Even if you're the type of weirdo who stays in the theater after a movie to watch every single credit, from key grip to cockroach wrangler, you won't necessarily learn the full cast and crew. Many films feature hidden cameos by well-known actors, directors, and actor-directors whom you would never know about without helpful websites like this one. For example ...
We all know how Quentin Tarantino can't make a movie without giving himself at least a bit part in which he quietly mutters the N-word in a dark corner. But he's not the only one, and many other directors have a seemingly irresistible compulsion to insert themselves into their own films. For instance, did you know that James Cameron was in the drawing scene in Titanic? Those are his hands doing the actual drawing. Yes, the tasteful PG-13 nude was by Mr. Avatar himself.
Mel Gibson also got his hands metaphorically dirty with an appearance in The Passion Of The Christ, when he decided that he should be the one driving the nails into Jesus' crucified palms.
Ridley Scott is another director who sneakily got his frisky digits an IMDb credit, in this case in a scene in Alien. But not the scene you're thinking:
20th Century Fox
No, it was Scott's hands creating the fluttery movement in the alien egg, right before John Hurt gets his face impregnated. And once you know that the effect was simply Sir Ridley making bird-shaped shadow puppets in a pair of dishwashing gloves, you'll never unsee it.
20th Century Fox
BB-8, Star Wars' latest attempt to corner the global toy market, may sound like R2-D2 with his undies on too tight, but there can't be any interesting stories behind that, right? They just threw piles of money at a synthesizer and called it a day, surely. Well, though they might have tried that, at some point, J.J. Abrams decided the series' newest droid should have more personality than mere electronics could offer. So he enlisted the help of a couple of friends: SNL alum Bill Hader and Ben Schwartz (Jean-Ralphio of Parks And Recreation fame).
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
OK, Abrams didn't make them sit inside the droid during the shoot. Here's how Hader described his job: "J.J. f**king around with this sound effects app on his iPad that was attached to a talk box operated by me. It looked ridiculous but it made BB-8's voice. At first I tried doing a voice, but we all agreed it sounded too human."
Schwartz's work didn't overlap with Hader's, but he did break down his experience in a little more detail. Essentially, while looking at a fairly final cut of the movie, he and Abrams decided what BB-8 might be saying in those scenes. Whatever words they came up with weren't important, but the cadence and comic timing were. Schwartz isn't sure whether any of that got translated into the beeps and squelches BB-8 used in the film, but he did get to mess around with Abrams and a synthesizer for a few days, so he considers it a success on that basis alone. (So would we, come to think of it.)
It's common practice for animated movies to get A-list talent on board for voice roles, since by movie-making standards, it's relatively easy work that doesn't require wearing pants. But do you know what's easier still? When an actor doesn't have to act, or speak, or really do anything more than simply exist, so that an animator can look at photos of them while drawing their characters.
Disney does this a lot. For example, Aladdin's "appearance and demeanor" was modeled after Tom Cruise, apparently after long debates about whether he should be a Michael J. Fox type instead.
And Ariel from The Little Mermaid was based on Alyssa Milano.
This isn't like something the celebrities are paid for, mind you. Milano wasn't even aware of it until a year after the movie came out, when she was asked to take part in a behind-the-scenes special. She seemed OK with it, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all.
We all know about the directors who work with the same actors again and again, like Tim Burton and his apparent life partner Johnny Depp. But a similar phenomenon exists wherein directors keep hiring the same person solely for voiceover work. For example, James Gunn, the director responsible for Slither and Guardians Of The Galaxy, has repeatedly gone to the voice well for, of all people, Rob Zombie.
For some reason, Gunn can't consider a project complete unless Mr. Hellbilly Deluxe's voice is shoehorned in there somewhere. In Slither, Zombie played Dr. Karl, a (presumably filthily and dreadlocked) physician on the other end of a phone conversation with Elizabeth Banks. In Guardians Of The Galaxy, he was "Ravager Navigator Voice," and showed up as part of Yondu's outlaw gang. And in Gunn's mixed bag of comic book heroes and black comedy, Super, Zombie provided the voice of God.
Oh, and here comes James Cameron again, whose list of voice credits is exactly as long as his entire body of work. From "random dude on the radio" to the inhuman growling of the alien queen, Cameron's voice has a resume that live-action actors would kill for. Here's a montage of all of them.
There's no telling what trajectory Wil Wheaton's career might have taken if, after his breakout role in Stand By Me, he hadn't followed it up with Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing Wesley "Shut the Fuck Up" Crusher. What initially looked to be a terminal case of typecasting somehow led to something far stranger, with Wheaton emerging as the elder statesman of geekdom he's known for today. Now he's the first person you call when you need a convention panelist, or a comment on geek culture, or ... a Romulan voice?
You know the scene on Nero's ship at the beginning where one of the Romulan crew members says "It's time"? Who could forget that? Well that was him! And not just that; Wheaton provided the voice for every Romulan on the ship. It was pretty straightforward, really: Abrams was looking for voice actors, Wheaton had a voice, and so the two got on the phone to hammer out the details. The end result was a Romulan vessel staffed entirely by Wesley Crushers, which really ought to be the plot of the next movie.
With the popularity of Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead, there's been an unprecedented demand for fresh disembodied noggins to get rolled into our living rooms every week. If you're a visual effects designer, that a good thing, but who do you suppose all those heads belong to? Not literally, of course -- that would violate several union bylaws -- but rather, whose heads are they modeling these highly realistic props on? Well, in at least in one case on The Walking Dead, it was Johnny Depp. Looks like we figured out what's eating Gilbert Grape, huh? Eh? "Eating?"
Why? No particular reason at all. Gotta makes heads look like something, right? And speaking of out-of-nowhere cameos, Game Of Thrones (a series which already has a bizarre penchant for giving cameos to famous musicians) based one of their decapitated heads on the former leader of the free world.
The creators didn't bother denying that poor Dubya somehow wound up on the Traitor's Walk, but they did deny that their motivations were political, stating that "we just had to use whatever heads we had lying around." No one seems to have any explanation for why a special effects shop had a replica of the 43rd president of the United States' severed cranium lying around, though witchcraft seems likely.
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