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“His scenes totally fixed the plot holes”: Tom Cruise Helped Robert Downey Jr. Get His Second Oscar Nomination After Conquering Hollywood With Iron Man

“His scenes totally fixed the plot holes”: Tom Cruise Helped Robert Downey Jr. Get His Second Oscar Nomination After Conquering Hollywood With Iron Man

Les Grossman: an iconic and immortalized character in modern cinema was brought to life by the evergreen Tom Cruise whose range and variety still stun the viewers to this day, despite the actor’s mainstream box office hits being concentrated mostly on action franchises. Over the past decade, Cruise’s burgeoning Mission: Impossible franchise has streamlined his fame to fixate on the death-wish-worthy stunts that come with his globe-trotting high-octane espionage thrillers. 

But before the actor’s identity became synonymous with that of Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise was a versatile actor whose filmography stretched from horror to fantasy to sports drama to psychological thriller to Hollywood parody. It is the latter that now becomes the focal point of the narrative.

Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder
Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

Also read: “My mother was horrified”: Robert Downey Jr. Was Warned by His Mother Before Playing a Black Guy in Tropic Thunder

Tom Cruise Stuns as Hollywood Producer, Les Grossman

The name, Les Grossman, if not a bit on the nose, is one of the brilliantly funniest about Tropic Thunder. And Tom Cruise’s personification of that demonic and vile Hollywood producer who indeed perpetuates the image of “a gross man” – ethically, morally, and temperamentally – is simply perfect. Starting from the opening dance sequence, an idea that he himself came up with on set, to his build, makeup, and idiosyncrasies, everything about Les Grossman was made perfect because of Cruise.

However, all of it would have been for naught if not for the actor’s timely input for the script. Ben Stiller revealed years later how an aspect of the script (which he had been working on for 8 years) still felt missing at a crucial level. Scriptwriter Etan Cohen backed up the claim by saying, We were still figuring out why the actors would get abandoned and no one would notice that all these stars were gone.

Tom Cruise as Les Grossman
Tom Cruise as Les Grossman

Also read: “Let’s go scorched earth again”: Tom Cruise To Work On Les Grossman Spin-Off With Mission: Impossible Director Christopher McQuarrie, Fans Demand Robert Downey Jr. To Return 

However, once Tom Cruise had a look at the script, he proposed that the story was in need of a villainous figurehead who “represents the gross part of Hollywood.” This idea then essentially led to the birth of Les Grossman and Ben Stiller, the director, revealed: “His idea to show the studio head actually fixed a problem we had for a long time. We never cut back to the real world for any of the previous drafts. All the Grossman scenes totally fixed the plot holes.” The character went on to become one of cinema’s most hilarious and iconic performances on the silver screen.

Tom Cruise’s Les Grossman Saves RDJ’s Epic Performance

If not anything else, Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder at least deserved an Academy Award nod for its original screenplay. But Robert Downey Jr. stole that spotlight with his performance as Kirk Lazarus. This is the movie where we see RDJ as an actor playing an actor who plays another actor, absolutely nailing his performance in all three versions, and walking away from the film with an Oscar nomination. 

Tropic Thunder director Ben Stiller and RDJ
Tropic Thunder director Ben Stiller (L) and Robert Downey Jr. (R)

Also read: Ben Stiller Refuses To Apologize if Robert Downey Jr.’s Blackface in Tropic Thunder Hurt Your Feelings: “No apologies. It’s always been a controversial movie”

And though the years have not been kind or receptive or even retrospectively open-minded about Downey’s role in the film (due to the Blackface controversy), Tropic Thunder gave the audience an underrated classic, deserving a cult status that stands apart from the rest of its contemporaries and can deliver a masterclass in parody. And all of it was solely made possible by Cruise’s mindfulness about the inclusion of Les Grossman to tie it all together perfectly.

Source: Grantland

Written by Diya Majumdar

Having graduated with honors in literature from Miranda House, Diya Majumdar now has more than 1300 published articles on Fandomwire, and her passion and profession both include dissecting the world of cinema. She happens to be a liberally opinionated person with an overbearing love for Monet, Edvard Munch, and Van Gogh, along with an obsessive collection of Spotify playlists