There are so many things that movie fans get excited about, but one of the true cinematic pleasures is catching a cameo that your stupid friends missed. We spot it. We look over to them. Did they know what they just saw? Maybe we make a comment to gauge their response. This is a test. You make the comment small so you’re not being a know-it-all, something like “Heh, Jimmy boy.” You then look to see their reaction. Do they acknowledge that they just saw Jim Carrey? No, they look at you like you’re crazy, and it becomes clear that they missed the cameo. You’ve now been invited to inform them. This is the dream, but it doesn’t always play out that way. So, we’ll give you another chance to shine.
Because cameos are so rarely missed. Because most cameos are very clear. You need more information to become the movie trivia person you want to be. Huge actors showing up in very small parts is not always part of the original film design. Some cameos are much more interesting than that. There have been so many incredible cameos over the years, ones that we remember for a lifetime. We’ve talked about some of the best a number of times. Well, this time, we want to look at the unplanned cameos. These are the cameos that sprung up last minute. In most cases, there is a small story attached to how the cameo came about. We want to pass that story on to you. Now, when your friends see the cameo, you’ll have additional information about it. You’ll be a god. We will acknowledge upfront that most of the time, a cameo describes an actor playing themselves. They are featured in a small scene and nothing more. In some cases, the actor plays a character but is left unnamed or very minor. These count as well. We will include a little bit of every category.
Here are 15 Famous Cameos That Were Completely Spontaneous.
15. Dustin Hoffman – The Holiday
In The Holiday, there’s a scene in which Jack Black is being Jack Black in a Blockbuster Video store. Classic. He’s going through movies and singing some of the scores. He then picks up The Graduate and sings “Mrs. Robinson,” informing Kate Winslet‘s character that the song was written for the movie. That’s when we catch a glimpse of Dustin Hoffman. Although the characters are oblivious that Hoffman is even in the store with them, Hoffman thinks that they’re singing the song because they noticed him. He has a chuckle and says, “I can’t go anywhere,” feeling pretty good about himself. The cameo is great. How it came about is equally great. Apparently, Hoffman was driving by the Blockbuster where they were filming. He stopped in and saw director Nancy Meyers, who he knows well, and they got to chatting. They then worked him in a cameo, threw in The Graduate bit, and put it in the final cut.
14. Matt Damon – EuroTrip
There’s a good chance that if you watched Eurotrip without knowing this bit of trivia, you spotted a Matt Damon lookalike and thought, what the hell? That guy looks exactly like Matt Damon? You probably convinced yourself that it wasn’t him because he was the lead singer of a random rock band in a random movie. But it was. It was Matt Damon. Here’s his (long) explanation of the inception-style cameo:
“So EuroTrip was written by three guys I went to college with, Alec Shaffer, Jeff Berg, and Dave Mandell…I was in Prague shooting The Brothers Grimm, we were in rehearsals, and I had a wig in that movie, and so Alec and Dave and Jeff were making EuroTrip and they said, ‘Will you come play this, you know, Howard Rollins kind of insane, bad version of a suburban, you know, punk band guy?’ And I said ‘Yea, I’m in Prague.’ So I showed up and I’m sitting there, and I’m like ‘I’m wearing a wig, just shave my head, let’s just go for it.’ And we did it and put a bunch of piercings all over. And ‘Scotty Doesn’t Know,’ the song, was actually written by one of my college roommates brothers, and in the band, one of my college roommates is actually in that backup band, Jason, is playing guitar in that group. So it was kind of a family affair.”
13. Cameron Diaz – Minority Report
When Steven Spielberg did a cameo for his buddy, Cameron Crowe, on Crowe’s film, Vanilla Sky (during the birthday party scene if you’re wondering), Crowe decided to return the favor. While Spielberg was shooting Minority Report, Crowe showed up to film his spot. Originally, he was going to be a homeless person of some sort, but since Crowe brought along a guest, Spielberg changed the cameo to a scene in a bus. The guest Crowe brought was Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise‘s co-star from Vanilla Sky. Maybe because she is so much more recognizable than Crowe, Spielberg had Diaz remain almost hidden behind Crowe and a bus seat. This is a very-easy-to-miss cameo if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
12. Bill Murray – Zombieland
Many film fans recognize Bill Murray‘s cameo in Zombieland as one of the best ever, but how it came about is very interesting. At first, the cameo was meant for Patrick Swayze. Unfortunately, before shooting, Swayze got sick and had to pull out. They then tried to get everyone and anyone. Matthew McConaughey got close to doing it, but he too backed out. The filmmakers then asked Woody Harrelson if he had any friends who would do it. It turns out, he did. Harrelson and Murray go way back and have worked together before (Kingpin), so he reached out to his pal and Murray agreed.
11. Cillian Murphy – Tron: Legacy
There’s a weird moment at the beginning of Tron: Legacy, when the big bad businessmen of ENCOM are all sitting around the boardroom table and talking. There at the table, we see Cillian Murphy. He’s briefly introduced as Edward Dillinger Jr., the son of the antagonist from the first film. Now, this short scene is all we get of Murphy and the role went uncredited. This wasn’t really all that spontaneous, though. The creators had a plan. This cameo was designed to lead into a future role, should they wish to take it there. Murphy could return as Dillinger Jr. and be the antagonist of a future sequel. If they don’t make that film, however, this is nothing more than a random cameo by a great actor.
10. Jimmy Buffet – Jurassic World
Maybe you’ve heard, but the man trying to save some margaritas during the attack in Jurassic World is none other than Jimmy Buffett. This cameo came as a result of a long friendship with producer Frank Marshall. The two friends, in Marshall’s words, “…give each other glimpses into the other’s world.” This means that Buffett appears in Marshall’s films from time to time, and Marshall goes on stage or helps with the Margaritaville restaurants. Buffett appears in the film and Margaritaville gets free advertising by appearing in Jurassic World.
9. Glenn Close – Warcraft
Most people are aware of Glenn Close‘s amazing cameo in Hook. She plays one of the pirates in costume and is almost unrecognizable. We wanted to highlight her neat little spot in Warcraft, though. This cameo, uncredited in the film (although the character name, Alodi, would later be added on IMDb), comes at the very end of the film. It all came about when Duncan Jones, the film’s director, simply asked Close if she would do the cameo. “I’m very fortunate that I’m very slowly but surely getting to a point in my career where I can invite people that I’m a huge fan of to sort of come and do things like that,” Jones said. “I had the chance to get Glenn Close to come in and do a cameo on this film… It’s just one of those little enjoyable luxuries of being a director on a movie is you get to work with the people you rally admire… She knew I was a fan of hers and she likes my movies and was willing to come and do a day of work with us.”
8. Daniel Craig – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Although Daniel Craig is unrecognizable as a stormtrooper in The Force Awakens and even though this news is well-known at this point, we felt it was necessary to include because it was spontaneous. It happened simply because Craig was nearby. “That Star Wars, most of them, are shot in Pinewood [Studios], which is where we shoot Bond,” Craig said. “Most of the crew on that were working on [Spectre], which was happening straight afterwards. I’m going to get him into trouble but Ben Dixon, who was second [assistant director], who I’ve known and worked with for a long time, is my liaison on set. And he was working on Star Wars and I had some meetings with him.” Apparently, Dixon was going on about his experience, recalls Craig, so he just asked him, “Can I be in it?” It worked. Craig got in a scene that week and even got a line, saying to Rey, “I’ll tighten those restraints, scavenger scum.”
7. Brad Pitt And Matt Damon – Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind
When you’re George Clooney, people do things for you whenever and wherever you need. When he was making his directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he envisioned a match game scene in which three male contestants responded to questions. Although the focus is all on the third contestant, the actors playing contestants one and two are shown in a quick pan shot. For these characters, rather than get no-name actors, Clooney reached out to his pals, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. The three had just completed Ocean’s Eleven, so we assume they struck a deal during that film.
6. Bruce Willis – Loaded Weapon
Bruce Willis‘ appearance in Loaded Weapon is not really a cameo since he played the character of John McClane from Die Hard. That means, technically, it’s a John McClane cameo. Either way, this little bit, in which McClane’s trailer is mistakenly destroyed in a scene like the one from Lethal Weapon, was thrown together as a favor for one of the producers on the film, David Willis. David Willis, as the name might clearly suggest, is actually Bruce’s brother. He was just looking out for family, which we could all agree is a nice thing for a brother to do.
5. Billy Crystal And Robin Williams – Friends
Even though this cameo is labeled as spontaneous, we don’t quite believe it. In the Friends episode “The One with the Ultimate Fighting,” Billy Crystal and Robin Williams appear in a funny little cameo, sharing the couch with the gang. The story goes that the two actors were at the studio or a neighboring one and stopped in. They were asked if they wanted to do a quick cameo since they were shooting a scene in Central Perk, and the comedy legends agreed. We’re suspicious of this spontaneity because the film Fathers’ Day, starring Crystal and Williams, opened the day after this episode aired. Clearly, there was some promotional work being done here. Oh well. The cameo is fun, and we’re glad it happened.
4. Ben Affleck – Curb Your Enthusiasm
In the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode “Officer Krupke,” there is one of the quickest cameos you could ever imagine by a star. In this case, the star was Ben Affleck. He says that he was driving by the film crew that day and stopped to see what it was. Larry David, the show’s star and director, said Affleck could jump in and cameo if he wanted. Affleck agreed and got involved. In the scene, the fire alarm goes off in Banana Republic and as shoppers file out, we can see that Affleck is one of them. That’s it. That’s Batman.
3. Bruce Campbell – The Quick And The Dead
Bruce Campbell‘s cameo in the criminally-underrated The Quick and the Dead didn’t even make the final cut. The only reason we’re including it is because the story attached to it is fantastic. The director of the film, Sam Raimi, and Bruce Campbell are long and loyal friends (see Evil Dead). When Raimi was having issues with an actor, Pat Hingle, he called Campbell for help. Campbell says that Hingle was pestering Raimi about his character, saying, “My character doesn’t do anything to defend my daughter. I would defend her… Aren’t you going to do anything like that?” Campbell says that Raimi then had a light bulb go off. “He concocted a whole scene he had no intention of using with me and Pat, where I come up to his daughter as the scummy guy and go, ‘Hey girly girl, you and me gonna do the Devil’s Dance!’” Campbell said. Hingle then got to defend his daughter by kicking Campbell. “Hingle walks away thinking that he’s the most influential actor ever,” Campbell said. “Sam turns to me and goes, ‘Well, were not even gonna process the film. Thanks Bruce.’ He did it just to shut an actor up.”
2. Tobey Maguire – Tropic Thunder
There were a few cameos in Tropic Thunder that stood out. But the fake trailer, “Satan’s Alley,” with Tobey Maguire is one of the best cameos we’ve seen. In it, Kirk Lazarus is credited as the five-time Academy Award winner, while Maguire is listed as the MTV Movie Awards Best Kiss winner, which is an award he did actually win for Spider-Man. Maguire, being the good sport he is, did this cameo as a personal favor to his friend, Ben Stiller, and his former co-star, Robert Downey Jr. (Wonder Boys).
1. Ewan McGregor – A Million Ways To Die In The West
There are so many cameos in Seth MacFarlane films. Over the years of creating Family Guy, MacFarlane has built up a load of friendships, but the Ewan McGregor cameo in A Million Ways to Die in the West, one of the best scenes in the film, was not MacFarlane’s doing. It was Charlize Theron, the most beautiful woman in the planet, who secured it. McGregor was shooting Janes Got a Gun nearby so he stopped by. Theron saw him and said, “Do you want to be in our movie?” It worked out because, as Theron recalls, “He was doing a Western, so he had the face. He was already in hair and makeup for his movie, so we just threw him in.” The scene is incredible. After Neil Patrick Harris‘ character mocks MacFarlane and the crowd starts laughing, MacFarlane questions the bystanders about why they’re laughing, and McGregor’s character gets featured.
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