The star appears as a studio boss, leading the New York Times to compare him to Sumner Redstone

By Stephen M. Silverman
April 03, 2008 01:15 PM
INF; Evan Agostini/Getty

There’s a surprise coming in Ben Stiller’s next movie, Tropic Thunder: Tom Cruise, as he’s never been seen before.

Rather than play his typical, boyishly charming good guy, Cruise delivers an apparently memorable cameo in which he’s craggy, fat, bald, vulgar, hairy-chested – and playing an ungrateful studio boss, reports The New York Times, which also says that Cruise’s opening line in the movie comedy is enough to guarantee it an R-rating when it opens Aug. 15.

The Times points out that Tropic Thunder is a Paramount Picture: Paradoxically, in August 2006 Cruise was famously fired from Paramount by its parent-company chief Sumner Redstone, despite the star’s having made such big hits for the studio as 1984’s Top Gun and the Mission: Impossible series.

Redstone, of course, is neither fat nor bald, but he is a studio boss. Besides, only last week the Wall Street Journal reported that he had a very public lunch with Cruise at the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge – a venue chosen by Cruise so Hollywood could see that the two were talking again, peacefully.

Though neither would tell the Journal what they talked about, Redstone said the two “agreed the past is the past and we would put it behind us and renew our relationship.”

Now comes Stiller’s movie, about out-of-control actors making a Vietnam movie and ending up in a real war. Besides Cruise and Stiller, it also stars Robert Downey Jr. (in controversial blackface), Jack Black, Nick Nolte and Matthew McConaughey, who replaced Owen Wilson after Wilson withdrew due to personal reasons, though it’s been reported that Wilson will also appear in a cameo role.

Cruise will not be listed in the credits or marketing materials for the movie. His photo in the fat suit also will not be made public, though there was an Internet leak of it last fall, prompting Cruise’s spokespeople to say, Britain’s Channel 4 News reported on Wednesday: “Mr. Cruise’s appearance was supposed to be a surprise for his fans worldwide. [Paparazzi] have ruined what should have been a fun discovery for moviegoers.” (The photo agency involved has reportedly removed the pictures from circulation.)

Reaction to Cruise’s scene when Stiller previewed Tropic Thunder on the Paramount lot to an audience of industry insiders on Tuesday was described as rapturous. (Likewise, for Downey’s turn.) Reps for Cruise, Stiller and Paramount all declined the Times‘s request for comment.

But as Stiller reportedly told the crowd gathered to see the movie, which is still in rough cut, “If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them directly on the Internet.”

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