We were recently able to catch up with Tropic Thunder's writer/director/producer/star Ben Stiller. Click through to listen to our interview with one of the biggest movie stars working today.

‘Action!’ hero

on July 19, 2008 by Phil Contrino
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By Chad Greene

Tears streaming down his face, U.S. Army Sgt. Lincoln Osiris holds Sgt. Four Leaf Tayback’s forearms up in the air so that his fallen friend will not bleed to death out of the charred stumps that used to be his hands.

With what seem destined to be his last breaths, Four Leaf gasps, “When we get back to the world … I’m finally going to teach you … how to juggle.”

Sure, it’s a laugh line loaded with irony, but when it’s coming out of the mouth of the actor playing Four Leaf—or, more accurately, the actor playing the actor who’s playing him—there is also a ring of truth to it. Because Ben Stiller didn’t only act out this scene in Tropic Thunder, he also wrote it, directed it and produced it.

Putting in such simultaneous tours of duty for the first time since 2001’s Zoolander, Stiller stars as Tugg Speedman—a fading-fast action star who’s cast in a big-budget war movie alongside award-winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), gross-out comic Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and unknown newcomer Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel). But even the most Method-minded among the actors are thrown for a loop when they’re forced to fight their way out of a Southeast Asian jungle when director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) and the “real” Four Leaf Tayback (Nick Nolte)—the hook-handed Vietnam War hero whose memoir the movie was adapted from—try to salvage the floundering film by capturing their spoiled stars’ real-life struggles to survive with hidden cameras.

For Stiller, the release of Tropic Thunder on August 15 will represent the end of an almost 20-year campaign. As he reveals in an interview with BOXOFFICE, the concept of a comedy about actors shooting a Vietnam War movie occurred to him back in the late ’80s—an era when the number of Academy Award nominations epics such as Platoon (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989) were earning nearly rivaled their onscreen body counts. To listen to the interview, click here .






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