“Movie 43” and Five Classic Film Cameos

Sometimes the biggest stars make the most impact in the smallest roles.

Movie 43
Relativity Media/Darren Michaels

"Movie 43" features 12 outrageous sketches, each one helmed by a different director and all populated by different star-studded casts. And you thought "Cloud Atlas" was confusing!

Partially directed in an overseer capacity by Peter Farrelly (one half of the Farrelly brothers who gave us the comedies "There's Something About Mary" and "Hall Pass") the film - which Farrelly said in interviews includes a wraparound story that ties it all together - took three and a half years to complete due to the sheer number of actors who appear throughout.

The huge ensemble cast contains Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Uma Thurman, Liev Schreiber, Dennis Quaid and Jason Sudeikis to name only a few. It's effectively a collection of cameo performances that would make even Robert Altman jealous.

As a director, Altman was famous for crafting large ensemble pieces ("Gosford Park," "The Player," "Pret-a-Porter") peppered with famous thespians whose screen time was often minimal but whose roles helped propel the narrative.

Whether the sheer abundance of cameo performances in "Movie 43" will have audiences flocking to cineplexes is anybody's guess right now.  But what it has done is remind us that some of the most memorable cameo appearances in films were often the most unexpected.

Here are five cameo moments that had movie-goers in turn scratching their heads and cheering for more:

Orson Welles in "The Muppet Movie"

In Kermit, Fozie and Miss Piggy's first feature film Welle's played cigar-chomping Lew Lord, the gravel-voiced head of World Wide Studios. The year was 1979 and while the film also features cameos from Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Carol Kane, Welles was still one of the most recognized names in Hollywood. At the end of the film he hands the felt-skinned crew their first “standard rich-and-famous contract” and sends them on their way to stardom.

 Lance Armstrong in "Dodgeball"

Prior to his fall from grace due to his admission of doping, Armstrong (then riding high off of his Tour de France wins and Livestrong charity work) turns up randomly as himself in a Las Vegas casino where he shows our hero (Vince Vaughn) that quitting is never the answer. The scene takes on an even more tragic/comic note thanks to the current revelations surrounding the athlete. Famous line: “Once I was thinkin’ about quitting, when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer – all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from?”

Gene Hackman in "Young Frankenstein"

Mel Brooks' 1974 merciless send-up of Frankenstein and the classic horror genre starred Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman. A critical and box office smash, it was named to Bravo TV's list of 100 Funniest Movies. While filled with memorable scenes, the vignette featuring an almost unrecognizable Hackman as the blind priest visited by the monster (Boyle) remains a cult favorite.

Johnny Depp in "21 Jump Street"

Depp famously starred in the late 1980s television series about a couple of cops who go undercover at a Los Angeles high school. Rebooted in 2012 as a big screen romp featuring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, Depp came along for the ride - this time as a biker bad guy (covered in prosthetic facial pieces, no less) who is also leading a double life as an undecover cop. According to reports, Depp's condition to appear in the film was that his character would get "closure."

Drew Barrymore in "Scream"

It was a perfect horror movie gimmick: kill off your most famous actress early in the piece at the hands - and usually knife - of the killer, giving audiences the impression that from here on anything can happen. Hitchcock did it with Janet Leigh in "Psycho" and Wes Craven did it with Barrymore in 1996s "Scream." At that time the casting of such a famous actress in a horror movie was rare and paved the way for other well-known names to appear in the following sequels.

Honorable mentions!

Yes, we know there are multiple examples of great cameos. Alongside the above, search out Tom Cruise in "Tropic Thunder," Bill Murray in "Zombieland," Billy Crystal in "This is Spinal Tap," Stan Lee in any Marvel Comics film franchise, Neil Patrick Harris in "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle," Tim Robbins in "Anchorman," Alfred Hitchcock in every Hitchcock film, Christopher Walken in "Pulp Fiction" and the hardest to spot: a surgical mask-wearing Cate Blanchett in "Hot Fuzz."

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