When Derek Zoolander made his debut as a male model in 2001, there was no such thing as Facebook or Instagram or Twitter.
But with his ever-ready “Blue Steel” camera face and carefully managed public image, it could be argued that he was ahead of his time.
At least, that’s the opinion of the man who helped bring him to life on the big screen, Ben Stiller.
And although Stiller is still not sure how or why Zoolander became quite so popular, he’s in Sydney spruiking the sequel ahead of its debut on February 11.
Was this entire film just an excuse to kill off Justin Bieber? It’s such an extended scene…
No, not at all. We actually wrote the script about five years ago, the first draft of it, and Justin was always in it but he was sort of a teen pop star and now he has this whole other cultural significance. It was great that he wanted to do it and have some fun with his image. He’s a nice kid and he worked really hard on the movie.
In this era of people creating their own images on social media, do you feel like we’re all Derek Zoolander?
Derek definitely fits in this world in that way. I think he’s sort of the progenitor of the selfie, really. He was ahead of the curve, somehow.
Does social media foster the narcissism that you’ve been parodying with Derek Zoolander?
It’s a part of being human, for sure. Now you have to figure out how to put yourself out there, and what you’re going to portray and I think there’s a lot of expectation to have to do something. I think it’s not necessarily the most healthy thing. You know, actors are all narcissistic.
Donald Trump appeared in the first Zoolander movie, does it surprise you that he’s a candidate for president of the United States?
No it doesn’t surprise me. I am surprised that it has gotten this far and that it’s gone on this long, with the rhetoric that he has put out there. For me, he seems to be like the villain in a Naked Gun movie, I can’t take him seriously. But some people are taking him seriously, which is the crazy thing but I don’t see it going all the way. That’s my prediction, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that.
Was there a moment that you realised Blue Steel had a life beyond the film?
Yeah it’s become a bit of a thing! Derek Zoolander, they say he’s like the Rasputin of male models. It’s that face that you put on for a camera that you think looks good.
Do you have a story that you want to do next?
I want to make a movie that is not a comedy. I want to make an un-funny comedy. You might say I’ve already done it … Nah, I would like to make a movie that is sort of, maybe an historical thing, something that is kind of not necessarily a comedy.
How has being a celebrity changed over your lifetime?
I think social media has made a huge difference in the way that people become famous. People are famous, sometimes you wonder what people are famous for? You have to be aware that whenever you’re out in the world, everyone’s taking pictures, everyone’s recording things and sending things out into the world. I think people have to act differently in a way because it did not use to be like that. It’s a more public experience.