Ben Stiller's Peers Speak Out About His "Apocalypse Now"-Like Demands on the Set of Tropic Thunder -- In August’s Men's Vogue

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Fresh from screening Ben Stiller’s new film Tropic Thunder for the August issue of Men’s Vogue, writer Adam Green declares “for me, it edges out Superbad for Funniest Movie since Borat.”

Fresh from screening Ben Stiller’s new film Tropic Thunder for the August issue of Men’s Vogue, writer Adam Green declares “for me, it edges out Superbad for Funniest Movie since Borat.” According to reports, Tropic Thunder enjoyed a budget of as much as $100 million, a record for an R-rated comedy. The film being written, produced, directed and starred in by Stiller, is the most fully realized, self-assured achievement of his career, writes Green. Stiller's co-star, Robert Downey Jr., calls him “the closest living thing to a Chaplin that we have in this industry” but he’s “not a comedian – he’s an actor totally in control and totally fearless.” Green observes that Hollywood has done well by Stiller and the support of his costars and the industry is a testament to his talent, motivation, and the ability to inspire, attracting the likes of Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, and Nick Nolte to play bit parts in the movie.

Highlights from the interview include:

At the end of filming Tropic Thunder, Stiller gave the entire cast and crew T-shirts that read I SURVIVED BEN STILLER’S COMEDY DEATH CAMP. According to Robert Downey Jr., he was only half kidding:
“When you’re working with Ben, there will be casualties. If you’re not bringing your A-game, you are going to suffer. If you do not have an A-game to bring, you are likely to be destroyed.”

But as tough as Stiller was on his cast, he pushed himself even harder. Downey attests to that:
“It’s lunchtime and you’re wondering how the hell you’re going to shoot another six hours of this garbage. Then you see Ben eating a tiny meal with some peppers as a snack for later, then going to get his arms engorged with his trainer or work out with the Pilates gal before starting all over again, and you realize that this guy did not breathe a sigh of relief ever. He was on a fucking vision quest – and it was disgusting and it was amazing and it was relentless and it was brilliant.”

Jack Black goes on to say:
“I would tease him sometimes, I’d tell him, ‘Come on, dude, you must be in Scientology – you’re way too motivated and aggressive.’”

The idea for Tropic Thunder came to Stiller years ago while making his major film debut in Spielberg’s 1987 WWII drama Empire of the Sun: “It seemed like all my friends – almost every actor in Hollywood but me, in fact – were going off and doing these Vietnam War films. They would go to these fake boot camps for a few weeks to prepare, and then come out talking about how grueling and intense it was, how they all bonded like a real Army platoon. I just found something hilarious about these self-involved actors seeing themselves as heroes.”

Jack Black on the script:
“There aren’t many funny scripts out there. This is hard funny — to the point where I don’t know if it’s going to go over with the rest of the world. I think it was Dave Chappelle who said that, in the comedy world, only comedians laugh at this extra-funny hyper shit. So, if it makes me laugh, it might be too funny.”

For more from the August 2008 issue of Men's Vogue visit http://www.mensvogue.com

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Elissa Lumley
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