NEW YORK – Ben Stiller (search) and Jennifer Aniston (search) have an easy chemistry in the romantic comedy "Along Came Polly" -- but no love was lost between Stiller and the ferret who plays a pivotal comic role in the film.
Stiller was bitten on the chin by his fuzzy co-star while shooting the final scene -- and obviously he's still smarting.
"Their teeth are sharp, they're sharp like razors," Stiller told reporters during a recent promotional junket. "I mean, they're rat-like creatures, just let's face it."
Even animal-lover Aniston wasn't a fan of the ferret.
"It's not the warmest, cuddliest animal," she said. "It's just a big rat at the end of the day."
Stiller's very public war with the weasel has upset ferret fanciers, who had been eagerly anticipating the movie, which gives more screen time to a weasel than any other since the 1982 fantasy film, "The Beastmaster." (search)
"There's been a lot of discussion on the ferret Web sites," Staci Wilson, 37, of Ferrets Magazine (search), told The Post. "People are upset with the actors for saying disparaging things about ferrets without knowing what they're talking about."
Pet ferrets are illegal in New York City and the state of California, which didn't bother "Polly" writer-director John Hamburg, who has Aniston's bohemian waitress character of the title keep an elderly, blind pet ferret named Rodolfo in her Lower East Side walk-up.
"I just knew that I wanted her character to have a strange sort of animal that she could have picked up in a flea market somewhere," Hamburg said recently. "I hadn't seen a ferret really used in a movie [before this].
"They ended up being a lot of fun -- except for the one that bit Ben Stiller."
Stiller -- who survived working with a dog in "There's Something About Mary" and a cat in "Meet the Parents" -- needed a rabies shot after the angry ferret sunk its teeth into his chin.
"He did this crazy turnaround thing and literally attached himself to my chin," Stiller said, "and then he didn't let go. He was holding onto my chin. It was completely surreal. This ferret was on my chin.
"And I didn't provoke him at all."
Ferret lovers say that the ferret did have an excuse because Stiller had undergone a root canal the day before shooting the scene.
"He probably could smell it," Wilson says. "All animals have weird reactions to medicinal smells. It probably reminded him of going to the vet or something."
Or maybe Rodolfo was just acting out in response to being the butt of a long-running joke in "Polly."
The poor, short-sighted creature is shown repeatedly banging into doors and walls, comes close to being used as toilet paper and, in a final indignity, is forgotten by his owner when she rushes off to the airport.
A week before the movie's release, the ferret scenes -- teased in the movie's trailer -- have already caused a flurry of activity on the Internet among ferret fans.
"I have owned five ferrets, and to see Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston using them as a joke is ridiculous," one ferret fan posted on movie Web site imdb.com.
Responds another, "I have six ferrets and I thought [the movie] was funny. Quite obviously, a mechanical ferret is used in the bumping scenes and this is so much of an improvement over the weaselly bad guys that ferrets are usually portrayed as."
Even Wilson -- who is also a member of an underground ferret rescue group called Ferrets Anonymous -- has a sense of humor about "Polly."
"I thought it was cute when Rodolfo stows away in a knapsack on the boat and when he's walking on a leash in a sweater," Wilson says. "Those are both things that ferrets would definitely do."