Ben Stiller doesn't watch many comedies. "I'm pretty much a historical-drama type of person. That's what I like to watch," he says.
"I don't watch a lot of comedies. I probably should watch more, but I love to fall into a movie that's like The Last of the Mohicans, something like that."
It is surprising that one of comedy's most famous faces and strongest creative forces doesn't hold an avid thirst for funny movies.
The 50-year-old actor, writer and director has carved out a lengthy career across a broad range of work but has always struck gold with what The New Yorker called, "signature Stiller: the put-upon Everyman striving for dignity as the mayhem escalates".
It's the beleaguered guard we know in the Night at the Museum franchise, the chronically undermined Gaylord Focker in the Meet the Parents trilogy and, in a way, with one of his most famous roles, the "really, really ridiculously good-looking" model Derek Zoolander, who is now back in the long-awaited sequel.
Stiller's original parody of the fashion world, released in 2001, pitched Derek as a hilariously dim-witted, superficial narcissist who at the same time is struggling with his reputation and finding meaning in his life. He's no everyman, but at the same time the story carries him along a road to redemption as the model strives to find his place in the world.
Zoolander became a huge cult classic due to its hugely quotable lines, its flamboyant, hyper-real style, ludicrous scenarios and characters so wonderfully exaggerated and cartoonish.
In many ways, Derek Zoolander was ahead of his time, the king of selfies before selfies were even invented. In 2001, camera phones were yet to be a thing, Twitter was five years away, Instagram nine and Kim Kardashian was a little-known mate of Paris Hilton. But Derek's vanity and vacuousness, not to mention his signature look of "blue steel", were a prescient, pitch-perfect representation of the pouty world of today's selfie-driven society.
It's something that has influenced the longevity of Zoolander, Stiller says.
"It's a strange thing because that selfie culture that has evolved is such a Derek thing. The self-obsession and narcissism that Derek has really relates now to all of us, and it's hard not to if you have this mirror [he holds up his phone] in front of you all the time, or now with social media, this sort of need to have to say, 'OK, this is happening and I'm filming it and showing myself here, and this happened and I'm telling everybody.'
"Look, I mean, I do it. I get it. It's exciting sometimes to say, 'Hey, look what's happening right now and where I am'. But then I look at my kids' generation and it's just part of their being."
Zoolander No.2 updates Derek's world with many aspects, including selfie sticks and social media. Derek and his "so hot" friend and fellow model Hansel (Owen Wilson) are drawn to Rome to help tackle a plot to "kill the world's most beautiful people", victims of which include Justin Bieber, who meets a grisly end, but not before posting a "blue steel" selfie.
What people enjoy seeing is these people who are very serious figures in the fashion world, who have to take themselves seriously to be taken seriously, but they get that it's all kind of a game, too.Ben Stiller
Elsewhere, Penelope Cruz steps up as a Bond girl-esque Interpol agent and Will Ferrell reprises his role as campy villain Mugatu..
In common with the original is a long line of celebrity cameos (no Kardashians, however). US Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour not only features (and has her fearsome reputation mocked), she also put Stiller and Cruz on her February cover, in a shoot by Annie Leibovitz recreating some of fashion's most iconic images of all time.
"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', and she was just really an incredible partner and really helped us get a lot of people to be in the movie, and then she was kind enough to do the cameo."
The fashion world, it appears, is now in on the joke.
"I think they are," he says. "I think they all have a sense of humour about themselves and that's what's really fun to see. What people enjoy seeing is, like, wow, these people who are very serious figures in that world who have to take themselves seriously to be taken seriously in the fashion world, but yet they also get that it's all kind of a game, too."
The framework of fashion is aThe selfie lmost incidental to the charms of Zoolander No.2, however. Stiller, who in person is warm and engaging, says when writing the sequel and remembering what is at the heart of the original's popularity, it was down to one thing. "I kept coming back to the characters, rather than the actual satire of the fashion world and the parody of that, because I felt that's what people connect with in a movie, really, is the people.
"So as we were thinking, 'We've got to do something that has to do with social media and who's the new designer and all those things', those were all important but ultimately it was what's going on with Derek and Hansel and their relationship. And it always felt to me like Derek's son would be part of the story, and then Mugatu, the idea of him coming back and what happened to him after the first movie and his revenge plot was always something I felt was a good thing to hinge it on."
Derek Zoolander was created by TV writer and comedian Drake Sather, a friend and collaborator of Stiller's, as a couple of skits for the VH1 fashion awards in the late 1990s, with Stiller playing the model. Sather also co-wrote the screenplay for Zoolander, but sadly took his own life in 2004. It's one of the reasons a sequel was so long in the making.
"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."
Zoolander No.2 is dedicated to Sather, marked by a tribute in the credits.
"When we finally did get around to making the movie, I felt like there just had to be a sense of acknowledgement that the character in the movie wouldn't exist without his talent," he says.
Stiller's company Red Hour Productions, in addition to both Zoolanders, has been behind a number of comic favourites, such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Starsky & Hutch, Tropic Thunder and quirkier offerings such as Submarine and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Late last year, Red Hour struck a deal with independent company Bold Films to finance its films, effectively shifting it outside the mainstream studio system and opening up new pathways for Stiller.
"It's a chance to do a lot of types of movies and for us just to work with people that we really want to work with," he says. "[It's] a big difference than having to, say, take something to a studio and go, 'Hey, do you want to make this?', especially in this day and age, where studios really are not interested in making interesting, different kinds of movies for the most part.
"They want to make genre films, they want to make franchises, they want to make sequels, and it's become very corporate. So to be able to work in this type of situation for us is really exciting."
Zoolander No.2 is a welcome sequel, however.
"I was really just trying to think about people who were fans of the first movie," Stiller says of bringing it to fruition, "to try to make it with them in mind, because it's hard to think about how to make it for anybody else really, because it's such a unique reality."
Zoolander No.2 is out on February 11.
Best in satirical show
Parody is not just for ridiculously good-looking people. We delve into the alternate realities of some of comedy's best spoof movies.
Flying High! (1980)
Still consistently ranked as one of the funniest films of all time, this disaster movie parody is overloaded with iconic quotes, visual gags and memorable moments. I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
The alpha-spoof. When this parody of over-inflated rock documentaries came out, many thought it was real, including Ozzy Osbourne, no less. Director Rob Reiner stars as director Marty DiBergi, following David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls and Nigel Tufnel, played respectively by Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean, and their glorious rock anthems, including Lick My Love Pump, Big Bottom and the magical Stonehenge.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Mike Myers' Bond/spy movie pastiche raked it in at the box-office and spawned a multitude of copycat wanna-be sleazebags quoting lines like "Shagedelic, baby" and countless terrible fancy-dress party costumes. Myers also scored big with another parody in Wayne's World (1992), lampooning local public-access cable shows. Excellent!
I don't know how to put this, but he's kind of a big deal. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy depicted an egotistical, sexist news anchor from the 1970s, played with brilliant aplomb by Will Ferrell. With a fine ensemble cast including Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate; Ben Stiller also makes a cameo as a Spanish news channel anchor in a gang battle.
One of Sacha Baron Cohen's comic creations, this mockumentary features the hapless, socially inappropriate Kazakh journalist travelling through the US, picking up "cultural learnings of America for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan" from interviewees and hosts unaware that Borat is not legit.
Tropic Thunder (2008)
Ben Stiller wrote, directed and starred in this action comedy targeting the self-importance of the acting world, depicting a bunch of actors making a Vietnam war movie. Robert Downey jnr scored an Oscar nomination for his turn as Aussie method actor Kirk Lazarus, a rare Academy nod for a comedy role.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)
Steve Coogan finally brought his 1990s spoof of a cretinous, self-serving British TV and radio presenter to the big screen a few years ago. A disgruntled sacked employee holds Partridge's radio station hostage and Partridge is forced to become negotiator, and somehow ends up in a bus toilet's septic tank.