There are plenty of reasons why a movie would use a cameo, but first and foremost, they are used because they can be pretty cool. Another reason is that you run out of jokes so you have to find something to riff on, which is something I would know nothing about. And if you disagree with me I will come over to your house in my American flag Speedo, riding a fire breathing alligator and throw ninja stars at you while simultaneously kicking a car through your house. Do you want that kind of action coming at you? No, no you don’t.
There are two kinds of cameos that can be used: (1) having the actor play themselves and giving a nod/wink to the audience, letting them know that the filmmakers are in on the joke, and (2) giving an actor a spot role that was written for them, but there is little to no reference to them in the casting.
I have broken the list out into two parts. The first list features some cool cameos where the people play themselves, and the other is where people play a character.
Marshall McLuhan/’Annie Hall’ – Everyone has heard someone trying to be smart by spitting out credentials and misinformation about what a film means. We even have an on going feature on lonelyreviewer.com (self reference, so classy) where we list these types of critiques. Woody Allen takes this and calls the loud mouth out by having director Marshall McLuhan actually tell the guy he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Great cameo, and something you wish would happen.
Martin Sheen/’Hot Shots! Part Duex’ – I wasn’t sure where to put this one. For a parody movie this section got pretty layered. Martin Sheen was playing his character from ‘Apocalypse Now’ but also was playing himself the actor. So does this fall into list one or two? And you thought ‘Hot Shots!’ couldn’t get deep. The cameo was capped off with a nice unison yelling of, “I loved you in ‘Wall Street’!” as Charlie and Martin pass each other on a riverbank.
Will Ferrell/’Wedding Crashers’ – This was a weird movie because the first half was good, but then it dragged on. If it weren’t Will Ferrell yelling for “meatloaf” and saying that he almost “knumbchucked your ass,” this movie would have continued to spiral into an unwatchable abyss, which it may have done anyway. It was also nice that this was kept a pretty well hidden secret when the movie was in theaters. Viewers were allowed to discover the surprise all on their own.
Orson Welles/’The Third Man’ – This is probably my favorite cameo. Orson gives a super-duper speech about how hardship and trouble bring out the best from a bad situation, and then uses that to justify his illegal activities. Welles’ character was hidden so well in the movie that it wasn’t until past the midway point of the film that we actually saw him. Though he was featured in the rest of the movie, I still consider this to be a cameo. The filmmakers were too aware of how casting Welles would impact the movie, and it is that consciousness that makes it a cameo, not a spot role.
These are just a few cameos that I thought were interesting and well played. There are plenty of other great cameos (David Bowie in ‘Zoolander’, Chuck Norris in ‘Dodgeball’, Stan Lee in ‘Spider Man’, Kurt Vonnegut in ‘Back to School’), but this is my list. Not yours. Besides my mom says my list is cooler than yours, and your mom, well, your mom gave me her phone number.