Ben Stiller reveals sadness behind selfie-laden Zoolander sequel featuring Justin Bieber, Anna Wintour and more

Derek Zoolander's famous "Blue Steel" look is the pout of choice across social media, despite many of those employing it being too young to know their selfie face's spiritual ancestor.

Ben Stiller's "really, really good-looking" male model from the 2001 cult classic Zoolander is in many ways the selfie pioneer before selfies, or camera phones even, were commonplace.

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Trailer: Zoolander 2

Derek and Hansel are back to look really good and fight some bad guys.

"I had to educate the younger generation where it comes from, their roots," he says, laughing. "They don't even know."

The actor, writer and director was in Sydney on Tuesday ahead of a fan event screening of the hotly anticipated Zoolander 2, one of the first public airings of the film in the world.

Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander and Penelope Cruz as Valentina Valencia in <i>Zoolander 2.</i>
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander and Penelope Cruz as Valentina Valencia in Zoolander 2. Photo: Wilson Webb

The long delay in producing a sequel, however, is a sad twist to the Zoolander story. Zoolander 2 is dedicated to Drake Sather, remembered with a poignant tribute in the end credits.

Sather was a writer and comedian, responsible for conjuring up Derek Zoolander with Stiller for a VH1 fashion awards skit in the late 1990s and also a co-writer of the Zoolander feature film. He committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 44 and Stiller admits at first it was difficult to think about a sequel without his friend and collaborator.


"As time went by, I think that's when it started to feel like, OK, there's a way to approach this but almost out of respect I felt like I couldn't just jump back into it," Stiller says.

He describes Sather as "one of the funniest, incredibly sardonic, smart stand-up comedians on the scene".

"So for me, when we finally got around to making [the sequel], I felt like there just had to be a sense of acknowledgment that the character in the movie wouldn't exist without his talent."

As with the original, there is a long line of celebrity cameos including some of fashion's biggest names, including Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

"Anna was always supportive of the first movie and kept on asking me over the years whenever we crossed paths 'When are you going to make a second one?'," Stiller says. "So when we finally decided to do it, I reached out to her and said 'Hey, I'm going to do this'. She was just an incredible partner and really helped us get a lot of people to be in the movie, and was kind enough to be in the movie."

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West were widely rumoured to appear but it didn't happen. "I talked to Kanye at one point but for whatever reason, he wasn't able to do it," Stiller says.

Already revealed in the trailer is Justin Bieber's grisly end, which, Stiller says had to be cut down in the film by five seconds at the request of the Motion Picture Association censors.

"Justin had a great sense of humour about it," he says of the cameo. "He's such a huge cultural figure, it's crazy ... He's a really a good guy who's having to navigate a world at a young age that's difficult, and he's very talented too."

One of the most significant cameos in the original is the late David Bowie, who judged the memorable "walk-off" battle between Derek and Hansel (Owen Wilson).

"It was incredible really. The fact that he said yes to being in the movie – he had no reason to say yes to us," Stiller says, laughing. "For some reason he decided to do it and he legitimised the movie by being in it for us at that point, because nobody knew what we really doing with this movie.

"He was so gracious, he's an icon, so to have had that opportunity and to have him being part of Zoolander is very, very special."

Zoolander 2 opens in Australia on February 11.

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