Tropic Thunder The filmmakers found Bertha

“We had to deal with a lot of rain and a lot of mud,” laughs Black. “But the locations looked great and they really added to our scenes. When you arrived on set, you kind of knew you weren’t making a typical comedy or a typical action film, and I think when people see the film they’ll understand why Ben picked those locations.”

“We were actually looking at one possible location for the compound when, all of a sudden, Ben and Jeff Mann said, ‘What about down there?’” recalls producer McLeod. With that, the crew hiked down a cliff and found a couple of hydroelectric plants from the 1930s. Says Mann, “Since ‘the hand of man’ had already been here and excavated part of the property, it afforded us a road to get in and out. We selectively cleared some of the vegetation to create space for the set, but we were careful not to upset the visual balance of the environment.”

The filmmakers brought in construction crews from Oahu and Los Angeles to widen the road for film production trucks, trailers and the other equipment needed to support the cast, crew and hundreds of technicians. Sets were then built, including a working hundred-foot wooden bridge leading into the compound. This bridge plays an integral role in the movie’s finale, so Mann and his team worked with a structural engineer on its construction. “The whole thing took a little over three months,” says Stiller. “The bridge is my favorite because it’s something that was conceived in a drawing, was integral to the story, and Jeff totally pulled it off. It makes for a great ending to those scenes in the compound.”

“When we first went out there to rehearse I realized what a drive it was,” remembers Downey. “Anyone can attest to the fact that it was just insane. It didn’t seem like there was any good reason why we should be shooting here. We could’ve just gone off the side of a major thoroughfare somewhere and made it look like this. But the truth is, we couldn’t have because this was so remote and so complete in its realism and isolation. It was so tough and so knee-deep in mud and rain, but we were blessed because there wasn’t a day that we didn’t enjoy, which is so rare. Oftentimes when you go into those situations or locations you think it’s going to be hell, but this was a very enjoyable purgatory for a month or two.”

One cast member had very few complaints about shooting in Hawaii, never letting it get in the way of her own agenda on the set. The filmmakers found Bertha, the water buffalo that Black’s character rides, in Texas and flew her to Kauai on a special plane. But about midway through filming, everyone was in for a big surprise. “One day the trainer called us and said, ‘Oh, by the way, Bertha can’t work because when we showed up at the corral this morning, she had a calf,’” recalls producer McLeod. “We didn’t know she was pregnant. No one knew she was pregnant. Bertha having this baby was definitely kind of a humorous morale booster for everyone.” In honor of Jack Black, the animal trainer named Bertha’s baby “Little Jack.”

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