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Zoolander is a 2001 American action-comedy film directed by Ben Stiller and starring Stiller, Owen Wilson and Will Ferrell.[3] The film contains elements from a pair of short films directed by Russell Bates and written by Drake Sather and Stiller for the VH1 Fashion Awards Television specials in 1996 and 1997. The short films and the film itself feature a dimwitted, narcissistic male model named Derek Zoolander, played by Stiller. The film involves Zoolander becoming the pawn of corrupt fashion executives who are plotting to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The name "Derek Zoolander" was invented by Bates while he was editing the first short film, and was inspired by the names of two male models who both worked for Calvin Klein: the Dutchman Mark Vanderloo and the American Johnny Zander.[4][5]

A satire on the fashion industry, the film received mixed to positive reviews from critics but was a box office success. A sequel, Zoolander 2, was released in February 2016,[6] to negative reviews. An animated series, Zoolander: Super Model, was released on Netflix UK in August 2016.[7]

Directed byBen Stiller
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Music byDavid Arnold
CinematographyBarry Peterson
Edited byGreg Hayden
Distributed byParamount Pictures
89 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$28 million[2]
Box office$60.8 million[2]


In New York City, the self-absorbed and dim-witted but good-natured Derek Zoolander is ousted as the top male fashion model by the rising star Hansel, and his reputation is further tarnished by a critical article from journalist Matilda Jeffries.

After his three roommates and colleagues are killed in a "freak gasoline-fight accident", Derek announces his retirement from modeling.

He goes to his native New Jersey to attempt to reconnect with his working class father Larry and brothers Luke and Scrappy by helping them in the coal mines.

Derek's delicate methods make him an impractical miner, and his family rejects him.

Meanwhile, fashion mogul Jacobim Mugatu and Derek's agent Maury Ballstein are charged by the fashion industry with finding a model who can be brainwashed into assassinating the new progressive-leaning Prime Minister of Malaysia, allowing them to retain cheap child labor in the country. Though Mugatu has previously refused to work with Derek for any show, Derek returns to New York City and accepts Mugatu's offer to star in the next runway show.

Mugatu takes Derek to his headquarters, masked as a day spa, where Derek is conditioned to attempt the assassination when the song "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is played. Matilda, feeling partially responsible for Derek's retirement, becomes suspicious of Mugatu's offer and, tipped off by an anonymous caller, tries to enter the spa, but is thrown out. Matilda tells her concerns to Derek once he leaves, but he ignores her.

Matilda follows Derek to a pre-runway party, where, upon being challenged by Hansel, Derek loses to Hansel in a "walk-off" judged by David Bowie. Matilda receives another anonymous call to meet at a nearby cemetery. Matilda along with Derek find the anonymous caller is hand model J.P. Prewett, who explains that the fashion industry has been behind several of history's political assassinations, including Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy and the brainwashed models are soon killed after they have completed their task. Katinka, Mugatu's tough henchwoman, and her aides attack the group, forcing Derek and Matilda to flee.

They go to Hansel's home, the last place they believe Mugatu will think to look.

Derek, Hansel, and Matilda bond.

Matilda admits the reason she hates models is because she was bullied as a child for being overweight and developed bulimia, and that she believes models hurt people's self-esteem. Derek and Hansel resolve their differences while partaking of Hansel's collection of narcotics and participating in group sex with Matilda and others. While recovering, Derek also finds that he is falling in love with Matilda. Derek and Hansel break into Maury's office to find evidence of the assassination plot, but they cannot operate his computer to find them. Taking Matilda's words literally, that the "files are in the computer," Hansel physically takes the computer while Derek leaves for the show.

Matilda tries to intercept Derek before the show, but Katinka thwarts her.

As Derek takes the runway, Mugatu's disc jockey starts playing "Relax", activating Derek's mental programming. Before Derek can kill the Prime Minister, Hansel breaks into the DJ booth and deactivates the music. Expecting to reveal the hidden files, Hansel attempts to expose the assassination plot by smashing Maury's computer on the floor, thereby destroying the evidence.

Mugatu attempts to cover up the incident, but Maury offers to turn over the evidence of the assassination plot after years of guilt for his complicity in the conspiracy.

Mugatu attempts to kill the Prime Minister himself by throwing a shuriken, but Derek stops him by unleashing his ultimate model look, "Magnum", that stuns everyone and causes the shuriken to freeze in the air in front of Derek's face and fall harmlessly to the floor. Mugatu is arrested, and Derek is thanked by the Prime Minister. In Derek's rural hometown, Larry is watching the event on TV, and proudly acknowledges Derek as his son.

A few years later Derek, Hansel, and Maury are shown as having left the fashion industry to start "The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too". Derek and Matilda now have a son named Derek Zoolander Jr., who has already developed his first modeling look.


  • Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander

  • Owen Wilson as Hansel McDonald

  • Christine Taylor as Matilda Jeffries

  • Will Ferrell as Jacobim Mugatu

  • Milla Jovovich as Katinka Ingabogovinanana

  • Jerry Stiller as Maury Ballstein

  • David Duchovny as J.P. Prewett

  • Jon Voight as Larry Zoolander

  • Vince Vaughn as Luke Zoolander

  • Judah Friedlander as Scrappy Zoolander

  • Alexander Skarsgård as Meekus

  • Nathan Lee Graham as Todd

  • Justin Theroux as Evil DJ

  • Andrew Wilson as Hansel's Corner Guy

  • John Vargas as Italian Designer

  • Jennifer Coolidge as American Designer

  • Tony Kanal as French Designer

  • Patton Oswalt as Monkey Photographer

  • Mason Webb as Derek Zoolander Jr.

David Bowie and Billy Zane made prominent cameos as themselves, with Bowie acting as judge for a “walk-off”, and Zane appearing as a friend of Derek. Also making cameos were Lance Bass, Tyson Beckford, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Stephen Dorff, Shavo Odadjian, Fred Durst, Fabio, Tom Ford, Cuba Gooding Jr., Theo Kogan, Lukas Haas, Tommy Hilfiger, Paris Hilton, Carmen Kass, Heidi Klum, Lenny Kravitz, Karl Lagerfeld, Lil' Kim, Natalie Portman, Frankie Rayder, Mark Ronson, Gavin Rossdale, Winona Ryder, Garry Shandling, Christian Slater, Gwen Stefani, Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Donatella Versace and Veronica Webb.

Production notes


"Derelicte" is the name given to the fashion line designed by Mugatu and is a parody of a real fashion line created by John Galliano in 2000.[8] It is described by Mugatu in the film as "a fashion, a way of life inspired by the very homeless, the vagrants, the crack whores that make this wonderful city so unique." The fashion line in the film consists of clothing made from everyday objects that could be found on the streets of New York. Galliano used clothing worn by the destitute as an inspiration for a real-life fashion line in 2000.


Zoolander was never shown in Malaysia, as the film depicts an attempted assassination of the Malaysian prime minister.

Malaysia's censorship board deemed it "definitely unsuitable".[9][10] The film was also banned in neighboring Singapore[11] due to bilateral sensitivities and the movie's depiction of using the drug peyote. It was subsequently made available in Singapore in 2006,[12] with an NC-16 rating. In the United States, the film was originally rated R for its sexual content, profanity, and drug references, but was later re-rated PG-13 on appeal.

In the Asian release, all references to the country of Malaysia were changed to Micronesia, the subregion which Hansel mistook for Malaysia at one point in the western version.[13]

In the United States, since the film was released on September 28, 2001 (about two weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center), Stiller made the executive decision to digitally remove any backgrounds that originally contained the Twin Towers in the background skyline. Stiller defended his decision to erase images of New York's World Trade Center Towers from the film, saying he did what he thought was appropriate at the time.[14]

Accusations of plagiarism

Glamorama, a 1998 satirical novel by Less Than Zero and American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis, tells the story of a vacuous male model who becomes involved in a plot concocted by international terrorists who recruit from within the fashion industry.[15] In 2005, Ellis stated that he was aware of the similarities between Zoolander and Glamorama and said that he attempted to take legal action.[16] Ellis was later asked about the similarities in a 2009 BBC interview but said that he is unable to discuss the topic due to an out-of-court settlement.[17]


Zoolander received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 64% based on 135 reviews with an average rating of 5.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A wacky satire on the fashion industry, Zoolander is one of those deliberately dumb comedies that can deliver genuine laughs."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 61 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[20]

Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, and felt the film was insensitive in its portrayal of child labor, but also added that "to some degree, Zoolander is a victim of bad timing", referencing the film's release two weeks after September 11, 2001.[21] According to Stiller, years later in private, Ebert admitted that he changed his mind and thought the film was funny, and apologized to him for going "overboard".[22]

The film received votes from two critics at the Sight & Sound's Poll of the greatest films of all time.[23]


The soundtrack to Zoolander was released on September 25, 2001.

"Relax"Frankie Goes to Hollywood3:57
"Relax"Powerman 5000feat.DannyBoy3:06
"Call Me"Nikka Costa4:08
"Love to Love You Baby"No Doubt4:22
"Start the Commotion"The Wiseguysfeat.Greg Nice2:35
"Now Is The Time"The Crystal Method5:37
"I Started a Joke"The Wallflowers3:09
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"Wham!3:51
"Rockit"Herbie Hancock5:26
"Beat It(Moby's Sub Mix)"Michael Jackson6:13
"Roll It Up"The Crystal Method6:07
"Madskillz-Mic Chekka (Remix)"BT5:50
"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"Rufus Wainwright4:38
"Relax"Limp Bizkit(half-cover)5:07
Total length:63:01[24]

The Kruder & Dorfmeister remix of David Holmes' song "Gone" is in the movie when Zoolander is in the day spa, shortly before his brainwashing.


In December 2008, Stiller said he intended to make a sequel to Zoolander,[25] and by January 2011 a script had been completed.[26] Filming commenced at Cinecittà studios in Rome in early 2015,[27] and on March 10 Stiller and Wilson appeared at the Paris Fashion Week in character as Derek Zoolander and Hansel McDonald. Zoolander 2 was released on February 12, 2016 to negative reviews.[6]

An animated series, Zoolander: Super Model was released on Netflix UK in August 2016.[7]


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