I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
If you saw ZOOLANDER 2 over the weekend (many of you saw DEADPOOL instead – good job!), you may have noticed that it had an endless list of celebrity cameos. Sometimes cameos can be a great thing for a film, especially if it serves a purpose. I can’t think of many cameos in ZOOLANDER 2 – besides Kiefer Sutherland and Sting – that serve much of a purpose, other than to distract you from the toothless jokes this movie throws at you.
However, when a cameo does great by a film, it’s really something to treasure. In honor (or dishonor) of ZOOLANDER 2’s release, let’s look back at some of our favorite cameos in cinema.
21 JUMP STREET – Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp, of course, first popped up in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but it was 21 JUMP STREET that made him a star. When filmmakers Chris Miller and Phil Lord (THE LEGO MOVIE) announced they were making a film adaptation of the popular television series, many began to wonder if the original star would make an appearance. Well, he did – and it was glorious.
Depp’s cameo may have been one of Hollywood’s worst kept secrets. Living in this day and age, almost anything about anything can be found on the net. People are so vocal and ready to click on the latest movie scoop article. While many of us knew Depp’s cameo was coming, it didn’t take away from being what it was in the film. His appearance, which comes at the film’s end, is as sidesplitting as it is awesome.
– Preston Barta
DEFENDING YOUR LIFE – Shirley MacLaine
Imagine dying is nothing like you thought it’d be. Furthermore, imagine that in the afterlife you need to stand on trial for whether or not the life you lived had meaning. That is the crux of Albert Brooks’ fantastic comedy DEFENDING YOUR LIFE.
After dying in a car accident, Daniel Miller (Brooks) is on trial to define whether he can move on to the other side, or possibly go back and try again. While absorbing the afterlife, he meets a fantastic woman in Julia (Meryl Streep) and the two fall for each other.
One of the best scenes involves Daniel and Julia visiting the Hall of Past Lives, where visitors in Judgment City can find out who they were in past lives. Before the showing, there is a holographic forward by none other than Shirley MacLaine; everyone is shocked. The cameo by MacLaine is a fantastic joke on herself, who claims to be a medium of sorts in real life.
These subtle jokes are the tip of the dry humor iceberg. I cannot recommend DEFENDING YOUR LIFE enough.
– Jared McMillan
FOUR ROOMS – Bruce Willis
A lot of movies that revolve around a series of vignettes or an anthology run the risk of being uneven. While humorous at times, FOUR ROOMS happens to fall prey to that risk. Directed by four different talents, the movie revolves around Ted, a bellhop starting out at a fading hotel on New Year’s Eve. Each room he visits, either with a guest or to attend to the guests, will represent a different story.
The fourth story, known as “The Man from Hollywood”, has Ted making his way up to the penthouse, where four people are arguing over a bet. Chester (Quentin Tarantino, who also directed the vignette) ordered Ted to bring some objects so a bet can be settled, where the loser gets his finger chopped off.
As Chester brings Ted in, he introduces him to everyone in the room, where the fourth person is Leo, played by Bruce Willis in an uncredited role. He’s pivotal in telling Ted exactly what the bet is, and also letting Ted know what his role is in their challenge. Willis brings the levelled charisma needed for the short, a great note to end FOUR ROOMS.
– Jared McMillan
FUNNY PEOPLE – Eminem
While the film itself was a bit of a mixed bag, one of the more memorable scenes is when the Real Slim Shady shows up. He sits down with standup comedian George Simmons (played by Adam Sandler) after the comedian beats cancer. Marshall Mathers, otherwise known as Eminem, tells Simmons that he’d have been better off dead. The moment is heightened when Ray Romano stars at Mathers, which is followed by Mathers saying, “I don’t give a f— what show he’s on. I will f— this motherf—er up!”
– Preston Barta
WEDDING CRASHERS – Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell has made a handful of cameos, including THE LEGO MOVIE as a human being and not just a voice. But it was Ferrell’s cameo in WEDDING CRASHERS that had the most impact.
It was at the height of Ferrell’s career and he had just come off the very successful OLD SCHOOL and ANCHORMAN. WEDDING CRASHERS released in 2005 and it was a time when the Internet was just peaking. Secrets were better kept and all the world’s info wasn’t at our fingertips just yet (well, in terms of movie news). We weren’t spoiling things on Facebook or Twitter, because they we’re as big or around yet. So it was special when Ferrell’s character (Chaz) was hinted at the entire film and when he finally shows up.
Ferrell is there to comfort the bereaved in true smooth fashion. Of course, it turns out he’s a super pathetic dude who lives with his mom (who makes meatloaf) and watches cartoons all day when not bagging some “honeys.”
– Preston Barta
Matt Damon in EUROTRIP, MARK HAMILL in JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, Leonard Nimoy in STAR TREK (2009), BOB SAGET in HALF-BAKED and Tom Cruise & others in AUSTIN POWERS 3: GOLDMEMBER.