Are American moviegoers really ready for a spoof set in New York City — especially one that revolves around an assassination attempt on a world leader? Ben Stiller hopes so, since that's the basic plot of Zoolander (opening Friday). Admits the actor/director: "You go through every emotion, wondering if it's right to release, much less even talk about it. It does seem so trivial in the wake of what happened on September 11th.

"I thought about it a lot," Stiller adds, "and I finally decided that even in the best of times, this movie is just a silly diversion that makes you forget about your problems for an hour and a half. Hopefully, it will be good for people to have a few laughs. We're giving them the option to do that."

Like many filmmakers nowadays, Stiller was obliged to make some last-minute edits for the sake of good taste. "We had a couple of shots of the World Trade Center, which I cut out," he says. "I wanted to be respectful. I thought it would be jarring to see that on the screen. I wanted to make the right call because I love New York. I'm proud the movie is set there. I'm a New Yorker through and through."

On a lighter note, Stiller enjoys bringing to the big screen the IQ-impaired model he created for the VH1 Fashion Awards. Does he fear being typecast as just another pretty face? "I got offered so many male model roles that I decided to do my own," he deadpans. "Derek Zoolander may be self-involved, self-absorbed and a bit naive, but I think he has a good heart."

Was any nepotism involved in casting his wife Christine Taylor — that's Marcia Brady from the Brady Bunch movies — as the girl who falls for Zoolander? Grins Stiller: "We had just gotten married, and it was the only way we could be together. Plus, she was incredibly funny — a great straight man to all the wacky characters in the film."