'Escape at Dannemora': After building a career on comedy, 'True Detective' inspires Ben Stiller to create prison drama

After years of cultivating the impeccable artistry of comedy Ben Stiller's big TV show 'Escape at Dannemora' is anything but even a smidge of laughs and gags.


                            'Escape at Dannemora': After building a career on comedy, 'True Detective' inspires Ben Stiller to create prison drama

The name Ben Stiller brings back memories of the early millennial coinage - 'rolling on the floor laughing' - with samples of his comedic genius brimming in films like 'Meet the Fockers' and 'Night at the Museum.' So when the 52-year-old son of veteran comedians and actors, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, announced his directorial project, it was expected that he would create another stellar comedic masterpiece or something of that sort, much like his directorial debut, 'Reality Bites.' But the reality, in this case, turned out to be vastly different, as it came in the form of his brainchild, 'Escape at Dannemora', a prison drama slash noir thriller starring the likes of Benicio Del Toro, Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano. Surprising, right? Not really. Turns out, Stiller got highly inspired by 'True Detective' and wanted to create something similar.

Stiller, who started his career with writing credits and a featured appearance on the show 'Saturday Night Live', has also directed several other lighthearted and comedic projects such as both the 'Zoolander' films. His most prominent and popular works have been comedies like 'Dodgeball,' 'Along Came Polly,' and 'Meet the Parents.' But after years of cultivating the impeccable artistry of comedy and even creating one hilarious masterpiece after the other, his big TV show 'Escape at Dannemora' is anything but even a smidge of laughs and gags.

The official synopsis of the show describes it as: "The small sleepy town of Dannemora is home to the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison. Two inmates, Richard Matt, and David Sweat become entangled in the life of a married female prison employee in the summer of 2015. Tilly Mitchell, an employee at Clinton Correctional Facility becomes romantically entangled with both convicts and aids in their escape from the facility."

So why this striking contrast between almost the entirety of his career, and this new show, you ask? As Stiller himself shared with Entertainment Weekly, “It’s all Cary Fukunaga’s fault." He further explained it saying: “He went and did it with True Detective and made this amazing show. When you go into it and you haven’t done it, you go, ‘Oh, I can try that!’ And the reality is…” He laughs. “It’s tough.”

 

Patricia Arquette is unrecognizable as Mitchell in Escape at Dannemora.
Patricia Arquette is unrecognizable as Mitchell in Escape at Dannemora.

Stiller, who has spent almost a year creating this new prison drama, also shared how he was “being constantly afraid that I was going to f**k it up." Speaking to the outlet, he also explained the whole directorial experience of the show, saying: I’m editing scenes that we shot literally a year ago,” the director (Tropic Thunder) marvels to EW on a break from tweaking the series’ finale in August. “It’s just such a bizarre thing, to remember on one shot, ‘Oh, we did three takes on that,’ and then on another, go, ‘I don’t even remember doing that!'” he says with a sigh. “I honestly have never experienced anything like it.”

With persistence and dedication like that, it's no wonder that 'Escape at Dannemora' has already garnered quite an impressive reception and response alike. Be it Arquette's absolutely unrecognizable role, or just the stark contrast between Stiller's usual genre and this show - with just one episode out, the prison drama already looks like a solid hit and fans can't wait to witness more of it.