The actor/director calls their courtship "a gradual thing that happened over a quick period of time"

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
December 19, 2013 12:40 PM
Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

In the soon-to-open The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ben Stiller plays a man whose vivid imagination helps him escape his unsatisfying existence. Yet in real-life, Stiller realized he didn’t need fantasy to sustain him once now-wife Christine Taylor became a part of it.

“[Our] relationship was a gradual thing that happened over a quick period of time, maybe seven or eight months, Stiller tells Parade for its latest cover story. “We just started hanging out with each other and it developed into, ‘Wow, this feels great. I really like this person. I think I love this person. I really do – I love this person.’ It hit me out of the blue.”

The duo wed 15 years ago, with Stiller, now 48, popping the question to Taylor, now 42, while in rehearsals for Meet the Parents. In that film, Robert De Niro memorably played his amusingly unapproachable father-in-law to-be, and Stiller reveals it was a bit of life-meets-art when he approached Taylor’s father to ask for permission to wed.

“It was like Meet the Parents in real life, because Christine’s father is an intimidating guy who owns a security company; we’re good friends now, but at the time I was in the basement rec room saying, ‘I really would like to marry your daughter,’ ” he recalls.

Fortunately, Stiller made it into the circle. “He’s a man of few words but he was very welcoming. I was more nervous asking him than asking her,” he says.

Another thing that made him nervous? Fatherhood. Today, he and Taylor are parents to daughter Ella, 11, and son Quinlin, 8, but he still recalls the strangeness of becoming a first-time dad.

“When your wife is pregnant for nine months, you get used to the idea of pregnancy. Obviously, you know where it’s leading, but it almost becomes this abstract idea; and then suddenly the next time you go back to the house, you have another person living with you. Who you’ve just met. Your child.”

Yet it sounds pretty much like he figured it out successfully.

“I can see aspects of myself in them, but I also see two totally unique individuals,” he says. “And I wonder how they became so well adjusted!”