It's been 15 years since the release of "Zoolander" (on September 28, 2001), but being really, really, ridiculously good-looking never goes out of style.
Ben Stiller's fashion industry satire remains a fan favorite (even if this year's sequel "Zoolander 2" tarnished the brand a bit). As many times as you've watched David Bowie (RIP) referee that epic walk-off between Stiller's Derek and Owen Wilson's Hansel, there's a lot you may not know about "Zoolander." So put on your best Blue Steel and read on for the behind-the-catwalk dish.
1. The character of Derek Zoolander originated in 1996, when Stiller's friend Drake Sather told him he wanted to cast him in a short satirical film about male models, commissioned for the VH1 Fashion Awards.
"I said, 'That's ridiculous,'" Stiller recalled in 2013, "and Drake said, 'Yeah, that's why I want you to do it." The short was a hit, so Sather and Stiller made another one the following year. These gave Stiller the blueprint for the film. The character's last name is a blend of Mark Vanderloo and Johnny Zander, both prominent models at the time.
2. Stiller named "Zoolander" villain Mugatu after a white-haired, ape-like monster from the original "Star Trek" series. The tufts of curly white hair on Will Ferrell's head are also inspired by the venomous creature.
3. Ferrell won the antagonist role when frequent Stiller collaborator Andy Dick had a scheduling conflict, having been booked to star in a TV project that ultimately failed to materialize. Dick did have enough time for a cameo as Olga the hairdresser.
4. Future "True Blood" and "The Legend of Tarzan" star Alexander Skarsgård made his American film debut as Meekus, one of Derek's ill-fated, gasoline-spraying male model friends.
The Swedish actor was visiting his dad, actor Stellan Skarsgård, in Hollywood when he was offered the chance to audition for the bit part. He read with Stiller, won the role, got flown to New York ("Business class!" he marveled.), and shot the sequence. Returning to Sweden, he told his friends what a "piece of cake" Hollywood movie acting was. It took him a few thousand more failed auditions, he recalled while promoting "Tarzan" in June, to set him straight.
5. Should moviegoers have known that Meekus and his ridiculously good-looking pals were doomed? The license plate on their Jeep reads, "RFK 575," the same as on similarly fateful vehicles in the original "Final Destination" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight."
6. There were other future stars in "Zoolander." One was Mark Ronson, playing a DJ years before he became famous for spinning platters in real life.
7. Justin Theroux (above) was a little-known actor when he played a small role in "Zoolander" as the dreadlocked, breakdancing, evil DJ. (Yes, those are his own moves.) He'd later collaborate again with Stiller on the screenplays to "Tropic Thunder" and "Zoolander 2," in which he'd reprise his evil DJ role.
8. Mugatu's homeless-themed "Derelicte" show was a spoof of a fashion line unveiled by John Galliano in 2000.
9. Stiller had a Zoolander moment for real during the scene where David Duchovny explains the conspiracy. He asked, "Why male models?", and after Duchovny's lengthy explanation, Stiller forgot his next line, so he just asked, "Why male models?" again.
10. In one scene, Wilson's Hansel wears a jumpsuit with a name tag that reads, "Kumar." This is supposedly an homage to actor Kumar Pallana, the Wes Anderson regular. Stiller and Wilson acted opposite him in Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums," released three months after "Zoolander."
11. "Zoolander" was one of the first films forced to make changes in the aftermath of 9/11, which occurred less than three weeks before the film's scheduled release date. Aside from digitally editing out images of the Twin Towers, the filmmakers went ahead with the release as planned.
"I could never think of a reason that we shouldn't release the movie at that time," Stiller said in 2013, "other than it might not do that well, which to me wasn't the right reason to not release it."
12. "Zoolander" cost a reported $28 million to make and earned back $45 million in North America and another $16 million abroad.
13. The unflattering references to Malaysia got "Zoolander" banned in that country. Elsewhere in Asia, the references were changed to "Micronesia."
14. A surprise "Zoolander" fan is artsy director Terrence Malick. The "Tree of Life" director reportedly considers the comedy one of his favorite movies, and he even programmed it into a festival slate at the Philbrook Museum of Arts in Tulsa in 2013. Stiller learned of Malick's fandom and recorded a special video greeting in character for the director's birthday.
15. It took a while for "Zoolander" to be appreciated as a cult hit, thanks to cable and home video. Stiller has said that's why it took so long to get a sequel greenlit.
He first announced a follow-up in 2008, but it took until February of 2016 for the film to hit theaters. "Zoolander 2" was a critical and commercial dud, but that hasn't stopped Stiller and Wilson from starring in "Zoolander: Super Model," a cartoon that sees Derek and Hansel becoming superheroes. It debuted in August on Netflix in the U.K.; no word on whether we'll ever get to see it here.
Propelled to the top of the fashion world by a photogenic gaze he calls "Blue Steel," dimwitted male model Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) thinks he's got a fourth consecutive win as Male Model of the Year in the bag. But, when his rival, Hansel (Owen Wilson), unexpectedly takes the crown, Derek is crushed. He becomes easy prey for fashion designer Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell), who signs Derek to star in his "Derelicte" fashion show, then brainwashes him to kill Malaysia's prime minister. Read More