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Autobiographical Role

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When someone plays himself in a Docudrama, Biopic, or other dramatization of a true story.

This is not a celebrity or public figure appearing "as himself" in an entirely fictional work. Those examples should go under As Himself. This is when events are being re-enacted by the person who enacted them in the first place.

If a starring role, may overlap with Non-Actor Vehicle. Compare Real Person Cameo. Contrast Character as Himself, in which a fictional character is given a real-world screen credit. Also contrast Adam Westing, where an actor plays his public persona.



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Real Life Examples:


  • Ray Bolger, Harriet Hoctor, and Fanny Brice, all veterans of the Ziegfeld Follies, play themselves in Florenz Ziegfeld biopic The Great Ziegfeld.
  • Audie Murphy in To Hell and Back. The film was based on his autobiographical account of the European Theater of World War 2.
  • Various police officers, bank employees and bystanders in The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.
  • Frank Wills, the security guard who first discovered the Watergate burglary, in both All the President's Men and Forrest Gump.
  • Alice's Restaurant recounts a true but comically exaggerated Thanksgiving adventure. Arlo Guthrie played himself and Stockbridge police chief William Obanhein ("Officer Obie") played himself in the film version, explaining to Newsweek magazine that making himself look like a fool was preferable to having somebody else make him look like a fool. Singer Pete Seeger also played himself.
  • United 93: several of those involved in the events surrounding the hijacking played themselves, most notably Ben Sliney.
  • Muhammad Ali starred in The Greatest, a biopic about himself.
  • Fantasia Barrino of American Idol played herself in the Made-for-TV Movie Life Is Not a Fairytale, based on her memoir.
  • Jerry Lawler, David Letterman, Lorne Michaels, and most of the cast of Taxi played themselves in Man on the Moon (a Biopic of Andy Kaufman). Though Danny DeVito couldn't play himself because he was already playing another character.
  • Howard Stern played himself in the film version of Private Parts.
  • The Iranian film Close-Up has this for essentially all of the people who were involved.
  • Dee Snider had a particularly shameless film called Warning: Parental Advisory, a Made-for-TV Movie about how he stuck it to the PMRC.
  • Who better to play Jackie Robinson in The Jackie Robinson Story than Jackie Robinson?
  • Ann Jillian played herself in the 1988 Made-for-TV Movie The Ann Jillian Story, about her struggle with breast cancer.
  • Eminem in 8 Mile, where the story was basically his life with the names slightly changed.
  • While Purple Rain may not exactly have been The Real True Prince Story, it did touch on elements of his life, feature him playing with his band, and film on location in his hometown.
  • Beyond the Line of Duty is a 1942 short film meant to boost American morale during World War II. It starts Capt. Hewitt Wheless as himself, recreating his courageous bombing run on a Japanese troop transport in December 1941.
  • Shirley Maclaine in Out On A Limb, the movie.
  • Babe Ruth played himself in the Lou Gehrig biopic The Pride of the Yankees, as did Bill Dickey, Mark Koenig, Robert Meusel, and sportscaster Bill Stern.
  • Coral Browne played herself in An Englishman Abroad, about her encounter with exiled spy Guy Burgess.
  • Attorney/politician Fred Thompson started a side career as an actor when he played himself in Marie.
  • Dolphin Tale has Winter (the dolphin whose story the film is based on) playing herself.
  • Iron & Silk is a drama that tells the story of an American teacher who traveled to China to learn from a kung-fu master. Both lead roles are played by the actual individuals.
  • Space Jam stars Michael Jordan as himself, and covers his brief retirement from basketball, failed attempt at a baseball career, and return to basketball only a short time later. Of course, the bulk of the film is spent on a minor bit of creative liberty suggesting he regained his passion for basketball by player-coaching the Looney Tunes to victory in a high-stakes match against alien slavers, but the parts that focus solely on Jordan play the trope quite straight. For an extra bit of Reality Subtext, the practice he got during the making of the film helped sharpen his skills for the very unretirement depicted in the film's final moments.
  • Coal Miner's Daughter: Country music stars Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb and country comedienne Minnie Pearl appear as themselves, after Loretta Lynn (played by Sissy Spacek) hits the big time.
  • Knute Rockne, All American: Real Life college football coaches Glenn "Pop" Warner, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Howard Jones, and Bill Spaulding appear as themselves in a scene where they join up with Rockne to defend college football from a Congressional inquiry.
  • No: Several members of the "No" campaign to unseat Augusto Pinochet appear as themselves, including Patricio Aylwin, who succeeded Pinochet as president of Chile.
  • In Ride Like a Girl, Michelle Payne's brother Stevie played himself.
  • Heaven Knows What: The film is based on the memoir of Arielle Holmes, a former street junkie from New York City. Holmes plays the lead character, Harley Boggs, who represents herself.
  • Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos, the three American soldiers who foiled a terrorist attack on a train to Paris, play themselves in The 15:17 to Paris.
  • Comedian Henny Youngman, singer Jerry Vale, and FBI agent Edward McDonald play themselves in Goodfellas, a biopic about New York City gangster Henry Hill.

     Live Action TV 


In-Universe Examples:

     Anime And Manga  

  • Played for Laughs towards the end of Dragon Ball Z, as Great Saiyaman accidentally crashes a set for a movie being made about him. He's called to act a few scenes as a stunt double and acts how he normally does in that persona, but the directors scolded him for being too unrealistic. They realize their mistake when he finds himself having to fly away.


  • And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself is in fact about a film being made about the Mexican revolutionary who sold the rights to film one of his battles which resulted in The Life Of General Villa, which did indeed star Pancho Villa portraying himself.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) plays himself in the propaganda film Stolz der Nation, which chronicles his exploits fighting on the front in Italy.
  • Three Seats for the 26th offers an unusual example that is both In-Universe and Real Life. Yves Montand plays Yves Montand, who has come back to his hometown of Marseilles to star in "Montand Remembers", a musical show about his own life. While the movie is fictional, the musical Show Within a Show does in fact portray the real Montand's real life, including how he worked as a riveter in the Marseilles shipyard as a young man and how Édith Piaf gave him his big break.

     Newspaper Comics  

  • In the newspaper version of Spider-Man, Spidey hears they're making a movie about him and auditions for the lead role. He is initially snubbed because he's too short, but gets the role after doing some webswinging to prove he's the real deal.

     Western Animation 

  • In the Danger Mouse episode "A Loo to a Kill", DM is playing himself in a film. Penfold gets Gender Flipped and is played by Scarlett Johamster.