RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Gene Hackman

A Cavalcade of Movie Cameos

Posted on

A well-executed movie cameo is a beautiful thing. It jump-starts an ordinary film and propels a good film to greatness. These are some of my favorites.

TOM CRUISE IN “TROPIC THUNDER” (2008)

Cruise is stunning in this cameo – and totally unrecognizable as studio mogul Les Grossman. His end-of-the-movie dance scene? Crazily hypnotic. I’m not kidding.

WILL FERRELL IN “WEDDING CRASHERS” (2005)

There’s a high degree of difficulty to Ferrell’s cameo in “Wedding Crashers.” His character is mentioned several times in larger-than-life terms, and you don’t really expect to see him. When we do see him at the end of the film, Ferrell makes him one notch wilder than anyone else. He’s the right guy for the job.

ALEC BALDWIN IN “GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS” (1992)

So here’s the Cameo King. Baldwin delivers an electrifying motivational speech from Hell in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” It’s the kind of performance that elevates an entire career. It’s also a performance I’ve quoted from for years. Just hope that Mitch & Murray from Downtown never send this guy to your office.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK IN “NORTH BY NORTHWEST” (1959)

As many fans are aware, Hitchcock loved to make a cameo appearance in films he directed. My favorite was in the title sequence of “North by Northwest,” where he is trying to catch a bus. Rather than just being funny or odd, these cameos added a sinister sense that things are not what they seem to be.

DREW BARRYMORE IN “SCREAM” (1996)

Barrymore sets a terrific tone for the movie. She’s having fun with the role AND she’s taking it seriously, by screaming her little heart out.

TIM ROBBINS, BEN STILLER, LUKE WILSON IN “ANCHORMAN” (2004)

I absolutely love this scene. A bunch of TV people from rival San Diego stations go all “Gangs of New York” on Will Ferrell in “Anchorman.” Watch out for Tim Robbins as a hoodlum from PBS.

THE THREE STOOGES IN “IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD” (1963)

This cameo is perfect because it understands you don’t even have to have the Three Stooges say anything. Just give the audience a chance to see them full-on and pause the camera a couple of seconds.

BILL MURRAY IN “ZOMBIELAND” (2009)

Murray is sheer heaven playing himself – playing a zombie. Like all great cameos, it comes straight out of the blue, like finding money in the street. And get this: Bill makes comments on his actual movie career, while playing a version of himself pretending to be a zombie.

GENE HACKMAN IN “YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN” (1974)

With his long gray beard, it’s hard to tell this is Hackman playing a blind man opposite Peter Boyle’s monster. Hackman handles the scene’s simple shtick with superb comic timing.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER IN “TERMINATOR: SALVATION” (2009)

Just when you think a “Terminator” movie can’t offer any more surprises, along comes a digital effect that places a young Arnold back into the futuristic saga. Truly amazing.

CLINT EASTWOOD IN “CASPER” (1995)

You mean you didn’t see the 1995 movie version of Casper the Friendly Ghost? Don’t worry – it’ll be on cable several times this month for Halloween. Look for Clint to pop up in a wonderfully silly scene in a mirror.

TOM CRUISE, GWYNETH PALTROW, DANNY DEVITO, JOHN TRAVOLTA IN “AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER” (2002)

Mike Myers cast his movie-within-a-movie brilliantly. It seems as if Cruise, Paltrow & company enjoyed themselves as much as the audience.

RICHARD BURTON IN “WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?” (1965)

Burton’s cameo is so fleeting I couldn’t even find a picture of it. This was a 60s hipster cameo in a hipster movie from a hipster era. Burton is on the screen only a moment, rubbing elbows with pal Peter O’Toole in a strip club. O’Toole yells out, “Say hello to what’s her name!” It’s a reference to Burton’s wife, Elizabeth Taylor.

MIKE TYSON IN “THE HANGOVER” (2009)

Casting Tyson was inspired. I think it works particularly well because Iron Mike isn’t even the second or third strangest twist in the plot. Events are so far out of control that Tyson is able to play it low-key, making it ever so cool.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IN “HIGH FIDELITY” (2000)

Springsteen’s appearance here is a classic, fantasy cameo. He shows up to offer John Cusack some soulful, sage advice.

BRUCE WILLIS IN “OCEANS TWELVE” (2004)

Willis has a tricky job to do in this cameo. He’s playing himself, while pretending the movie stars all around him are ordinary crooks. Some viewers found it too forced; I thought it worked.

SEAN CONNERY IN “ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES” (1991)

Some cameos, like this one, are intended to add a bit of pedigree to a movie. Connery rides in as King Richard to Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood here. The chemistry between them isn’t great (unlike “The Untouchables”), but I’m always happy to see Connery. He’s movie royalty.

BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE IN “THE PRINCESS BRIDE” (1987)

My favorite cameo ever. Crystal and Kane played an old wizard and his wife, bickering their way into film greatness in “The Princess Bride.” They are hilarious. Puts me in the mood for a mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich – with the mutton nice and lean.

So many cameos, so little time. Please tell me your own favorites!

Great TV Dads and Movie Dads You Might Have Overlooked

Posted on

Something great resonates when you encounter a compelling¬† father character on TV or in movies. It firms up one’s faith in humanity. But with so many movie and TV dads floating in and out of view, it’s easy to overlook some good ones. In honor of Father’s Day weekend, we look back at a few.

DONALD SUTHERLAND

“PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” (2005)

Here’s a fine, fine actor playing a small role with tenderness and care. As the henpecked, mellow patriarch of the Bennet family in Jane Austen’s classic story, Sutherland lets his misty eyes, his sly smile and his lanky limbs work to their full advantage onscreen. Then, at the end of the film, he reveals his complete and utter love for his daughter through a quiet intensity that lingers nicely.

BERNIE MAC

“THE BERNIE MAC SHOW” (2001-06)

There was nothing quiet about the late, great Bernie Mac. Like few other actors, he projected a powerful, coiled up aggressiveness while also allowing his compassion to poke through. On his show, he played a man who takes in his sister’s children, raising them as his own. He often talked directly to “America,” looking straight at the camera, and it worked. You trusted him. You liked him.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN

“KRAMER VS. KRAMER” (1979)

Times and gender roles have changed so much that people forget what an eye-opener “Kramer vs. Kramer” was, with its depiction of a divorce and subsequent child custody fight. Hoffman is his usual, superb self as the father who learns how to be a parent.

CHUCK CONNORS

“THE RIFLEMAN” (1958-63)

Although the show was far from realistic, the father-son relationship at the heart of “The Rifleman” seemed authentically affectionate. Connors played Lucas McCain as a figure of towering strength and real kindness. Plus, he had the coolest rifle ever.

J.K. SIMMONS

“JUNO” (2007)

Simmons is a true craftsman. In “Juno,” he’s a father who helps his teen daughter through an unplanned pregnancy, and he does it with keen humor and gentle exasperation. Good in any type of role, here Simmons offers a physical weariness as counterpoint to the movie’s spry, stylized dialogue.

RONNY COX

“APPLE’S WAY” (1974-75)

This is a prime example of the father as idealist, from a TV show that never quite caught on with viewers. Cox was George Apple, a lawyer who moved his clan from California back to his hometown of Appleton, Iowa. Once there, he inserted himself into just about every free speech and human rights issue his little town encountered. His kids loved this, as you can imagine.

DELROY LINDO

“CROOKLYN” (1994)

Set in Brooklyn in the 1970s, “Crooklyn” featured Lindo as a musician who didn’t quite earn enough money to support his family, but whose sweet nature helped buoy the family during hard times. Lindo expertly shows us the full range of his guy’s flaws and qualities.

ROBERT DeNIRO

“A BRONX TALE” (1993)

DeNiro directed himself as a straight-arrow bus driver in the 1960s, trying mightily to keep his son from falling under the spell of a charismatic gangster. Playing against type, DeNiro gives a tightly controlled performance: tough, but not too tough; good, but not too good. It’s a gem.

MARTIN LANDAU

“EDtv” (1999)

To be sure, Landau’s loopy stepfather is the comic relief in this film. His character is in poor health and often clueless about what’s happening around him. But he gets a dynamite scene near the end of the movie that is gratifying as a nod to the true meaning of fatherhood.

NOAH BEERY JR.

“THE ROCKFORD FILES” (1974-80)

Any “Rockford Files” fan will have a soft spot for Rocky. Beery played him perfectly – no affectation, no ego. His scenes with James Garner had an easy charm and warmth.

MICHAEL TUCKER

“RADIO DAYS” (1987)

There’s a wonderful joke about dads in Woody Allen’s “Radio Days.” Seth Green, who plays Allen as a kid, has no idea what his father, Michael Tucker, actually does for a living. No matter how hard the kid tries to ferret out the information, dad finds a way to change the subject. It’s hilarious, partly because it plays on the mysterious, unknowable quality many fathers have.

ADAM SANDLER

“SPANGLISH” (2004)

I may not be the biggest Adam Sandler fan in the world, but I have to give him his due here. He’s excellent as a doting father in an unhappy marriage. His scenes with Sarah Steele as his teen daughter are beautiful and at times heartbreaking.

HECTOR ELIZONDO

“THE FLAMINGO KID” (1984)

Elizondo is the emotional core of this Matt Dillon comedy about a young man faced with a choice between corrupt wealth and the middle class work ethic, as represented by his family. I love how Elizondo communicates his frustration and hurt feelings without upsetting the comedic balance.

JUDD HIRSCH

“NUMB3RS” (2005-10)

No one matches Hirsch when it comes to the older, intellectually nurturing father character. Here, he invests Alan Eppes with a genuine pride and respect for his adult sons, along with his love and concern.

DAVID MORSE

“CONTACT” (1997)

In the sci-fi adventure “Contact,” Morse gets to play two versions of a father. One is the wise, gentle teacher. The other is the loving, lasting image a father leaves behind.

GENE HACKMAN

“THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS” (2001)

I think this is one of Hackman’s best roles. His character, Royal Tenenbaum, is sneaky, self-absorbed and unhelpful. Yet he’s also an undeniably cool old rascal. The question this film poses for him is whether it’s ever too late to stop being a jerk and start acting like a father.

Now let’s hear your suggestions. Add to The List!

A Gene Hackman Birthday Sampler

Posted on

Gene Hackman turned 82 this week. A true artist, his acting transcends accents and costumes, and his talent reaches across all movie genres. I think what I admire most about Hackman is his voice. It’s a wonderfully raspy, folksy instrument that he uses to be charming, soothing, threatening, befuddled, condescending or inspiring – as he sees fit.

Consider this a meager attempt at repaying decades of moviegoing enjoyment.

BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)

This was Hackman’s breakout role, and it was hard to miss. With its startling violence and sly social commentary, “Bonnie and Clyde” created an absolute sensation. Hackman played Buck, older brother of Warren Beatty’s Depression era bank robber, Clyde Barrow.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)

Hackman took center stage for this one, getting his first Oscar in the process. As brutal cop Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, he offers a blue-collar, no-nonsense¬† intensity that doesn’t feel forced. He also gets to be part of a movie car chase that is one of the best in film history.

THE CONVERSATION (1974)

Here’s one of Hackman’s great introverts. Harry Caul, a government surveillance operative, is the personification of paranoia and isolation. It seeps into his soul, corrupting him the way it corrupts our social institutions.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)

This one is a real comic gem. For a change, Hackman is unrecognizable as a blind man who encounters the Monster in Mel Brooks’ classic comedy. Without resorting to exaggerated movements or vocal qualities, Hackman delivers huge laughs simply with his command of timing. It’s a great cameo in a great movie.

NIGHT MOVES (1975)

“Night Moves” is an underrated private eye flick that, in my opinion, belongs right up there with noir-ish 1970s flicks such as “The Long Goodbye” and “The Late Show.” Why? Because Hackman makes every step seem natural and spontaneous, while still being true to the classic themes of the movie gumshoe.

SUPERMAN (1978)

Oh, but he can chew some scenery, too, can’t he? As Lex Luthor, evil genius, Hackman was perfection. He tapped into the humor of the role without losing his edge, making Christopher Reeve seem all the more upstanding and heroic.

HOOSIERS (1986)

As a sports fan and a native Hoosier, I can tell you that Hackman’s performance as a small town basketball coach with a troubled past has become iconic among a lot of guys. Mr. H. is masterful here, knowing when to play it stoic and when to tug on the heartstrings.

POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE (1990)

This one is another cameo, but it’s terrific. Hackman plays a kindly movie director dealing with an insecure actress, played by Meryl Streep. He’s patient, supportive, constructive – and best of all, he quietly matches Meryl step for step in their scenes together.

UNFORGIVEN (1992)

Now we get to something amazing. In Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven,” Hackman is a sadistic sheriff, Little Bill Daggett. Rather than go for a full-tilt, larger than life tone, he shades his performance, finding bits of truth, humor and delusion to mix with the rage and gleeful violence. His scenes are remarkable.

THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (1995)

Same genre, also a bad guy – yet an entirely different kind of performance. Everything in “The Quick and the Dead” is about flash and style, so Hackman makes the appropriate adjustment. He swaggers his way beautifully through every word he utters. He even holsters his guns with bullying bravado.

GET SHORTY (1995)

What a sublime shifting of gears. In a supporting role, Hackman plays a likable, but weak-willed Hollywood B-movie producer. He’s employing the lightest of touches here, perfectly matching the material.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS

Quite possibly my favorite Hackman performance. It’s deadpan, nuanced comedy acting at its finest. He’s the title character here, in a typically peculiar Wes Anderson film about a dysfunctional family. There’s not a wasted movement or syllable in his work, whether he’s faking an illness or hitching a ride on a garbage truck. His delivery of the line, “Let’s shag ass,” has made me tumble out of a chair, laughing.

There are other favorites, too: “Zandi’s Bride,” “Enemy of the State,” “The Birdcage,” “Scarecrow,” “Crimson Tide.” So much good stuff.¬† Happy Birthday, Mr. Hackman.