How Les Grossman didn’t get a solo-movie spin off is beyond me…
…well in 2018 Paramount bought the Rights For Life to the character and rumour has it a movie staring Les is in the works!
If there were ever a man born to be President of the United States it’s Les Grossman.
“I want fat hands and I‘m gonna dance.” — Tom Cruise
Very occasionally cinema produces a character so compelling it jumps off the screen. Some are written along with the rest of the script and sometimes, such as with the mercurial Les Grossman from Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, it’s a collaboration of actor and director. A star and his needs creating something so extraordinary you wonder where it came from.
More bad news from the Vietnamese set of Tropic Thunder where a four million dollar explosion charred the Asian location and the camera wasn’t even rolling. Financed by hot headed mega mogul, Les Grossman, the film is already rumoured to be 1 month behind schedule just five days into shooting.
Tom Cruise appeared on BBC Radio 1 in 2017 where he discussed how he created the character.
It was one of those moments… you know I’ve known Ben (Stiller) for many years…. and… we’re watching a film and I say “what’r ya workin’ on?” and he says “I’m workin’ on this film called Tropic Thunder.” He said “look would you mind reading the script and you know I’d like to talk to you about it” so I say “Ok”. I read the script and he had all the characters but the studio wasn’t there. There was a structural compression missing… down on those characters. You know… that keeps the pressure on these guys that really makes… drives the story.
I was like “you need the studio”. So he came back like a few weeks later and I started reading. I read this character and I went “Ok, this is fun.” I said “do you mind, Ben? I wanna play this character.” I said “I wanna have fat hands and I wanted to dance.” And he looked at me and was like “what?” [Tom hold his hand out and shakes imagined mass] I remember I was like “Ben, no man I want like fat hands and I’m gonna dance.”
He said, “look are you sure you… can’t you… why not just be like you… look like you?” I’m like “I don’t know man. Sorry. I don’t know how else to play this character.”
So then I did the make up test and we tested the fat hands you know and the whole look and so we were doing the wardrobe and their was no music playing and Ben and I… so I said “look let me just… I wanna do some things… some moves for you.” So I started… I just started like working… you know… on Les just kinda moving like that.
He just called me and was lau — he picked the music out. He edited this thing together. He was just pissing himself. And he sent it to me and was like “Ok, I get it, I get it.’ [Tom laughs]
Shitting The Money Bed
Fingers are pointing at rookie director, Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan), who insiders say can’t control his star studded cast.
[Director and studio executive walking to teleconference meeting with studio head, Les Grossman.]
Damien Cockburn: He called it a crisis meeting so… ya…
Rob Slolom (Bill Hader / Les’s Right Hand Man): If Les Grossman throws these words around… crisis… explosion… not rolling… fired… these are just words.
[Giant television with camera presents a giant face.]
Les Grossman: He may be able to see me but I can’t see him!
Rob [Waving in front of TV]: Hello.. Hello Les! Les! It’s working. Ya, ya, ya. Whatever you’re doing right there! Hello Les!
Les: Ok, Ok.
Rob: We got you loud and clear here, Les.
Les: I see you…. [Looks around room] I see you. Which one of you fuck faces is Damien Cockburn?
Damien [raises hand]: Uhh, that’s me, sir! Good to finally meet you… at last to get some face time.
Les: And who here’s the key grip? [Big man at side of the room raises hand] You? You. Hit that director in the face really fucking hard.
[Big man walks over as everyone is completely silent…
Key Grip: Sorry, man.
and punches Damien in the face really, really hard.]
Damien: Oww. Oww. Ohhh.
Les: Hmmm! This is your fault you limey fuck! You shit the money bed, my friend!
Rob [Slams hand on table]: God dammit, Damien! With all due respect Les Grossman did not blow up the jungle!
Les: Fuck the jungle.
Rob: Exactly! Come on, man!
Damien: Hey, Les… I understand if you’re angry but I’m dealing with a bunch of Prima donnas… clowns. Tug Speedman… he can’t cry! He can’t cry!
Les: You know how you handle an actor when they whine about anything… you pull down their pants and you spank their ass!
Rob: You spank that ass, Les!
Four Leaf (Nick Nolte): Spanking a child turns him into a little snot. Fear makes him a man. I know a place where a man’s worth is measured in the ears hanging from his dog tags. The real deep shit. Wanna make this movie right… that’s where you take your pansy ass actors.
Les: Who is this guy?
Rob: Les, that’s Four Leaf…
Four Leaf: Sgt. Four Leaf Tayback. I wrote the book (that Tropic Thunder is fictionally based upon).
Les: Oh. You’re a great American. This nation owes you a huge debt. Now shut the fuck up and let me do my job! [Four Leaf spits out the apple he was eating.] Cockburn…
Damien: Yes sir…
Les: From now on my fist is gonna be so far up your shit hole that ever time you have a thought its gonna have to tip toe passed my wedding ring. Take control of your actors or I will shut you down!
“If my client wants TIVO he gets TIVO.” — Rick Pecker
While at first one might mistake Les for a two-dimensional antagonist it quickly becomes obvious this character provides cover for the entire project. Not only does he entertain in his given scenes, but actually improves the film as a whole through a tonality which excuses the relatively minor offenses presented in other characters. The audience can forgive themselves for laugh at off-colour jokes.
Les: [Talking on phone] I’ll rip your fucking tits off. You wanna talk about trouble that’s trouble… [Rick Peck storms into Les Grossman’s office.] Wh- who-whoa, whoa. What’ya need Peck?
Rick (Matthew McConaughey): More like what do you need Les… glasses?
Rick [holding up contract]: So you can read the Tropic Thunder contract that guarantees my client, Tug Speedman, some form of digital video recorder on lo-ca-tion! Huh?
Les: Look fuck stick. I’m incredibly busy so why don’t get the hell out of here before I snap your dick off and jam it into your ass. — [Back to phone] No, not you, Helen, but I will rip your tits off if you don’t get me those theatres.
Rick [answering his ringing cell phone]: Perfect. Hey Tuggernuts, I’ve got you on speaker phone. I’m standing here with Les Grossman and he’s dying to tell you why he’s apparently wiped his ass with the TiVo clause from your contract.
Flaming Dragon (Terrorist who have kidnapped Tug Speedman): Send $50 million, or you no see Simple Jack again because we kill him.
Les [Grabs Pecker’s phone with his giant hand]: This is Les Grossman, who is this?
FD: This is Flaming Dragon!
Les: Oh, ok. Flaming Dragon. Fuckface. First take a big step back and literally FUCK YOUR OWN FACE! Now I don’t know what kind of pan-PAcific bullshit power play you’re trying to pull here, but Asia, Jack, is my territory. So whatever you’re thinking, you better think again. Otherwise I’m gonna have to head down there, and I will rain down an ungodly fucking firestorm upon you. You’re gonna have to call the fucking United Nations and get a fucking binding resolution to keep me from fucking destroying you. I am talking scorched earth, motherfucker! I will massacre you!
Les: [Hangs up. Calmly to his assistant.] Can you find out who that was?
Assistant: Ya. [Turns to other assistants.] Go!
We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists
At the time this movie was released several elements of its comedy were criticized for being what we might now call anti-woke. If not for Les Grossman’s thoroughly “unlikable-by-design” PC distraction, the critical balance of laughs wouldn’t have spared the others. Remember, this is the movie where Robert Downie Jr. went black face and Stiller says “retarded” half a dozen times with his Simple Jack “movie in movie” parody.
Les Grossman’s office is full of aids and technology tracing the previous phone call. Pecker anxiously sits while his cell phone lays on Les’s desk.
Rob [to Les]: Flaming Dragon‘s a heroin manufacturer. They’re responsible for an eighth of the drug trade in Asia. Huge profit margin.
Rick: Guys! Would somebody please tell me what the game plan is?
Rob: Peck! We have it handled. Please, don’t interrupt. Everything’s under control.
Rick: I got. I got it.
[The phone rings. Room settles. Les leans forward. Rob presses the answer button.]
Les: Les Grossman.
FD: We not get money yet. Price now 100 Million. You pay now, or tomorrow Simple Jack die.
Les: Great. Let me get this down. 100 Million. Oh wait. I got a better idea. Instead of 100 Million, how about I send you a hobo’s dick cheese. [Grabs his junk.] then you kill him! Do your thing! Skin the fucking bastard! Go to town, man! Go to town!
Rick: No —
Les: In the meantime, and as usual, go fuck yourself. [Hangs up]
Les [to the room]: We don’t negotiate with terrorists. [Applause]
Rick: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Hey, hey, are you insane?
Les [Leans back. To Rob]: I think I could have done that better.
Rob: I thought it was good.
Rick: They’re gonna kill him!
[Les and Rob stair at Rick.]
Les: It’s a cold, hard world. Shit happens. We’ll weep for him. [To Rob] In the press. Set up a scholarship in his name. Eventually, and I’m talking way, way down the road, we file an insurance claim.
Rob: Preferably before the end of the fiscal year. Actually, the claim alone would net us more than the movie would lose.
Rick: You can’t be serious.
Les: You kick in the door to my house, all ants in your pants, sucking my left nut to get a TiVo scrap for the third runner-up, Sexiest Man Alive 1998, and you’re asking IF I’M SERIOUS!?! [Smiles a toothless grin.] Let’s face it. The kids aren’t dressing up as Scorcher for Purim anymore. Speedman is a dying star, a white dwarf heading for a black hole. That’s physics. It’s inevitable.
Rob: We’ve been handed an incredible opportunity here, Peck.
Les [Whispering]: The Universe is talking to us right now. You just gotta listen. [Starts music. She got them apple bottom jeans… Les starts dancing.] See, this is the good part, Pecker. This is when the job gets fun.
Rob: Hmmm. Yeah.
Les: Ask and you shall receive.
Les: You play ball, we play ball. I know you want the goodies.
Rob: Welcome to the goodie room.
Les: You paying attention? ’cause I’m talking G5 for the Pecker. That’s how you could roll. No more frequent flyer bitch miles for my boy. Oh ya. Playa. Playa. Big dick playa.
Rob: Swing’ past your knees.
Les: Or. You can grow a conscience in the next five minutes and see where that takes ya.
Rick: Let me get this straight. You want me to let my client of 15 years… one of my best friends, die in the jungle, alone, for some money and a G5?
Rick: A G5 airplane?
Les: Yes. And lot’s of money. Playa —
Stealing Credit At All The Parties
Les and Rob are clapping as they watch Tug Speedman win an Oscar for his roll in Tropic Thunder.
Rob: Eight Oscars, $400 million and you saved Tug Speedman’s career.
Les [Pats Rob on the back]: I couldn’t have done it without you, Slolom.
Les: No, dickhead, of course I could. A nutless monkey could do your job.
Rob: Well I-
Les: Now go get drunk and take credit at all the parties.
Rob: I would never do that to…
Rob [Laughing]: Very… ok, there he is. Ok.
Les: Go have fun.
Rob: Alright. We’re having a… fuck, ok. Thank you, Les. Thank you. You have a good night.
Les: But seriously, a nutless monkey could do your job.
Rob: Good. Thank you, sir. [Slinks out. Que the music, playa.]
Les Grossman is an impossible dream, developed in the margins of fantastic imagination. Demonstrated in living colour…. the strut, the voice. The fat hands.
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