In some of the craziest material to come out of Hollywood, these actors play themselves in fictional self-referential films.
Jean-Claude Van Damme in JCVD (2008) Fact and fiction blur into an imaginative 97 minutes of pastiche and drama in which Van Damme plays himself, a clapped-out former action star who loses custody of his child and cannot find work, so returns to his home town of Brussels in Belgium. Here, he finds himself embroiled in a hostage situation in a post office, and the police outside believe he is the perpetrator. So bizarre it’s actually good, this is the only film starring Van Damme to receive a majority of positive reviews on rottentomatoes.com.
John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich (1999) Malkovich, a multi-award-winning, largely serious ac-tor, proved himself a true sport in this unhinged effort from Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. In it, a portal behind a filing cabinet on floor 7½ of an office building allows people into the mind of actor John Malkovich. Perhaps the looniest moment of the film is when Malkovich enters his own head, revealing a world where everyone looks like him and the conversations go something like this: ‘Malkovich, Malkovich…’
Brad Pitt in Chad Schmidt (announced) Whether this film ever gets made remains to be seen, but we reeeally hope it does. Steven Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness) has penned a script in which talented amateur actor Chad Schmidt moves to Tinseltown in the ’80s with dreams of becoming the next big thing. Trouble is, he looks just like another up-and-coming actor, Brad Pitt, turning Schmidt into an object of ridicule instead of a star. Pitt has reportedly agreed to play Schmidt, making for another mind-bending slice of self-referential Hollywood madness.
Bruce Campbell in My Name Is Bruce (2007) Campbell is best known for his leading role as Ash in the Evil Dead movies, which is what this film, also directed by Campbell, riffs on. When the small mining town of Gold Lick is plagued by a deadly demon, Gold Lick resident Jeff (Taylor Sharpe) kidnaps his idol, B-movie horror star Bruce Campbell, to help battle the beast. What follows is one man’s quest to become a hero in real life, and bag Jeff’s hot mum.
Pauly Shore in Pauly Shore Is Dead (2003) Self-penned, directed, produced and funded, perhaps Pauly Shore is Dead – which went straight to DVD – hits a little too close to home for US comedian Pauly Shore, who last enjoyed (brief) popularity around the early ’90s. This mockumentary sees Shore fake his own death in an attempt to revitalise his ailing career. Unfortunately for Shore, there are more people in the film (cameos include Britney Spears, Pamela Anderson, Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen) than there are people who have actually seen it.
Five of the rest
Here, actors either appear in brief, self-referential cameos or spend a whole film playing a fictional character that is, in fact, just themselves.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) In a scene parodying their own breakthrough film, Good Will Hunting, Damon guns down his smug, pony-tailed adversary in the same dingy Boston bar, announcing, ‘It’s hunting season’, before Affleck mangles the infamous ‘How do you like them apples?’ line into a simple ‘Apple sauce, b****’.
Eminem in 8 Mile (2002) In a barely concealed biopic of himself, Eminem plays a white-trash kid living in a trailer with his alcoholic mother, eventually rising above his humble beginnings to become the toast of Detroit’s MC battle scene. Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts in Ocean’s 12 (2004) In a horribly convoluted plot line, Danny Ocean’s wife Tess, played by Roberts, plans to pose as – oh, the wit – Julia Roberts to get close to the Coronation Egg they’re trying to steal. Then Bruce Willis turns up (as himself) and foils the plan by pointing out that Tess isn’t Julia Roberts. Only she is. Or at least she’s being played by Julia Roberts. Hmm, time for a lie down now.
Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give (2003) Nicholson plays an ageing lothario who can’t commit and somehow keeps managing to pull young blondes. Must’ve been a stretch.
Hunter S Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) An adaptation of the infamous gonzo journalist’s classic work, ‘trippy’ pretty much describes the whole film, but there’s a particularly spooky out-there moment when the young Thompson (Johnny Depp) comes face to face with none other than the real Thompson of 1998.