Ben Stiller Apologizes for Character He Played in a Movie 10 Years Ago After PC Backlash
Actor Ben Stiller is doubling down on a decade-old apology for portraying a mentally developmentally disabled character in the 2008 movie “Tropic Thunder.”
After “Tropic Thunder” — a movie that Stiller wrote and directed — was released, the actor apologized for the character when advocacy groups threatened to boycott the film.
Stiller continued to stand by that apology Tuesday when he talked about the issue on social media.
“Actually ‘Tropic Thunder’ was boycotted 10 years ago when it came out, and I apologized then,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It was always meant to make fun of actors trying to do anything to win awards,” he said.
In the film, Stiller played Tugg Speedman, an actor whose career had stalled after his portrayal of the developmentally disabled character Simple Jack, a performance Speedman was convinced would earn him critical acclaim and awards.
At the time the movie was released, several disability groups spoke out about the film, calling Stiller’s character “offensive” and “tasteless.”
Stiller’s latest apology comes three days after Olympic gold medalist Shaun White dressed up as Simple Jack for Halloween.
Actually Tropic Thunder was boycotted 10 years ago when it came out, and I apologized then. It was always meant to make fun of actors trying to do anything to win awards. I stand by my apology, the movie, Shaun White, And the great people and work of the @SpecialOlympics. https://t.co/RqID5jIXP1
— Ben Stiller (@RedHourBen) October 30, 2018
The snowboarder faced a backlash on social media for portraying the character. He eventually posted an apology on Twitter.
A spokesperson for the Special Olympics told TMZ, “We are truly disappointed that Shaun White, an acclaimed Olympian, would choose this costume which is so offensive and causes so much pain.”
“Disability is not a joke nor should it be a punchline,” the organization said. “We hope that Shaun White and others learn that this just continues stigma, stereotypes and discrimination.”
One critic of White’s costume choice wrote in response to the athlete’s now-deleted Instagram post, “I’m not sure if it’s worse that this is an actual movie or that you’d think it’s okay to mock individuals who have disabilities. It’s 2018, man. #spreadthewordtoendtheword #rwordhurts.”
White took responsibility for his “poor choice” of a costume.
— Shaun White (@shaunwhite) October 29, 2018
“I owe everyone in the Special Olympics community an apology for my poor choice of Halloween costume the other night,” he wrote.
“It was a last-minute decision,” he continued, “It was the wrong one. The Special Olympics were right to call me out on it. They do great work supporting so many tremendous athletes, and I am sorry for being insensitive. Lesson learned.”
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