17 Actors Who Played Themselves in Movies


When I went to see The Hurt Locker, one of the previews I saw was for a strange movie called Cold Souls.  It starred Paul Giamatti as…Paul Giamatti, and I wondered how much of his actual “self” was contained in that role.  Was the movie written with Giamatti in mind?  If so, how much of his performance is actually “acting?”

In any event, I started to think about movies in which actors appear as themselves.  Sometimes it’s as a cameo, but other times, it’s as prominent as the lead character, like in Giamatti’s case.  There’s definitely been some notable appearances over the years, so after the jump, take a look at 17 actors who played themselves in movies.*

*For the purposes of this list, I’m naming only actors, so celebrities like Bob Barker (in Happy Gilmore) don’t count.

Paul Giamatti in Cold Souls


Cold Souls is scheduled for limited release this Friday, and it’s written and directed by Sophie Barthes.  If you’ve seen the very disturbing Happiness, that name should ring a bell.  Anyhow, Cold Souls is the story of Paul Giamatti’s decision to deep freeze his soul.  After a mixup of sorts, Giamatti sets out on a search to quite literally find his soul.  Pretty clever, I’d say.

John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich


In Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, a puppeteer stumbles upon a portal in an office building in New York City.  The portal leads to the mind of John Malkovich, and whoever enters the portal can experience all the things that Malkovich is feeling.  Malkovich is played by, of course, Malkovich, and one of the more memorable scenes is when Malkovich himself enters the portal.  Malkovich!

Jean-Claude Van Damme in JCVD


It’s interesting that it took Jean-Claude Van Damme playing himself to finally help one of his films receive critical praise.  In JCVD, Van Damme is a struggling actor (which is putting it lightly), and he’s got major problems in his personal life, too.  Instead of using karate, he only fantasizes about it, and Van Damme’s portrayal of himself seems to be what we’d expect.  What a scumbag he was, though.  Seriously – hooking up with teenagers while his wife was pregnant?

Bruce Willis in Ocean’s 12 and What Just Happened


In the preposterous and forgettable Ocean’s 12, Willis foils Danny Ocean’s attempt to steal the Coronation Egg when he realizes that Tess (Julia Roberts) is not really Julia Roberts.  It’s a brief cameo that I’m sure Soderbergh thought was quite clever.  In What Just Happened, Willis poses as an obstacle to a producer trying to fix up a film called Fiercely, refusing to shave his thick beard and cursing out anyone who suggests he do so.  And what a beard it was.

Sean Penn in What Just Happened


Penn is the star of the fictional movie Fiercely, and his character (and his character’s dog) are shot dead at the end of the meta-movie.  It’s this graphic violence that throws a big wrench into the planned release and final version of the movie.  Penn’s ex-wife Robin Wright Penn is also in What Just Happened, but unlike her ex-husband, does not play herself.

Neil Patrick Harris in the Harold & Kumar Movies


Sure, NPH is pretty good on “How I Met Your Mother,” but there’s no way he shed the “Doogie Howser” label and rejuvenated his career without playing a hard-partying, cocaine-snorting version of himself in the Harold & Kumar movies.  Now, everyone knows exactly who “NPH” is.

Bruce Campbell in My Name is Bruce


In My Name is Bruce, Bruce Campbell mistakenly believes that a demon called Guan-di is merely a guy in a rubber suit and part of an elaborate hoax concocted to make Bruce live up to his B-movie hero status.  When it turns out that Guan-di is real, Bruce has to decide whether to take the easy way out and run, or to stand up and fight and become a hero in real life.

Ben Affleck & Matt Damon/Jason Biggs & James Van Der Beek in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back


Affleck and Damon aren’t in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back for more than a scene, but it’s a pretty funny one.  They’re filming a sequel to Good Will Hunting, and Affleck is partiularly funny, partaking in a bit of self-deprecating humor.  Every time I think that Affleck is a giant douche, he makes me laugh, and things like Daredevil and Armageddon are forgiven.

Biggs and Van Der Beek are also in a very small scene, but it’s also pretty funny.  They’re set to play the characters Bluntman and Chronic, the movie Jay and Silent Bob are trying to stop.  “You wouldn’t last a day on the creek.”

Billy Zane and David Bowie in Zoolander


Zane and Bowie appear in back-to-back scenes in Zoolander: Zane, after being told to “put a cork in it” by Derek, announces that it is, indeed, a walk-off.  The always awesome David Bowie volunteers to judge the walk-off.  And don’t tell me Bowie isn’t an actor – the dude was great in Labyrinth and tore sh*t up as Tesla in The Prestige.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Action Hero


It’s definitely not McTiernan’s best, and it’s far from Arnie’s best, but The Last Action Hero was doing this meta-crap way before almost everyone else.  Jack Slater (played by Schwarzenegger) is a fictional movie character, similar to many of the characters Schwarzenegger has played.  Through the use of a magic ticket, Slater comes into the real world and quickly learns that all the things he could do in his world don’t really work.  At one point, Slater must attend the movie premiere of Jack Slater IV to prevent Arnold Schwarzenegger from being killed and thus preserving his own existence.

Steve Carrell in Knocked Up


It’s a brief cameo, but Carrell appears as himself on the red carpet and gives a brief interview to Alison Scott.  He refuses to say some stupid “E!” slogan, though, to which I say good for him.

Robert Englund in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare


In New Nightmare, Freddy Krueger invades our world and terrorizes the actors and crew who helped make the Nightmare on Elm Street films.  Englund reprises his role as the iconic killer, but as this movie is set in the “real” world, he also playes himself, the actor who played Freddy Krueger.

Chuck Norris in Dodgeball


F*cking Chuck Norris.

Are there any instances of actors playing themselves in movies that I may have missed?  There’s gotta be a couple; let me know in the comments section!

Similar Posts


  1. @ biffco

    I wanted to see Hamlet 2. I thought it looked great…I’ll have to check it out real soon.

    @ G

    Of course, how could I forget the Hoff!

    @ IcemanD

    Being John Malkovich is terrific, agreed. Very, very original, and it’s tough to put something like that on the screen and have it work.

    @ E-Rock

    Yeah, Stern isn’t really an actor, per se, but he was very good in Private Parts. Pretty underrated movie, actually, and the first time I had seen Paul Giamatti.

  2. When I read this, the first person to come to mind was Andy Richter on Arrested Development. I know, TV not movie, but still that was hilarious. Such a showboat, a pig!

  3. You forgot the 70s show kid in both oceans movies. Also, the rest of the teen show stars at the beginning of Oceans 11 when Brad Pitt is teaching them how to play cards.

    Plus I’d say that Howard Stern deserves to be on the list. He’s only done one movie, but he was good in it.

  4. Just a minor clarification: Sophie Barthes who made Cold Souls also made an excellent short film called Happiness which you might have seen screened at Sundance, but if you are thinking of the very disturbing (and very good!) feature film Happiness from 1998, then that was made by Todd Solondz — and Ms. Barthes had nothing to do with it. However this is no reason not to see Cold Souls! It looks awesome!

  5. If you’re going to end the list with Chuck Norris, how could you leave out his unforgettable role opposite Jonathan Brandis in Sidekicks?

  6. Emmanuel Lewis, Leif Garrett, Tom Arnold, Danny Bonaduce, Corey Feldman, Dustin Diamond, Dick Van Patten, and Brendan Fraser all played themselves in “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star”.

    That’s not counting the song at the end of the movie.

  7. No Audie Murphy?

    Seriously, I know he was an old actor, but how many war heroes go on to play themselves as war heroes? To reenact the event that won them the congressional medal of honor?

  8. In Airplane, Lieutenant Hurwitz thought he was Ethel Merman, who is then played by Ethel Merman. I think that should count.
    “Everything’s com-ing up…. ro-ses…” – Makes me laugh every time!

  9. What about Austin Powers in Goldmember?

    There were tons of cameos in the beggining, in the scene where there is a filming of an austin powers movie, including tom cruise as himself interpreting austin powers, kevin spacey as doctor evil, gwyneth paltrow and Spielberg directing.

  10. Easy now…

    I think the point is to be an actor playing yourself.
    lost of people including others..

    as for Audi Murphy, sure thing a must have.

  11. Wow…a lot of you don’t like to read, huh? Stan Lee? Lance Armstrong? Since when are these guys considered “actors?”

    Some of you did point out some notable omissions, though, such as Cher (of course she’s an actress: Moonstruck and Mask), Audie Murphy, Drew Barrymore, etc.

    @ ted

    Thanks for the “Happiness” clarification!

  12. Somerset Maugham in the original version of The Razor’s Edge.
    In His Gal Friday, Carey Grant describes the character Ralph Belamy was playing as “a Ralph Belamy looking sort of fellow”.

  13. @daver11
    “I know what you are saying but just the fact that they are in a movie makes them actors…correct?”

    With that logic, Paris Hilton would be considered an actress, and I cannot go on in this life with that belief.

    Oh yeah I got one too. Mike Tyson and Method Man in “Black and White.” Pretty good movie if you are interested in the rap culture, plus RDJ plays a homo.

  14. William Shatner as William Shatner in Fanboys.

    But Seriously, not only does Stan Lee not apply, but PEOPLE KEEP POSTING IT. You. Are. Not. Doing. It. Right.

    If their weren’t any guidelines, or it was a TV list:

    I’d say Adam West as Adam West in Family Guy, even though it’s TV it’s awesome & one of the few funny things the show has done in past few seasons.

    Or Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan in 30 Rock.

  15. Wil Wheaton in a recurring role on Big Bang Theory (where he plays himself as an absolute bastard with relish). There are a few cameos on that show as well as (and Summer Glau who doesn’t do overly much but sit on a train, mostly giving the cast the opportunity to talk about her); of course actors (and other celebrities) appear on quite a few sitcoms.
    And the Simpson have one almost every episode.

  16. Jason Mewes as “Jay” in Clerks ….Sure, the name is shortened, but believe it or not the character was based completely from Mr. Mewes. Look it up! That was crazy to find out for me and I’m surprised it wasn’t on your list.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.