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Ben Stiller has ‘no apologies’ for military comedy ‘Tropic Thunder,’ he says

Popcorn bags wait to be filled during a movie night. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Gitte Schirrmacher)
February 23, 2023

Actor-director Ben Stiller declared on Twitter that he has “no apologies” to make for his 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder,” setting the record straight after a user asked him to “stop apologizing” for the film’s politically incorrect content.

“I make no apologies for Tropic Thunder,” Stiller said. “Don’t know who told you that. It’s always been a controversial movie since when we opened. Proud of it and the work everyone did on it.”

In the Stiller-directed film, a bumbling group of actors in a Vietnam War movie must overcome a real-life drug gang while filming on location in a jungle. 

Robert Downey Jr. stars as an actor who surgically darkens his skin and uses an accent to play a black soldier, a satire of overly-committed method actors. Stiller also stars in “Tropic Thunder” as an actor known for having played a mentally handicapped farmhand named Simple Jack, who is referred to in the film as “retarded.”

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Stiller previously said in 2018 that he had “apologized” for some aspects of the film “when it came out,” but any record of that apology could not immediately be found. He mentioned the apology as snowboarder Shaun White was taking heat from the Special Olympics and other groups for dressing as Simple Jack at a Halloween party.

In the tweet, Stiller defended the film, saying: “It was always meant to make fun of actors trying to do anything to win awards.”

Downey Jr. has also backed up his role in the film in the years since. He explained his view on a 2020 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” as reported by IndieWire.

“I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion,” he explained, adding, “In my defense, ‘Tropic Thunder’ is about how wrong [blackface] is.”