The master of many things, Alfred Hitchcock (or AH, as I like to call him when buzzed on Hitchcock day) might be most famous to the general public for his cameos in his own films. From a bus rider (his most common manifestation), to a pedestrian for a stroll, he would find a way to appear in the smallest part possible. We’re celebrating his birthday pretty hard today (Hitchcock Day is like Cinco De Mayo for snooty cinephiles), so we are going to take it one step farther and have a look at directors who also like to cameo in their own films and how they measure up to my boy AH!
Peter Jackson – Oh, that Peter. How he likes to toss his money around and play with CG effects. I don’t blame him, sounds like a great time. But, another cool thing this large scale movie master likes to dabble in is the Hitchcock style cameo. You can spot him in Braindead as a morticians assistant, Frighteners as a biker, LOTR/Hobbit in various roles like a Middle Earth resident, and a customer in the Lovely Bones.
The subtlety that made Hitchcock’s appearances so special is present in Jackson’s. While, you can’t mess with the master, Jackson kicks off the list pretty strong.
M. Night Shyamalan – We are not going to get into how self-important this guy is. Don’t ask, I refuse to do it. Focus, guys. Let’s talk about his cameos. Like when he cast himself as the martyr of a community in Lady of the Water (dammit!). From a doctor in The Sixth Sense to a drug dealer in Unbreakable, Shyamalan makes a mockery of the whole subtlety thing that made this art form beautiful.
I find myself being a little harsh on M. Night sometimes. I also find myself thinking these cameos were for him. AH knows what he is doing, while if Shymalan had any good sense, he wouldn’t want to show his face in his later films.
Spike Lee – If Lee knows anything, it is that Reggie Miller likes to talk shit. He also knows that appearing in your own films can be a tough gig. Early on, he liked to appear in more prominent roles but, decided to take a step back to focus on the directing aspect. We see him in nearly all of his films such as: Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, and She’s Gotta Have It.
Lee makes a valiant effort but, he likes to seem himself on screen a little too much. Take notes, Lee. AH is best at this.
Martin Scorsese – An insane cab passenger in Taxi Driver, a TV Director in The King of Comedy, to a rich man in Gangs of New York, Scorsese appears in a bunch of his films. Offering up substance in nearly every role. This one stings.
Scorsese understands how a director should work their cameo in. As much as it hurts me to say it, this guy is damn talented (I’m a hater; fuck The Departed). His cameos are smart and well-thought and those crazy eyebrows don’t steal too much from the scene.
Terry Gilliam – How do you top yourself when Monty Python and the Holy Grail is your first full length film? That’s outside the point, but I’ll never stop being astonished that Gilliam accomplished it. Getting back on track: Gilliam loves to appear in his films. Various roles in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in Brazil as a man enjoying a smoke, and many others. This guy is cool.
Gilliam keeps it simple. He brings life to the simple characters. AH would be proud.
Quentin Tarentino – This guy loves himself. Maybe more than Shymalan loves himself. What he also loves is popping up in each of his films. Arguably, the most well-known and apparent cameo-maker on our list. His role in Reservoir Dogs as Mr. Brown was too long to qualify as a cameo, but QT has made a (briefer) cameo in every one of his films except for Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2.
He is on the verge of over doing it and can come as a slap in the face at times. His Django Unchained appearance was unpleasant and annoying. But, he gets it right the rest of the way. AH may throw a thumbs up his way.
Edgar Wright – The master of sneaking other people’s appearances into his own films, (Peter Jackson in Hot Fuzz), Edgar Wright is just as sneaky at getting himself on screen. He gave a cameo in each film of the Cornetto trilogy: Construction worker in The World’s End, Grocery Stocker/ Dave’s voice in Hot Fuzz, and newsreader/zombie/restaurant voice in Shaun of the Dead.
Wright injects genius energy into each aspect of his film-making and his self-cameos are no different. Wright comes to closest to nailing what AH liked with his cameos. And, no, I am not making this verdict as an Edgar Wright fanboy. Though, on an unrelated closing note, I already hate Ant-man.