Tom Cruise may have surprised fans at Comic-Con with the first trailer to his upcoming Top Gun sequel, but it was another movie in his illustrious catalog that Conan O’Brien asked about when Cruise appeared on the comedian’s talk show Thursday night.
In the episode, which was broadcast from the annual entertainment convention, O’Brien, 56, asked Cruise to step back into the shoes of Les Grossman — the skeevy studio executive Cruise played over a decade ago in 2008’s Tropic Thunder.
The actor, 57, was happy to oblige, showing off some of Grossman’s infamous dance moves.
Turns out, Cruise himself had pushed director Ben Stiller to incorporate those dance moves, as well as Grossman’s fat-suit, when he was first approached to play the role.
“I take classes all the time to learn things or I want to improve a skill, whether it’s singing, music — whatever subject I’m studying. So I take dance classes and I took hip-hop classes. And then what I find is, I’ll find a character to put that with,” Cruise explained on Conan, recalling how he told Stiller, ” ‘I’d love to play this character but I want to have fat hands and I’m going to dance.’ “
“Sometimes with a character you just get an instinct about what you’re going to do,” Cruise added.
Stiller, according to Cruise, wasn’t completely on board with Cruise’s vision.
“For a couple of months he kept saying, ‘Maybe we don’t do the makeup. Maybe you just look like yourself,’ ” Cruise remembered. “And I said, ‘No, I need fat hands and I’m going to dance.’ “
After the makeup was created, Cruise said finding Grossman was easy. “As you’re working on a character, you start becoming that character, you start discovering that character. And I just, I just started moving,” Cruise said, adding that Stiller was still confused. “There was no music. He was just looking at me like, ‘What’s happening.’ I was crushing Pepsi cans and Coke cans.”
Once Stiller added music to the scene though (specifically, Ludacris’s “Get Back”), he understood what Cruise wanted.
“He calls me the next day and cut it to that piece of music you see in the movie. And he said, ‘I get it, I get it, I get it. This is hilarious,’ ” Cruise shared.
Tropic Thunder earned Cruise a Golden Globe action nomination. The film also starred Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Jay Baruchel and Brandon T. Jackson.
Later on Conan, Cruise recited Grossman’s more colorful lines. “Stand back and literally f— your own face,” Cruise said, to the cheers of the crowd. “I will f— you up! I will massacre you!”
And though the next few movies Cruise has on his slate are action-based (including the aforementioned Top Gun: Maverick), Cruise said comedy — and Les Grossman — will always have a special place in his heart.
“I love comedy,” Cruise said. “I used to write sketches when I was a little kid and would do imitations to make my mother and sisters laugh.”
“Les Grossman was a funny character,” he added. “That was a wild character. That was wild.”
Top Gun: Maverick is set for a June 26, 2020 release.