Bigger better Ben

Bigger better Ben

Ella Timms chats to comedian Ben Stiller about Zoolander’s revival, turning 50
and wearing ridiculous outfits

Why did you wait so long to make a Zoolander sequel?
It wasn’t intentional. I never thought that I had to do a sequel, I was just really happy that people still remembered the movie and liked it. And of course, as the years went by, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because it had been too many years since the first one.

Did you feel any pressure?
Yes, definitely. The more time went by, the more I started saying, ‘Wow, how do we do this?!’ And I was thinking, we’re getting older and people really seemed to love the first movie, so how does one make the second one good enough? But when I wrote the script in 2010, I got excited about what it could be, and both Will [Ferrell] and Owen [Wilson] wanted to do it. Everyone was so into it.

What was American Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s role in Zoolander 2?
Anna really loved the first movie, so when I told her what I was doing in the next one, she offered to help in any way possible. And she has been really helpful – just her saying, ‘Hey, I like this!’ really opened doors for us into the rest of the fashion world.

Was she instrumental in getting renowned Italian designer Valentino on board?
She was instrumental in many aspects of the movie, as only she could be. I’ve met Valentino a few times over the years. I also saw the documentary about him, called Valentino: The Last Emperor, about seven years ago, and that was one of the reasons I wanted this movie to be set in Rome.

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Do you take your family along when shooting abroad?
It depends. On this film, they went back and forth because my kids are in school in New York. I have a daughter who is in 7th grade and just enrolled at a new school – for her, it would have been hard to have to move to Rome for a few months. So we figured out a balance, which is really important.

It seems as if many celebrities wanted to be part of this movie – Justin Bieber was hilarious in the trailer.
Yes, I felt really fortunate that people who were fans of the first movie wanted to come on board and be part of it. There are a bunch of people from the fashion world in the movie too, and people you’d think wouldn’t be in it, are. As for the trailer, I wish it could all be a surprise, but I think we saved some really funny bits.

Did you get some new inspiration in the style of Blue Steel, your character Derek Zoolander’s famous pose?
Of course, but I can’t say – it’s too important! There is a big plot that revolves around a look and its mythology. The first movie had The Manchurian Candidate kind of framework to it, while this one has more of a Da Vinci Code-esque plot that has to do with the history of models and Derek’s son being connected to a lineage of pure-blood models.

Does Derek feel old?
He definitely does in the beginning, since he and Hansel [Owen Wilson] have been forgotten because of how quickly the fashion industry moves on, which is not a joke – that’s the way it is. So for them, having been out of it for 14 or 15 years means they’re like ancient relics.

Speaking of which, you are about to turn 50.
People continue to remind me! That’s life. Making this movie at this age helped me to understand the situation that Derek and Hansel find themselves in.

Women in Hollywood are under great pressure to maintain their good looks. Do you feel this pressure?
I think as you get older, you just want to feel good about yourself. As I get older, I think about my life and I feel it gets much simpler. I just want to be healthy and happy.

What is your secret to looking good?
I have to think about that one. It’s probably no carbs!

What do you really think about modelling?
I think it’s probably a challenging thing to do because you are being judged all the time.

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Did filming Zoolander 2 make you appreciate the fashion industry more?
Sure. You appreciate how hard people in the industry have to work, because they have to reinvent themselves every few months. They constantly have to ask themselves ‘What’s the next big thing?’ It just doesn’t stop.

What is the most ridiculous piece of clothing you have ever worn aside from the costumes in Zoolander?
Oh gosh… The first thing I can think of is the SNL sketch from a few years ago, where I wore a giant V-neck sweater and nothing else. I’m still not able to watch the sketch because it’s such a ridiculous outfit!

Text: Ella Timms/The Interview People; Photography: Greatstock, Gallo/GettyImages
February/March 2016

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