Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor
10/27/2008 at 09:00 AM EDT
In many of his movies, funnyman Ben Stiller acts like a big kid. Off-screen, he credits own children with keeping him inspired and grounded in Hollywood.
"Family – that’s real stuff," he told PEOPLE on Sunday at the Los Angeles premiere of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, in which he costars with Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer (not to mention some cameo voice work by his kids!).
"It keeps you grounded in life. You have to have a balance when you’re working in this business of the time you spend at home with your family and not working, and that becomes much more important when you have kids. [It] is for me."
Stiller, 42, who has two children Ella, 6, and Quinlin, 3, with wife, actress Christine Taylor, says his family influences his work choices as well.
"You have to be aware of when the kids are in school and where you can go, and how long you can go away for, or if everybody can come along."
"This summer we were shooting [the sequel to] Night at the Museum in Vancouver and it was perfect because it was over the summer, so we were all up there and had a great summer together!"
And, says Stiller, his kids unknowingly act as acting coaches.
"You see what they respond to and they like silliness and fun. It keeps you sort of loose."
Both children have their big screen debuts in the animated Madagascar, doing sounds and voices in one scene.
"It’s fun to be in something that kids can enjoy. My daughter is excited to see it because she knows they’re in there somewhere."