9 Stars Who Played Themselves
In the hit apocalyptic comedy This is the End, Seth Rogen (who co-wrote the film with his frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg), James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, Emma Watson, Aziz Ansari, and Rihanna are just some of the stars to appear as themselves in the jam-packed flick. Well, at least an intentionally over-the-top variation of themselves. As Danny McBride (who is portrayed as a Channing Tatum worshipper turned cannibal in the deranged comedy) explained to ScreenRant.com, "Everybody is definitely portrayed in a way that is a little more grotesque than they normally are." Take, for instance, Michael Cera playing himself as a coked-up, Capri Sun-sipping d-bag, or Mindy Kaling playing herself as someone who wants to have sex with that particular Michael Cera. (Though, in our minds, we'd like to imagine that Watson really would steal all of McBride's stuff like she does in the trailer.)
But the crop of current Hollywood stars that appear in This is the End is hardly the first to play an embellished version of themselves on the big or small screen. Here are nine of the most outrageous times a star played themselves ... or someone like them.
1. Kate Winslet on Extras
On his comedy series Extras, creator/star Ricky Gervais had a knack for getting esteemed British actors and actresses to play crass, clueless, or downright cruel versions of themselves. Whether it was a perv-y Sir Patrick Stewart spending an uncomfortable amount of time coming up with ways to get ladies naked or a sexually ambitious Daniel Radcliffe literally waving condoms around, all they had in common with these "characters" was their namesake. Fellow universally-liked star Kate Winslet played "herself" in an uproarious season 1 episode in which the actress was portrayed as a cynical, un-PC star who only chose to be in a Holocaust movie because it would win her accolades. In a delicious bit of irony, three years later the humble and good-humored Winslet would go on to win her first long-overdue Oscar ... for appearing in a Holocaust movie. Even better, Gervais made a crack about the coincidence during his 2009 Golden Globes hosting stint.
2. Liam Neeson on Life's Too Short
Thankfully, when it came to stars playing the worst possible version of themselves, Gervais didn't stop with Extras. Even though his follow-up, Life's Too Short, didn't hit quite the same nerve, Liam Neeson's appearance as a stoic, unintentionally hilarious Liam Neeson made the whole series worthwhile. In his instant classic segment, "Liam Neeson" wanted to make his segue into stand-up and sketch comedy with terribly unfunny bits about contracting "full-blown AIDS" and getting his role as Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List because he loved making lists. Turns out, Liam Neeson is pretty damn funny after all.
3. Neil Patrick Harris in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
How I Met Your Mother may have propelled former child star Neil Patrick Harris back onto the A-list, but it was his appearance in the cult 2004 stoner comedy Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle that really transformed him from Doogie to legendary. In the movie, NPH is an insane, Ecstasy-riddled hitchhiker on the hunt for, as he not so delicately puts it, "poon tang." Just a little bit of a departure from the homosexual father of two in a long-committed relationship with a penchant for musical theater and being one of the most-liked guys in Hollywood. But the stunt casting worked: The cameo put Harris back on the map and helped spawn two Harold & Kumar sequels, both of which he appeared in as "himself."
4. James Van Der Beek on Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23
Dawson's Creek star James Van Der Beek has always had a good sense of humor about himself and his status as a former teen heartthrob, but that very same sense of humor about fame and his place in Hollywood was never better than when he played "himself" in the all-too-short-lived ABC comedy Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23. In the series, Van Der Beek played a raging egomaniac and single Lothario (in real life, the 36-year-old is a married father of two), but anyone with that big of an ego would never be willing to play someone so scummy with their same name.
5. Matt LeBlanc on Episodes
Matt LeBlanc earned a Golden Globe (it's no Soapie, but still pretty damn impressive) for his performance as ... Matt LeBlanc. The former Friends star plays a dopey, desperate version of himself on the Showtime satire. In fact, LeBlanc is such a jerk on Episodes that all of his Friends castmates have turned against him or downright hate him since their hit show wrapped. That's a fate far worse than Joey.
6. John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich
Everything is a little bit off in Spike Jonze's brilliant, but infinitely bizarre, Being John Malkovich ... including John Malkovich himself. Sure, the Oscar-nominated actor is a little bit strange, but he most certainly doesn't have a portal that leads you into his brain and allows you to experience the world as John Malkovich. (At least, we're pretty sure he doesn't.)
7. Cate Blanchett in Coffee and Cigarettes
Cate Blanchett is a effortlessly cool and stunningly beautiful actress, so we'd say that her turn as herself in 2003's Coffee and Cigarettes wasn't much of a stretch as an effortlessly cool and stunningly beautiful actress named Cate Blanchett. Then again, it's a safe bet the real Cate Blanchett doesn't often find herself having bizarre, uncomfortable meetings with a cousin who looks exactly like her.
8. Howard Stern in Private Parts
You either love Howard Stern—or love to hate him. Of course, if you saw his biographical 1997 film Private Parts, your opinion of the shock jock may have changed, whichever side you fell on. Stern played himself in his life story and the most shocking thing of all turned out to be that the humorous host wasn't just the loudmouth misogynist we tuned into (or as far away as possible from) on our radio dial during our morning commutes, but an ambitious, surprisingly human, and yes, even a little bit sweet, regular guy with some big dreams.
9. Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm
Out of everyone on this list, Larry David is probably the closest to his "Larry David" on the master class in awkward comedy, Curb Your Enthusiasm (which is chock full of stars playing variations of themselves). He's a neurotic, a curmudgeon, a tremendous talent, a total bastard, and above all, a comedy genius. Of course, if the real-life David was anything remotely like his on-screen likeness, he'd probably have burned every bridge in Hollywood by now because he's pretttt-ay, pretttt-ay, prettttttt-ay annoying.