Ben Still talks about Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder and how it surprised viewers to find out who was behind the character Les Grossman
If you were one of the lucky filmgoers who saw Tropic Thunder on the big screen back in 2008, you left theaters with one image: Tom Cruise, almost unrecognizable, shaking his ass to Ludacris’s “Get Back” during the end credits.
Known mostly for taking dramatic parts at the time, the world was surprised to see Cruise don prosthetics and go full-send into spoofdom to become Les Grossman, the evil studio executive pulling the strings behind Tropic Thunder’s film-within-a-film. Now, in a new interview for Esquire’s “Explain This” video series Ben Stiller—who directed and starred in Tropic Thunder—opened up about Cruise’s antics as Grossman. “Tom Cruise had the idea to play Les Grossman in the movie,” Stiller says. “That part did not exist. He said, ‘Well, there’s no studio executive and that would be really fun to be that guy. And he had this whole idea of what the guy should look like. It was his idea to dance. And I remember when we did a makeup test, someone handed him a Diet Coke and then he just started moving.”
Stiller’s story matches what Cruise told told BBC Radio 1 back in 2017. “I read the script, and he had all of the characters, but the studio wasn’t there,” he said. “There was a structural compression missing down on those characters, you know, that keeps the pressure on these guys that really drives the story. I was like, ‘You need the studio.'”
We’re still waiting for an update on the reported Les Grossman solo movie, but the image of Tom Cruise tripping out on Diet Coke will tide us over for now. You can watch Stiller’s full “Explain This” interview above. Below? We left a little something for you to relive.