Legendary actor and comedic icon Ben Stiller recently sat down with Esquire for an installment of the magazine’s “Explain This“ series to discuss everything from his creative process to playing fitness-obsessed assholes and, most importantly, how Tom Cruise brought to life one of the most memorable characters he’s ever portrayed: Tropic Thunder’s hip-hop-dancing, psychopathic studio executive, Les Grossman.
“Tom Cruise had the idea to play Les Grossman in the movie. That part did not exist,” Stiller, who directed and starred in Tropic Thunder, says in the video. “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.”
Stiller’s account tracks with what Cruise told BBC Radio 1 in 2017. Cruise said that, after reading the script, he felt something was missing from the film.
“There was a structural compression missing down on those characters, you know, that keeps the pressure on these guys that really drives the story,” Cruise said. “So [Stiller] came back a few weeks later, and I started reading. And I read this character, and I said, ‘Okay, this is fun. I want to play this character. I want to have fat hands, and I want to dance.”
Stiller’s discussion of the hilarious character has us hopeful that Cruise might someday reprise his role as the fat-handed, Diet Coke-drinking, maniacal executive in a stand-alone Grossman spinoff.