18 Actors Who Starred As Themselves And Totally Nailed It
Some movie stars are so ridiculously good looking or possess so much innate panache that they’re allowed to get away with always essentially playing themselves on film. But for most thespians, the ones who’ve trained for years to pretend to be other people, things can get challenging when the skin they’re asked to step inside is their own.
Here are some times actors playing fictionalized versions of themselves did just as well as they do portraying people who don’t really exist. Vote up the actors you think pulled it off best.
- 1424 VOTESPhoto: Sony Pictures Releasing
Zombieland is only the most famous example of Bill Murray playing himself in a movie, as he also did so in Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 anthology film Coffee and Cigarettes and Space Jam way back in 1996. In regards to his appearance in the aforementioned undead extravaganza, Murray isn’t actually a zombie but merely makes himself up to look like one in order to travel outside his mansion unmolested by braineaters.
He even manages to make dying (after taking an accidental shotgun blast to the chest) funny. He shows up again at the end of the sequel, Zombieland: Double Tap, in a flashback to day zero of the Apocalypse. As he’s promoting his new movie, Garfield 3: Flabby Tabby, the zombie outbreak begins and he bashes various heads in, including that of an infected Al Roker.
- 2296 VOTESPhoto: USA Films
There’s a lot of weight on your shoulders when your name isn’t just on the poster, but also in the title of the movie itself. So John Malkovich deserves plenty of kudos for the three Academy Awards Being John Malkovich was nominated for, even if he himself didn't earn a nod. Spike Jonze directed the 1999 fantasy/comedy in which John Cusack happens upon a magic portal into the title character’s head.
It was a brave decision indeed to be front and center in such a risky and bizarre undertaking, and Malkovich reportedly was “half intrigued and half horrified” by the prospect. Thankfully things worked out, as the project received acclaim from critics such as Roger Ebert, who declared it the best film of the year.
- Photo: New Line Cinema
The artist formerly known as Doogie Howser, M.D. officially shed his nerdy image when he stole every scene in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. He then burned it to the ground in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.
As “NPH,” the maniacal, boozing, drug-gobbling, lady-mongering version of himself, Harris and his over-the-top lunacy guaranteed his subsequent casting as the womanizing Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother. On whether or not the NPH character could possibly get any more debauched, Harris stated, “I don't know, we may run out of drugs before we run out of sequels.”
- Photo: Lionsgate
There have been many ages of Cage over the course of the Oscar winner's decades-long career. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent came along in a moment when Cage's status was somewhere between reclamation and meme-ification, between genuine love of his work to the ironic kind. The movie fits that moment to a tee, and Cage is - as always - up for the challenge. Playing a satirical but kinda-close-to-home version of himself - not to mention occasional appearances by a younger (digitally de-aged) version who insists on his own (their own?) movie-star importance - Cage-as-Cage finds himself on the brink of obsolescence. Having just lost out on the proverbial dream role, and facing mounting pressure from his family to be more present and less career-focused, Cage is about to call it quits. But not before one last job - a birthday party appearance, with a price tag of $1 million, for a rich eccentric (read: presumptive international arms dealer) who happens to be a Nicolas Cage superfan. Like, “has a museum of Nicolas Cage swag in a locked vault on his private estate” superfan.
The evolving twist is that a movie about Nicolas Cage the actor gradually becomes a quintessential Nicolas Cage Movie, and Cage has to transform from down-on-his-luck thespian to real-life action hero over the course of a few days. Subterfuge, kidnapping, betrayal, and lots and lots of mercenaries with machine guns are prominently involved. And in the middle of it all is Nic Cage himself, embracing and deflecting the mockery that has come in the wake of his direct-to-video years, while showcasing the creative energy and idiosyncratic instincts that have become his calling card. That unbearable weight has been well-earned, but Cage the performer remains indelibly light on his feet.
- 5170 VOTESPhoto: Fox/Netflix
After the Rocky movies, Predator, and Happy Gilmore made him instantly recognizable in three completely different eras, Carl Weathers has reentered the public consciousness yet again as Greef Karga in The Mandalorian series. But don't let that make you forget that he was also in several seasons of the celebrated sitcom Arrested Development as a parody version of himself.
He appears as Tobias's acting coach, but his most noteworthy lessons come in the form of thrifty advice, such as how to get free refills at fast food restaurants and scam airlines using loopholes. He became an immediate fan favorite, with the running gag about him being outrageously cheap ranking highly in a show that’s jam-packed with them.
- Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing
The 2013 apocalypse comedy This Is the End was Seth Rogen’s first time directing a movie, but he had already accumulated plenty of Hollywood friends willing to show up in his project playing themselves. In addition to his frequent collaborators Jay Baruchel, James Franco, and Jonah Hill, Michael Cera plays a coked-up version of himself who likes hooking up in toilets and gets fatally perforated by a falling light pole.
Meanwhile, Rihanna gets her derrière rudely slapped by the aforementioned Cera prior to his demise, and Emma Watson swings an ax around. In terms of cameos, the film may not quite match the Sharknado franchise for sheer volume, but it can at least brag that all five of the Backstreet Boys appear singing in heaven.