If life is hard and comedy is harder, then a black comedy like Duplex may be the hardest. The story of an NYC couple trying to get rid of the rent-controlled old lady upstairs required two directors, a dozen producers, and some major multitasking by Ben Stiller. The movie pulled in an unfunny $4.6 million opening weekend. ''Dark comedies are tough,'' says Miramax production copresident Meryl Poster. ''It was a different kind of experience because the actors were also the producers, so it was more collaborative than some movies.''
Here's how the collaboration went: Simpsons writer Larry Doyle's script was sold to Miramax and developed by the production companies of stars Stiller and Drew Barrymore, with Greg Mottola (The Daytrippers) directing. Mottola moved out and Danny DeVito was hired to direct. Though DeVito retained final cut, Stiller took over as director for reshoots while DeVito filmed a role in Tim Burton's Big Fish (due Nov. 26). Stiller then moved into the editing room, sometimes with DeVito, other times on his own. Neither Stiller nor DeVito would discuss the process, but their reps say they enjoyed the collaboration -- if not the opening gross.