Today’s Top 10 list comes from Sean O’Connell, an NYC-based writer who has contributed Top 10 Midget Performances, Top 10 Movie Rain Scenes, and Top 10 Movie Brothers. This one is a complementary list to my Top 10 Rock Star Cameos list in that it casts a wider net. If you have a Top 10 you’d like to contribute, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy Sean’s list of Top 10 Cameo Roles in Movies:
One of my all time favorite occurrences in a movie is the cameo role. For those of you who do not know what a movie cameo is, here is the dictionary definition: a minor part played by a prominent performer in a single scene of a motion picture or a television play. The performance is usually kept secret, unveiled as a surprise during the movie and the performer is not billed. My first experience with a cameo role was in 1978 watching “Superman.” During the famous scene where a teenage Clark is racing down a high-speed train, a little girl sees him through the window of that train. While watching this scene in the movie theater, my Aunt leaned over to me and told me that the little girl’s mother (Noel Neill) played Lois Lane on TV.
At the time, I didn’t understand what this had to do with the movie, I just wanted to eat my popcorn, but I always remembered that information from that day on. Now any cameo role gets me excited- it feels like I am actually running into these celebrities on the street or at a restaurant. As soon as I spot the cameo star my blood starts pumping and I usually elbow the person next to me (sorry Annie, my girlfriend, who has received numerous rib jabs in the past). Once I started writing this list, I couldn’t believe how many cameos I’ve enjoyed over the years. Some honorable mentions are: Oliver Stone in “Dave”, Lee Majors in “Scrooged”, Clint Howard in every Ron Howard movie, Steven Spielberg and any 70s blues star in “The Blues Brothers,” plus Stan Lee in just about any Marvel movie. Also I must mention that Alfred Hitchcock was the King of Cameos, as he put himself in every one of his movies. It actually became a game trying to find him- kind of like “Where’s Hitchcock?” So I left him off the list because I couldn’t pick just one performance but I do acknowledge him as the King.
“Maverick” would have been an awful and easily forgettable movie, had it not been for this cameo. To tell you the truth, I can’t even remember the set-up to the scene other than Glover plays a bank robber who runs into Mel Gibson’s Maverick. What is so great about this scene is when Glover takes off the bandana covering his face, it appears that the two characters know each other. As they stare at one another, you slowly hear the “Lethal Weapon” music playing in the background. Of course, Glover and Gibson appeared as Riggs and Murtaugh in all four “Lethal Weapon” movies. Richard Donner, the director of “Maverick,” was also the director of the “Lethal Weapon” series and, funny enough, the director of “Superman”– the movie that started my fascination with cameos. Thank you Mr. Donner. One other note about Glover’s performance; as he is leaving the bank, he says “I’m too old for this shit,” a line his character used frequently in the “Lethal Weapon” series.
So this one was a little tricky because Schwarzenegger technically wasn’t in the movie. As I sat watching this film, I knew in my heart they had to work in Schwarzenegger somehow. After all, he was The Terminator; the franchise was nothing without him. There were two things that made it difficult to get him in. One, this was a prequel (even though it takes place in the future) and Schwarzenegger is no spring chicken anymore. He no longer looks like the original T-800 from 1984. Secondly, he is now the “Govenator” of California and how could he find the time to be in the movie and fix the state budget? The solution was simple, they CGI’d his face onto another actor. As the new T-800 broke through the door of the skynet factory, I looked over at my son Michael and saw the smile creep across his face. I knew that the love of cameos had now been passed on. So even though it was just the face of Schwarzenegger, I felt it warranted a place on this Top 10.
At the very end of this movie, we find Calogero ‘C’ Anello (played by real-life murderer Lillo Brancato) standing over the coffin of his hero Sonny LoSpecchio (Chazz Palminteri). In the background, we see his father (Robert De Niro) walk in. He tells his son how sorry he is and that Sonny really was a good man. As De Niro walks out, another man walks in. He silently sneaks up and starts shit-talking to ‘C’ off camera. The voice is instantly recognizable as Pesci’s. Turns out Pesci was the guy ‘C’ saw have a fight over a parking spot when he was 9 years old. This incident was what started the friendship between ‘C’ and Sonny. De Niro directed this movie and called on his pal Pesci to play Carmine, the new mafia boss taking over Sonny’s operations in the Bronx. Pesci and DeNiro were synonymous with each other at the time, and to date they made four movies with each other (“Once Upon A Time in America,” “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas,” and “Casino”). They were even spoofed on “The Joe Pesci Show” on SNL. Eventually, the two would appear as themselves on SNL to take over “The Joe Pesci Show.” The “Bronx Tale” cameo was great because the fact you knew they were such good friends made you able to believe that Pesci could take over the mob. They didn’t need to introduce any storyline other than the fact he fought over a parking spot in the beginning of the movie.
As Wayne (Mike Meyers) is driving fast to a music-video shoot featuring his girlfriend Cassandra (Tia Carrere), he is pulled over by a highway police officer. The camera stays focused on Wayne, as he cannot afford any time delay because his relationship with Cassandra is in severe trouble. In the background, you see the Officer get off his motorcycle and walk towards the car. He leans in to the window of the car holding a picture of a young boy and says the famous line from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” – “Have you seen this boy?” Wayne, realizing it is the evil T-1000, drives off which then causes Robert Patrick to do his famous T-1000 run after the car. Classic. Another interesting note I found out while writing this list, the song “Time Machine” can be heard in the background. This song comes from the 1992 Black Sabbath album called “Dehumanizer” which featured a painted image of a Terminator Endoskeleton disguised in a grim reaper costume.
Vince Vaughn, who plays the title character Fred Claus, has trouble dealing with the fact that his brother is so much more famous then he is. He decides to go to Siblings Anonymous in order to cope with his problems. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the movie. The first angry brother to stand up is Frank Stallone who has issues with Sylvester, mainly due to his success with Rambo and Rocky. Second to stand up is Roger Clinton, half brother of former U.S. President Bill. The last to stand up is Stephan Baldwin, who berates Fred Claus only to find out he still has unresolved issues with his older brother Alec. He has to stomp his foot and yell “He’s not Alec!” over and over. I am a big fan when a celebrity is able to poke fun at themselves.
This is the second Vince Vaughn movie (in a row) to make the list and throughout “Wedding Crashers,” we always hear about the great Chazz Reinhold, a legendary wedding crasher. So towards the end of the movie when John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) goes in search of him it is a pleasant surprise to find none other than Will Ferrell. The thing is, now Chazz lives with his mom, never got a job, and no longer is a wedding crasher. He is now a funeral crasher. Ferrell is his usual over-the-top self, delivering hysterical line after line, such as “HEY MOM! CAN WE GET SOME MEAT LOAF?” He eventually takes his new protégé to crash a funeral.
Yes, this is two different movies but I had a hard time deciding between the two. Also, the fact that both cameos are leading to an eventual “Avengers” movie, I felt they could share the spot. Plus it is my list and I will write it any way I see fit. Anyway, after the credits of “Iron Man” we see Tony Stark in his living room when out of nowhere a man dressed in black (Jackson) appears wearing an eye patch. He introduces himself as Nick Fury, the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., and wants to discuss the Avengers initiative. This cameo was cool because you felt like you were rewarded if you stayed for the credits. You were in on some little piece of info that everyone else lost out on because they left early to beat the traffic. To create continuity between Marvel films, Robert Downey Jr. appeared as Stark at the end of “The Incredible Hulk” to talk to General Ross (William Hurt) about putting a team together. This scene takes place before the credits, I wonder if they did this because so many people missed out on the “Iron Man” cameo. I like the idea of continuing cameos interwoven through movies and hope to see more of it from Marvel films.
This was the most frightening cameo ever. It was great because I wasn’t expecting a cameo. Sure, I thought there would be a surprise ending to whom the killer was, maybe some character already introduced, but never a cameo. When Kevin Spacey walks into the police station with bloody hands from his latest victim and from removing his own fingertips, I was freaked out. He gives himself up to the two detectives (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) and tells them he will take them to two more bodies and plead guilty. They personally have to agree to take him or he will plead insanity. The whole car ride to the outskirts of town Spacy eerily explains the reasons for all the murders in a way that is reminiscent to his Keyser Soze/Verbal Kint portrayal of the same year. Well since this list is only about the cameo role itself, I won’t ruin the rest of the movie for those who have not seen “Se7en.” If you haven’t seen it yet I have two things to say to you: “Really?” And “What’s in the box?”
This was one of the all-time great cameos to me and was always my number one until recently. When I was watching this in the theaters with my brother, I actually yelled “Holy Sh**” at the top of our lungs. The set-up, for those of you who don’t know about this particular cameo, is Robin Hood (Kevin Costner) is going to marry Maid Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). When Friar Tuck asks if anyone feels that these two should not marry, speak now or forever hold your piece, blah blah blah, someone offscreen yells, “I will not allow this wedding to proceed!” Upon hearing this, Robin Hood drops to one knee and says “My Lord.” The camera cuts to Connery getting off his horse and walking up to Marian saying, “Unless I’m allowed to give the bride away. You look radiant, cousin.” This one scene, for some reason, got people excited and it didn’t matter that Costner didn’t have an English accent, because Connery made a surprise appearance. He also made $250,000 for his two days of work and the word on the street is he gave all the money to charity. As a side note, Connery actually played Robin Hood in “Robin and Marian” in 1976.
This cameo is the reason why Connery got bumped to the number two position on the list. It is also the reason I felt the need to write this particular Top 10. I had no desire to watch this movie, but my oldest son Patrick begged me. He said there was one scene that was right up my alley and he was right. It renewed my love of the cameo role in movies. The set-up here is Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are in Beverly Hills and are looking for a hideout from the zombies. They haven’t slept in days and feel they need to be fully rested. Tallahassee makes Columbus get a map to the Stars Homes because he wants to sleep in style. They decide to sleep in the biggest stars house they know of- Bill Murray. Since Little Rock is too young to have heard of him, Columbus takes her to a movie theater that is in Bill Murray’s house and shows her “Ghostbusters.” Tallahassee and Wichita are playing golf in his study when the noises appear to wake a zombie Bill Murray. He comes down the stairs with bluish skin, scabs all over his face and crazy long hair. As he approaches them, Wichita hits him with a golf club, which forces him to let out a scream only Bill Murray can do. Turns out he is not a zombie, but only dresses that way so he can go out in public and walk the streets. Apparently zombies don’t bother other zombies. How come no one has ever thought of that before? Anyway, for the next few minutes, Tallahassee and Murray re-enact “Ghostbusters”- awesomely funny scene. Best line: When asked if he has any regrets, he says, “Garfield, maybe.”