Spot that face! (Aka film cameos we love)
2 August 2019 / film /
There’s nothing film fans like more than a good cameo. That moment when you suddenly realise the familiar face just walking out of shot, the one who looks a bit like a less angry Donald Trump with more hair, really is Donald Trump (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, if you’re interested, made more than two decades before the New York property magnate had his eyes on the White House).
Future leaders of the free world aside, directors seem to have a particular weakness for casting pop stars in cameos, as a kind of filmic fandom. Usually these musical heroes play themselves, in all their rock ’n’ roll glory. Bruce Springsteen gives voice to John Cusack’s inner thoughts in High Fidelity (in song, of course); David Bowie gamely steps out as the judge in the famous ‘catwalk walk-off’ scene in fashion spoof Zoolander (the film’s director and star Ben Stiller later said this was one of the high points of his career and he couldn’t believe it when Bowie agreed to appear).
Keith Richards famously pops up opposite his mate Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, playing Jack Sparrow’s Dad – no surprise given that Depp based his Sparrow character on his Rolling Stones idol.
If you’re really eagle-eyed (or are quick with the pause button on the remote) you can spot Coldplay’s Chris Martin just in shot playing a zombie in Simon Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead. The two are friends, and it’s fair to say that Chris probably wasn’t cast for his acting ability. Surely the most unlikely of the pop star thespians, though, is Ian Brown of the Stone Roses, who appears magically stirring a cup of tea while reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. According to Brown, he got the gig because his then wife was friends with director Alfonso Cuarón, and he thought his kids would enjoy it. Oh, and he was told to look like a bohemian wizard, which he quite fancied. Adam Lambert, who has been Queen’s frontman since 2011, makes a blink-and-you’ll miss it appearance in Bohemian Rhapsody as one of Freddie Mercury’s lovers. And, lastly, one for real aficionados of the art: Jarvis Cocker appears as an animated version of himself, singing a ditty around the campfire, in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox (and while we’re on the subject of stop-motion Anderson movies, Yoko Ono performed a voiceover cameo in Isle of Dogs, playing a scientist called… Yoko Ono).
It’s not just musicians, though, who are flattered by the idea of appearing on the big screen: there are writers, too, such as Hunter S Thompson playing himself in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Salman Rushdie popping up in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Then there’s boxer Mike Tyson (co-starring with a tiger) in The Hangover and Virgin boss Richard Branson playing a harassed airline passenger in Casino Royale. Even artist Damien Hirst has got in on the act, showing up in Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (probably because he’s best friends with director Kevin Allen’s big brother, Keith).
The best cameos have a gag woven into the casting – so when Stan Lee sauntered into frame in each of the films in the Spider-Man franchise, aficionados knew that this seemingly anonymous elderly gent was none other than the creator of many of the best-loved Marvel comic characters. Similarly, motorsport legend Sir Stirling Moss played a chauffeur in Peter Sellers’ spoof James Bond movie Casino Royale (yes, another one). But often it’s film directors themselves who have the last laugh – whether it’s Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson appearing in Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz, Steven Spielberg playing himself in Austin Powers in Goldmember or Star Wars’ very own George Lucas in Beverly Hills Cop 3. The ultimate master of the cameo, though, remains Alfred Hitchcock, who appears in an extraordinary 39 of his 52 major films, usually in fleeting moments. Spotting his appearances has become a bit of a sport, so here’s a clue: he’s often holding a musical instrument.