Blue Steel. Le Tigre. Magnum… looks powerful enough to halt a Chinese throwing star mid-air and thwart the plans of an evil mastermind’s global takeover. There is only one male model and one male model alone who is capable of conjuring such beauty and power with a pout… Derek Zoolander.
Yes, we welcome the return of Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel McDonald (Owen Wilson) to the big screen; it’s been a long 15 years since we last saw them!
“This movie has been a long time in the making,” explains writer/director/star Ben Stiller. “We probably would have made a sequel the year after the movie came out but nobody came to see the first one in the theatre really, so no one wanted it.”
Zoolander was released in September of 2001, a harrowing time as a result of 9/11, and the original film underwhelmed at the box office. However, it found legions of new fans with its DVD release and gradually gained cult status.
“Over the years I’ve always been surprised by the cult following wherever I go, whether it’s Europe, Mexico or South America,“ says Owen Wilson. “People will come up to me and ask me to do Blue Steel, which isn’t even my character!”
“Comedies don’t always translate cross-culturally, but the characters of Derek and Hansel have a level of ridiculousness I think people appreciate,” he adds.
Proposals for a sequel were mooted at various points in the 15 years after the original came out, during which Stiller worked with many revered comedy writers including original collaborator John Hamburg, writer/director Nicholas Stoller, and Stiller’s collaborator on Tropic Thunder, Justin Theroux.
“After a while I was convinced we’d never do it. But somehow, at a certain point all the elements started to come together and it was like ‘Alright, we’re actually going to do this,’” recalls Stiller.
The long-gestation process for a Zoolander follow-up offered Stiller and his creative team the opportunity to develop the story and characters in such a way that would honour the spirit of what audiences connected with in the first place. Stiller says, “We wanted to make a movie that would try to live up to the first one and the expectations of people who loved it. I feel very fortunate that there are people that loved the movie that much and I didn’t want to let them down.”
For Stiller, stepping back into Derek’s (well-heeled) shoes was a little challenging after such an extensive break. “Derek is such a unique persona. He’s very genuine and incredibly self-involved, all of which comes out from a very naïve and innocent place. I watched the first movie again to make sure I was doing it right and after a couple of weeks it started to feel more natural and then it became fun.”
In the prestigious ranks of one-name icons in pop culture, Owen Wilson’s Hansel is a character that perfectly captures the bohemian rock-star mystique that fascinates the masses. “I’ve been lucky to play some good characters over the years and the fact that Hansel is known by one name like Madonna and Sting reflects just what kind of memorable character he is,” remarks Wilson.
“Owen is such a unique comedic presence and I am such a big fan of his,” says longtime collaborator Stiller. “He has such a specific sensibility and when improvising in an area he feels comfortable in will give you stuff you couldn't even imagine. Also, like his character he is incredibly good looking… it was fun for me to watch him remember how to play Hansel. The first week he was doing a scene where he was looking off into the desert and he found the Hansel pursed lip squint, and there was no looking back.”
But what of Jacobim Mugatu? The last time we saw Mugatu he was behind bars. Well, fear not! The platinum blond fashion mogul is to return and complete the trifecta of Derek, Hansel, and Mugatu. The villain was a breakout role for Will Ferrell and he was eager to once again don the infamous wig and explore the character some more.
“All these characters in the fashion world are so much fun because it’s fertile ground,” says Ferrell. “Mugatu is an important character for me because it was the first time I had the chance to do a big, broad character that ended up resonating with people.”
“It was strange at first to get back into the character and the outfits and then it became strange that it wasn’t strange anymore,” he laughs. “I had forgotten how intense Mugatu is. He is never relaxed and is always screaming at someone because nothing is ever quite right, but those are such fun characteristics to play.”
Stiller says of Ferrell, “Will might be the funniest person alive right now, he is as funny as it gets. For as crazy as his comedy is and how out there his characters are, he’s the most grounded, normal person you’ll ever meet. It’s to the point where sometimes it feels like he’s doing a character when he’s being himself, like a regular-guy Will Ferrell character.”
Penelope Cruz is also joining the crazy Zoolander universe as Valentina Valencia and recently spoke of taken direction from Stiller: “He'd talk to me really seriously, dressed in these absurd outfits and that hair. I couldn't stop laughing in his face."
Get practicing because it’s time once again to perfect that Blue Steel stare!
Zoolander 2 is out at Showcase Cinemas now