Comedy Impact Report '08: Bigscreen Big Shots

Showbiz satires make for risky box office (witness 2008 Sundance duds “What Just Happened?” and “The Deal”). Take aim at out-of-control action movies and the pricetag increases exponentially — which makes it all the more impressive that “Tropic Thunder” managed to connect with auds, earning more than $184 million worldwide.

The gutsy project marks Ben Stiller’s first directing effort since 2001’s “Zoolander,” allowing the writer-director-star to assemble a dream cast of established comic names (Jack Black, Steve Coogan), unexpected serious-actor choices (Nick Nolte, Robert Downey Jr.) and left-field cameos (most notably, Tom Cruise as a boorish, balding studio exec).

Stiller followed “Tropic” with toon hit “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” (voicing the comedy’s lead lion) and has another tentpole sequel, “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian,” lined up for May.

After that, Stiller jokes he’s “currently out of work,” though he has several projects in development, including Cameron Crowe’s next film (“It’s a wonderful script and I’m committed to it,” he says) and “The Hardy Men” (“all about the Hardy Boys grown up, which I want to do once the script is ready to go”).

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