The process of an actor is intriguing and ineffable. Performers over the years have gone to great lengths to inhabit the disparate characters that make up their careers, with all manner of techniques used to get inside the head of another. The truly talented can disappear into a role, truly convincing you that they have become someone else.
On other occasions, though, you may be lucky enough to score the role of: you. Whether you’re doing this for a piece of stunt casting, a quick gag, or something more complex, an actor portraying themselves on film can be enjoyable - but a lot more tricky than you may imagine.
It’s not enough, of course, to simply show up and smile for the cameras. You’re playing You but you’re playing yourself as a character. Maybe you’re skirting close to the truth, or taking your public image and twisting it. You may even be inventing something out of nothing, using your name and your face but telling a story completely outside of your realm of experience.
It’s the kind of tricky metaphysical quandary that only Hollywood’s finest can fully grapple with. Whatever the purpose, these actors have truly gotten inside themselves.
10. Bill Murray - Zombieland
The enigmatic Bill Murray picks his projects carefully. He famously has an answerphone in lieu of an agent, and tends mainly to work with folks he has an existing relationship with, like Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. So it was a surprise to see him pop up towards the end of Zombieland, clad in ghoulish makeup and playing himself.
The role was initially intended for Patrick Swayze, but the part found its way to Murray after Swayze’s death, and it’s a perfect fit. Murray is a known eccentric, and were the world to fall foul of a zombie plague, it’s not too difficult to imagine that he would disguise himself as a member of the walking dead so as to continue with his regular life.
Murray’s appearance in the film was a real shock at the time, and though his presence didn’t stay secret for long, if you were able to watch without this aspect being spoiled, it was a real treat.
He’s an actor of such rare charisma that the sheer sight of him is one of the most exciting aspects of a film about a zombie apocalypse.