Ben Stiller on Directing Tropic Thunder, Cast and More

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Ben Stiller is directing his first film in years, the comedy Tropic Thunder, due out on July 11. The actor recently discussed the film with It's been seven years since you directed a movie. Why was now the time go back and what was it about this idea that made you want to direct again?
Ben Stiller: Well, this movie I've been working on for a while. I had the idea for the movie like twenty years ago when I was doing "Empire of the Sun" in 1987 because at that time, that's when all these Vietnam movies were being made and my friends and I were going on auditions for these Vietnam movies and my friends were getting them and going away to fake boot camps.

It seemed like there was a time when all actors were going away to fake boot camp and talking about these incredible experiences that they had and how it really changed their lives and there was something there that seemed funny to me. Maybe it was because I wasn't getting parts in those movies, but I was like, "Oh, wow. You're going off and getting all of that. What about people who actually go to war?"

The actors were like owning this experience as if it was like this real and incredible experience. I'm sure that it was a great experience, but it wasn't like actually going to real boot camp.

So that was percolating in my head and I thought maybe I'd do a short or a sketch about actors who go away and do Vietnam films and come back and are forgotten, trying to parallel the veteran's experiences. That didn't seem funny at all. (laughter) So I put that away.

Then the idea came that it might be cool to have a movie about a bunch of actors that get stuck out in the jungle on a movie and are caught in this real situation, so literally, for the last ten years I worked on a first act of it, about ten years ago, and then Justin [Theroux] came on about eight years ago. I said, "Come on, lets work this."

Then we brought on Etan Cohen about four years ago, so literally over the last ten years we've been working on the script in different and various forms. I would go away for a few weeks on vacation or something and work on it.

Read the complete interview with Stiller now.

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Tropic Thunder Quotes

I know who I am! I'm the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude!

Kirk Lazarus

Tyra Banks: You're not married, you're on the wrong side of 40, and child-less. Somebody close to you said: One more flop, and it's over.
Tugg Speedman: [pause] Somebody said they were close to me?