'Tropic Thunder': Boys Gone Wild!

Ben Stiller
Image credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY JAKE CHESSUM

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Robert, your character, with his over-the-top adherence to Method acting, has definite echoes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Russell Crowe.
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: There's a little Colin Farrell in there, too.

But were you also consciously playing around with your own image?
DOWNEY: Well, 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. [Laughs]

With the power you've gained this year, that could be dangerous.
DOWNEY: I don't have power. I have the possibility of power. [Points to Stiller] He has power.
BEN STILLER: [Shrugs] I don't know what that means.... I got to sit behind Downey at the Iron Man premiere and watch the back of his head while it all unfolded.
DOWNEY: Did you see me squeezing [my wife] Susan's hand going, ''Yes! Look at me!''?

Did you all have a sense during the Tropic Thunder shoot of how huge Iron Man might be?
STILLER: Robert was talking about it way early on. All this ''I'm Iron Man.'' [Dismissively] Whatever.
DOWNEY: Then I showed them four minutes of cut footage from Comic-Con and they realized who they were f---ing with.

Ben, by all accounts you really push your actors hard as a director.
STILLER: The thing is, these are genius actor guys, but they do go off on their own little... You have to corral them. But you're right, I would look back on the footage and I'd go, like, This was a little excessive.
DOWNEY: But it worked. I believed in your vision! Ben would be over there setting up a shot, and he'd be sipping his Smartwater and they'd bring over these 35-pound weights and he'd be lifting them while he was watching the monitor. His arms would get so big, and he'd be looking really formidable. I've never seen you like that.
STILLER: You obviously had a gay crush on me.
DOWNEY: Dude, you were crazy butch. But more than your physical rawness, it was just your obsessive drive to mastery. That's how you got us all. Because we would have mutinied. We would have torn you to bits.

Robert, what went through your mind when you first got hit with the idea of playing a character in blackface?
DOWNEY: I felt like, I want to work with Ben and Jack, but my way into the movie is I've got to be tarred and feathered for three months and maybe have my reputation destroyed. That was my fear. And then we started doing makeup tests, and it was like Mr. Potato Face: ''Can we take that wig off and put these teeth in? Now put this on. Now put that on.'' But by the time we were finally in rehearsals, I knew I had it.
BLACK: I thought he looked like Lando Calrissian.

NEXT PAGE: ''I heard Downey go to the bathroom. I could hear the whole thing. And he stayed in character talking to himself. He peed in character!''

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