The ''Zoolander'' star, writer, and director ducks an R rating for a group sex scene
Ben Stiller
Credit: Ben Stiller: Armando Gallo/Retna

He may only be 5’7”, but ”Meet the Parents” star Ben Stiller is standing tall as a male model in ”Zoolander.” sat down with Stiller to talk about avoiding ”It’s Pat” syndrome, organic hair gel, and gearing up for a remake of ”Starsky and Hutch.”

The last film you directed, ”The Cable Guy,” wasn’t exactly a critical or commercial smash. Were you nervous about not only writing and starring in ”Zoolander” but directing too?
It just kind of happened. It took along time to get the project off the ground, and by the time it actually became a real thing it had been a while since I had directed. So I thought it would be kind of fun to do — plus, we couldn’t agree on somebody else to direct it. It was such a specific idea it was hard to find the right person.

Any desire to do the triple threat of acting, writing, and directing again?
I would, but not right away. It’s definitely too much to do every time out, that’s for sure. There’s just so much to do that it’s kind of hard to get any perspective on the movie. But the script I wrote with [”Permanent Midnight” author and ”C.S.I.” writer] Jerry Stahl, ”What Makes Sammy Run?” [based on the Budd Schulberg novel], I’d like to act in that and I definitely want to direct it.

Derek Zoolander started as a sketch on the VH1 Fashion Awards. How do you avoid making another sketch-gone-bad movie like ”It’s Pat”?
When a sketch-based movie works, it works really well, and when it doesn’t, it really, really doesn’t. What I learned in making the movie was that the same rules apply for all movies. No matter how silly or unrealistic the tone of the movie is, audiences want to connect with characters. With the main characters, Derek and Hansel, there’s a real story between the two, a real relationship, and I was surprised to realize that’s really where the movie does the best, when the two of them are together.

How often do people ask you about organic hair gel or your pants zipper?
I think they’re too embarrassed to really say that unless they’re drunk. But when they’re drunk, they don’t censor themselves and it can get ridiculous. You very quickly figure out where the zones of danger are and stay away from them. I’m not going to go to a busy bar on a weekend to meet a friend for a drink, for example. People do ridiculous things, like encroaching on your personal space, touching you. They feel like they can, and there’s nothing you can really do. You can either punch them, end up in a story in Entertainment Weekly and get sued, or learn how to move through it. And look, a lot of being recognized is fun, because you’re welcomed places. I go back and forth with it. Some days it’s fine; some days it’s a pain in the ass.

Now that you’re such a big star, any plans for an InStyle layout?
I would never do that. I think that’s ridiculous. I want to have a place where the cameras don’t go. If you’re smart and you do want to maintain any sense of your own life, you’re not going to tell people everything. But I realize some of this is just part of the process of promoting a movie. Still, in some interviews they ask you such silly questions that all you’re thinking about is ”I could be doing something else” and ”How do I get around this really stupid question that they’re asking me and not get pissed off so they end up writing something nasty?” And it’s frustrating a lot of times. You just want to jump into a puddle of mud, screaming, ”I can’t talk about myself anymore!” So, to answer your question, no, I would never let InStyle in our house.

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