Tropical Thunder: The Rebirth of Robert Downey Jr, Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey

Tropical Thunder: The Rebirth of Robert Downey Jr, Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey

Ben Stiller’s comedy conquered Hollywood in 2008. Flashback.

On August 13, 2008, while the French discovered The Dark Knight in the cinema, the American public, who had already had access to Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster for a few weeks, succumbed to a crazy comedy by Ben Stiller : Thunder in the tropics.

A delirious UFO crossed by unforgettable scenes, the film received on its release excellent reviews which were coupled with a success in theaters (nearly 200 million dollars in receipts, 600,000 admissions in France in October of the same year). Even today, this biting satire of the Hollywood industry always hits the mark with its gallery of freaks, each one crazier than the next.

In front of Ben Stiller, Jack Black and a handful of names well known to connoisseurs of US or British humor (Steve Coogan, Bill Hader, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride…), the film also features three heavyweights of today’s American cinema who do not hesitate, perhaps even more than the others, to play the card of self-parody or self-mockery: Robert Downey Jr. Tom Cruise And Matthew McConaughey indeed each bring their stone to this film which, if it is not the best known nor the most prestigious of their filmography, contributed to cement their status of Hollywood icon.

The most obvious case is of course that of Robert Downey Jr.. Young promise of American cinema trained at the school of Saturday Night Live and companion of the Brat Pack in the late 80s, his performance in Snow on Beverly Hills in 1987 then his nomination for the Oscar for best actor in 1992 for the biopic of Chaplin by Richard Attenborough had made him one of the rising stars of American cinema.

Subsequently, his countless escapades, addictions and run-ins with the law will make him the pariah of all-Hollywood until the early 2000s. Relaunched by his friend Mel Gibson who offers him The Singing Detective in 2003, Downey Jr. will have during the next five years alternated supporting roles and independent productions (in roles often noticed) as Good Night and Good Luck of George Clooney, A Scanner Darkly of Richard Linklater, kiss kiss bang bang of Shane Black or Zodiac of David Fincher. Thunder in the tropics will also have a crucial role in his resurrection.

Robert Downey Jr. returns to his blackface in Thunder in the tropics

Released in the summer of 2008, the film follows by a few weeks the other role that will propel Downey Jr. among the Hollywood megastars: Iron Man. He undoubtedly embodies the film’s most daring caricature (a method actor so immersed in his role that he will change his skin color to become black). On the screen, he explodes and offers some cult lines in the image of his genius “Never go full retard” which still makes the Internet happy today.

If Iron Man replaces it as a bankable player on which to build a franchise (and not just any franchise), Thunder in the tropics brings him recognition from his peers. Acclaimed by the press (although his role necessarily caused controversy), Downey Jr. won an Oscar nomination for best actor in a supporting role in 2009. He is, at present, still not down from this pedestal.

For Tom Cruise, the situation was somewhat different at the time. If the actor continues to accumulate successes most of the time (especially with War of the Worlds of Steven Spielberg Or Collateral of Michael Mann), it is behind the scenes that things get complicated. His ties to Scientology are arousing more controversy than ever, especially after leaks of Church promotional videos. In addition, he is going through a period of transition on the professional level following the termination of his contract (under the background of financial disagreements on the receipts of Mission: Impossible III) with Paramount, which had made him a planetary star for fifteen years. M:I3 was a public success, but on a smaller scale than the first two, and especially his next film, the Lions and Lambs of Robert Redfordis a commercial flop freshly received by critics.

Les Grossman’s role in Thunder in the tropics will bring an unexpected breath of fresh air to the actor’s filmography. Unrecognizable in the skin of this bald producer, without morals, vulgar and angry, Tom Cruise reveals a seldom-seen facet of the buffoonish comic actor who arouses general enthusiasm, whether it’s when he copiously insults a terrorist group during a ransom demand or when he goes wild in dancing on the Get Back of Ludacris in the end credits. For his performance, he even landed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Last “resurrected” of Thunder in the tropics, Matthew McConaughey also owes a lot to this film which was the first, even before The Lincoln Defense in 2009 (often chosen as the zero year of the “McKnowledge”), to bring him out of his role as a handsome kid in the romantic comedies he had lined up during the decade.

As Tugg Speedman’s agent and best friend (Ben Stiller), McConaughey plays on his slightly cynical playboy image and treats himself to a few moments of anthology with Ben Stiller And Tom Cruise. The starting point of a spectacular comeback that will take him six years later to the Oscar for best actor.

And to think that at the time, he shouldn’t have played in Thunder in the tropics… His role was indeed originally written for Owen Wilsonwho could not hold his place because of his suicide attempt a few weeks earlier.

Note that all these comedians could soon return to a spin-off of Tropic Thunder devoted to the character of Les Grossman. The project has been under consideration for a while in Hollywood and it could well be directed by an unexpected artist: Christopher McQuarrie, who staged the last Impossible mission.

The summary of Thunder in the tropics : A cast of hell for a trip… to the end of hell! Headlining: Tugg Speedman, the star of the action film, in freefall since his last three turnips. At his side: Jeff Portnoy, specialist in (very) low-end comedies, eager to prove his qualities as an actor; Kirk Lazarus, multi-award-winning and 100% frosty “Method” actor; Chino, pop superstar and fan of Al Pacino; and Kevin Sandusky, the dashing youngster happy to be part of the gang. Five oversized egos in the service of the “greatest war movie of all time”. On paper, it makes sense (or almost), but on the set, everything goes wrong…

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