by: Ben Stiller Written by:
Ben Stiller (screenplay & story)
Justin Theroux (screenplay & story)
Etan Cohen (screenplay) Starring:
Robert Downey Jr. - Kirk
Jack Black - Jeff Portnoy
Jay Baruchel - Kevin Sandusky
Brandon T. Jackson - Alpa Chino
Ben Stiller - Tugg Speedman
Steve Coogan - Damien Cockburn
Danny McBride - Cody
Nick Nolte - Four
- Rick Peck
Cruise - Les
Hader - Rob Slolom-Studio
Soo Hoo - Tran
'The Story Behind the Story'
Did you know Tom Cruise was originally set to play Rick Peck?
Trivia to find out more.
Ben Stiller had originally planned Keanu Reeves to play
with Stiller playing Rick Peck.
According to Ben Stiller, Tugg Speedman is partially based
young Sylvester Stallone.
Cohen created the role of Kirk Lazarus as a way of lampooning the great
lengths that some method actors go to depict a role.
Apparently Robert Downey Jr. was approached by Ben Stiller
the part of Kirk Lazarus while on vacation in Hawaii.
Robert Downey Jr. was very reluctant to take the role of
Lazarus because he felt wearing the make-up to look African-American
was offensive. But Downey later accepted the role because he liked the
script and wanted to work with Ben Stiller and Jack Black.
said on CBS' The Early Show' that his first reaction was, "This is the
stupidest idea I've ever heard!" and that Stiller responded, "Yeah I
know—isn't it great?" In another interview, Downey said that he
accepted the part but, having no idea where or even how to start
building the character of Osiris, eventually settled on a jive-esque
speech pattern and a gruff, ragged bass voice; he then auditioned
Lazarus' voice over the phone to Stiller, who approved the
Downey revealed that Kirk Lazarus is based on a
of Russell Crowe, Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Farrell.
character of Kirk Lazarus was originally written as
Irish. It was changed to Australian, when Robert Downey Jr. stated it
would be easier for him to improvise in an Australian accent, something
he'd previously done with his character, Wayne Gale, in Natural Born Killers
he played a similar outlandish Australian character.
acknowledged the potential controversy over his role: "At the end of
the day, it's always about how well you commit to the character. If I
didn't feel it was morally sound, or that it would be easily
misinterpreted that I'm just C. Thomas Howell [in Soul Man (1986)],
is a method actor and usually stays in character between takes and even
off the film set. Downey stayed in character as
Sgt. Osiris (and, by extension, Lazarus) even while cameras weren't
rolling. This practice was also written into the script for
his character Kirk Lazarus to perform.
Brandon T. Jackson, who portrays Alpa Chino
in Tropic Thunder,
stated: "When I first read the script, I was like: What?
Black face? But when I saw him act he, like, became a black
was just good acting. It was weird on the set because he would keep
going with the character. He's a method actor."
Stiller commented on Downey's portrayal of a white actor playing a
black man: "When people see the movie, in the context of the film, he's
playing a method actor who’s gone to great lengths to play an African
American. The movie is skewering actors and how they take themselves so
Stiller previewed Tropic
several African American journalists and the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People, who reacted positively to the Robert
Downey Jr.'s character.
Downey required between one
and a half to two hours of make-up application to portray the black
character. According to Downey, "One makeup artist would start on one
side of my face and a second makeup artist would start on the other
side, and then they'd meet in the middle."
Thunder, Kirk Lazarus says the line "I
don't drop character 'til I've done the
DVD commentary." When recording the audio commentary for
DVD and Blu-ray, Robert
Downey Jr. actually spends the entire
commentary in the character that appears on the screen as the movie
Jeff "Fats" Portnoy was written with Jack Black in mind and
partially based on Chris Farley.
According to Ben Stiller, in an interview with Playboy,
Black filmed most of Tropic
Thunder with bruised ribs.
Apparently Mos Def was originally offered the role of Alpa
but he turned it down.
Cruise was initially set to cameo as Stiller's character, Tugg
Speedman's agent, Rick
Peck. Instead, Cruise suggested adding a studio head character, and the
idea was incorporated into the script. Stiller and Cruise worked
together to create the new character, Les Grossman, as a middle-aged
Ben Stiller has cited that nearly all
aspects of the Les Grossman character were developed by Tom Cruise,
including the dancing and the look of the makeup. Stiller said that in
addition to the more obvious makeup effects applied to Cruise's face
and head, and the extra hair on his chest and arms, Cruise also decided
to play the character wearing over sized prosthetic hands.
Many have speculated that
Tom Cruise based his performance as a vulgar movie mogul on Sumner
Redstone, with whom Cruise had a public falling out after Redstone had
Paramount's terminate their development deal with Cruise. While this
may or may not be true, his physical appearance is more than likely
based on Tropic
producer Stuart Cornfeld.
Stiller intended to keep Cruise's role a secret until the film's
release. In addition, Paramount Pictures refused to release promotional
pictures of Cruise's character to the media.
November 2007, images of Tom Cruise wearing a bald headpiece and a
fatsuit appeared on Inside Edition, as well as on the Internet.
Cruise's attorneys threatened a lawsuit if photos showing Cruise in
costume were published. They approached various sites that were hosting
the image and quickly had it removed. A representative for Cruise
stated: "Mr. Cruise's appearance was supposed to be a surprise for his
fans worldwide. Paparazzi have ruined what should have been a fun
discovery for moviegoers. "The photography agency INF, who first
debuted the image, responded with a statement: "While these pictures
were taken without breaking any criminal or civil laws, we've
decided to pull them from circulation effective immediately."
Cruise vacated the role of Rick Peck, Owen Wilson was cast to play the
part. Following his attempted suicide in August 2007, Wilson dropped
out of playing in Tropic
Thunder and Stiller gave the role to Matthew
Cruise co-stars as a vulgar movie producer, Les Grossman, in this
movie. Ben Stiller played Cruise in a sketch on Saturday Night Live in
which Cruise played "Celebrity Jeopardy" and also played Cruise's
idiotic stunt double "Tom Croose" in a sketch at the 2000 MTV movie
filming, Jay Baruchel, who plays Kevin Sandusky, and Brandon T.
Jackson, who plays Alpa Chino, had to be trained on how to use a gun.
Jack Black used an M-60, also known as "The Pig." According to his
co-stars, he seemed very experienced, despite never having used a gun
The actors and actresses that make cameo
appearances in Tropic
Thunder include Tobey Maguire, Jennifer Love Hewitt,
Lance Bass, Jon Voight and Jason Bateman.
as a last-minute replacement, Tobey Maguire was only available to be on
set for two hours to film his scenes in Satan's Alley. Downey said he
was amazed Maguire would agree to appear in Tropic Thunder and
felt like they were
creating a karmic pay-off for their scenes together in the 2000 film
Wonder Boys, where Downey's gay character has a one-night-stand with
Taylor, Ben Stiller's wife appears as Simple Jack's mother in the
'Simple Jack' trailer. She also appears at the awards ceremony sitting
a few chairs in from the aisle, seen for an instant as the camera
follows Tugg down the aisle.
Co-writer Justin Theroux, makes a cameo appearance as the
on one of the Hueys in the beginning of the film, and the Zoolander DJ
at the 'One Week Down' party in the director's cut version of this
The poster for "The Fatties" behind Jeff
Portnoy (Jack Black) in the trailer features the names of a few of the
film's actual crew members: costume designer Marlene Stewart, editor
Greg Hayden, director of photography John Toll, and screenwriter Justin
Theroux. In addition, the poster contains the DreamWorks Pictures logo,
the Dolby Stereo logo, and a fictional composite of several MPAA
ratings (reading "PG - Parental Guidance - under 11 requires
accompanying parent or guardian").
Ben Stiller first came up with the idea for Tropic Thunder
working on Empire of
(1987), in which he played a small part.
one of the special features on the Tropic
Thunder director's cut DVD, Ben Stiller said
he has been developing ideas for this movie for about 8-10 years. Both
Stiller and script co-writer, Justin Theroux have revealed that the
initial script concept was that the movie was going to be about actors
going to a "fake boot camp" for a couple of weeks and coming back with
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
has said in interviews that when he started out in Hollywood, he had a
lot of colleagues going into war movies at the time, such as Platoon (1986) and
(1987), and they would attend a "fake boot camp" in order to prepare
for their roles and after taking part in these fake boot camps they
considered themselves "self-important" and go on about the
intense "boot camp" preparation and simulation of war these projects
involved and how it made them feel like real soldiers. Stiller found
this ridiculous because he thought that being an actor in a war film
was nothing like being a real soldier in a real war. This was an early
inspiration on what would become "Tropic Thunder".
Tropic Thunder's final script was developed to satirize
(1986), Full Metal
Jacket (1987), Hamburger
Hill (1987), and The
Ben Stiller reaction to the film being called a
I feel the tone
of the movie is its own thing. I think there are elements of satire,
but I don't think it should be categorized just as that. There are
elements of parody in it, but obviously I don't think it's just that. I
feel like hopefully it's its own thing, which has a lot of familiar
stuff that we are playing off of."
Co-writer JustinTheroux, has cited that
was easier to write as viewers have an increased awareness of the inner
workings of Hollywood due to celebrity websites and Hollywood news
Dialogue for unscripted portions of the storyboard was
on set by the actors or was improvised.
The title of the movie is a play on "Tropic Lightning", the
the 25th Infantry Division which has seen action in WWII, Korea,
Vietnam, Southwest Asia and Iraq (among others). The Division is
notable for being the subject of The
Red Line (1998)
(based on James Jones's novel) and Platoon
Famous members include Oliver Stone (who wrote and directed "Platoon"),
rapper Ice-T and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin's eldest son.
Southern California and Mexico were considered for the main unit
filming, the Hawaiian island of Kauai (where Stiller has a home) was
selected for the majority of the shooting. Kauai was chosen over Mexico
because a tax credit for in-state spending was negotiated with the
Kauai Film Commission. The island was also selected for its similarity
to Vietnam, based on its dense foliage, variety of terrains, and
Two units shot simultaneously on the island of Kauai from
ground, and an aerial unit shot from helicopters.
Casting calls on the island of Kauai sought 500 residents
portray the villagers in the film.
Thunder was the first major studio production on Kauai in
After filming was completed, it was deemed the largest production
filmed on the island to date, and contributed more than $60 million to
the local economy.
Many of the sets and the bridge used for one of the final
were built in three months.
Filming for the Los Angeles and interior scenes occurred on
at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
members of the U.S. military taught the actors how to handle, fire, and
reload their weapons, as well as perform various tactical movements.
Apparently the opening war scene was filmed over three
required fifty stuntmen.
Thunder it's mentioned that Kirk Lazarus is a five-time
winner. As of the films original release Katharine Hepburn holds the
record most acting awards ever won with four.
the film, Damien's surname "Cockburn" is pronounced phonetically
(probably for humorous effect), whereas it should be properly
pronounced as "Coh-burn".
There is only one actual death in Tropic
that of the
Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan).
In his 'full-blown retard' Oscar monologue, Kirk cites
Sellers' performance in Being
(1979). While Sellers received a Golden Globe award, he did not win the
Best Actor Oscar that year, which went to Dustin Hoffman for Kramer vs. Kramer
water buffalo that Jack Black's character rides was discovered to have
been pregnant when the cast and crew came back to the set one morning
and found her nursing a newborn calf.
The Flo Rida hit
"Low" played on the cell phone by Les Grossman was added during
post-production, when the song became a radio hit.
the end of the movie, during the Oscar ceremony you can see that Jon
Voight's character is visibly angry when he loses the Oscar to Tugg
Speedman. This is a reference to Voight losing the Oscar to John Wayne
in True Grit
(1969) when he
was nominated for Midnight
Tug Speedman's celebration leap while holding his Oscar
similar antic by Cuba Gooding Jr. after he won for Jerry McGuire
(1996). Tugg's leap can be seen on the TV screen behind Les Grossman
when Grossman is talking to his assistant and telling him a monkey
could do your job.
The Wilhelm scream, which is
a frequently-used film and television stock sound effect, is heard
during the three-helicopter raid at the beginning of Tropic Thunder,
enemy soldier is hit by gunfire and is blown backwards (elapsed time
6:04). Also, near the end of the movie when Tugg Speedman throws
"Half-squat" into the river. When this throw is repeated in the end
credits, the scream is heard again.
a tie-in for the Tropic Thunder's release, Paramount Pictures announced
market the energy drink known in the film as "Booty Sweat". Michael
Corcoran, Paramount's president of consumer products, commented on the
release: "We're very excited, because it has the potential to live for
quite a while, well beyond the film." The drink was sold in college
bookstores, on Amazon.com, and at other retailers: Tropic
Thunder Booty Sweat Energy Drink.
The 'Booty Sweat' energy drink seen in the movie can still
actually be purchased on Amazon.com as part of a promotional tie-in.
companies working on different scenes and elements created 500 shots of
visual effects in the film. These were at times altered weekly due to
the reactions of test audiences in screenings. CIS Visual Effects Group
assisted with the Scorcher VI faux trailer and twenty additional shots
for the home media release. To expand on the comedy in the film, some
of the explosions and crashes were embellished to look more
Thunder was shipped to some theaters under the name
trailer of Tropic Thunder, released in April 2008, received the "Best
Trailer" award at the 9th annual Golden Trailer Awards. DreamWorks also
released a red band trailer, the first of its kind used by the studio
to promote one of its films.
Disability advocates and others who previewed the film
the offensive treatment of individuals with mental disabilities was
woven throughout the film's plot. Disability advocates urged people not
to see the film, claiming it is demeaning to individuals with mental
disabilities and would encourage bullying. Stiller defended the film,
stating "We screened the movie so many times and this didn't come up
until very late ... It's about actors and self-importance. I think the
context of the movie it's pretty clear."
Etan Cohen echoed Stiller's rationale: "Some people have taken this as
making fun of handicapped people, but we're really trying to make fun
of the actors who use this material as fodder for acclaim." He went on
to state that the film lampoons actors who portray mentally retarded
characters such as Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man and Tom Hanks
the movie drew criticism from
several disability groups for the "Simple Jack" subplot, in which
Stiller's character portrays a mentally disabled man with clips of the
fictitious movie shown, and re-enacted by Stiller, and also
between Downey Jr. and Stiller drew particular scorn for their repeated
use of the word "retard", the producers withdrew the faux "Simple Jack"
website, and proposed altering the movie in response to a special early
screening for the disability groups in question, but did not follow
through on the suggestion. According to co-writer Etan Cohen, the
scenes were not meant to derive humor from mental disability itself,
but to satirize emotionally exploitative depictions of mental
disability in movies such as Forrest
Gump (1994), Rain
(1988), I Am Sam
(2001), Radio (2003)
and the actors who
take these roles.
A DreamWorks spokesman did not directly respond to the
claiming that Tropic Thunder "... is an R-rated comedy that satirizes
Hollywood and its excesses, makes its point by featuring inappropriate
and over-the-top characters in ridiculous situations."
response to the disability controversy, the Tropic Thunder
director's cut of the DVD
(but not the Blu-ray) includes a public service announcement in the
special features that discourages use of the word "retard".
mid-July 2008, a faux trailer for the mockumentary "Rain of
Madness" was released. The mockumentary was a parody of Hearts of Darkness: A
It follows co-writer Justin Theroux as a fictional documentarian named
Jan Jürgen documenting the behind-the-scenes aspects of the
the film. Marketing for the faux documentary included a movie poster
and an official website prior to Tropic Thunder's release. The
mockumentary was released on the iTunes Store after the film's release
and was also included on the home video release.
A website for Simple Jack, a faux film exhibited
within the film, was removed by DreamWorks on August 4, due to protests
from disability advocates.
In addition, other
promotional websites were created for "Make Pretty Skin Clinic", the
fictional company that performed the surgery of the film's character
Kirk Lazarus, along with one for the energy drink "Booty Sweat"
Take look at this behind the scenes featurette for the filming
of Tropic Thunder:
Interview with Ben Stiller, who wrote, directed and starred in Tropic Thunder: