Tom Cruise invented Les Grossman for Tropic Thunder

Cameron Frew
Tom Cruise as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder

Tom Cruise was entirely responsible for Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder, from his fat hands to the dancing.

Ethan Hunt, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, Jerry Maguire, two Vincents: Cruise is the biggest movie star in the world, and his filmography is peppered with iconic, beloved characters.

Les Grossman, the larger-than-life, f**k-your-own-face force of nature behind the scenes of Tropic Thunder, isn’t necessarily underrated, but Cruise only played him once – and fans want more.

Rejoice, for he’s coming back. Cruise and his big-screen co-pilot Christopher McQuarrie are plotting their post-Mission: Impossible future, and the return of Les Grossman is on the horizon.

Who is Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder?

Tropic Thunder, released in 2008 and directed by Ben Stiller, follows a group of actors (played by Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, and Jay Baruchel) on the set of a big-budget war movie. When their director (Steve Coogan) drops them in the middle of the jungle in a bid for authenticity, they end up abandoned and targeted by local drug lords.

Cruise plays Les Grossman, the studio executive overseeing the film, who scolds Coogan’s director… and pretty much anyone he lays his eyes on. When the actors’ captors, known as the Flaming Dragon gang, call Les to demand a ransom payment, he doesn’t mince his words:

“First, take a big step back… and literally, f**k your own face! I don’t know what kind of pan-pacific bullsh*t power play you’re trying to pull here, but Asia Jack is my territory. So whatever you’re thinking, you’d better think again!

“Otherwise I’m gonna have to head down there and I will rain down an un-godly f**king firestorm upon you! You’re gonna have to call the f**king United Nations and get a f**king binding resolution to keep me from f**king destroying you. I’m talking scorched earth, motherf**ker! I will massacre you! I will f**k you up!”

Les isn’t fussed about the actors being killed, as it’ll result in a massive insurance payout. Of course, everything’s fine in the end – their ordeal is assembled into ‘Tropic Blunder’, which wins eight Oscars and grosses $400 million – and the movie closes with Les dancing to ‘Get Back’ by Ludacris.

Tom Cruise came up with Les Grossman for Tropic Thunder

During an interview as part of BBC Radio 1’s Movies That Made Me, Cruise revealed the origin of Les Grossman. He wasn’t conceived by Stiller, nor did he emerge from the writers’ room – he was all Cruise’s idea." frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share" referrerpolicy="strict-origin-when-cross-origin" allowfullscreen>

He explained: “It was one of those moments. I’ve known Ben for many years, and we were watching a film, and I said, ‘Hey, what are you working on?’ He says, ‘I’m working on this film called Tropic Thunder… would you mind reading the script, I’d like to talk to you about it?'”

Cruise agreed, but after reading the script, he felt there was something missing. “The studio wasn’t there,” he said.

“There was a structural compression missing down on those characters, you know, that keeps the pressure on these guys that really drives the story. I was like, ‘You need the studio.’”

Stiller revised the script and sent Cruise another draft. “I started reading, I read this character, and I said, ‘Okay, this is fun. Do you mind, Ben… I wanna play this character. I wanna have fat hands and I wanna dance’,” he continued.

Tom Cruise as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder
Tom Cruise gave Les Grossman his fat hands and dancing.

As you can imagine, Stiller was a bit baffled at first, and suggested Les should just look like Cruise – but he persisted and insisted on the fat hands and dancing.

It wasn’t until Les’ wardrobe and makeup were assembled, plus some “welcome to the goodie room” dancing from Cruise, that Stiller realized he was right. “He picked the music out, he edited this thing together, he was just pissing himself. He sent it to me and was like… I get it,” he said.

In an interview for Esquire’s Explain This, Stiller confirmed Les Grossman “didn’t exist” until Cruise came aboard. “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,” he said.

When will Tom Cruise return as Les Grossman?

The honest answer is: we don’t know, but it’s coming. According to a new report from Deadline, Cruise and McQuarrie are working on three separate projects, set for release after Mission: Impossible 8.

One is an original musical – if you’re unconvinced, watch Cruise’s insane performance in Rock of Ages. The second is a brand-new action film with “franchise potential”, with many suspecting it’ll be harder-edged than the mainstream, PG-13 appeal of his other work.

The third is a project involving Les Grossman in some way or another, although it’s possible we could see the character cameo in a film rather than getting his own movie.

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