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Tropic Thunder

Merie Weismiller W, Dreamworks Pictures

There's not much room for Tom Cruise on the posters for Tropic Thunder, with Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. in the way. But he steals the movie with his surprising turn as a fat, bald studio executive. Stiller, who also directed, gives Cruise full credit for shedding his studly image.

"His idea was for this character, and he had read the script," says Stiller. "He said, 'I want really big hands playing this guy.' I said, 'Really? Big hands?' He had these hands made, and then I said, 'Well, it'd be really cool if you were bald too.' Then we did this makeup test where he got bald."

Cruise's character screams at his subordinates by videophone and dances to celebrate his power plays. "He started dancing in the makeup test," Stiller continues. "He just said, 'It'd be interesting if this guy danced.' He started dancing. I was loving it. I loved watching him do this thing, so he started dancing in the makeup test, and then we went back and wrote up this idea that he's dancing in the movie. I liked it a lot."

And stay for the film's credits to see Cruise give the Step Up kids a serving. "I thought, Oh, we can do it in the end credits too," says Stiller. "I asked him if he'd be up for dancing in the end credits and he said, 'Yeah, let's do it.' "

Tropic Thunder opens Aug. 13.