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Tropic Thunder - Robert Downey Jr. plays a black guy...?

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Published on Jul 12, 2008

Stiller, Downey Jr. and Black lead an ensemble cast in 'Tropic Thunder,' an action comedy about a group of self absorbed actors who set out to make the most expensive war film. After ballooning costs force the studio to cancel the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast into the jungles of Southeast Asia, where they encounter real bad guys.

Dozens protest at 'Tropic Thunder' premiere

Story Highlights
"Tropic Thunder" contains frequent use of disparaging term for mentally disabled
Advocacy groups upset; one person called it "offensive from start to finish"
Special Olympics chair calling for boycott
Film stars Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr. as self-absorbed actors making film
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- "Tropic Thunder" is pushing the envelope too far for groups representing the mentally disabled.

Dozens of people from organizations such as the Special Olympics and the American Association of People with Disabilities protested the movie-industry spoof across the street from the film's Los Angeles premiere at Mann's Bruin Theatre on Monday. The protesters held up signs with slogans such as "Call me by my name, not by my label" and chanted phrases like "Ban the movie, ban the word."

The groups are outraged over scenes featuring the liberal usage of a disparaging term used to describe the mentally disabled. In the movie, director and co-star Ben Stiller plays a fame-hungry actor cast in a war movie who previously had a role as a mentally disabled character named Simple Jack.

The DreamWorks film, which opens Wednesday, also stars Robert Downey Jr. and Jack Black.

"When I heard about it, I felt really hurt inside," said Special Olympics global messenger Dustin Plunkett. "I cannot believe a writer could write something like that. It's the not the way that we want to be portrayed. We have feelings. We don't like the word retard. We are people. We're just like any other people out there. We want to be ourselves and not be discriminated against." Watch why critics are calling film "Tropic Blunder" »

Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, said he and other representatives from advocacy groups representing the mentally disabled met with DreamWorks co-chair Stacey Snider and watched a private screening of the film Monday morning. Imparato called the movie "tasteless" and said it was "offensive start to finish."

"I have a sense of humor," said Imparato. "There were parts of the movie where I laughed, but it seems to me that the movie tried really hard to go too far and then pull back on everything that was offensive except the issue of people with intellectual disabilities. I just think Ben Stiller and the people involved in this movie just didn't think it was going to be offensive."

Following the original complaints from the advocacy groups, DreamWorks pulled some promotional materials, including a Web site that promoted the film-within-a-film starring Stiller's character which contained the tag line "Once there was a retard." DreamWorks spokesman Chip Sullivan previously said in a statement that "no changes or cuts to the film will be made."

"If you want to pick on people, as the old playground saying goes, pick on people your own size," said Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, who is calling for a boycott of "Tropic Thunder" along with the other groups. "This population struggles too much with the basics to have to struggle against Hollywood. We're sending a message that this hate speech is no longer acceptable."

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