Ben Stiller Has Made Peace With The Box Office Failure Of Zoolander 2

There's that saying, "When one door closes another opens" — and Ben Stiller feels like that's exactly what happened to him when "Zoolander 2" absolutely tanked in the court of public opinion in 2016. The beloved comedian-turned-director spoke about how the flop changed the course of his life in an interview recently published by Esquire.

"If 'Zoolander 2' had been a huge hit, and then people were saying 'Zoolander 3'! Do this movie! That movie!'" he explained to the outlet before noting that watching the sequel fail was "not a great experience."

"That might have taken me off the road of having the space to work on developing ['Escape From Dannemora']. I might have gotten distracted by other bright shiny objects, but instead it opened a path where I could just do what I'd honestly wanted to do for years and years, which was: just direct something! To say, I'm just going to work on this project that I want to work on, because it takes a little time to get these things going, and if you don't stick with it you don't get there."

As much as I adore "Zoolander" — the original is one of my childhood favorites, and it has a special place in my heart — I'm actually really happy to see Stiller having his directorial renaissance away from comedy. "Escape From Dannemora" was widely revered for a reason; the actors (including Paul Dano and Benicio Del Toro) really nail the fraught and tense subject matter, and the series is ripe with suspense. If you didn't know Stiller had directed the Showtime series, you'd never know. It's completely out of our realm of possibility for him, and yet, he knocked it out of the park. It just goes to show: don't underestimate an artist. Also, don't do a sequel of a beloved comedy unless you know it's going to be all the way right. 

Stiller's switch

Stiller's limited high drama series was recognized with 12 Emmy nominations, including a nod for Best Director. Star Patricia Arquette also went home with a SAG win for Best Actress. "Severance," his latest TV project, also stars Arquette and has Stiller directing six of the nine episodes.

"People do ask me, 'Why were you drawn to this? You're not a guy who does these kinds of things,'" the actor noted about the public response to the tonal pivot of his career. "I get asked that about 'Severance,' I heard it a lot about 'Dannemora.' 'You're funny. Be funny.' I get it. But I don't analyze it. In my mind, it made total sense."

Stiller claims the "big effect" of watching a "wide range" of movie genres in his formative years — including "Jaws," "The Poseidon Adventure," and "Planet of the Apes" — kept him interested in all kinds of stories, not just comedies.

"There was a human quality about all of them, but in a disconnected world. There are human desires and human emotions that are there no matter what, and people figure out a way to fight through barriers. People figure out a way to connect. As a kid who watched [Spielberg's] movies and they made me want to make movies, working with him was as exciting as you'd think it would be. Growing up, any time he made a movie I would go and watch it, and I would read about it, and I'd watch the making-of, 'The Jaws Log.' I would drink that up."