All The Things You Probably Don’t Know About ‘Zoolander’

It has been over 15 years since Zoolander — the farcical send-up of the fashion industry — first hit the big screen. An initial flop, the movie found a second life as a cult favorite, sparking a tepidly received sequel and renewed reverence for what the original was able to do. In celebration of the first Zoolander, here are some surprising bits of trivia about the film.

Bret Easton Ellis Sued Ben Stiller Over The Plot Material

In Ellis’ 1998 novel, Glamorama, the central figure is a model that becomes a terrorist. Ellis took exception to Stiller “lifting” the conceit of his novel to turn it into a comedy, so he sued him, or at least tried to. The whole thing never went to trial and the two parties supposedly settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

The Zoolander 9/11 Connection

When news and footage of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks first broke on TV station WNYW, it interrupted a trailer for Zoolander. The film was released two weeks after the attacks, but all images of the World Trade Center Towers were either obscured or deleted from the film entirely.
A Goat Almost Gave The Film An ‘R’ Rating

The hilarious, tea-drinking orgy in the film originally landed Zoolander an R rating, specifically because it featured a goat partaking in the sexual romp. Stiller appeared in front of the MPAA board after cutting the scene five different times to comply to their wishes. Eventually, he was able to convince them of a PG-13 label, but the goat didn’t make it.

It Was Banned In Malaysia

This is not too surprising considering the crux of the film is a plot to assassinate the Malaysian Prime Minister. The Malaysian Home Affairs Ministry Film Censorship Board, which seems like an unreasonably long name, deemed the film “definitely unsuitable”. They gave the same label to Schindler’s List and Austin Powers, but coincidentally, Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller actually met the Malaysian Prime Minister at a gala in 2012. No assassination attempts were involved.

Justin Theroux’s Breakdancing Skills Are Real

Theroux, known jogging-penis extraordinaire, was a co-writer, but he also had a badass breakdancing fight scene towards the end of the film as the Evil DJ. The skills are real. Stiller gazed in amazement when Theroux began breakdancing at his wedding and asked him to employ the skills for Zoolander.

The Origin

Ben Stiller and TV writer/comedian friend, Drake Sather, originally created the concept of Zoolander back in 1996 for a sketch called Derek Zoolander: Male Model. The conceit caught on and led to the film in 2001. Sadly, Sather, who was a writer for numerous awards shows, as well as Saturday Night Live, killed himself in 2004 due to marital problems.
Mark Ronson DJs a Funeral

Before he was making beats for Ghostface and Amy Winehouse, and before he lent his sister to a crazed fame mongrel, Ronson was scratching records at the funeral scene in Zoolander.

Ben Stiller Walked Away From The Sequel…Then Came Back

In a Hollywood Reporter interview back in 2011, Stiller revealed that there were some 20-30 drafts of the screenplay before he threw his hands up and walked away from the thing. Eventually, though, the script got back to him, and he, Theroux, and others hashed out what became of the second film. For better or worse.

This is an updated article that originally ran in September of 2014