Ben Stiller’s hysterical cult comedy, Zoolander, was first released 15 years ago today on 28th September 2001.
The film follows the dimwitted, narcissistic and “really really ridiculously good looking” model, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) as he unwittingly becomes embroiled in Jacobim Mugatu’s (Will Ferrell) ludicrous plot to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Along the way, Derek comes face to face with his newest rival, Hansel (Owen Wilson) as well as a love interest in journalist Matilda Jeffries (Christine Taylor).
A surprise critical and box office success, Zoolander poses a satirical glance at the fashion industry and the seemingly vacant attitude of top models and designers within it. Also pointing fun at the nature of celebrity, the film also features a range of cameos from stars and fashion socialites like Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Christian Slater, Tom Ford, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tommy Hilfiger, Natalie Portman, Heidi Klum, Mark Ronson, Paris Hilton, David Bowie, Claudia Schiffer, Karl Lagerfeld, Winona Ryder, Billy Zane, Donald Trump and Donatella Versace.
Despite it’s success, the film also garnered a lot of controversy over the various subjects and taboos it made fun of. Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, stating that the film was insensitive in it’s portrayal of child labour. The film also suffered from the bad timing of 9/11, which took place two weeks before release and led Stiller to make the executive decision to digitally remove any backgrounds that originally contained the Twin Towers and the World Trade Center in the background skyline. Naturally, due to it’s not so complimentary depiction of Malaysia, the film was also banned in that country.
Since it’s release, Zoolander has become one of the most iconic comedies in recent history, garnering a cult audience and fellowship. A sequel, Zoolander 2, was released earlier this year to disappointing reviews and bigger controversy.
Watch the trailer for the original film below.