10 Small Movie Roles You Didn't Know Held Signifigance

What tiny role in an awful film led John Travolta to Scientology?

John Travolta The Devil S Rain
Bryanston Distributing Company

It's common that a film's supporting cast is littered with relatives of the cast and crew and other people that helped to assemble the final product. Richard Donner famously accrued a cast that couldn't even fit over four Lethal Weapon films, ending the last film with a picturebook of everyone who had made the trip.

This is especially true of fact-based storytelling. So often, those films "based on" true stories or "inspired by" true events rely on those who can give the necessary background for a filmmaker to recreate a time or place. This is the most harmless way you can work your way onto an IMDB trivia page - others tend to involve scandal, death, hauntings and, when all else fails, nepotism.

It certainly does turn cast lists into a veritable treasure trove of backstories, not to mention the infinite hypothetical conversations on various sets that may well have happened.

However a film is cast, there are bound to be walk-on parts, favours and cameos that serve their purpose. However, sometimes, an actor's brief association with a film may be connected to their personal histories more than audiences are aware. In other cases, small roles may suddenly become of major import depending on what they're later charged with.

Here are a few that may seem innocuous, but had more at work than even some filmmakers were aware.

10. Robert Shaye - Freddy Vs. Jason

John Travolta The Devil S Rain
New Line Cinema

Before financing A Nightmare on Elm Street, Robert Shaye was hawking films around campuses. That's how he funded New Line Cinema throughout the seventies, perhaps most notably re-releasing Reefer Madness on the Midnight Movie Circuit. When the eighties proved that horror films were the next little risk/big reward payout, he championed A Nightmare on Elm Street to box office success.

Shaye also gave the film its final scare, leaving the film open for sequels that would eventually become one of the most successful franchises of the 80s.

Even during their initial box office run, there was call from fans to team up Freddy Krueger with Paramount's Jason Vorhees, but legal complications prevented it for over a decade.

When it finally did happen in 2003, Freddy Vs. Jason delivered pretty much what audiences wanted, save for a fairly run-of-the-mill group of teens. And Robert Shaye was on the production side of the Freddy-half of the team.

His years of promoting the slasher were rewarded with a winking cameo as the school principal, although fans of the series weren't unfamiliar with his face; if they didn't catch him in the numerous special features included even on VHS, they say him playing himself in Wes Craven's New Nightmare.

His role here as the principal in Springwood, however, suggests a familial connection: his sister, Lynn Shaye, was the teacher in the first film.


Kenny Hedges is carbon-based. So I suppose a simple top 5 in no order will do: Halloween, Crimes and Misdemeanors, L.A. Confidential, Billy Liar, Blow Out He has his own website - thefilmreal.com - and is always looking for new writers with differing views to broaden the discussion.