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Playing Yourself!


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I get a kick out of movies which have bits with people playing themselves. Of course the sine qua non for such films has to be good old Bob Mathias in "The Bob Mathias Story". I used to use it as a trivia question with so-called film buffs to see if they were into the oddball things that are not for the normal fan. Asking the question "Who played Bob Mathias in "The Bob Mathias Story" can often separate the men from the boys, particularly if one is not a fan of sports movies or knows little about the Olympics or have never had the immense joy of seeing the film. Having read a book on Bob, when I was a teenager [mostly because he was quite fetching looking] I remember Bob was from Tulare, California, had really big feet which some say helped him win medals in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics and he had the ability to fall asleep on a whim, between events which might have helped his stamina. But back to the topic, the parts in films that are just teensy weensy with people like Babe Ruth playing himself [who else could he  play...Mickey Rooney's uncle maybe?] are the ones I am looking to hear about. Whether it be another movie star, or a famous person in sports, or music, or politics of whatever, I'd like to hear about your favorite auto-acting personages. Thanks for any submissions!

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There is always Ed Sullivan as "himself" in The Singing Nun. When that movie came out Brendan Gill reviewed it for the New Yorker confessing that he had not even seen the movie. In that review, he noted that Ed Sullivan appeared as "himself and not as a singing bishop". He concluded the review by saying something like "The Church has endured much these 2000 years. This too will pass."

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Although it's a more modern movie "Zombieland" (2009) I love Bill Murray playing himself  made up like a zombie in order to scare off real zombies, scavengers or zombie hunters. When it's revealed that he is still human it is a very funny bit in this movie. He also does a scene after the closing credits with Woody Harrelson (who plays one of the leads in the movie--a character called "Tallahassee") where they re-enact a scene from "Caddyshack." Murray says" In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Satre, au revoir Gopher." It's a great ending and Murray is very good at making fun of himself in this cameo.

 

Tallahassee: Bill Murray, you're a zombie?

[Wichita hits Bill in his back with a golf club] 

Bill Murray : [cries in pain]  Ow, I'm on fire! Ouch!

Tallahassee : You're not a zombie, you're talking and... You're okay?

Bill Murray : The hell I am.

Wichita : I'm sorry. I didn't know it was... It was "you" you.

Tallahassee : Are you...? What's with the get-up?

Bill Murray : Oh, I do it to blend in. You know. Zombies don't mess with other zombies. Buddy of mine, makeup guy, he showed me how to do this. Corn starch. You know, some berries, a little licorice for the ladies. Suits my lifestyle, you know. I like to get out and do stuff. Just played nine holes on the Riviera. Just walked on. Nobody there.

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1 hour ago, Thenryb said:

There is always Ed Sullivan as "himself" in The Singing Nun. When that movie came out Brendan Gill reviewed it for the New Yorker confessing that he had not even seen the movie. In that review, he noted that Ed Sullivan appeared as "himself and not as a singing bishop". He concluded the review by saying something like "The Church has endured much these 2000 years. This too will pass."

OMG! Ed Sullivan as himself is like having a stiff come alive out of the coffin. Great choice and thanks for submitting.

 

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52 minutes ago, marcar said:

Although it's a more modern movie "Zombieland" (2009) I love Bill Murray playing himself  made up like a zombie in order to scare off real zombies, scavengers or zombie hunters. When it's revealed that he is still human it is a very funny bit in this movie. He also does a scene after the closing credits with Woody Harrelson (who plays one of the leads in the movie--a character called "Tallahassee") where they re-enact a scene from "Caddyshack." Murray says" In the immortal words of Jean-Paul Satre, au revoir Gopher." It's a great ending and Murray is very good at making fun of himself in this cameo.

 

Tallahassee: Bill Murray, you're a zombie?

[Wichita hits Bill in his back with a golf club] 

Bill Murray : [cries in pain]  Ow, I'm on fire! Ouch!

Tallahassee : You're not a zombie, you're talking and... You're okay?

Bill Murray : The hell I am.

Wichita : I'm sorry. I didn't know it was... It was "you" you.

Tallahassee : Are you...? What's with the get-up?

Bill Murray : Oh, I do it to blend in. You know. Zombies don't mess with other zombies. Buddy of mine, makeup guy, he showed me how to do this. Corn starch. You know, some berries, a little licorice for the ladies. Suits my lifestyle, you know. I like to get out and do stuff. Just played nine holes on the Riviera. Just walked on. Nobody there.

Murray is always fun to watch as himself or as anyone. I always think of him watching the soap opera in "Tootsie" and saying something like "That is one nutty hospital."

Fabulous choice and thanks!

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Off hand I can think of

MUHAMMAD ALI  as himself when he was Cassius Clay in REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT.

RED SKELTON as himself getting refused credit in a casino in the original OCEAN'S ELEVEN.

JERRY LEWIS doing his own cameo in THE BELLBOY.

Sepiatone

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What if you played yourself in a movie and people thought you were unconvincing?

Shirley MacLaine starred as herself in a TV mini-series made from one of her memoirs.

Robert Q. Lewis plays himself as a TV interviewer in An Affair To Remember.

Marshall McLuhan makes a memorable appearance in Annie Hall.

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Many a person I have met always claim that Jack Nicholson never plays anyone but himself, which I don't think is a fair assessment at all.

It is true that in the 80's he started giving more and more over-the-top performances in a slew of films, but during the early to mid 70's, he was quite capable of giving nuanced, realistic performances (CHINATOWN is the best example of this). And even during the 1980's to early 2000's he was still able to tone it down and play normal, everyday people with flaws (IRONWEED, THE PLEDGE and ABOUT SCHMIDT) come to mind.

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15 minutes ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

Many a person I have met always claim that Jack Nicholson never plays anyone but himself, which I don't think is a fair assessment at all.

It is true that in the 80's he started giving more and more over-the-top performances in a slew of films, but during the early to mid 70's, he was quite capable of giving nuanced, realistic performances (CHINATOWN is the best example of this). And even during the 1980's to early 2000's he was still able to tone it down and play normal, everyday people with flaws (IRONWEED, THE PLEDGE and ABOUT SCHMIDT) come to mind.

Nicholson is one of my top 3 or 4 favorite actors, but he could get lazy and phone in some performances. He seemed to stop caring as much as he got older, which is true for a lot of stars, and even others that I like a lot, such as Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino. Jack needed a good director and/or to be passionate and invested in the project in some way. But even with the proper direction, he could still be too over the top, such as in The Departed.

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4 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Nicholson is one of my top 3 or 4 favorite actors, but he could get lazy and phone in some performances. He seemed to stop caring as much as he got older, which is true for a lot of stars, and even others that I like a lot, such as Robert DeNiro or Al Pacino. Jack needed a good director and/or to be passionate and invested in the project in some way. But even with the proper direction, he could still be too over the top, such as in The Departed.

I actually love his performance in THE DEPARTED, he wasn't any more over the top in there than he was in say, THE SHINING, BATMAN, A FEW GOOD MEN, or THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK.

In truth, I really do enjoy his 'crazy' performances as much as his more natural ones (though I cannot stand GOIN' SOUTH, his character was too obnoxious for my taste). But I agree he usually does his best work when working with the right director or really cares about the film he's working on.

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11 hours ago, Thenryb said:

There is always Ed Sullivan as "himself" in The Singing Nun. When that movie came out Brendan Gill reviewed it for the New Yorker confessing that he had not even seen the movie. In that review, he noted that Ed Sullivan appeared as "himself and not as a singing bishop". He concluded the review by saying something like "The Church has endured much these 2000 years. This too will pass."

Ed was also the star of his own "really big shoe" in 1963's Bye Bye Birdie.

And, despite supposedly playing a character named "Roger Murdock" the co-pilot in 1980's Airplane, it is ultimately revealed that it's actually NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after little Joey recognizes his true identity and tells him that while he thinks he's great, his dad says he doesn't work hard enough on defense.

(...and to which Roger, ahem, I mean Kareem then replies, "Yeah?! Well tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes, kid!")

 

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Bill Murray's bit in Zombieland is maybe the greatest "playing yourself" appearance of all time. Not to give away his fate, but when he's asked if he has any regrets, he considers for a moment, then answers, "Garfield?". Ha ha ha. Wonder how the people behind that film felt about that!

Someone just noted on the Chevy Chase thread that Bob Hope very briefly appeared as himself in Spies Like Us. Even though he lived almost another 20 years, that was his final film appearance.

A few others:

It appears from the trailer that Michael Cera plays himself in the new Molly's Game.

Of course, John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich.

Neil Patrick Harris in the Harold & Kumar movies.

Bob Barker in Happy Gimore.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. They're shown filming a sequel to Good Will Hunting!

Those are all examples from the last 30 years or so. I'm sure there are lots of older ones too.

Edit: I just thought of two from the '70s seconds after posting the above. Natalie Wood as herself in The Candidate and Elliot Gould as himself in Nashville.

 

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10 hours ago, Bethluvsfilms said:

Many a person I have met always claim that Jack Nicholson never plays anyone but himself, which I don't think is a fair assessment at all.

 

Maybe not.  But plenty have also said the same about JOHN WAYNE.

Sepiatone

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1 hour ago, Sepiatone said:

Maybe not.  But plenty have also said the same about JOHN WAYNE.

Sepiatone

And I have also heard the same grumblings about Cary Grant, Tom Hanks, James Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, etc. over the years as well.

i think because they demonstrate the same kind of persona in a lot of their films it's easy to dismiss their performances of just playing themselves or the same role over and over again, when I think it's a bit more complex than that.

I think it has a lot do with where the story takes the characters and how the characters react to certain situations that distinguishes the people they play.

 

 

 

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23 hours ago, Thenryb said:

There is always Ed Sullivan as "himself" in The Singing Nun. When that movie came out Brendan Gill reviewed it for the New Yorker confessing that he had not even seen the movie. In that review, he noted that Ed Sullivan appeared as "himself and not as a singing bishop". He concluded the review by saying something like "The Church has endured much these 2000 years. This too will pass."

Ed Sul-li-VAN! played his TV self in Bye Bye Birdie, also, didn't he?

And while a list of movies where Jay Leno makes late-night monologue jokes about our fictional character in the news is too long to mention, why was the first thing that occurred to me seeing the title was Kurt Vonnegut writing college essays for Rodney Dangerfield's son in "Back to School"?

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16 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Edit: I just thought of two from the '70s seconds after posting the above. Natalie Wood as herself in The Candidate and Elliot Gould as himself in Nashville.

 

Julie Christie also plays herself in Nashville.

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And Martin Scorsese proving his unrecognized talent for self-deprecating comedy in Albert Brooks' "The Muse":
"I'm remaking Raging Bull, only it's a really thin angry boxer!...'Thin and angry', can you see it?"

(Although not as funny as his American Express commercial:

 

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Watching today's showing of Noir Alley, which was "Red Light" (1949) and I noticed Ken Murray playing himself as a nightclub owner/producer in a place called "Ken Murray's Blackouts". I thought to myself, wait a minute this is the guy from "Hollywood My Home Town" and "Hollywood Home Movies", which have played occasionally on TCM. He was playing himself in "Red Light."

So I looked him up on IMDB and he seems to have actually made a career out of playing himself. He's got 56 credits of films, tv shows, talk shows, guest appearances etc. in which he just played himself.

He's not a great actor but you remember his face and he seems to be one of the King of this Category. He actually received a special Oscar for "novel and entertaining use of the medium" in 1947. He started out in vaudeville and then transitioned into playing himself and making his home movies.

He doesn't have much talent, but he made a career out of just being himself.

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Sunset Blvd is full of people playing themselves.

Cecil B DeMille plays himself and gives Norma Desmond her close-up. 

Hedda Hopper also plays herself in this film.

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27 minutes ago, speedracer5 said:

Sunset Blvd is full of people playing themselves.

Cecil B DeMille plays himself and gives Norma Desmond her close-up. 

Hedda Hopper also plays herself in this film.

True enough. In addition to those is Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson (whoever she is).

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On 1/6/2018 at 7:38 AM, sewhite2000 said:

It appears from the trailer that Michael Cera plays himself in the new Molly's Game.

Cera apparently is playing a amalgam of celebrities, but not himself. The first-time director Aaron Sorkin didn't want to use real names for the picture.

Lucille Ball played herself in the 1943 musical "Best Foot Forward," in which she accepted a military academy cadet's invitation to a big dance. The film featured the last appearance of Virginia Weidler and the first by Stanley Donen. 

 

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This is the End (2013) has the conceit that all of the characters in the film are playing themselves. James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson all star, with a celebrity-laden party scene early on also featuring Michael Cera, Rihanna, Emma Watson, Channing Tatum, etc.

Cera plays "himself" as a drug-addled boor, which is another variation on actors playing "themselves", which is playing themselves as unlikely party animals or lunatics, such as the aforementioned Neil Patrick Harris in the Harold and Kumar films, or Topher Grace in the newer Ocean's 11 movies, or Anna Faris in Keanu.

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