10/30/2001 at 01:00 AM EST
"Zoolander" mastermind Ben Stiller has fired back at independent film producer Michael Mailer, who was quoted in an Oct. 24 New York Times front-page article as opposing Stiller's decision to erase images of the World Trade Center from Stiller's parody of the male-modeling world. "I find it execrable that you have to alter a scene or two to fit the sensibility of the day," said Mailer, who decided to leave in images of the towers in his own movie, "Empire." Defending his actions in a letter to The Times postmarked Oct. 25 from Los Angeles, Stiller, 35, cited Mailer's claim that "to ignore the towers is to pretend they were never there" and went on to say: "That was not my intention or that of my collaborators on 'Zoolander.' I envy Mr. Mailer, who is now, six weeks after the tragedy, deciding on his course of action; we had to make an immediate decision on Sept. 12 . . . I decided to edit out one shot, and to obscure the towers in another. I felt that people who chose to see the movie as escapist entertainment were not looking for another reminder of tragedy." In conclusion, said Stiller, "it turns out that to some the omission of the towers was disconcerting. I make no claim that mine was the right decision; I only assert that I was trying to do the right thing, in a circumstance for which there was no precedent."