence businesses. The lead role of Stiller's character's 8-year-old daughter is also being cast, as well as various Nigerian and American characters. Production begins in Africa in April.

Here's hoping the movie lives up to its noble intentions.

FAUX PAUSE: The fake documentary form is getting a workout on both big and small screen. "And They're Off," a feature mockumentary about the worst trainer in the world of thoroughbred racing, is galloping toward an April production. And the makers of a pilot presentation called "Death Valley" are also busy getting ready to shoot their shockumentary about an elite taskforce that deals with monsters and the undead. Zombies do exist in their world, which also seems to be aiming for laughs ala "Cops."

Meanwhile, Spike TV is finishing up casting for its "Back Nine" John Schneider-Miguel A. Nunez pilot about a washed up professional golfer and his sex-addicted caddie, the latter of whom is named Tiger.


With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.



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