When a person who’s known for something other than acting is given a small role or brief cameo in a movie, the expectations aren’t all that high. But sometimes, out of the blue, a non-actor delivers a knockout performance that outshines all of the fancy thespians in their midst. From sports stars to musicians to relatives of the filmmakers, these are the folks from outside the film industry who managed to make movie history.
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
“Lovable” was never one of the more common adjectives used to describe legendary professional wrestler André René Roussimoff, better known as André the Giant. It wasn’t, that is, until he appeared in Rob Reiner’s 1987 classic fantasy comedy, The Princess Bride.
Playing Fezzik the giant (naturally), André managed to steal every scene he was in with his surprising charm and kind nature. Luckily, he was able to get out of a wrestling commitment in Tokyo, or else the role might have gone to one of Reiner’s reported backup choices: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lou Ferrigno, or Carel Struycken (the guy who played Lurch in the 1991 version of The Addams Family).
- Age: Dec. at 47 (1946-1993)
- Photo: Universal Pictures
TV personality Bob Barker will mainly be remembered for guiding contestants through rounds of Plinko and Showcase Showdowns while hosting the long-running game show The Price Is Right. But in 1996, movie audiences saw that he could be funny, too, after watching him get into a lengthy fistfight with Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore.
As a bonus, he won an award for “Best Fight” from MTV and, much more importantly, the ratings for The Price Is Right went way up with younger viewers.
- Age: 96
- Birthplace: Darrington, Washington, United States of America
Bob Uecker In ‘Major League’Photo: Paramount Pictures
Before the sports comedy Major League came out in 1989, few outside the world of Major League Baseball knew that Bob Uecker was one of the most naturally hilarious people on the planet.
But after he played Cleveland Indians broadcaster Harry Doyle and delivered his “juuust a bit outside” line (which became one of the most unforgettable sports movie quotes of all time) the world discovered that the former Milwaukee Brewers catcher was remarkable for a lot more than just his “undistinguished” playing career.26134Scene stealer?
- Photo: Paramount Pictures
Casting basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as copilot Roger Murdock in the 1980 screwball comedy Airplane! was an odd decision to be sure, but it turned out to be an inspired one. Audiences were as surprised as the young boy was to see the Los Angeles Lakers center in the cockpit, and the punchline (that the real Kareem was impersonating a member of a flight crew for some reason) was crazier still.
And if you were wondering just how much of an impact that small role had, during an NPR interview, Kareem told the story about when he was on a European flight and the crew asked him to take a seat at the controls so they could say they took to the skies with the real Roger Murdock.
- Age: 73
- Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America