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Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black, left) and Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson, right) are two of the stars of a war movie who get caught up in a real battle in the action comedy "Tropic Thunder." The movie was filmed on the Garden Isle.
The Garden Isle provided inspiration for part-time resident Ben Stiller's new film "Tropic Thunder"
Not all visitors get excited about loud movie shoots in the middle of the night. Clinton Owen, the former general manager of the ResortQuest Islander on the Beach on Kauai said a few guests complained when "Tropic Thunder" actors screamed and yelled their way through an all-night party scene next to the hotel.
Owen addressed the "noise factor" with the film's liaison, who suggested a visit from one of the stars. "They brought Ben Stiller over (to sign autographs and pose for photos), and everything was great," chuckled Owen, who now works at ResortQuest Mahana on Maui. Overall, he called the experience an "added value for guests," most of whom were thrilled to watch the filming from their lanais at any hour.
After several months of production on the Garden Isle last year, "Tropic Thunder" is ready for its national premiere Wednesday. The expensive spoof -- industry publications put the budget at $90 or $100 million -- stars Ben Stiller, who also wrote and directed, and Robert Downey Jr., who plays a white actor pretending to be a black man (yes, in blackface). Jack Black and Nick Nolte also headline. A few surprises include a raucous cameo from a nearly unrecognizable Tom Cruise, and another from Matthew McConaughey. When asked if Tobey Maguire also had a bit part, "Tropic Thunder" producer Stuart Cornfeld laughed. "You gotta see the movie," he said. "Frankly, it's a very funny film, and the performances are stellar."
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Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller, left), Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), John "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte), Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) and Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel) star in "Tropic Thunder."
The story centers on a group of actors filming a Vietnam War movie who unwittingly get caught in a real guerilla-type battle. Reviews have lauded the clever take on self-absorbed thespians fending for themselves in the jungle. The studio even released an amusing trailer for a mockumentary called "Rain of Madness" about the making of "Tropic Thunder," a satire derived from "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse," a documentary that chronicled the evolution of "Apocalypse Now." Look for hilarious pseudo acclaim on the YouTube segment, such as "Winner of Tijuana's Shrieking Donkey Award," and "Honorable Mention at Everyone's a Winner Film Festival."
"I think it has a number of different kinds of laughs, from sophisticated word play to flat-out physical comedy," Cornfeld said from Los Angeles. "It's also beautifully photographed, and we were in one of the most beautiful places on Earth."
Kauai Film Commissioner Art Umezu believes that Stiller chose Kauai because he owns a house there, and for the state's 20 percent tax rebate for production work on a neighbor island.
Cornfeld agreed. "I think because he's spent time there, he knew of really beautiful locations, and wrote with those in mind. Places on the island inspired some of the ideas in the movie."
State film commissioner Donne Dawson said the ambitious shoot presented a big payoff beyond the credit Hawaii receives.
"Film production is extremely important to the visitor industry for a number of other reasons," said Dawson. "Namely, crew members are ideal tourists." They stay a long time, spend a lot of money and typically bring their families. "There's tremendous impact on small businesses, and I know for Kauai this was huge."