The beauty of being a director is that you can get killer screen time without the hassle of actually knowing how to act. Being a good director, however, is knowing not to haphazardly stick yourself in your films – at least not unless you’re Spike Lee or Woody Allen. Really it’s all about identifying your limitations.
So here are some neat ways that a director opted to show up in their film without taking the spotlight at the same time. These are creative little cameos that you might never notice in a million years of watching.
10. Stanley Kubrick Voices Murphy in Full Metal Jacket
This one appears to be a topic of debate. Even the IMDb trivia page only says this is probably true – which is pretty amazing coming from one of the least substantial sources of movie trivia. It does sound like Kubrick though – not that I’m an expert or anything.
Here’s the scene. Right near the ending, Cowboy is radioing in for support and supposedly it’s Kubrick on the other end of that communication. While there seems to be debate about other cameos the director may have made in his films – this one does appear to be more confirmed than the rest, along with two brief on-screen appearances in Eyes Wide Shut and his first film Day Of The Fight.
Overall he’s like the Bigfoot of director cameos – a lot of rumors but very little factual information.
9. Bryan Singer is the Real Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects
Probably less of a cameo-by-choice and more of a cameo-by-necessity, Bryan Singer was working on a budget of about $6m and found himself working with limited sets and time. So at some point in this production he found himself shooting in his own backyard. He shot 30 close up shots in this manner, including Keyser Soze’s hands and feet as he leaves the boat in the opening scene. So Singer just stood in for the infamous character.
It’s funny how quickly and clumsily you can bang out a classic so long as the script is good. This entire shoot took 35 days to do – often marred with various unexpected surprises along the way such as the actors’ inability to keep straight faces during the lineup scene or Benicio del Toro’s decision to go with a less-than-understandable speech style. All of the little imperfections in the end coming together to make the film seem a little more organic and natural – like a woodcarving or a drunken homemade tattoo.
8. Carol Reed as Harry Lime’s Fingers in The Third Man
This is no doubt another case of necessity over choice – after all, if you got Orson Welles on your set you don’t waste time with shooting his fingers, especially since he’d be a voodoo zombie at this point. And no doubt Zombie Welles would be as difficult to work with as when he was alive.
The story is that when Reed was shooting in Vienna he had pretty much prepared to shoot around Welles’ reluctance, enlisting then-assistant (and later Bond director) Guy Hamilton to double for any of the shadowy shots of Harry Lime. When Welles showed up he was instantly reluctant in playing the role, especially turned off by the thought of running around in the sewers. However when Reed coaxed him into doing just one shot, it was apparently enough to make him enthusiastic enough to continue on.
It really goes to show that getting down into the sewer is most of the battle – once you’re down there it’s a blast, kids.
7. Steven Spielberg Watches The News in The Lost World
While Spielberg has no problem showing up in Vanilla Sky or Austin Powers or Gremlins, he doesn’t seem to appear very often in his own films. He did provide the voice of the radio operator in Jaws, but other than that nothing else really comes to mind.
His appearance in the second Jurassic Park is so hard to notice that even when you know it’s there you still have trouble seeing it. It’s right at the end when Sarah and Malcolm are all dinosaured out and slumped in front of the TV, and for just a moment in the reflection you see the bearded wonder right in between them. They say he is eating popcorn as well – but you can’t really tell just from looking at it.
6. James Cameron Can’t Stop Talking in All Of His Films
It’s kind of a bummer that James Cameron apparently has nothing but Avatar on his mind because, as we’ve seen in the past, he’s really good at making movies that aren’t Avatar. Like, when you think about it, he’s been consistently fun as a director up until he started giving us big blue CGI cats – and even that wasn’t horrible, right? But now that he’s done the naked aliens, it would be nice to see him move on to another action film or something.
Anyway, that’s not the point – the point is that, as that montage shows, Cameron apparently can’t stop talking in all of his movies. Dude has to stick his voice in somewhere – whether it be a hotel receptionist in The Terminator or the goddamn Queen Alien in Aliens. He is even the T1000 dying at the end of T2.
But hey – if you had a chance to voice a killer robot or egg laying xenomorph you’d take it to – so you can’t really fault him for it. After all, there are plenty of other things to fault Cameron for at this point.
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