Apologize for ‘Tropic Thunder’? Not Ben Stiller. He’s ‘proud’ of the Hollywood spoof

A man in a suit stands in front of a movie poster.
Actor Ben Stiller, seen during a photo call at a Paris hotel for “Tropic Thunder” in 2008, says he won’t apologize for the spoof.
(Jacques Brinon / Associated Press)

The universe is talking to us right now ... in the form of a very direct tweet from Ben Stiller, who won’t be apologizing for one of his most infamous movies.

The writer-director said this week that he doesn’t regret his 2008 satire “Tropic Thunder,” the controversial action-comedy about a hapless band of actors who try to shoot a movie in a war zone and end up fighting in the melee. The film famously saw Robert Downey Jr. don blackface to play a quirky Australian Method actor seeking awards acclaim and who has a “pigmentation alteration” procedure to play his part as a Black soldier in the movie within the movie. (“I am playing a role within a role within a role so I know who I am,” Downey’s Kirk Lazarus explains.)

Protesters decry ‘name calling’ in ‘Tropic Thunder.’ Context, others say, is the key.

Aug. 15, 2008

“Zoolander” and “Meet the Parents” star Stiller made his latest remarks in response to a tweet from a fan who asked him to stop apologizing for the blockbuster Hollywood spoof.


“Please stop apologizing for doing this movie. It was and still is funny AF... Even funnier now with cancel culture the way it is. It’s a MOVIE. Ya’ll can just get over it. I was DYING laughing when I first saw it back in the day and so was everyone else,” the fan wrote, sharing a screenshot of a rant about liberals trying to get the film canceled.

But Stiller chimed in to correct the user attributing the mea culpa to the film director and co-writer, tweeting: “I make no apologies for Tropic Thunder. 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.”

However, Stiller, 57, who played a character with an intellectual disability in “Tropic Thunder,” did indeed issue an apology related to the film back in 2018. But it was directed toward disability advocacy organizations who took issue with his character, and later those who had been offended by Olympian Shaun White’s “insensitive” Halloween costume based on Stiller’s Tugg Speedman

“Actually Tropic Thunder was boycotted 10 years ago when it came out, and I apologized then,” Stiller tweeted at the time. “It was always meant to make fun of actors trying to do anything to win awards. I stand by my apology, the movie, Shaun White, And the great people and work of the @SpecialOlympics.”


Incidentally, “Tropic Thunder,” which also starred Tom Cruise, Jack Black, Steve Coogan, Brandon T. Jackson, Nick Nolte and Danny McBride, still went on to earn Downey a supporting actor Oscar nomination, as well as Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe Awards nods.

But the “Iron Man” and “Avengers” star has been slightly more uneasy about his part in the film, although he has also said that he doesn’t regret it.

“I started thinking, ‘This is a terrible idea, wait a minute,’” Downey said in a 2020 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. “Then I thought, ‘Well hold on, dude, get real here, where is your heart?’ My heart is… I get to be Black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is, 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, just my opinion.”

“[Ben] knew exactly what the vision for this was, he executed it, it was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie,” the actor continued. “And 90% of my Black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.’ I can’t disagree with [the other 10%], but I know where my heart lies. I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that’s out of place and out of its time, but to me it blasted the cap on [the issue]. I think having a moral psychology is job one. Sometimes, you just gotta go, ‘Yeah, I effed up.’ In my defense, ‘Tropic Thunder’ is about how wrong [blackface] is, so I take exception.”