The Cocaine-Fueled Acting Cameos Of Stephen King
Stephen King is a titan of pop culture. He makes up about 60 percent of your local Barnes & Noble, and has covered so many horror topics that most films are legally required to carry the message "Based On A Whatever By Stephen King." As a kid who grew up gawky and un-talked-to, King novels were both a source of respite and joy for me. And with the new trailers for IT and The Dark Tower, it's nice to see people come together to say "DAMMMNNNNN, STEPHEN KING. DUDE. IS. KILLING. IT." Or something like that.
However, we should approach these adaptations with at least a little bit of wariness, because with Stephen King movies come the threat of Stephen King cameos. As tremendous as King's writing career has been, his onscreen ventures are usually confusing, frequently terrible, and always unnecessary. And because of that, I feel that it's time to document all the times that movie producers decided to remind you that Stephen King is a flesh person and not a being of pure energy that drops a book about haunted objects from the sky twice a year.
In George Romero's Knightriders, a movie about motorcycle jousting that I have to constantly remind myself is real, Stephen King shows up as "Hoagie Man." He's in the crowd, viciously eating a hoagie and commenting on the size of his own balls. If you want to wake the audience up, inserting a prolific horror author into your movie to talk about his genitalia and then leave forever is certainly a way to do it.
Creepshow is an anthology horror film that's honestly one of the top five things that's ever been put in front of an audience. It's delightful, and, surprisingly, it doesn't stop being delightful when Stephen King gets an entire segment to himself called "The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verill." In it, King plays Jordy, a beer-drinking, wrestling-watching lunkhead who gets infected with some "meteor shit" and ends up agonizingly shooting himself in the fucking head while saying "Let me be lucky ... just this once ..." It's the closest King will ever come to an Academy-Award-winning performance, and it should be studied in acting classes that are only open to Stephen King.
Maximum Overdrive (And The Maximum Overdrive Trailer)
In Maximum Overdrive, Stephen King's only directorial effort, he plays "The Guy Who Gets Called An Asshole By An ATM." Fittingly, one of his only lines, spoken with a Southern drawl that sounds like Jeff Foxworthy drowning, is "THIS MACHINE JUST CALL ME AN ASSHOLE."
Even better than this is the trailer for Maximum Overdrive, which is narrated by King. In it, he tells people that he's "Going to scare the hell out of you," and "If you want something done right, you oughtta do it yourself." And considering what Maximum Overdrive turned out to be, no. No you don't, Stephen.
In Creepshow 2, King plays a truck driver who comments "Looks like a black guy!" at a dead body. It's his most useless cameo, which is really saying something, since most of these cameos are the equivalent of King poking you in the ribs while you're trying to watch the movie and saying, "Eh? Eh? You like this? I'm Stephen King. And that's me, Stephen King, on the screen up there."
Pet Sematary is a film about why you need to let your dead children stay dead, no matter how much it hurts. Or in other words, fuuuuuuuuuck, man. Stephen is the minister, which is a job that I'd give King in the real world if I too was planning to later resurrect a corpse.
Most of Stephen King's movie roles are around to show you what King would be doing if he wasn't a talented writer and also a total dickhead. In Golden Years, he's an insufferable bus driver who has no goal other than to complain in the vicinity of the main characters. Whether King demands the cameos or he's doing it as a favor to the director, it's amazing how many of these amount to "Stephen King shows up, and goddamn do we hate that dude."
Sleepwalkers is about people who can turn into cats, and Stephen King is a cemetery caretaker. However, in the Sleepwalkers-verse, most of the major positions are filled by famous horror icons. Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper plays a forensics guy, Hellraiser creator Clive Barker plays another forensics guy, Joe Dante plays a lab assistant, and John Landis is a technician. And half of them are in the movie to do nothing but be jerks to King, who spends his scene running around and begging to be treated like a human being.
American Express Commercial
This isn't really a "role," but the art direction and "spooky" sound effects of the commercial definitely play into the idea that horror authors hang out in Scooby-Doo mansions, refusing to dust and monologuing passionately about their love of American Express cards. He starts out the commercial with, "Do you know me?" which is a nod to his celebrity status but sounds like a desperate plea to be released from a house that is made up of nothing but spider webs, hidden doors, and malfunctioning pianos. "Do you know me? I'm author Stephen King, and I've been trapped here without food or water for four days."
King has an actual role in The Stand miniseries, but considering that his single character trait is "Be in front of the camera," it might be the most forgettable on this list.
The Langoliers sees King doing his best Dabney Coleman. He puffs his chest out, wears a mustache that isn't fit for this reality, and generally stands around with a "This is OUTRAGEOUS" look on his face. I wish there was more to it than that, because in retrospect, Dabney Coleman Stephen King sounds like a concept that you'd insert into every TV series, just to see what happens.
This joins the ever-growing ranks of Bring Your Stephen King To Work Day roles. King plays a clueless pharmacist, and his role is so small that even writing a half sentence about it feels like overkill.
King didn't like Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining very much, so he wrote the TV miniseries adaptation, and also made an appearance in it as a band leader, in which he does little else but dance. I'm not sure if King feels the same way about dancing as I do, but if he does, there is no bigger stamp of approval than to get him to show up in a movie where excited gyrating is all that he's there to do.
Storm Of The Century
Stephen King plays a reporter here, following the legacy of Jaws author Peter Benchley playing a reporter in Jaws. It's a fine legacy, even if I'm not totally certain what that legacy is.
Stephen King's "Brian" calls into Frasier's radio show to be an asshole about things. It's less of an appearance and more like something you'd insert into a Frasier-themed scavenger hunt that you're playing with a drunk Kelsey Grammer.
After Jordy Verill, this is my second-favorite King cameo, if only because of all the factors at play here. First of all, Rose Red is supposedly a four-and-a-half-hour TV "event," but it moves at such a pace that if you began watching it in 2002, you should be finishing it up in the next month or so. Secondly, King emerges from the shadows accompanied by dramatic music, which is meant to be one of those "Oh, man. I was scared, because I was sure it was going to be a ghost or some shit, but it's the pizza guy who wrote Carrie," but instead it just seems like something that Stephen King does at parties.
Third and most importantly, rather than be a blemish on the soul of humanity, King shows actual positive interest in the activities of other people. This is a reverse of the usual "I was having a great day until the milkman/repairman/judge/professor showed up and insulted me for no reason at all" formula. Sadly, since the world of Stephen King is one in which simple goodness can't exist without the presence of pure fuckheadedness, he gets the door slammed in his face.
Kingdom Hospital is where King reaches peak Stephen King as an actor. By that, I mean that he seems to base his performance on an invisible "Must Have" list for characters played by Stephen King. Weird inflection? Check. Cryptic statements? You got it. Gallows humor? Oozing with it. If you didn't know who he was, had never seen one of his affable interviews, and were told just before meeting him "Oh, he's into writing about little kids dying from heat exposure while being menaced by the family dog," his role in Kingdom Hospital is probably what you'd expect him to act like.
Stephen King walks onto a field in Fever Pitch, a movie about Drew Barrymore forcing Jimmy Fallon to choose between her and baseball. Whereas most of these films include "Oh, it's Stephen King" moments, Fever Pitch shows King for about two seconds. Of course, this is a movie about, again, Drew Barrymore coercing Jimmy Fallon into choosing her over the Red Sox, so you can't expect it to get anything right in the first place.
King lends his voice to this adaptation, which was co-produced by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. There is nothing that makes your IMDb page look more like a random blender of pop culture names than "Featuring cameos by Stephen King and Steve Wozniak."
Diary Of The Dead
King began his acting career in George Romero movies, and after a 30-year hiatus, he triumphantly returned in Diary Of The Dead, in which he voices a preacher. King's Southern accents are always something to behold, because they never fail to sound like uncontrollable fits instead of a thing that he intended to do. Here he replaces nearly every vowel with "aw," except the "ie" sound in things like "die" and "satisfied," which is somehow transformed into a four-syllable process. That said, I can't hate it entirely, mainly because I would never say, "And here, to represent everyone who lives below Virginia, the Misery guy."
Sons Of Anarchy
King rides in on a Harley as "Bachman," the clean-up guy named after Richard Bachman, the authorial alter ego King invented in the '80s just to see if he could get famous again. He's around for one episode to remove a body and be the weirdest thing that's ever happened to your television. Usually, when non-actors show up in roles, the role is tailor-made to show off their strengths. Luckily, King's strength is "acting like he just popped out of a portal and has never interacted with people before." Perfect for a guy who is around to remove a corpse.
Under The Dome
Aside from the plot kerfuffle with The Simpsons Movie, Under The Dome is best remembered for the fact that it's the only thing you'll have room for on a book shelf. You could line military bunker walls with Under The Dome. It's a decent book, but its most useful purpose is to keep the rest of your stack of Stephen King novels from flying away during a hurricane.
Here, King plays a diner who wants more coffee. Me too, Stephen.
And so ends the tragic acting resume of Stephen King. I remain unsure of whether or not Stephen King actually enjoys acting, because most of his roles seem to indicate that he doesn't enjoy anything. And it's because of this that I don't vouch for him showing up in either IT or The Dark Tower. However, if a tall janitor suddenly enters the frame to give Idris Elba shit about the way he holds his gun, or a gangly warehouse manager stops the narrative of IT for a minute to yell about nothing related to the movie, I won't be surprised.
Daniel has a blog and a Twitter.
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