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Ben Stiller: Roger Ebert Took Back His Harsh 'Zoolander' Review

Ben Stiller in "Zoolander" Paramount

Take a look at your grandma's wall of cross-stitch mottos and inspirational slogans and grab one — doesn't matter which one, pretty much any of them will apply to this story.

"Hindsight is 20/20"? Sure.

"Better late than never"? Okay!

Whatever darlingly framed handicraft you chose, keep it in mind now: Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert, whose recent passing rocked the community, took back a review.

You won't find a printed retraction in the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert's home paper, but he told the one it likely mattered to the most: Ben Stiller. Stiller told the story of Ebert's apology this Sunday at a panel at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, which NextMovie attended.

The review in question is of Stiller's 2001 hit comedy "Zoolander," which starred Stiller himself as a clueless male model who finds himself caught up in a villainous plot — along with, of course, a bunch of really, really ridiculously good looking people.

zoolander blue steel

You loved it, I loved it, Roger Ebert did not love it. In his one-star review of "Zoolander,"  Ebert held up the movie as an example of why America is hated around the world, lashed out at IMDb for failing to name an actor in the film and zeroed in on the filmmakers' decision to call Malaysia Malaysia, as opposed to a fictionalized name.

"There have been articles lately asking why the United States is so hated in some parts of the world. As this week's Exhibit A from Hollywood, I offer 'Zoolander,'" Ebert wrote.

Of course, Ebert's pan didn't stop the movie from grossing nearly $61 million worldwide, but that's not what we're here to talk about. No matter what OneRepublic and Timbaland might try to tell you, it's never too late to apologize.

"It seemed rather harsh to me," Stiller said of the review during the panel, an on-stage conversation about filmmaking between himself and fellow director Jay Roach. "To his credit, I ran into him like five or six years later backstage at 'The Tonight Show,' and he said, 'Hey, I just want to apologize to you. I wrote that about 'Zoolander,' and I [now] think it's really funny. Everything was a little crazy [then]. It was September 11 and I went overboard.' I said, 'Thanks for telling me backstage at 'The Tonight Show.'"

To be fair, the review was originally published Sept. 28, 2001, so let's give the guy a break. And, hey, listen to your granny: Better late than never.

zoolander mugatu heads

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