But Russell has certainly had a long and full career, typically playing leading characters. He also starred in The Thing, Captain Ron, Tombstone, Backdraft -- not all great movies, but many of them successful. He was also nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Elvis Presley. But all that big-star glitz is nowhere to be seen in Vanilla Sky.
"So Tom, have you considered my idea about his doctor having long hair and an eye patch?
And, speaking of nowhere to be seen, there are no pics of him on the film's DVD cover.
You're still double-checking, aren't you? Have a little faith in me!
Vanilla Sky stars Russell in the important but minor supporting role of Tom Cruise's psychiatrist.
How Did This Happen?
Well, this one is kind of sad, because as far as I can tell, there really is no reason to technically call this a cameo. There's nothing tricky going on. Despite a string of starring roles in the preceding 25 years, Russell's career was not at a high point. Let's blame, in part, 3000 Miles to Graceland -- that awful Elvis-impersonator heist movie co-starring Kevin Costner. From all accounts, it seems like Russell just auditioned for a lesser role because that was where his career was at at the moment and he was enough of a professional to take a good smaller role, rather than star in some other piece of crap. And the PR people had Cruise, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz at the the height of their star power, which meant they didn't need to promote Russell. So it just turned out to be a surprise where a leading man turns in a small, quality supporting performance.
Bill Murray in Zombieland
Hey, remember a few years ago when people weren't completely sick of zombies? Yeah, me neither. I was sick of them then too. But despite the inevitable backlash, one more zombie movie found success just before the house of zombie sand started crumbling. And that movie was Zombieland. It's a movie about a kid who's so upset about having to write a million-dollar check to the Winklevoss brothers, he sets out on a road trip with Woody from Cheers and must kill zombies while looking for an ending to the film that doesn't suck.
OK, that might not be the exact plot, but that's how I remember it because, y'know, it kind of feels more like a TV show than a movie. That's probably because it was supposed to be a TV show. But a movie it was, albeit a meandering one that suddenly finds closure in an amusement park like so many divorced dads do with their kids on visiting weekends. But before the zombie-killers reach the end, there's a wacky celebrity cameo: Bill Murray, who's playing himself, staying alive by pretending to be a zombie. I didn't want to include this entry in the list because it also fits into the "actor playing himself" category (and therefore feels less humble than the other entries). But it is pretty incredible that anyone could promote a zombie comedy and refrain from telling people that Murray is in it. So it was a neat and sizable surprise.
Surprising, but still not as surprising as him voicing those Garfield movies.
How Did This Happen?
Apparently there was always going to be a surprise cameo -- a celebrity playing a zombie -- in the movie. The writers tossed around names like Patrick Swayze and Sylvester Stallone but hadn't landed on anyone and were considering rewriting the script without the cameo. But first they asked Harrelson if he had any ideas. Perhaps thinking of his old Kingpin co-star, or perhaps just having an acid flashback, Harrelson suggested Murray. Murray liked the script but wanted more to do. He suggested instead of him playing a zombie, maybe he could just be acting like a zombie to stay alive. The filmmakers rewrote the draft and Murray was in. Maybe Murray had seen the superior Shaun of the Dead, in which the characters do the same thing. Hard to say.
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