Hansel, so hot right now! Zoolander wasn’t an overnight success when it first premiered in 2001, but it has since become a cult classic.
The comedy, which pokes fun at the world of male modeling, follows Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) as he tries to remain relevant when newcomer Hansel (Owen Wilson) eclipses him as the hottest model in the industry.
Despite their differences — Derek was old school with set poses, while Hansel was a thrill-seeker — the two men managed to foil the plot to kill the Prime Minister of Malaysia at Mugatu’s (Will Ferrell) runway show.
While the film didn’t do so well at the box office and was banned in Malaysia and Singapore for the use of the fictional prime minister, Zoolander has since become iconic.
Derek’s blue steel pose, Mugatu’s ridiculous hair and the epic dance battle to save the world are just a few reasons fans still watch the movie more than two decades later. The biggest reason for its delayed success, however, could be attributed to the two lead characters — and the actors who portrayed them.
“Derek and Hansel are very simple characters,” Stiller told Esquire in March 2016, ahead of the release of Zoolander 2. “I don’t pretend to know what the secret is, why people connect with them. But I can guess at it; they are genuine and pretty innocent.”
The Meet the Parents star added: “It’s always very clear, if the scene is written correctly, how Derek will react to a situation. The audience has a certain innate expectation of how they want to see him be and, if you go outside of that, it’s pretty clear what areas Derek doesn’t work in.”
Wilson, for his part, recalled the slow burn with Zoolander, telling The Independent in February 2016 that he still gets recognized for his role in the film.
“I noticed that when I was traveling, there were a lot of people who came up to me quoting Zoolander,” the Texas native said at the time. “Ben said he had the same experience and a kind of following developed.”
The fashion satire movie also marked one of the first projects Owen and Stiller worked on together. They have starred in more than 10 films together as of 2021, including Starsky & Hutch and the Night at the Museum franchise.
“I don’t know if the relationship has developed over time. It’s a little like these characters [in Zoolander]. There isn’t a big arc,” the Wedding Crashers actor explained. “From when we first became friends, walking around New York, I think that we are still sort of laughing at the same things and our dynamic is still pretty similar.”
Scroll down to see what the cast of Zoolander has been doing since its 2001 release: