There are many reasons why a director will leap out from behind the camera and appear in their own film: vanity, posterity, a last-minute replacement for a cast member, an in-joke for the fans. Some have so rarely crossed the border that spotting them is akin to sighting a rare breed, those few seconds of film almost transformed into a collector's item. Others have made it into their trademark: Alfred Hitchcock, the king of the cameo, famously appeared (via everything from a walk-on role to a photograph in a newspaper) in thirty-seven of his own films. And although the likes of, say, Hal Ashby's cameo in Harold and Maude (where he's credited as Bearded Man Watching Model Train) aren't necessarily weird, the sudden close-up of his rather arresting visage is the type of thing that whooshes over the head of the casual viewer while turning the film buff into a feverish cross between a conspiracy theorist and a jilted lover. Why is he there? What is he doing? Why would he say that? What is it supposed to mean? Why would he torment me like this? This article regrets to inform you that, sadly, it does not hold the answers to the above questions. It does, however, contain five of the weirdest cameos from directors who have starred, no matter how briefly, in their own films. Keep at least one eye open for spoilers.
5. Quentin Tarantino In Django Unchained
We'll start with a recent example; one that has annoyed, amused and just plain confused audiences the world over. After Django (Jamie Foxx) has rescued his wife (Kerry Washington), sworn his vengeance and all but promised us the bloodiest of showdowns, Tarantino teasingly (typically?) holds off the action and instead takes us on a diversion. Django may have escaped with his life but, having recently been sold to the LeQuint Dickey Mining Co, the prospect of closure is cruelly denied. En route to the mine and a lifetime of hard labour, he tells his captors that he is not a slave but a bounty hunter; and if he would be returned to the Candyland plantation he'd be happy to share his prize with them. If only they would free him from his shackles. The miners, a group of Australians, duly oblige - only for Django to shoot them, steal their horses and head back to the plantation alone. At this point, we should be cheering and gearing ourselves up for what Tarantino does best; the 'roaring rampage of revenge'. But instead, as the dust settles, we're somewhat distracted. Each of the workers is credited simply as 'The LeQuint Dickey Mining Co. Employee' but one, with the lion's share of the dialogue, is unmistakably played by Tarantino himself. His accent, however, isn't so easy to identify. It may be a broad comedy character but nevertheless, watching him attempt to hold a scene alongside Foxx is more than a little embarrassing. He may be known for writing himself bit parts into his films, but you'd think he would have learnt a lesson from Pulp Fiction; where his cameo, as Jules' friend Jimmie Dimmick, sparked controversy over his liberal use of the n-word. His language may be more restrained here, but you can't help wondering just why he thought he'd steal the third act (unwittingly, you'd presume) in such a strange manner. But at least this cameo soon falls to convention; having himself killed off by his own creation. As Django snatches the guns and shoots down the miners, the camera zooms in on the sticks of dynamite in Tarantino's hand. And then, barely a second later, so does the bullet. A quick, quizzical look to camera provides a punchline, before proving that QT and TNT don't quite mix.