'Tropic Thunder': Boys Gone Wild!

Robert Downey Jr.
Image credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY JAKE CHESSUM

BEN STILLER: I remember being in a car scene with a jaded actor who pulled out a flask: ''It's 4 o'clock. Time for a little nip.''
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: [To Stiller] But you've never worked drunk or loaded?
STILLER: Um, no.
DOWNEY: Liar.
STILLER: I haven't! Just out of fear of screwing up.
DOWNEY: Jack?
JACK BLACK: No. I had an improv class in high school and I came stoned one time. And I was so paranoid that I never tried to f--- with it again. I marvel at some people's ability to party and then act. I'm not built that way. [Pauses] But what blows me away is how quickly someone who's new to the industry can go from being, like [breathlessly], ''Whoa, what? I have my own trailer?! Oh my God, you guys, this is insane!'' to [smugly] ''But I deserve it. And actually now I expect it.'' The transition into the spoiled actor happens really fast. That's why you hear about a lot of actors who live on a farm out in the middle of the country to shield themselves, so they can stay grounded. But that's its own kind of spoiledness too.
STILLER: I was directing an actress once who was taking a nap on the set and I had to gingerly wake her up. [Whispering] ''We have to film now.'' ''But I'm so tired.'' ''I know, but everyone's here and we're ready to do the scene.''
BLACK: There is an infantilization that happens to actors. I had to catch myself a couple of times while we were making this movie from falling into the trap of 
 being the character. I got a really bad sunburn on the very first day of rehearsals, and I was so mad and I really wanted to blame someone besides myself for not putting sunblock on.
STILLER: ''How could you not tell me how strong the sun was going to be?!''

You're also each playing with the audience's perceptions of you. Jack, in some nightmare alternate universe, you actually could be starring in The Fatties: Fart 2.
BLACK: Not even alternate. I have done lots of farting in movies. And I've been fat in almost all of my movies. So it's very close to home. I don't know where Ben would have gone if I didn't do the role. He would've had to rewrite it.
STILLER: You were dream casting.
BLACK: Or you would've had to get some fresh-faced new guy. And I couldn't let that happen because it would have been someone making fun of me who wasn't me. So I had to do it to bring some grace and elevate it. In my own defense, though, I haven't done any movies that center around a farting character. That's when I hit rock bottom: when it's all about my character's flatulence. That could be coming, though, because I get the feeling people would go see that movie.

NEXT PAGE: ''I realized that the justifications [my character] made in the movie as a joke are exactly how I operate. Like, I really can complain about a script I haven't read.

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