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In 2000, Robin and Stephen designed ‘Zoolander’, a satire on the fashion world that has since gathered a cult following. It was the first time they met Ben Stiller, the film’s director and star, and the beginning of a great friendship.
SA: The first set was the model cemetery. So on day one I started sketching the models’ tombstones in the shape of their butts, abs, jawlines…one was patterned after the Marlboro Man. We literally designed two hundred tombstones.
RS: That was crazy: a crew of one hundred fifty people in this warehouse, all carving giant Adonis asses. I remember Ben came in and he had this glimmer in his eye; he couldn’t help cracking up. We had serious conversations with Ben while he was dressed in ridiculous Derek Zoolander clothes.
SA: The “Walk-Off” scene was great. We made a massive runway in a decaying old power plant. We built a throne for David Bowie, who would be the judge. The runway was actually a conveyer belt; it moved so Ben could do model poses on it. He came in one night to rehearse his moves, but also, as director, to look at the set. We didn’t know him well at the time, and he showed up at 2:00 a.m. in a bright red lizard-skin jumpsuit.
RS: It was insane.
SA: He asked us how the belt worked and we made it turn on, slow down, go backwards and forwards, and he said, “I don’t know if this is going to work.” He was skeptical and really, really serious. So he climbed up onto the runway, and we turned on the machine, and he started moving. He got into character in such a strange way. I’ll never forget it because he locked eyes with me. He went from being distracted into full Derek Zoolander mode.
RS: The most incredible transition you can imagine.
SA: Yeah, just totally focused. He did the whole moon-walking back and forth, spinning, the whole routine. Then all of a sudden he just stops, his eyes cut off from me, and he jumps off the thing and says, “Okay, it’s fine. It’s going to work.” He went right back to his normal mode and walked away. And I was still in a trance from his eye lock. It was a trip to see that kind of focus and transition. Only an actor, you know?