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Tropic Thunder under fire from US protests

Trpoic Thunder

Story by Jack Foley

BEN Stiller’s new comedy Tropic Thunder has come under fire from disabled groups in America who attended the premiere of the movie to protest against the depiction of “people with intellectual disabilities”.

Demonstrators gathered outside the Mann Village Theatre in LA at the star-studded event, insisting that the film “humiliates” people with disabilities.

But film distributor Dreamworks has defended the film’s content, insisting there was no intention to “disparage or harm” people with disabilities while making the film, while stars who attended the red carpet event also backed the director.

The LA gala screening featured appearances from most of the film’s main stars, including Stiller himself, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes and new dad Matthew McConaughey.

But as well as hundreds of appreciative fans, the celebrities were also greeted by placard-waving protestors keen to make their point.

The film follows the fortunes of a group of pampered American actors who suddenly find themselves in a real war zone while making an epic movie about Vietnam.

But according to the BBC, Tim Shriver, chairman of disability group Special Olympics, has labelled certain aspects of the humour offensive – singling out the use of the word “retard” in regard to a character named Simple Jack, played by Stiller.

The character in question is a role within a role but Mr Shriver said: “We feel that the use of the word ‘retard’ throughout the film, 15 or more times, is done without any regard for the dignity of people with intellectual disabilities.

“The caricatures of people with intellectual disabilities are you know, almost hateful, and we want this to be the beginning of the end. We want this to be the end of Hollywood treating this population as the butt of jokes.”

But Dreamworks spokesman Chip Sullivan responded by saying that Stiller and company have had productive discussions with representatives of disability advocacy organizations in a bid to avoid any offence being taken, and added that he looked forward to working with them closely in the future.

“However, no changes or cuts to the film will be made,” he maintained. “Tropic Thunder is an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses, and makes its point by featuring inappropriate and over-the top characters in ridiculous situations.

“The film is in no way meant to disparage or harm the image of individuals with disabilities.”

When tackled about the controversy on the red carpet, one of the film’s co-stars, Robert Downey Jr, maintained that people had a right to protest.

“That’s the great thing, you know, if I want to protest something because it offends me that’s my right as an American, and it’s also any artist’s right to say and do whatever they want to do,” he said.

The film, which is due to be released in the UK in September, has drawn mostly favourable reviews from American critics, with Newsweek hailing it as “the funniest movie of the summer”.

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