"I thought everybody wanted this": Ben Stiller opens up on being consumed with self-doubt after Zoolander 2 box office failure

Ben Stiller got candid about how the failure of
Ben Stiller got candid about how the failure of Zoolander 2 deeply affected him. (Image via YouTube/Paramount Pictures)

Tropic Thunder director Ben Stiller revealed that the failure of the Zoolander sequel, which he wrote, directed, and starred in, very deeply affected him. In an upcoming episode of Californication star David Duchovny's brand-new podcast, Fail Better, Stiller talked about being hurt by the failure of 2016's Zoolander 2. The Primetime Emmy Award winner stated:

"I thought everybody wanted this."

Although the first Zoolander movie was a box office success and has been cemented in pop-culture history through a plethora of iconic memes, the sequel could not replicate the same triumph. Zoolander 2 was a box office flop, received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 20%, and even earned a whopping 9 Golden Raspberry Award nominations.

Ben Stiller was "really hurt" by the failure of Zoolander 2 (Image via Instagram/@benstiller)
Ben Stiller was "really hurt" by the failure of Zoolander 2 (Image via Instagram/@benstiller)

"It definitely affected me for a long time": Ben Stiller on the failure of Zoolander 2

Ben Stiller got candid about the failure of Zoolander 2 in an upcoming episode of David Duchovny's brand-new podcast, Fail Better. An exclusive excerpt from the episode all set to premiere on May 7, 2024, was procured by People magazine. Stiller wrote, directed, starred in, and even produced Zoolander 2, which also starred Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, and Penélope Cruz, among others.

The 58-year-old star revealed in the podcast that he thought "everybody" wanted the sequel. Stiller said:

"And then it's like, 'Wow, I must have really f**ked this up. Everybody didn't go to it. And it's gotten these horrible reviews."
Ben Stiller's Zoolander 2 was a critical and commercial failure (Image via YouTube/Paramount Pictures)
Ben Stiller's Zoolander 2 was a critical and commercial failure (Image via YouTube/Paramount Pictures)

According to Box Office Mojo, the first Zoolander raked in over $60 million globally from a budget of just $28 million. It even received an 80% Rotten Tomatoes score and became an instant cult classic. However, the second movie only brought in just over $56 million globally from a bigger budget of $50 million.

The Rotten Tomatoes score for Zoolander 2 currently stands at a meager 20%. The official Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus for the movie states:

"Zoolander No. 2 has more celebrity cameos than laughs -- and its meager handful of memorable gags outnumbers the few worthwhile ideas discernible in its scattershot rehash of a script."

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Ben Stiller revealed in the podcast that the failure of the movie really "freaked" him out and even made him question himself on how he didn't know the film was "that bad." He said:

"What scared me the most on that one was l'm losing what I think what's funny, the questioning yourself ... on Zoolander 2, it was definitely blindsiding to me. And it definitely affected me for a long time."

However, according to Stiller, there was still one "wonderful" thing that came from the movie's failure. It gave him space for introspection. Ben Stiller speculated that if the movie was a hit, he would've been asked to make another Zoolander film or offered another film which he would've jumped in and probably done. He said:

"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."

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Ben Stiller said that the the time, he did not want to do another comedy. When David Duchovny asked him whether he felt that way because of anger, Stiller replied that he was "just hurt." He told Duchovny:

"Finding yourself in terms of what creatively you want to be and do, I I always loved directing. I always loved making movies."

He added:

"I always, in my mind, loved the idea of just directing movies that since I was a kid, and not necessarily comedies. 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 directed the 2018 miniseries Escape at Dannemora starring Patricia Arquette, Benicio del Toro, and Paul Dano for which he received a Primetime Emmy nomination. In 2022 he produced and directed the Emmy-nominated thriller Severance, starring Adam Scott, Britt Lower, and Patricia Arquette.

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