By EW Staff
August 24, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

ZOOLANDER

STARRING Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Christine Taylor, Will Ferrell, Jerry Stiller

WRITTEN BY Ben Stiller, Drake Sather

DIRECTED BY Ben Stiller

THE PITCH ”It’s kind of like Eyes of Laura Mars meets The Manchurian Candidate.” — Ben Stiller

Male models have always been more than slightly annoying. But until now at least they’ve been pretty harmless. In Stiller’s cloak-and-catwalk comedy, it turns out that these clueless, strutting mannequins have been moonlighting all this time as unwitting political assassins in a global conspiracy that dates back to the murder of Abraham Lincoln. (John Wilkes Booth? Take another look at those cheekbones. Yep, male model.) And as movie logic would dictate, there’s only one man who can bring down the whole sordid killers-in-haute-couture plot — his name is Derek Zoolander.

Inspired by a hilarious short skit that Stiller and writing pal Sather dreamed up for the 1996 VH1 Fashion Awards, the Zoolander character, says Stiller, ”was sort of a takeoff on the Beverly Hills, 90210 guys — a Jason Priestley-Luke Perryish guy.” Original, yes. But Zoolander still travels some well-trod comic terrain. In fact, the road to Hollywood is paved with corpses of failed sketch characters (It’s Pat, anyone?) who couldn’t make the leap from five minutes on the small screen to an hour and a half on the big screen. ”Of course we were aware of that because we’ve all seen that not work,” says Stiller, laughing. ”So the process of writing this was like ‘what would make this character funny for another 85 minutes?”’

Well, first there’s Derek’s background: born with perfect bone structure and stuck in a depressed mining town until he’s discovered by agent Morey Baulstein (played by Stiller’s dad, Jerry). Then there’s his mission: to stop the secret nefarious fashion cartel led by bitchy designer Mugatu (Ferrell). And finally, there’s his sidekick: a dim on-the-rise model named Hansel (Wilson). ”Hansel’s sort of the new breed of male model who’s threatening Derek’s career,” says Stiller. ”He’s blond and walks around in bare feet and enjoys going swimming with sea monkeys off the coast of India.”

If this all sounds off-the-rack, er, off-the-wall, you’re not alone. ”I’ve never seen anything like it, I must say,” laughs Jerry Stiller. ”Then again, I’m not in the fashion world. I get my ties from Tie City — although Hugo Boss once gave me an outfit that fit in a very strange way. But my point is, Ben’s really very normal and I would never dream that he would be able to come up with something like this. He probably gets that from his mother.” (Sept. 28)

ROCK STAR

ROCK STAR

STARRING Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Timothy Olyphant, Jason Flemyng, Dominic West

WRITTEN BY John Stockwell

DIRECTED BY Stephen Herek

THE PITCH ”Lead singer of tribute band becomes kick-ass rock star.” — Herek

Cinderella story with the amp turned up to 11, this light-hearted drama charts the rise of Chris Cole (Wahlberg) — a Pittsburgh office-supply salesman by day, heavy metal cover-band frontman by night — whose rock & roll dream comes true when he’s tapped to replace the singer for his favorite group, Steel Dragon. Sound familiar? That’s because the movie was inspired by the true tale of Ripper Owens, who now fills Rob Halford’s black leather boots in Judas Priest.

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