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Why We Never Got To See Tropic Thunder 2

Tropic Thunder won over critics and audiences alike during its 2008 theatrical run, spoofing Hollywood with R-rated humor and capturing unforgettable performances from an outstanding ensemble that included Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, and Tom Cruise. Nearly a decade later, the movie industry is more franchise-hungry than ever, but we still haven't seen Tropic Thunder 2—and here's why.

The cast is busy with other projects

As the director and co-writer of Tropic Thunder as well as one of its stars, Ben Stiller would definitely seem to be a crucial ingredient in a sequel; unfortunately, his schedule looks pretty packed for the foreseeable future. His upcoming projects include directing the Showtime miniseries Escape at Dannemora and producing the Netflix comedy Alex Strangelove, among other roles both behind and in front of the camera. 

Stiller's Oscar-nominated co-star Robert Downey Jr. is pretty busy too: he debuted as the MCU's Iron Man the same year Tropic Thunder was released, and although his time as Tony Stark is likely to wrap up soon, he's already signed onto another Sherlock Holmes film and will soon take over the role of Dr. Dolittle, leaving his schedule fairly full. Then there's Jack Black, whose list of upcoming roles includes starring opposite Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and leading the Eli Roth fantasy film The House with a Clock in its Walls.

Tropic Thunder is an ensemble film, and any sequel would require getting the whole gang back together, but the cast's increasing star power and stuffed schedules make it difficult to find a time when they're all available at once—let alone afford all of their increased salaries.

Robert Downey Jr. has said no

Robert Downey Jr. was one of the best parts of Tropic Thunder as extreme method actor Kirk Lazarus, and a successful sequel would have to include the character's return. Downey has already put the kibosh on a follow-up, unfortunately; as he put it, "I have a feeling that we'd still make some money but it probably wouldn't be as good."

Downey doesn't exactly need any extra cash. So while he's said nothing but positive things about working with Stiller and seems open to reuniting with him onscreen, if he doesn't think a Tropic Thunder sequel is worth making, it's hard to imagine anything changing his mind—except for maybe an incredible script, which poses its own set of problems.

A sequel would be hard to pull off

Tropic Thunder succeeded because its concept was so innovative and surprising that it was hard to figure out which crazy path the film would follow next. A sequel would lack the benefit of surprise, making it very difficult to recapture that inventive energy—and giving Stiller and his collaborators another reason to avoid it.

More importantly, Tropic Thunder's story didn't offer many obvious avenues for a sequel. It'd be difficult to come up with a reason to send the cast back into the jungle, and putting them in a different setting would be a big gamble. It's hard to imagine a plot that would feel organic, and any follow-up that felt like a cheap cash grab wouldn't do the original film justice.

Ben Stiller's last sequel stumbled

Stiller's recent past gives him plenty of reasons to be skeptical about working on a sequel to one of his films—chiefly the critical and commercial failure of Zoolander 2, the sequel to another comedy he wrote, directed, and starred in.

Stiller reprised all three roles on again for the Zoolander sequel, meaning that its performance was pretty much entirely in his hands. However, the movie was trashed by critics and a failure at the box office, grossing only $56.7 million worldwide—even less than the original. Just because one sequel stumbled obviously doesn't mean another one would suffer the same fate, but it's still easy to see Zoolander 2 as a sobering lesson in how difficult it can be to follow up a hit.

R-rated comedies and sequels are struggling

Even if Stiller and company wanted to return for Tropic Thunder 2, studio execs could be scared off by the recent performance of R-rated comedies and sequels at the domestic box office. 

R-rated comedies became a summer staple after the success of The Hangover, but the failures outnumber the successes. While there are still exceptions like Girls Trip and the 21 Jump Street movies, the disappointments of releases like Baywatch, Rough Nightand The House prove how difficult it can be for an adult comedy to find an audience—especially when they're greeted with negative reviews. There are a few theories for this, but it might just be that audiences are tired of people behaving badly, especially when R-rated antics are increasingly available in other genres.

Sequels have also struggled recently, and domestic audiences are showing signs that they're getting tired of seeing the same thing over and over again—as demonstrated through the box office stumbles of recent franchise additions like Transformers: The Last Knight and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

This obviously isn't to say that R-rated comedies and sequels are in danger of going extinct anytime soon—just that neither are seen as a particularly safe bet at the moment, which could make it more difficult to convince a studio to greenlight another Tropic Thunder.

It could end up getting a spinoff

The most likely place for a Tropic Thunder follow-up may not come from any of the film's main characters—instead, it could involve Les Grossman, the bizarre studio head played by Tom Cruise in a career-rejuvenating cameo. Immediately after the movie was released, chatter started about a solo film about the character—and the actor and studio, at one point, seemed ready to deliver.

At one point, the Grossman spinoff even had a script from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World's Michael Bacall, who said it was an R-rated film and "a pretty heartfelt story." The project eventually stalled, however, thanks in part to the career resurgence Cruise enjoyed after Tropic Thunder, with the actor starring in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher, and Edge of Tomorrow

Still, talk of the film hasn't stopped completely. Tropic Thunder co-writer Justin Theroux revealed in a 2016 interview with Business Insider that he'd definitely be "game" for a Les-focused feature. Theroux added that the idea has been discussed, but they "want to make sure the tone is right" and be sure they have the right story before they push forward.

There's still a chance it could happen

We live in an age of sequels, reboots, and remakes, and even if right now isn't the right time for a Tropic Thunder 2, that doesn't mean it couldn't happen at some point. We waited nearly a decade between Anchorman movies, after all—and although he may have ended up wishing he'd left well enough alone, Stiller took 15 years to get his Zoolander sequel in theaters.

Right now, Stiller and the rest of the cast have fully booked schedules, and there aren't any apparent ideas for what the follow-up could entail—but there's no telling when a great idea might strike, and spots open up in actors' schedules just as suddenly. Hollywood is always changing, and stranger things have always happened. The odds don't look great, but we wouldn't fully rule out a Tropic Thunder sequel.