Ben Stiller’s finally acting again… though his comeback vehicle is not what you’d expect.
Stiller — who hasn’t headlined a movie since the 2017 dramedy Brad’s Status — stars in a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi Zero Sugar (watch below) that ironically plays up his acting prowess.
“Yep, this is it, this is the big comeback,” Stiller laughed during a Zoom interview with Yahoo.
Directed by Jorma Taccone (MacGruber, Popstar), the minute-long spot finds Stiller in master-thespian mode performing fake movie fake scenes — killing an evil alien, proposing to his girlfriend at a restaurant, freezing to death in snow-covered forest, interacting with a droid on a distant planet — as he demonstrates the ultimate goal of acting.
“My job as an actor is making you believe what you’re seeing is real,” Stiller says to the camera. “But it’s not real — it’s just acting.”
Stiller’s montage also includes one very real role: Derek Zoolander, the lovable but dim-witted male model of the 2001 comedy favorite Zoolander. (The actor returned to the part in 2016’s less enthusiastically received sequel Zoolander 2.)
“Derek has really managed to endure, against all odds, in the cutthroat business of male modeling over the years,” cracks Stiller, who admitted he’s always had a special place in his heart for the self-styled “ridiculously good looking” innovator of “Blue Steel,” among other famed poses.
So how does any of this relate to Pepsi Zero Sugar? Does any of this relate to Pepsi Zero Sugar?
Stiller takes a swig of the soft drink (“Wow, that’s really good”) before turning again to camera: “Or was I just acting?”
Credit Pepsi for having fun with the concept of celebrity endorsement campaigns and a question viewers often ponder: Does so-and-so actually really use that product in real life, or are they just acting (for a lot of money)?
While Stiller prefers to play up the mystery of the commercial, he implied that yes, he does enjoy Pepsi products. Asked if he’s playing a role in re-stoking the so-called “Cola Wars,” Stiller shoots back: “Hey, it’s better than any other kind of war.”
With Derek Zoolander, Stiller is the latest actor to reprise an iconic role while cashing in on commercial dollars for Super Bowl’s massive audience. Sigourney Weaver resurrected her Alien(s) heroine Ripley for DirecTV in 2007, Matthew Broderick brought back Ferris Bueller for a Honda spot in 2012, Laurence Fishburne morphed into Morpheus for a 2014 Matrix-inspired Kia commercial (while Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith once shilled for General Electric), and Bill Murray revived his Groundhog Day weatherman Phil Connors for a 2020 Jeep ad.
Stiller isn’t even the only one back at it this year. Also on tap for Sunday’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles are spots featuring Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul cooking up a commercial for Doritos and Clueless alums Alicia Silverstone and Elisa Donovan reuniting for Rakuten.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment in early 2022, Stiller discussed his relationship with acting.
“It hasn’t been totally intentional except I really do enjoy directing and producing,” said Stiller, whose recent acting work has been limited to cameos in a couple film comedies [2020’s Hubie Halloween and 2022’s Bros] as he has focused behind the camera, including serving as director and executive producer on the Apple TV+ hit series Severance.
“I am getting to the point now where I am kind of missing acting a little bit and would like to figure out how to do something again.”
Stiller may have recently found his actual comeback vehicle. On Monday, it was reported he’s in final talks to play a trio of roles in the limited series Three Identical Strangers, based on the 2018 Sundance-winning documentary of the same name.