Quentin Tarantino loves his cameos. As a cinephile, his interest in actors spans many genres and countries and his latest, Django Unchained, is proof of a director trying to cram as many of his favourite performers into one film as is humanly possible. So many that he placed usually loquacious-types in dialogue-free roles (Michael Bowen, Ted Neeley), wrote new dialogue for others (Franco Nero, Bruce Dern) or invented new characters altogether, then realised he had no extra money to give those actors anything to do (Zoe Bell, Amber Tamblyn).
Truth is, Quentin Tarantino has always been something of a king of the cameo, his encyclopaedic film-boffinness regularly allowing him to fit the right actor with the right part, in a way that non-film geek filmmakers often find it so hard to get right. Featuring blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em performances from among the eight feature films Tarantino has directed, rather than simply written, this is a list dedicated to those often unsung heroes: the cameo-ers. It goes without saying that spoilers will follow, and that Death Proof will not get a mention.
10. Steven Wright as K Billy DJ (Reservoir Dogs)
Wright’s aural cameo, intermittently making radio announcements as disc jockey K Billy, is completely irrelevant to the story of Reservoir Dogs. It reveals nothing of the plot, and nothing of the characters, acting only as an intro to the film’s retro tunes. And yet, Wright’s voiceover feels wholly appropriate, maybe even necessary, tonally setting up the movie as a cynical dark comedy, and offering some droll humour between scenes of OTT bloodshed. With a voice so monotonous it could put you into a trance-like state, Wright’s is only one of Tarantino’s off-screen cameos (Harvey Keitel plays the US Army General on the phone at the end of Inglourious Basterds, while Tarantino himself pops up, in a rare moment of un-awfulness, as an answering machine voice in Jackie Brown) but is the original and best.
This article was first posted on February 3, 2013