Ben Stiller Was Blindsided and ‘Freaked Out’ by ‘Zoolander 2’ Failure: ‘I Thought Everybody Wanted This’

“It definitely affected me for a long time,” the actor and producer tells David Duchovny’s “Fail Better” podcast

Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Penelope Cruz in "Zoolander 2" (Courtesy of Paramonunt Pictures)

When “Zoolander 2” flopped at the box office and was hit with a flurry of bad reviews following its release in 2016, Ben Stiller was blindsided.

“I thought everybody wanted this,” the actor and producer recently told David Duchovny’s Fail Better podcast. “And then it’s like, ‘Wow, I must have really f—ed this up. Everybody didn’t go to it. And it’s gotten these horrible reviews. It really freaked me out out because I was like, ‘I didn’t know [it] was that bad?’”

The sequel, which grossed $29 million in the U.S. and Canada against a budget of $50 million, followed Stiller’s Derek Zoolander and Owen Wilson’s Hansel as the former models find themselves thrust back into the spotlight when they’re invited to a major fashion event in Rome. In comparison, the original “Zoolander” generated $45.2 million against a $28 million budget.

“What scared me the most on that one was l’m losing what I think what’s funny, the questioning yourself,” he added “It was definitely blindsiding to me. And it definitely affected me for a long time.”

That failure would prompt Stiller to pursue new projects.

“The wonderful thing that came out of that for me was just having space where, if that had been a hit, and they said ‘Make Zoolander 3 right now,’ or offered some other movie, I would have just probably jumped in and done that,” he said. “But I had this space to kind of sit with myself and have to deal with it and other projects that I had been working on — not comedies, some of them — I have the time to actually just work on and develop.”

“Even if somebody said, ‘Well, why don’t you go do another comedy or do this?’ I probably could have figured out something to do. But I just didn’t want to,” Stiller continued.

When Duchovny asked why, Stiller replied that it was “just hurt.”

“Finding yourself in terms of what creatively you want to be and do, I I always loved directing. I always loved making movies. I always, in my mind, loved the idea of just directing movies that since I was a kid, and not necessarily comedies,” he said. “And so, over the course of like the next like, nine or 10 months, I was able to develop these limited series.”

In 2018, Stiller would direct the crime drama Escape at Dannemora in 2018, for which he won a DGA Award for Outstanding Directing for a miniseries or TV film and received a Primetime Emmy nomination. In 2022, he produced and directed the Emmy-nominated series “Severance,” which was renewed for a second season at Apple TV+. Filming on the season, which resumed in January after delays from the Hollywood strikes, has since wrapped, according to the show’s costumer Carol Deelay. 

The conversation between Stiller and Duchovny appears on the first episode of “Fail Better,” which is set to premiere on May 7. Other guests will include Sean Penn, Kumail Nanjiani, Fred Armisen, Better Midler, Sarah Silverman and more. The podcast is produced by Lemonada Media.


One response to “Ben Stiller Was Blindsided and ‘Freaked Out’ by ‘Zoolander 2’ Failure: ‘I Thought Everybody Wanted This’”

  1. yom Avatar

    i liked Z2 a lot… never understood the backlash.

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