Benji Madden shopping on the Lower East Side ... Brooke Shields filming a scene for Lipstick Jungle at Chelsea Piers ... Suri Cruise going shoe shopping with mom Katie Holmes ... Ben Stiller filming a scene outside the Natural History Museum ... Penn Badgley taking a break from filming Gossip Girl on the Columbia campus ... Rumer Willis showing up to a screening of House Bunny at the Hearst building ... Billy Bob Thornton performing at the Highline Ballroom ... and Michelle Williams and Spike Jonze leaving a Brooklyn bar together.
Ben Stiller making his way into the Good Morning America studios ... Madonna's son David getting caught in the rain on the Upper West Side ... Robert Downey Jr. leaving his hotel in Midtown ... Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard walking to a toy store in Brooklyn ... Ugly Betty's Becki Newton signing autographs outside ABC ... Lisa Rinna walking around Midtown ... Kelsey Grammer and his wife returning to their hotel after a visit to the doctor ... and John Mayer walking near his apartment, completely covered up with a scarf over his face.
Attribute it to whatever phenomena you want — the potheads stayed away, the groupies weren't interested, RetardGate '08 — but Tropic Thunder opened softer than planned on Wednesday. Ben Stiller's Hollywood satire pulled in around $7.5 million, prompting observers to downgrade their weekend estimates that should nevertheless keep the film in first place above Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Dark Knight this weekend. The turnout looked that much worse when compared to that of Pineapple Express, which drew more than $12 million last Wednesday — the best midweek, R-rated comedy opening in ages.That didn't discourage the gang at DreamWorks, however, who argued that their $90 million raunchfest has what it takes to measure up eventually: "We will play to a little older audience than Pineapple Express, so we should do better on Saturday and get to about the same box office," a "source" told Nikki Finke, apparently overlooking the lack of a pot subplot or panty-soaking James Franco to buttress Thunder's run. We're a little more skeptical and think this calls for more desperate measures: If ever the 'Works needed to reinstate its gold mine at SImpleJackMovie.com, now is the hour.
Take a good look at that Tropic Thunder poster. Go past the glossy, airbrushed photos of the film's many stars, past the lush jungle setting, past the fiery explosions, and you might notice something. See there? Down at the bottom? It says "Screenplay by Ben Stiller & Justin Theroux, and Etan Cohen." Sure, other more "legitimate" media outlets may give all the ink to those first two dudes, but here at Defamer we like to dig a little deeper. Just who is this Etan Cohen fellow and how did he get roped in to working on the biggest comedy of the summer? Stick around after the jump to hear one of Hollywood's newest writing stars dish the dirt about meeting Tom Cruise for the first time, what it feels like to suddenly have people kissing your ass, and why you shouldn't be offended by all that Simple Jack stuff.
With Tropic Thunder —the product of Ben Stiller's harrowing journey into the heart of retarded darkness— storming multiplexes today, the film's stars are going into promotional hyperdrive. And nothing sells your movie more than some old-fashioned controversy—particularly one in which you're accused of being insensitive to the disabled. (Semitic advocacy groups, meanwhile, surprised everyone by seeing nothing objectionable in Tom Cruise's minstrelsy, Jewface performance.) On the GMA hotseat today was Stiller and co-star Jack Black, both of whom calmly explained that in matters of insensitivity and bodily function, context is everything; framed by the movie's central comedic conceit of actorly self-indulgence, then, not a single dropped R-bomb or ass-bomb should be considered anything other than purely satirical.
Despite all traces of Simple Jack—veteran fake-action-star Tugg Speedman's brazen Oscar-shot playing a stuttering, simpleton farmhand—having been literally whitewashed from the web, activists remain outraged over Tropic Thunder's depiction-within-a-depiction of the developmentally disabled as bucktoothed "retards" incapable of expressing affection without the use of the phrase, "You mm-mm-m-ake my p-p-pee-peemaker t-t-t-tingle." (Sheesh—so touchy.) As threatened, dozens of placard-wielding protesters outfitted in 'Retard'busters T-shirts marched outside last night's premiere in Westwood, giving the proceedings the strangely familiar air of an RGA West strike line. From the AP report:
After two consecutive close calls, The Dark Knight's stunning box-office reign faces
another formidable challenger this week with Tropic Thunder. Not that Ben Stiller's film is necessarily favored to knock the blockbuster off — at least not with its R-rating, its meta-Vietnam theme, and definitely not with Tropic Thunder RetardGate threatening to capsize the film on its maiden voyage.
Well, that was fast: Mere days after first drawing attention on a disability issues blog (and eventually going under magnifying glasses at the NY Times and here at Defamer HQ), DreamWorks's mock Web site for Simple Jack is gone. The site had been part of the studio's complex interweaving of Tropic Thunder tie-ins, with its "Once upon a time... there was a retard" tagline tipping the story of a disabled farmhand whom Ben Stiller's character portrays in pursuit of an Oscar. But activist Patricia Bauer's vigil continued, culminating late Monday with a handy restitution checklist for Stiller, DreamWorks and their distribution partners at Paramount:
Can't a little movie like Tropic Thunder catch a break? The Ben Stiller comedy has thus far managed to survive racism, ratings, "retards," and American Idol — and that's before it's even come out (Wednesday, August 13!). Still, all that was child's play compared to the newest Tropic trouble, instigated by an overzealous radio DJ who crashed the film's junket to ask Robert Downey Jr. some of the most inane questions Iron Man has ever had to face. Listen in horror as the notoriously rehabbed actor is asked which costar he'd like to “drink a brew and smoke a blunt with” (only the first of many, many stupid questions) — we've even provided a helpful assortment of what we can only imagine were Jack Black and Ben Stiller's reaction shots. Enjoy!
Several months ago, the red-band trailer for Tropic Thunder suggested that not only could Ben Stiller's Hollywood satire be summer's most surefire gutbuster, but also that its trailer-within-a-trailer — featuring Stiller as the developmentally disabled title character of the Oscar-bait drama Simple Jack — portended perhaps the best movie never made. (And look! It even has its own Web site!) But having seen Thunder and thus the degree to which Simple Jack plays a role in the story, we think we got our fill: "You went full retard, man" Robert Downey Jr.'s Method actor (in blackface!) tells Stiller's slumping action hero. "Never go full retard." His logic is crystalline, but alas, its political incorrectness is drawing even deeper consideration this morning as disability advocates wage war on the R-Word:
While we refuse to believe Nielsen actually spent money to discover that R-ratings hinder comedies more than horror films, the results of its recent survey dovetail interestingly today with a companion piece about Tropic Thunder's potential for August domination. We've seen Tropic and can vouch for it living up to most of its hype, from Tom Cruise's sociopath studio boss to Robert Downey Jr.'s otherworldly, meta-Method blackface turn. But rating and timing are everything, as always, prompting The Hollywood Reporter to foretell a relatively floppy future:
Viacom's legal spat with Google has the media conglomerate cast in copyright-hating, freedom-to-upload-videos-loving Silicon Valley as a mustachio-twirling villain, out to expose YouTube viewers' usernames and IP addresses. Bwahahaha! Benighted flack Jeremy Zweig has been reduced to leaving comments on blogs in response. At last, he's getting some corporate firepower: Zweig and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman Sr. are inviting a bunch of tech journalists a screening next Monday of Tropic Thunder, the Ben Stiller action-movie parody coming to theaters next month, and YouTube probably sooner than that. We've seen the invite list, and it left us scratching our heads.
Everywhere we've been around the LA Film Festival this week, the chatter du jour is either oversexed studio minions or how folks plan to spend their off-days during the increasingly inevitable-looking SAG strike. The latter conflict came into even sharper relief today in Variety, which published a SAG-AFTRA Bullshit Scorecard (hardly an improvement over our SAG Strike Mad Libs™, but whatever) breaking down the lies, celebrity endorsees and various other spin the unions are wielding in their steel-cage labor war:
To promote their upcoming flick Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, and Ben Stiller produced this hysterical clip for the MTV Movie Awards. So why am I posting it now? Because I didn't know about it last weekend and because it features Jack Black having his crotch assaulted again and again and again! See for yourself after the jump!
Forget searching Technorati, pitching bloggers and creating Facebook pages. Know what helps a video go viral? It's easy! Launch it on MTV and cast Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. — you know, actual Hollywood talent. Then, upload it to YouTube and just sit back and watch as bloggers hungry for content discuss your video's importance in the shifting landscape of online video, all so they can embed it. As we have, below:
Where to even begin with last night's American Idol Results Show Grand Finale Spectacular? While it may not have provided the knee-buckling rush of emotion that accompanies a shot of a moist-eyed David Hasselhoff witnessing the coronation of his prematurely graying Soul King, there were more than a few unmistakable moments of true poignancy: from George Michael's haunting "Praying For Time," to David Cook's landslide victory lap, to the Jonas Brothers' heartfelt plea on behalf of the Aging Sibling Pop Star Fund, with every dollar pledged earmarked for famine-relief among surviving members of The Jets, DeBarge, Hanson, and the like.
First, the bad news about the new red-band trailer for Tropic Thunder: Alas, there is no trace of Tom Cruise's fat-suited, filthy-mouthed studio boss cameo that so entranced insiders at an early screening last month. The good news: Ben Stiller does throw a murderous Viet Cong toddler off a bridge, which is only about a 6 on the teaser's overactive, oft-peaking transgression scale. More bad news: The trailer appears to promise more than anyone can rightfully expect it to deliver, and Jack Black does appear in his underwear. More good news: Black in packing more than his junk in said underwear. More bad news: The trailer does zero favors for the squeamish. More good news: The trailer does zero favors for the squeamish. So we guess we're in! NB: Simple Jack could quite possibly turn out to be the best film never made. [Tropic Thunder]
The Hollywood Reporter calls it "one of the biggest agent migrations in years." Nikki Finke screamed "Shocker!" We'll wait until the dust settles before determining exactly how to characterize the moves of UTA talent kingpin and co-owner Nick Stevens and partners Sharon Sheinwold and Lisa Hallerman over to Endeavor, a relocation that has already cost UTA its relationship with Stevens' client Ben Stiller, looks ready to claim Jack Black and could continue to draw a sizable chunk of UTA's deep comedy base — including Judd Apatow, Owen Wilson, Jason Lee and half the cast of Saturday Night Live — in the days and weeks to come.