Tom Cruise Steals Tropic's Thunder

Shhh ... listen closely ... I have to whisper ...

Tom Cruise has a comic cameo in Tropic Thunder. It's a studio secret. He's not even listed in the credits.

(Ticktock. Ticktock.) Well ... the secret's out. The Hollywood beans my friends, have been spilled.

Alas, only a few weeks after star/director Ben Stiller evaded MTV News's questions about the hush-hush scene, reps reportedly scrambled to yank the image of Cruise in a fat suit and bald headpiece from internet gossip sites. And his people aren't happy. TC's lawyers threatened legal action against magazines that published photos revealing his James-Lipton-esque makeover. A representative for Cruise was quoted as stating, "Mr Cruise's appearance was supposed to be a surprise for his fans worldwide. Paparazzi have ruined what should have been a fun discovery for moviegoers." Boo! Boo! Shame on you paparazzi for spoiling our fun! Thunder star Jack Black's reaction to the party-pooping pic was much more Zen: "It was supposed to be a secret, but there it is."

In the film Cruise plays an unscrupulous, foul-mouthed movie mogul (is there any other kind?) that backs a big-budget Vietnam war epic featuring a cast of prima-donna actors played by a real-life lineup of big-screen big deals -- Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte and Matthew McConaughey. As is often the case in a Stiller universe, a series of freakish mishaps occur during filming that force the movie stars to become real soldiers. As one trailer tagline ominously quips, "The movie they think they're making ... isn't a movie anymore."

But rumor has it, the real screen-stealer is Cruise's hilarious performance, including a much-talked-about, dirty-dancing number. And according to Iron Man (well R. Downey Jr.), Cruise has the moves: "He's a very good, excellent dancer."

Yet, even if TC's appearance in the comic catastrophe film was unexpected, word of his stealing Tropic's comic thunder shouldn't be too surprising. What about his giggle-worthy Goldmember spoof? And, will we ever forget his supporting role as Magnolia's so-horrible-he's-lovable, self-help-yourself-to-the-ladies guru? "Seduce & Destroy!"

But wait. Could there be some sinister motivation behind Tom's silliness? A New York Times article published last April theorized that Cruise's caricature is a joke on Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom, Paramount's parent company. The same chairman that sent the Top Gun packing in 2006. And by the way, Tropic Thunder, is (burn!) a Paramount production.

Nevertheless, it's quite a shame that someone let the Tomcat out of the bag (different than letting the TomKat out of the bag, though shh ... maybe Katie has a cameo too). I'm sure the movie would have made wads more millions if audiences made a "fun discovery" after they decided to buy their tickets. Now that they know about the fun, people that didn't know about the fun before and weren’t going to buy tickets will want to see the fun too and then the experience just won't be, as, well, fun, as having a fun discovery. And, of course, movie profits will plummet.

Hey now, wait a minute ... Could it be, no, no, but maybe ... the truth was leaked by Paramount, ON PURPOSE? Dare I think it, a marketing ploy to drum up suspense for a predictably raunchy Ben Stiller schtick-flick? A bright-and-sparkly, not-so-secret secret to distract moviegoers from the lukewarm reviews of some film critics? No, I won't believe it. Anyway, I've done my movie math. Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. versus Nick Nolte and Matthew McConaughey. Odds are three-to-two the movie will make me laugh at least two or three times, right?