I’ve met some grumpy, joyless people in my life – the one time I interviewed The Cooper Temple Clause springs to mind – but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone ever who doesn’t enjoy movie cameos.
Unless your name is Mel Gibson, chances are you will have been excited to hear about the forthcoming The Hangover 2 and its hastily written walk-on part for former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Or the new Muppets movie, which not only features the core cast of The Hangover, but Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jack Black and if rumours are to be believed, Lady Gaga.
No Elton John, though? Shame.
Earlier this year, leathery faced Marvel supremo Stan Lee even went so far as to make a quasi-serious plea for the category of Best Cameo Appearance to be added to the judging criteria for the Academy Awards. Which makes me think, what better time than now to consider the candidates for such an award?
Allow me to start you off with ten of my favourites…
1) Alfred Hitchcock in The Birds (1963)
Alfred Hitchcock virtually invented the movie cameo, en route to being cinemas first recognisable director. He went on to guest in 39 of his 52 films, kick-starting a trend which saw Francis Ford Coppola turn up in Apocalypse Now and Steven Spielberg in Gremlins. His appearance in The Birds wasn’t his first, but it’s certainly the one that makes me laugh most. Poodles!
2) Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)
The internet is responsible for many great things – hello, Dumb Tweets @ Celebrities – but it’s certainly played its part in spoiling the surprise of movie cameos. Which is why it makes me dewy eyed to recall going to see Prince Of Thieves with my dad as a child, turning to him towards the end of the film and cooing, with genuine shock and awe, “look dad, it’s the mincey immortal Spaniard from Highlander!” (or something).
3) Bruce Springsteen in High Fidelity (2000)
The Boss turns up in the scene where protagonist Rob (John Cusack) is ruminating whether he should visit his 5 ex-girlfriends and helps him get some perspective on his recent break-up with Laura (Iben Hjejle). Now, I don’t know how much money Bruce made from his last album, The Promise, but if someone could develop an iPhone app where Springsteen could offer similar worldly advice, kicking in around about 4am, which stops bruised hearted men from calling their ex-girlfriends and sobbing down the line at them, then I think he could at least double his return.
4) Bill Murray in Zombieland (2009)
Zombieland is great film, but it says a lot about the brilliance of Bill Murray that he’s the best thing about it. The story goes that the Ghostbusters man only signed on a couple of day before shooting, when co-star Woody Harrelson made the call himself, after the (never named) actor originally scheduled to appear pulled out. Impressively, the line where Murray, on his deathbed, answers the question “do you have any regrets?” with “Garfield”, was completely adlibbed.
5) George Harrison in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978)
George Harrison always approved of Eric Idle’s and Neil Innes’ The Rutles spoof, commenting that, “The Rutles liberated me from the Beatles. It was the only thing I saw of those Beatles television shows they made. It was actually the best, funniest and most scathing. But at the same time, it was done with the most love.” Even so, the late guitarist deserves much credit for going along with the gag, interviewing Rutles press agent ‘Eric Manchester’ in the troupe’s first feature length film.
6) Eddie Van Halen (maybe) in Robocop (1987)
Director Paul Verhoeven makes an accidental cameo in Robocop’s nightclub scene after he was filmed revving up extras in the crowd and decided to keep said footage in. But the film’s most interesting cameo comes from rocker Eddie Van Halen… or is it drummer Alex Van Halen… or is it just a stray extra who never picked up the cheque? Unconfirmed rumours have circulated for decades as to the identity of the actor who played ‘Unemployed person’ Keva Rosenberg. I’m pumping for Eddie, just because the idea of it being him is funniest.
7) Danny Glover in Maverick (1994)
I’ve never been much of a fan of Mel Gibson’s Maverick, but I’ll concede that the scene in which Gibson’s sometime Lethal Weapon co-star Danny Glover turns up as a bankrobber and the duo spend a couple of minutes knowingly pretending to recognize each other from somewhere, is a brushstroke of genius in an otherwise dreary comedy western.
8) Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder (2008)
Tropic Thunder was notable for two things. 1) being nowhere near as funny as the people involved made you hope it might be and 2) being a rare example of the mass consensus saying nice things about Tom Cruise sometime within the last twenty years. The Hollywood rumourmill reports that Cruise is working on a spin-off movie for his film producer creation Les Grossman. I say, “as the Jaws sequels proved, you can have too much of a good thing, thanks”.
9) Chuck Norris in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
The ironic cameo – that is, the cameo in which a celebrity plays up their own stardom – is a tired concept. Witness Matt Damon and Ben Affleck playing themselves in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, now observe the tattered cinema seats that were victims to my rage. But the appearance of Chuck Norris as Chuck Norris in Dodgeball remains funny – largely because, well, it’s Chuck Norris and he’s so ridiculous he’d make babies being thrown down a well seem amusing if he swung by and did a goofy thumbs up.
10) Steve Buscemi in The Wedding Singer (1998)
Picture any event in your life. Now picture Steve Buscemi being in it. The last one is better, no? Anyway, as well as sporting a fine Jon Lovitz cameo, Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer also sees the aforementioned New Yorker turn up as a drunk best man and almost steal the film before it really gets going. Sorry… I’m still picturing Steve Buscemi turning up at my eighth birthday party.