“Could you do Blue Steel or Magnum?” someone in the audience at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade theater asked Ben Stiller during a Q&A this past weekend. Blue Steel and Magnum are the two special ‘looks’ conveyed by Stiller’s character Derek Zoolander the clueless male model in his classic 2011 comedy.
The Q&A and a Stiller retrospective were tied in to the Christmas release of Stiller’s upcoming take on “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” The feel-good movie co-starring Kristen Wiig that comes out this month.
Stiller chose “Zoolander,” about a dim-witted model, to be the first film screened in the series. Why did he choose “Zoolander” the moderator asked?
“Because I like it,” Stiller replied slowly.
“Zoolander” had the misfortune of bad timing; it came out 11 days after 9/11 and got some terrible reviews, especially from Roger Ebert who wrote the movie was a prime example of why America is hated in some parts of the world. (Later Stiller said the critic sort of apologized to Stiller and conceded he may have over reacted.)
“Zoolander” went on to become one of Stiller’s most well-loved movies and, Stiller said, has gone on to have a life of its own.
So back to the audience request for Zoolander’s signature look: cheeks sucked in, eyes open wide and vacant.
“Okay,” Stiller said. “I have to say Blue Steel is the original but Magnum is a little more powerful so I think I’ll go with Magnum.”
Stiller got out of his chair, did the model strut and then sucked in his cheeks.
Of course the running joke in the film is that it takes Zoolander years to perfect a look – he only has two – and both are exactly the same.
To a question about “Zoolander 2,” Stiller said he “is strongly considering a sequel” and has completed a script with writer-actor Justin Theroux, who played the evil DJ in the 2001 film. “We wrote a script about 2 ½ years ago and we like the script,” he said. “We talked to the studio and the studio’s kind of into it but they were trying to figure out the casting and the budget and all these things and it just sort of didn’t like happen right away.” Stiller added, “I still like the script and I could see doing it, it’s a matter of (it) coming together.”
Stiller does have some reservations. “Making a big broad comedy like ‘Zoolander’ takes a lot of energy. I feel like people who love the movie really love the movie and I want to make sure the movie lives up to that for them, which I think could happen.”
Stiller said he was more self conscious about the character and how it would be received this time around. “I was thinking about that” a lot he said. “If I do this character what if it sucks?” He added, “I don’t close the doors on it but it’s just, it’s not something I would ever want to force because I think the energy that it takes to make a movie like this is you have to be in that moment and just be sort of not thinking about all the other stuff.”