Ben Stiller Talks ‘Tropic Thunder’

He’s known as one of Hollywood’s biggest actors, but who knew Ben Stiller could take on writing, directing and producing too! Read ahead to find out what he had to say about his new movie Tropic Thunder.

5241019.jpg Your character, Tugg Speedman, is the only actor who believes everything happening in the jungle is truly part of the movie.

Ben Stiller:

He’s not the most intelligent guy, but he’s not stupid. What’s going on with him is that he’s one of these guys who’s been sort of protected from reality. He’s been living in this cocoon and he’s the action guy who’s on the down swing. He’s tried to do this movie that was going to get him some credibility and it just backfires on him—the Simple Jack movie. He really needs this movie to work and when the director says he’s going to be out in the jungle filming and they’re going to be hidden cameras, he really needs to believe this is happening for his career. That’s really his motivation and he really believes this movie is happening. He needs this movie to work. I think there’s a sort of desperation for him. I think there’s also a little bit of a metaphor for being caught up in your own movie and your life all the time and taking yourself too seriously.

HW: How difficult was it to write Robert Downey Jr.’s character as an Oscar winning actor playing an African American man?


It was fun to write it. It also went through a lot of changes. Originally he was written as an Irish man. He was Irish up until we started shooting. Then Downey came to me one day and said, “Can I do him Australian?”…He’d done Natural Born Killers and he’d done an Australian accent so that changed while we were shooting. Then also, for a long time he’d drop character in the middle of the movie…As we started to get closer to shooting, it just seemed funnier that he just stay in character.

HW: How great was it to make fun of Hollywood?


I love that kind of humor and I think actors like to make fun of themselves and the business because it’s so ridiculous. There’s so many people who take themselves so seriously, myself included. We all have moments where you read a quote or an interview or you’ll see yourself saying something in a interview where you’re on TV 10 years ago and you’re like, “What was I thinking?” because it’s just a trial and error process and I think some people get caught up in it. Sometimes you sound silly, sometimes you take yourself too seriously. It’s hard to navigate through this world—the bullshit of it all.

HW: Was it important to make it R rated?


The R rating came very early on. We knew we were satirizing these war movies and the opening scene was like, “Get your motherfucking ass in this fucking chopper now”, and I knew I didn’t want to lose those jokes right off the bat because of PG-13. It felt like we’d be short changing the satire of the war movies. Those movies have all that language in them. So we were strapped with that R rating right from the beginning because if you have two fucks in a movie that’s it.

HW: How exciting was it for you to scout all of the locations and oversee the special effects for an action movie?


It was really the most enjoyable experience making a movie for sure. There have been years of getting ready to do it and I’ve been going to Hawaii for years and knew where I wanted to shoot it. To actually be able to go into the helicopters and scout to find these places that you couldn’t really get to was really fun. To work on these big action sequences, especially in the beginning of the movie and the end of the movie and build a bridge, blow up a bridge, work with a great cinematographer, great production designer—just that process for me as a director I enjoyed a lot.  

Tropic Thunder opens in theaters Aug. 13, 2008