Creators who couldn’t resist popping up in their own creations…
Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense, of course, but also the master of the cameo. But who are SF & fantasy’s greatest Hitchcocks? We’ve collected together 33 of the genres greatest examples of creators appearing in their own creations, some quite famous, others not so obvious. It’s not exhaustive: we had problems finding some examples we wanted to use. We were never entirely sure who Terry Gilliam was in Brazil , or where William Gibson appeared in The X-Files episode “First Person Shooter” (hell, we listened to the whole DVD commentary and Chris Carter doesn’t even mention it!). So feel free to suggest more examples!
Ed Bye was one of Red Dwarf ’s most prolific and long-running directors, and he finally made it in front of the camera for the final episode of the show‘s original BBC run, “Only The Good…” Not that his mum would recognise him. He plays the Grim Reaper who comes to claim Rimmer. But Rimmer has other ideas, narrowly avoiding Death by kicking him in the balls.
Frank Miller didn’t create Daredevil, but (as with Batman) he did reinvent him to great popular acclaim during his acclaimed on the title. So he has every right to appear in the Mark Steven Johnson-directed movie, even if it is only long enough to get stabbed in the forehead by Bullseye, who then nicks his motorbike. Miller also pops up in RoboCop 2 (for which he wrote the script), Sin City and The Spirit (both of which he directed).
When John Hurt first peers into the alien egg in Alien , he can see something moving about inside. An alien embryo? Nah, director Ridley Scott’s hands inside some special gloves.
The X-Files creator had already appeared in his own show as one of Scully’s interrogators in season two’s “Anaaszi”. There was a long gap before he popped up again, popping popcorn in his mouth while watching a corny movie in “Hollywood AD”. The episode was, in fact, a cameo hotspot: David Duchovny’s then-wife Tea Leoni, Minnie Driver, David Duchovny’s dog Blue, X-Files assistant director Barry Thomas and X-Files visual effects producer Bill Millar also show up.
Singing along with the cast of Buffy in the show’s infamous musical episode were writer/directors David Fury and Marti Noxon (who also exercised their pipes as newscasters in Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog ). Fury tunefully bemoaned his mustard-stained shirt, while Noxon performed a mini aria about her parking ticket. Fury later turned up in the Angel episode “Smile Time” as a puppeteer killed by his own creation.
Robert J Sawyer was the author of the book on which the one-season wonder Flash Forward was based. He turned up in the pilot and produced the kind of expression you usually only see used by actors on CBBC shows.
Director Sam Raimi appears on camera so often you wonder if he’s actually a frustrated thesp. You can see him in the John Landis films Spies Like Us and Innocent Blood , and in the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing and Hudsucker Proxy , not to mention Maniac Cop (with old mucker Bruce Campbell), and the TV movie versions of The Stand and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth , amongst many others. He’s also appeared in nearly all of his own movies, including each of the Evil Dead films: as a hitchhiking fisherman and the voice of the Evil Force in the Evil Dead ; as a medieval soldier in Evil Dead II ; and as a knight in sweatshirt and trainers in Army Of Darkness .
Comic book legend and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola turns up in the first of Guillermo del Toro’s movies based on his red-skinned creation, playing a bloke dressed as a knight who comes face to face with the monstrous Sammael.
Of course, League Of Gentleman ’s Mark Gatiss had already appeared in Doctor Who as Professor Lazarus in “The Lazarus Experiment”. But this counts as a proper Hitchcock cameo because Gatiss actually wrote “Victory Of Daleks”. He was then invited to provide the mock WWII film voiceover for the wonderfully ludicrous spitfires-in-space scene. To his immense joy this meant he got to utter the immortal lines “Broadsword to Danny Boy” which he pilfered from Where Eagles Dare .
Okay, we’re stretching it a bit here, because X-Files writer and story editor Darin Morgan only technically wrote his first episode for the show after he’d appeared in it (one week after to be precise) but hey, the guy played a frickin’ monster on the show! If that isn’t worth mentioning, we don’t know what is.
Bruce Timm and Paul Dini have been the main creative forceds behind all the various acclaimed cartoon Batman shows since Batman: The Animated Series . In 2009 Dini wrote an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold called “Legends of the Dark Mite” in which appeared alongside Timm – in animated form – at a comic book convention scene, where he was in Harley Quinn cosplay, and Bruce Timm was wearing a Joker costume.
The double-headed Lost monster that became know as Darlton popped up in a number of eclectic capacities on their own show. Carlton Cuse appears briefly as a news anchor on television during Jack’s first flash forward (“Through the Looking Glass, Part 1”) and in “Numbers” as the news reporter who says “That's right Mary-Jo, because this is the sixteenth week without a winner.” Damon delivered some air pilot babble (voice only) in "Through the Looking Glass” and also claims that some shots of John Locke’s hand flicking switches in The Pearl station may have actually been his hands.
Considering stop motion special FX maestro Ray Harryhausen seemed to spend most of his youth sticking himself (and his dog) into his own amateur films, it’s a shame he largely stopped this trend when he started making films professionally. Maybe the directors didn’t like his acting. Or his dog. Even for his one appearance on the big screen in one of his own movies – in 20 Million Miles To Earth – he’s got his back to the camera because he’s feeding an elephant. The grand master of 20th century did make a couple of other cameos, though, outside of his own output. He had a brief appearance – with lines and everything – in the remake of Mighty Joe Young (he’d worked on the original), provided the voice of a Polar Bear Cub in Elf , and made cameos in Spies Like Us , Beverley Hills Cop III and Burke And Hare .
When X-Men 2 director Bryan Singer turned up wheeling Professor X into Magneto’s plastic prison, it wasn’t his first role. A bit of a sci-fi geek, Singer managed to nab a cameo in Star Trek: Nemesis the year before as one of the bridge crew. Bet he wished he hadn’t bothered when he saw it. He’s pretty much remained out of shot since.
While developing The Incredibles , director Brad Bird provided the voice of diminutive fashion designer Edna Mode for a temporary, in-progress soundtrack. Then the film’s makers couldn’t find anybody they preferred, so he nabbed the job for the final movie as well. Allegedly actress Lily Tomlin was considered for the part, but turned it down when she heard Brad Bird’s vocal performance, saying, “What do you need me for? You got it already.”
Charlaine Harris, author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries – on which True Blood is based – turned up in Merlotte‘s bar at the end of season two to have drink and a chinwag with Sam. But she had already had a presence of sorts in the bar; she revealed on her website, “There’s a picture of Alan and me behind the bar. There was also a picture of my daughter’s softball team on one wall for much of season one, though it’s down now. I figured Sam would support the local teams.”
An extra had been cast to play the security guard who meets the then brand-new Doctor Who Jon Pertwee at the underground entrance of UNIT in “Spearhead From Space”. But, apparently, he was rubbish. So rubbish that exasperated producer Derrick Sherwin dismissed the guy and decided to play the role himself… in a just slightly too tight uniform.
In the final episode of Babylon 5 , the eponymous space station is abandoned and blown up. And the man playing the technician who flips the switch that turns off all the lights on Babylon 5 prior to it demolition is none other than the show’s creator J Michael Straczynski. Poignant. Sniff.
Stephen King truly is the Hitchcock of horror; after a slow start, these days he's more likely than not to pop up in person in films and shows based on his own work. Ironically, though, his first movie cameo wasn’t actually in a Stephen King adaptation; he shows up in director George Romero’s Knightriders . However, this cameo only came about because he was, at the time, working with Romero on the script for the anthology film Creepshow . King must have impressed Romero, who then cast him in a fully-fledged role in Creepshow . King played the lead in the segment “The Lonesome Death Of Jody Verrill” in which he slowly turns into a vegetable monster. King’s son, Joe Hill, also makes a cameo in the film as the young boy who owns the Creepshow comic.
The Oscar not forthcoming, King has scaled back his performances since to more fleeting appearances. See if you can spot him in Creepshow 2 , Pet Sematary , Golden Years , Sleepwalkers , The Stand , The Langoliers , Thinner , The Shining (TV version), Storm Of The Century , Rose Red and Kingdom Hospital .
Little did the Doctor Who production team of the time realise what shockwaves they would send through fandom when they prepared this little gag. The Fourth Doctor is a mental battle with Morbius, another Time Lord who has been resurrected in a Frankenstein-style, cobbled-together body. As they do battle, images flash up on the contraption between them. We see an image of Jon Pertwee, then Patrick Troughton, then William Hartnell… Okay, so we’re traveling back through the Doctor previous regenerations. In which case, who’s the next guy whose face pops up? And the next? And the next? And the one after that? Oh blimey! Maybe there were more Doctors before Hartnell!? He wasn’t the first?!
Except, of course, there are two simpler explanations. The first is that we’ve seeing previous incarnations of Morbius, not the Doctor. The second is that we seeing various members of the Doctor Who production team getting their mugs on screen: George Gallacio (production unit manager), Robert Holmes (script editor), Graeme Harper (production assistant), Douglas Camfield (director), Philip Hinchcliffe (producer), Christopher Baker (production assistant), Robert Banks Stewart (scriptwriter) and Christopher Barry (director).
Author Douglas Adams was popping up all over the shop in the TV version of his most famous creation:
In episode 1:
He’s one of the drinkers in the background of the pub.
In episode 2: He’s the man who walks naked into the ocean (the original actor for the part called in sick, so Adams froze his balls off instead); the Guide entry on “The Worst Poetry” used Adams’s likeness as the basis for the illustration of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings; in the future Encyclopedia Galactica, he makes a cameo as one of the Sirius Cybernetic Marketing Division members.
In episode 3: An image in a guide entry on “an important and popular fact” (along with animator Rod Lord, who provided a self-portrait).
In the film version of Hitchhiker’s a painting of Douglas Adams and his wife Jane Belson appears on the Heart of Gold.
When Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) has her nightmare about giving birth to a maggot, the obstetrician who delivers the wriggly baby is none other than director David Cronenberg in a surgical mask. It’s a role he played again in Dead Ringers . Was he living out some fantasy or other? He’s been less keen on appearing in his own films since (though his voice can be heard in Crash ) but he’s had some relatively meaty roles in other films and TV series, including Nightbreed , Jason X and Alias .
Groening has managed to sneak himself into Futurama and The Simpsons on numerous occasions. His head-in-a-jar is virtually a recurring character in Futurama , but we also loved his cheeky Simpsons appearance at a comic book convention where, of course, he’s famous only as the creator of Futurama .
Pulling a JM Straczynski (as it has never been known before) Battlestar Galactica exec producer Ron Moore waited until the final episode of his show to put in an appearance. He’s seen reading a National Geographic magazine article on the discovery of the bones of Hera, Helo and Athena’s child.
When Anakin goes to meet Palpatine at Coruscant’s Galaxies Opera House he passes none other than George Lucas on the way in. Lucas is playing a character called Baron N Papanoida, who later turned up in animated form in Star Wars: The Clone Wars , though he didn’t look much like Lucas and certainly didn’t sound like him (Corey Burton provided the voice).
When Indy, Short Round and Willie arrive the airport for a quick getaway at the start of Temple Of Doom , the place is chock full of cameos. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Kathleen Kennedy are all huddled together dressed as priests, while Bill Murray also walks across the screen. Spielberg was no stranger to Hitchcock-style cameos and began early with an appearance in his 1972 TV movie Something Evil . He also provided a voice in Jaws , and later appeared as “Man In Electric Chair” in Gremlins (which he produced) and “Popcorn Eating Man” in The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 . You can also spot him in The Blues Brothers , Men In Black , Vanilla Sky and Austin Powers In Goldmember .
M Night Shyamalan started out casting himself in small but key roles in his movies, then moved to more cameo-style appearances (he’s a mere voice in The Happening ), before ultimately deciding that The Last Airbender was bad enough already without having him appear in it.
David Lynch has made surprisingly few appearances in his own projects, but one of the times he did, he certainly made the most of it. He played FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole in six episodes of Twin Peaks (one as a voice on the phone only) and briefly in the film spin-off Fire Walk With Me . He was Agent Cooper’s hard-of-hearing, loud-voiced boss who spoke in code a lot of the time, and Lynch looked like he was having a while of a time playing him. Lynch had previously played an uncredited spice worker in Dune , and later became the voice of Gus the bartender in various episodes of The Cleveland Show .
Peter Jackson is a serial offender when it comes to cameos.
Braindead : A mortician's assistant.
Heavenly Creatures : A bum who's kissed by Juliet Hulme.
The Frighteners : A biker who Frank Bannister bumps into.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring : A drunken, carrot-chomping yokel in Bree.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers : Throwing a spear during the Battle of Helm's Deep.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King : The boatswain of a corsair ship. He is only seen very briefly in the theatrical version but you can see a lot more of him in the extended DVD version, where he is accidentally killed by one of Legolas’s arrows. Jackson also acts as an arm stand-in for Sean Astin for the scene where Sam is watching Shelob wrapping Frodo in webbing.
King Kong : A biplane gunner attacking Kong in New York (the director of the original 1933 King Kong , Merian C Cooper, performed an identical cameo in his version).
The Lovely Bones : A customer in a camera store playing with a camera.
Sir Terry has appeared in all three the Sky TV adaptations of his Discworld books so far, and we suspect it’s a trend that’s set to continue; it’s amazing how comfortably Pratchett slips into the world he created. In The Hogfather he played The Toymaker; in The Colour Of Magic he was Astrozoologist 2; and in Going Postal he was a postman, with a magnificent Captain Birdseye beard.
Michael G Wilson may not be as recognisable as some of the others names in the upper echelons of this list, but the long-time Bond producer deserves a high placing purely for being so prolific. In fact, for Bond aficionados, Wilson-spotting became part of the fun of watching each new film. He truly is the Hitchcock of the Bonds.
Goldfinger : Soldier at Fort Knox (at this point he wasn’t even producing the films, but he was the stepson of Cubby Broccoli, who was).
The Spy Who Loved Me : Sat in the row behind Anya and Fekkesh at the pyramid show.
Moonraker : In the background when Bond steps out of his gondola when arriving in Venice (he’s with Cubby and Dana Broccoli). Later, he appears as a NASA controller.
For You Eyes Only : A Greek priest in the church where Bond meets with Q.
Octopussy : A member of the Soviet security council; He’s also on the tour boat that saves Bond when he’s escaping from Khan’s palace.
A View To A Kill : You can hear his voice over loudspeaker when Bond and Stacey use the lift in the San Francisco City Hall.
The Living Daylights : In the audience when Bond and Kara go to the opera in Vienna.
Licence To Kill : Voice heard at the start of the pre-credits sequence saying, “If they hurry, they might just be able to grab the bastard.”
GoldenEye : One of the members of the Russian security council (is he supposed to be the same character as in Octopussy ?)
Tomorrow Never Dies : Plays Tom Wallace, vice president of CMGN in charge of special projects, seen in a video conference with Carver. He’s instructed to blackmail the US President.
The World Is Not Enough : Stood in the doorway of the private gaming room at Zukovsky's casino.
Die Another Day : In his first credited role he plays General Chandler in the US situation room in South Korea. He can also be seen earlier in the film in Cuba, leaning against a car as Bond crosses a street.
Casino Royale : Wilson’s biggest role so far, credited again. He plays the chief of police in Prague, and Bond, Mathis and Vesper discuss his character
Quantum Of Solace : Back to uncredited anonymity, as Wilson is demoted to “Man Sitting in Chair in Haitian Hotel Lobby”.
Whedon hasn’t done too many cameo. He was the voice of a newscaster in Buffy ’s “I, Robot… You, Jane” and “man at funeral” in Firefly’s “The Message”. He also landed a small speaking role in Veronica Mars after praising the series to high heaven on the internet. But the reason he wholeheartedly deserves such a high position in this countdown is for his Angel cameo in “Through The Looking Glass” – a single appearance of such breathtaking quality it’s a clear case of once seen, never forgotten. With Angel and co off over the rainbow in Pylea – the fantasy homeland of Lorne – Whedon dons shaggy wig and green make-up to perform Numfar’s ( Monty Python -esque) Dance Of Joy. A lo, a YouTube fad was born.
Surely the number one position was never in doubt? Marvel Comics overlord Stan Lee has turned cameos into an art form, and you actually feel disappointed if he doesn’t pop up in a Marvel-based superhero flick (such as X-Men 2 , X-Men: First Class , Ghost Rider and any of the Punisher films, though that may have been a lucky escape). His screen career kicked off as narrator for the early ’80s Spider-Man and Hulk animated series, but his first on-screen appearance was as a jury member in the TV movie The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk . It was with the first X-Men film (in which he played a hot dog vendor) that the now signature cameos began in earnest, which so far include:
Spider-Man : Man at fair
Daredevil : Man reading newspaper while crossing street
Hulk : Security guard (alongside Lou Ferrigno, the actor who played the Hulk in the TV series)
Spider-Man 2 : Man dodging debris
Fantastic Four : Postman Willy Lumpkin (a character from the early comics, so Stan has actually played one of his own creations)
X-Men : The Last Stand : Man with hosepipe malfunction in the opening sequence
Spider-Man 3 : Man in Times Square
Fantastic Four 2: Rise Of The Silver Surfer : Our favourite Lee cameo, because it’s based on what happened in the original comics. In the film, Lee is turned away from the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm; the same thing happened in the comic way back in the ’60s, except that Fantastic Four artist Jack Kirby was refused entry as well.
The Incredible Hulk : Man who opens fridge to glug down contaminated drink
Iron Man 2:
Tony Stark mistakes him for Hugh Hefner
Thor : Driver (“Stan The Man”) who tries to dislodge Mjolnir using his pick-up truck.
He’s also confirmed that we’ll be seeing him in Captain America: The First Avenger and Amazing Spider-Man , and we’d be gobsmacked if he doesn’t pop up in The Avengers . Excelsior!