All about those hidden cameos in ‘BOOK CLUB’


Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson in BOOK CLUB. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

The romcom BOOK CLUB may have made a splashy debut over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean we’ve reached the climax (pun intended) of our coverage. There’s still more gratifying things to discuss – mainly two top secret cameo appearances by a pair of very famous people.

No, we didn’t mix this post up with one about DEADPOOL 2’s hidden celeb cameos.

We spotted two very prominent appearances that hook back into the alluring lore of the hugely successful FIFTY SHADES franchise. Eagle-eyed fans probably spotted it right away. I know I did! I even spoke with BOOK CLUB director/ co-writer/ producer Bill Holderman and co-writer/ producer Erin Simms about it.

Craig T. Nelson, Niall Leonard, E.L. James, Mary Steenburgen in BOOK CLUB. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures (TV ad).

If you were really looking hard, chances are you spotted Author E.L. James and her husband/ FIFTY SHADES FREED (and FIFTY SHADES DARKER) screenwriter Niall Leonard as featured background extras. The pair are walking their little white Westie doggo (not actually their pup) past Carol (Mary Steenburgen) and Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), who are engaging in an awkward argument in their driveway.

Over the phone a few weeks ago, I spoke with the filmmakers about this fun casting choice and how it came to be. Holderman elucidated,

That came together when we announced the movie – when we were selling it at Cannes last year. We got a call from E.L. James’ rep saying, ‘Hey. You guys are making a movie that sort of features this book. We need to see your script.’ We sent the scripts to E.L. James and her team, and she was super supportive – thank God. She really liked it and said, ‘If there’s an opportunity, I would certainly be down to have a cameo.’ That was her and her husband. That wasn’t her dog, but it was the same breed of dog that she has.

In an interview with, James stated she was pleased as punch with what Simms and Holderman had done.

It was sassy, sweet without being saccharine, and really poignant in places. I was delighted too that the filmmakers accepted both the suggestions I made. And then, when the film was cast, I was in awe of the talent that they had lined up to play these wonderful characters. I couldn’t wait to see the finished movie.

At first, Holderman wasn’t sure if a lot of people would catch it. However, even if audiences don’t, the scene still functions brilliantly in terms of the narrative.

It’s interesting. I’m glad you caught it. Not many people know, her fans do, but the general public may not. It’s one of those things, for us, that we loved having her there.

This was their loving tribute to the book that’s been so integral in so many of its reader’s lives. Holderman said,

It’s a nod to the FIFTY SHADES fans and to our appreciation for E.L. James and her support – then and now. She’s been tremendously supportive towards us.

Simms also hinted there were more Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the film.

We have more Easter Eggs throughout the movie for the real FIFTY SHADES fandom that we hope they will enjoy.

She was also thrilled to have been able to commemorate the event on paper too.

She signed my original books. It was pretty great.

BOOK CLUB is now playing.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.