‘It’sreallyhardto satirisethefashion world.It’shardto figureouthowtotop what’sgoingonin reality.Everythingisso outofcontrol’
trousers—and now he’s trying to make sure that the Don Atari show is both realistic and completely ridiculous. It’s not easy. “It’s hard to figure out how to top what’s going on in reality,” he continues. “Everything is so out of control.”
This is just one of the challenges that Stiller faces with Zoolander 2. Comedy sequels are notoriously difficult to pull off: do you repeat the formula and the jokes, but risk looking a pale imitation? Or strike out into new territory and potentially alienate your core audience? The decade-and-a-half that has elapsed since the original seems only to have intensified the pressure on Stiller to strike the right balance. Meanwhile, the fashion world has changed and the movie industry—DVD sales collapsing and above-the-title stars facing obsolescence—is pretty well unrecognisable. Is there a danger in 2016 that Zoolander 2 could be so last season?
Stiller has a tendency to overthink everything as much as Derek underthinks it and is well aware of the challenge he faces. Zoolander 2 needs to be funny. “Well, hopefully people will laugh,” he says. “There’s this wonderful thing you get with a comedy. It doesn’t matter what you’re thinking, what ideas you have about what it’s going to be visually, or tonally what it’s like. If they are not laughing, I don’t care how beautifully designed the shot is. They want to laugh, that’s what they care about. If people say, ‘I’m going to go see a comedy…’ I appreciate that. But it’s a high bar.”
For a silly film, it’s a serious business. And with that, Stiller returns to directing duties, making sure an industrial-sized vat of Don Atari stewed prunes is in place so that it can be disgorged over Derek and Hansel at the end of the runway—the ultimate indignity.
Zoolander— the original; the one with the gasstation fight; the one with the walk-off presided over by David Bowie where Hansel removes his underpants without taking off his trousers; the one where Derek is chided by Hansel to “Dere-lick my balls, capitan”; the one where Will Ferrell’s deranged Mugatu splutters, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”— was pretty much an unmitigated disaster. You might have liked it, perhaps you have even watched it more times than you can remember, but in film-industry circles, it is a cautionary tale.
It was released in September 2001, a couple of weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, at a time when a mass audience wasn’t ready to be engaged by a male model’s crisis over whether there’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking. Zoolander failed spectacularly to chime with the national mood in America and ABOVE: Zoolander 2 Clockwise from bottom left: Stiller chats between scenes with Milla Jovovich as Katinka ; Derek accompanies a catsuit-clad Penelope Cruz, playing Melanie Valentina (“Interpol, global fashion division”); a teaser poster; Zoolander and Hansel (Owen Wilson) steal the show at Paris Fashion Week