When Ben Stiller created supermodel Derek Zoolander to save the world, he didn't think his outrageous character could actually do it. But this wacky comedy may be just the thing for an America that really needs to laugh.
When I recently sat down with Stiller, Zoolander's star and director and a native New Yorker, he was candid with his feelings about the World Trade Center attack and the post-production decision that he made in light of it.
McCuddy: We could use a laugh right about now. Is the timing of this release good for the country?
Stiller: You know, I hope so. You can never in a million years — when you're working on a movie, the date was set like six months ago — think that we'd be coming out with a situation like this. But I think it's good to have the option for people who want to laugh for it to be there. That's all I think we can provide. You know? I hope that people who just don't want to think about anything for an hour and a half, this is there for them.
Q: It's perfect for that.
A: Well, I wanted to make a silly, mindless comedy. And I think we succeeded. (laughs) I hope that's a good thing.
Q: Move over Austin Powers, you've been out-coifed.
A: (laughs) Oh my lord! I don't want to out-coif Austin Powers. He's got an incredible coif.
Q: Tell me how your life has been changed in the last couple of weeks.
A: I've been affected like everyone else across the country. I live in Los Angeles now, but I grew up in New York. I spent the first 30 years of my life here. My folks live here. My sister lives here. My folks were out in L.A. when it happened. My sister was here.
You know, I feel sad. I feel this great sense of unity with everybody else. I feel proud to be from New York. Coming back here today ... I haven't been here since it happened so this is the first time back and I felt a need to be back here. I felt I wanted to come back here. It's where I come from. And it's affected everybody.
Q: Would it be difficult to start production on a New York-based comedy today?
A: Yeah, sure. I think it would be difficult, but I think it would probably be a good thing. It's a good thing for people to, as people have said, to try to get back to our normal lives. But there's no way that you can't accept the fact that things have changed here. The great thing about New York and this city is that it is resilient and everybody is coming together. But you know you have to accept the fact that right now we're all still dealing with this.
Q: I have to ask you about the beginning of the movie. We're looking at the Statue Of Liberty and then there's a real quick pan over to the skyline but it cuts away before we see the Towers.
A: There were two other shots that — one especially — that really featured the Trade Center that I took out just because I felt that the reason this movie is going to come out now is for people to have fun. And laugh. And forget about everything. And if it's going to come out at this time, I don't want people to be wrenched out of that fun they're having. That's the reason I did it. And it was a tough decision because nothing feels like the right decision.
Q: You can make the argument both ways.
A: Yeah. And the reason I did it was because the movie is coming out right now. In my way, I wanted to be respectful of that, and for people to see this movie because they want to have fun. And not think about anything for a little while.
Q: You didn't want that audible 'gasp' from the audience in the middle of a comedy?
A: I just didn't want people to be taken out of the reality of the movie, which is there purely for people to have fun and laugh, and if this movie exists for any reason it's to have people laugh.
Q: What will Derek Zoolander do in the inevitable sequel?
A: Oh, well I don't know if the sequel is inevitable.
Q: (Attempting a Zoolander impression) Will everyone start talking like this?
A: (The real thing) Perhaps they will do bad Marilyn Monroe impressions.
Q: You're channeling her!
A: I know. Cat's outta the bag.
A: Thank you.
Q: Kennedys are gonna start hittin' on you.
A: (laughs) Uhhhh. Yeah.
'Zoolander' opens Friday, September 28.