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Listed: The Best Uncredited Cameos | reviews, news & interviews

Listed: The Best Uncredited Cameos

Listed: The Best Uncredited Cameos

No name, no need: here's how to stun the audience with an unexpected appearance

'Boy, if life were only like this'. Marshall McLuhan backs up Woody Allen in 'Annie Hall'

There are no awards, nor nominations. On the plus side there are no publicity chores either. And there is none of that contractual argy-bargy about billing. In this week’s Listed, there is no billing for the stars who show up on screen without prior warning. And it’s only the biggest stars can do this sort of thing: materialise in the narrative and give it a powerful shot in the arm. If properly deployed, the impact of uncredited cameo can be huge.

Indeed, in the week the runners and riders for the Academy Awards have been posted, you could argue that the best performance of all – and perhaps Robert De Niro’s finest in years – should spawn a category all of its own. And the nominees for Best Uncredited Cameo are…

Mark Ruffalo in Iron Man 3 (2013)

This fleet-footed superhero script wittily aces all previous post-credits Marvel movie surprises, by making the whole film a flashback told by Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark on the psychiatrist's couch of Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner/Hulk - who nodded off after the first 10 minutes. "But I'm not that kind of doctor..." Ruffalo gloomily tries to explain. Nick Hasted

Robert De Niro in American Hustle (2013)

David O. Russell’s caper film is reaching its crazed peak when the back room of an already wiseguy-infested casino is entered and there, sitting in state like Satan, is De Niro as Florida capo Vincent Tellegio. A five-second flashback fills you in on the dangerous violence this carelessly balding man commands. De Niro’s still malevolence genuinely chills, especially when enquiring about the reality of the scamming Bale’s promises of cash: “Because you know we’re real, don’t you, Irving?” A mesmerising treat injected into a giddily adrenalised film. Nick Hasted

Tom Baker in Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor (2013)

Typically for Steven Moffat’s haywire Doctor Who at its best, this 50th anniversary special had climaxed with all 12 Doctors nonsensically but thrillingly TARDIS-ing into battle to save themselves from committing genocide. Old footage sufficed for that. But then, an unmistakable, plummily life-relishing voice let you know that the longest-serving, perhaps most beloved Doctor had accepted his secret invite to the show’s birthday party. Credited as “The Curator”, Tom Baker impishly and unpredictably teased Matt Smith’s Time Lord, too old to exactly be the ageless Fourth Doctor in 2013, but happily returned all the same. Nick Hasted


Her Majesty the Queen in Olympic Games Opening Ceremony (2012)

There weren't strictly credits for this, but quite a coup anyway. As Daniel Craig is greeted by corgis and flunkies and ushered along lushly carpeted corridors into an inner sanctum, the entire planet will have had the same thought at the same moment. They haven’t gone and got the Queen to play ball? “Good evening, Mr Bond,” suggested Her Majesty, before apparently following 007 into a chopper and then leaping by parachute out over the Olympic Park. Jasper Rees

 

Bill Murray in Zombieland (2009)

First-time director Ruben Fleischer riddled his zomcom with in-jokes, including Murray’s unbilled appearance in which he sends himself up to the hilt. “You probably get this all the time,” says Woody Harrelson paying homage. Then adds, “Maybe not lately.” In this clip check out his reply when he’s asked if he has any regrets. Jasper Rees

 

Cate Blanchett in Hot Fuzz (2007)

This is how to do an uncredited cameo. Cate Blanchett (apparently a big fan of Edgar Wright's previous film Shaun of the Dead) pops up almost unrecognisably in a sequence featuring several of Hot Fuzz's strongest gags. Irritating police officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) visits his forensic scientist ex-girlfriend Janine at a crime scene to tell her he's being transferred and due to the anonymising nature of the garb first breaks the news to one of her (male) colleagues before Janine intercedes. Sporting an English accent and covered from near head to toe, the clue to Janine's A-list identity is in the only part of her you can actually see - those piercing blue eyes. Emma Simmonds

Tom Cruise and friends in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002)

By its third outing the Austin Powers franchise was running low on ideas and jokes and had resorted to stunt-casting Beyoncé in the female lead (who's less than fabulous), so it's not shocking that it features an exhausting array of surprise cameos. These include Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito who feature in the movie's action packed opening, which turns out to be a film-within-a-film based on Powers' life story, entitled "Austinpussy" and directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. As it that wasn't star-tastic enough John Travolta and Britney Spears make appearances later. Emma Simmonds

 

David Bowie in Zoolander (2001)

Who better to judge a walk-off between Zoolander and Hansel? David Bowie, the coolest man on Earth, did this thrilling cameo apparently because Ben Stiller asked him. The soundbyte of his hit “Let’s Dance” lends a hint for uncool members of the audience. “Fashion” would have been a better choice. Karen Krizanovich



Kevin Spacey in Se7en (1995)

Spacey asked the producers to remove his name from the title sequence and publicity of David Fincher's nightmarish thriller, to heighten the impact of his entrance after 90 minutes as Bible-inspired serial killer John Doe. His insinuatingly soft-spoken maniac with a special surprise in a box for Brad Pitt was worth the wait. Nick Hasted

 

Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

In this American-flavoured reboot, Connery’s cameo was one last joke at the expense of English folklore. He lights up the wedding in Sherwood Forest of Robin and Maid Marion as the English king in full Plantagenet fig, just back from the Crusades to pat Kevin Costner’s freedom-fighter for his good work, Scottish accent very much in situ. Good fun.

Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall (1975)

Woody Allen introducing Marshall McLuhan (from behind a poster) to staunch a pretentious conversation in a movie queue is the perhaps Annie Hall’s best moment. McLuhan – a redknown philosopher of communication theory – was not Allen’s first choice. To argue cinematic theory, who better than Fellini – the cameo Allen really wanted. Karen Krizanovich


Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil (1958)

The exception that proves the rule: Orson Welles had to “drum up his friends”, including Dietrich, when preparing Touch of Evil on a “pitiful” budget for Universal. Welles offered her the part of Tana, “a kind of gypsy madam in a border town”. The studio knew nothing of the casting until they saw her in the rushes, and asked if they could use her name. For an extra fee, they could, and did. And in just a few minutes Dietrich played her last great role, remembering later: “I think I never said a line as well as the last line in Touch of Evil: ‘What does it matter what you say about people?’” Welles had promised her no less: “Of course it will be a real character and not a ‘personal appearance’.” It sure was. Tom Birchenough


 

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

Dorothy Lamour, Crosby and Hope's exotic love interest in the Road to… hits, played an iron-jaw trapeze artist and South Seas vocalist in the studio's splashy circus epic. When Cecil B. DeMille cuts to Big Top spectators during an aerialist display, he tracks past the boys as they simultaneously pluck from their popcorn bags and gaze in different directions. The trio was soon reunited in Road to Bali, which featured uncredited cameos by Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin (also Jane Russell). Paramount's "comedy trade" continued with Scared Stiff (1953), which concludes with Bing and Bob, their heads atop tiny skeletons, terrifying stars Jerry and Dino. Graham Fuller


Alan Ladd in Citizen Kane (1941)

Ladd was a struggling bit-part player of 26 when Orson Welles, purportedly having sneered at his "pretty face", cast him as a reporter assigned, along with Jerry Thompson (William Alland) and others, to discover "Rosebud"'s meaning. He appears fleetingly but doesn't speak in the projection room scene (pale grey hat, left of frame), then exploring Xanadu's museum pieces at the end. Brim turned up, smoking a pipe, eyes turning heavenwards, he cynically remarks in his velvet baritone, "We're supposed to get everything – the junk as well as the art," and seconds later, "…or Rosebud? How about it Jerry?" Unsurprisingly, Ladd became an ice-cool noir star via the following year's This Gun for Hire. Graham Fuller


The clue to Janine's A-list identity is in the only part of her you can actually see - those piercing blue eyes

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