Attention C. Thomas Howell and Ted Danson… this is how it’s done.

Where would film be without Al Jolson warbling “My Mammy” in a black cork mask?  Well, it’d be without sound, for starters.  So kudos to Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. for honoring this delightfully racist tradition in the ensemble comedy Tropic Thunder.  What you see to your right is Downey deep in character as Oscar-winning actor Kirk Lazarus, who’s… inhabiting the written-for-a-black-man role of Sgt. Osiris.  Being an apparently humorless true believer in the method, Lazarus has decided that the only way to play the character is to don the ol’ black cork mask. 

Somewhat easier to identify in this picture is Stiller, who’s starring in and directing Tropic ThunderAccording to Entertainment Weekly, he came up with the idea while shooting Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun (I wonder if he ran it by Tom Stoppard); twenty years later, it’s finally going before cameras (with a screenplay credited to Etan Cohen and Justin Theroux).  The film features an all-star ensemble playing a group of difficult actors who get stranded in the jungle when their director (Steve Coogan) tires of their diva-ish behavior.  Being a remarkably clueless group, the cast idiotically assumes that they’re participating in a “full-immersion” style of filmmaking.  The jungle being the jungle, it’s not long before the boys encounter real danger.

Also appearing in Tropic Thunder:  Jack Black (as a Mike Myers/Eddie Murphy-style comedian whose new film is titled The Fatties: Fart II), Nick Nolte, Danny McBride, Matthew McConaughey and Jay Baruchel.  Paramount will release the film August 15th.