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Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman character in Tropic Thunder ended up being one of his most memorable performances. But Cruise only ended up in the movie thanks to Stiller parodying the actor years ago.

How Tom Cruise reacted to Ben Stiller making fun of him on ‘The Ben Stiller Show’

Ben Stiller posing at the 28th Annual Critics Choice Awards.
Ben Stiller | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

The Ben Stiller Show was the comic actor’s own sketch comedy show that aired on MTV and Fox for 1 season. The series was known for poking fun at actors, movies, and television shows at the time. Blockbuster superstar Tom Cruise was one of a few celebrities Stiller parodied in his program.

But Cruise took no offense to the parody. Stiller even showed the Top Gun actor the sketch himself, and confided that Cruise enjoyed what he saw.

“He saw it somewhere, but then we did the Ben Stiller Show and we did the Cruise thing too and a friend of mine was in The Firm at the time, and I showed it to him down there and he loved it. I mean, I would probably not have loved it if I saw somebody gave me somebody doing me. I always give him credit for that,” Stiller once told Collider.

The two would keep in touch, even collaborating on their own parody at the MTV Awards. This eventually led to the pair collaborating for Tropic Thunder.

“Then we did this thing on the MTV Movie Awards like eight years ago and that was really fun. We had a good time where I was doing his stuntman and since then we stayed in touch and talked about stuff over the years and then I showed him the script and he really was intrigued by the idea of this movie,” Stiller said.

Tom Cruise came up with the idea for Les Grossman in ‘Tropic Thunder’

Stiller was quick to give Cruise credit for coming up with the idea for his abrasive producer character. It was a role that, according to the Dodgeball star, wouldn’t have been written if not for Cruise.

“Tom Cruise had the idea to play Les Grossman in the movie,” Stiller told Esquire in an interview not too long ago. “That part did not exist. He said, ‘Well, there’s no studio executive and that would be really fun to be that guy.’ And he had this whole idea of what the guy should look like. It was his idea to dance. And I remember when we did a makeup test, someone handed him a Diet Coke and then he just started moving.”

In a resurfaced interview with BBC Radio 1, Cruise confided that his inspiration for the character began when he read the script.

“I read the script, and he had all of the characters, but the studio wasn’t there,” Cruise said. “There was a structural compression missing down on those characters, you know, that keeps the pressure on these guys that really drives the story. I was like, ‘You need the studio.'”

Stiller agreed that Cruise’s Les Grossman wasn’t just another fun character, but he made the Tropic Thunder story run a lot smoother.

“And it helped move the story, because I needed to explain what was happening back in the world while the guys were out in the jungle, so it ended up being one of these weird organic things that just developed,” Stiller said.

Tom Cruise was inspired by Ben Stiller in ‘Tropic Thunder’


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Cruse also found inspiration from working with Stiller. Stiller starred in, helped write and direct the 2008 comedy feature. Cruise found himself impressed with the Dodgeball star‘s work ethic and creativity as a filmmaker.

“I feel inspired around him. As a director, he both knows what he wants and is willing to embrace contributions from his actors and writers and producers – from his whole team – yet he never loses sight of what his story needs,” Cruise once said according to Irish Examiner.