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Real-Person Cameo

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In Biopics and dramatizations of true events where the principal figure, though portrayed in the show by some Hollywood star, is still alive in Real Life, it's a traditional Casting Gag to assign this non-actor some bit part (not As Himself).

A subtrope of The Cameo. Compare Celebrity Paradox, Autobiographical Role, Real-Person Epilogue.


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    Comic Strips 
  • In-Universe example in Funky Winkerbean: When a Hollywood film is made based on Les Moore's memoir about his wife's cancer, Les is given a role as a waiter. He does really badly at it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Big Eyes, the real Margaret Keane appears toward the end as an elderly woman on a park bench.
  • Lampshaded in the adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when Johnny Depp, playing Hunter S. Thompson's Expy Raoul Duke, wanders around a club while in the grips of a Mushroom Samba, as his voiceover begins, "So there I was—" before breaking off in alarm to shout, "Wait, mother of God, there I am!" The camera cuts to the real Thompson seated at a nearby table.
  • Cleverly used in Erin Brockovich. When Erin is in a restaurant, the waitress who takes her and her kids' order is the real Erin Brockovich; as a bit of an allusion to her astonishing memory (referenced earlier in the film), she memorizes all of their requests without writing anything down. The waitress even has a nametag that reads "Julia", as Brockovich is played by Julia Roberts. At the table behind her is the real Ed Masry, the lawyer who represented Erin.
  • The film adaptation of The Right Stuff had a couple of NACA recruiters visiting Pancho's Happy Bottom Riding Club outside of Edwards AFB, sizing up the test pilots present. The old man who interrupts them to ask if they want any whiskey is the real Chuck Yeager, whom they were discussing.
  • The real Baroness Maria von Trapp, her daughter and granddaughter appear briefly as extras in the movie version of The Sound of Music. They are in the background during the song "I Have Confidence", at the line, "I must stop these doubts, all these worries/If I don't, I just know I'll turn back."
  • In The Pursuit of Happyness, the real Chris Gardner (Will Smith's character) is the very well-dressed black man crossing the street behind Will Smith and his son at the end of the movie.
  • Jim Garrison played Earl Warren in JFK (Kevin Costner played Garrison).
  • In The People vs. Larry Flynt, Woody Harrelson, playing Flynt, has a really nasty judge hearing one of his obscenity trials. The judge is played by the real Larry Flynt.
  • Apollo 13 features a cameo by astronaut Jim Lovell (who flew on the actual Apollo 13 mission) as the captain of the aircraft carrier that recovers the crew after splashdown. Lovell is, of course, being played by Tom Hanks. The cameo is doubly appropriate, given that Lovell is a retired Navy captain. (The plan was for him to be an admiral for the part, but he declared, "I retired a captain, and I'll be a captain.") His wife Marilyn, who was played by Kathleen Quinlan in the film, also appears as a spectator at the Apollo 13 launch.
  • The real Frank Abagnale Jr. was an extra in Catch Me If You Can. He played one of the French police officers. He's also briefly seen in the game show that opens the film — he's the first person to talk before DiCaprio (whose face was digitally superimposed on the other person pretending to be Frank).
  • Tony Wilson himself appears as a TV studio technician in 24-Hour Party People. After his cameo, it is immediately pointed out by the actor playing Tony Wilson (the film has No Fourth Wall, at least when dealing with the main character) who then also mentions several other cameos by actual musicians from throughout the film to that point. One notable example features Howard Devoto, the lead singer for the bands the Buzzcocks and Magazine, appearing in a scene featuring the actor playing him, only to turn around and bluntly state that he doesn't remember this happening at all. It's that kind of Biopic.
  • In The Sugarland Express, Officer Kenneth Crone, the patrolman whose kidnapping loosely inspired the film, appears as a deputy.
  • Spike Milligan plays his own father in the film version of Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall.
  • Milk has the real Cleve Jones as Don Amador. (Jones is played by Emile Hirsch in the film.)
  • At the end of Schindler's List, the actors portraying the major characters walk hand-in-hand with the people they portrayed, placing stones on Schindler's grave.
  • The Doors:
    • The recording engineer at the sessions that eventually became An American Prayer is played by John Densmore, the drummer for the actual band.
    • The man in the club who tells the band they're gonna make a million dollars is The Doors' record producer Paul Rothchild.
    • The promoter in New Haven is Bill Graham, who promoted many of The Doors' concerts in the band's heyday.
    • The neopagan priestess who marries Jim Morrison and Patricia Kennealy is the real Kennealy.
  • Alice Brock, the "Alice" in "Alice's Restaurant" (remember Alice? It's a song about Alice), has a cameo in the movie adaptation of the song.
  • Ryan White had a small part in The Ryan White Story as another boy with AIDS.
  • In Falling from the Sky: Flight 174, when two guys just out of a flight simulator complain to an examiner that it's impossible for both engines to fail because of a pump failure, the examiner tells them that this exact scenario has actually happened. The examiner is played by Robert Pearson, the Captain of The Gimli Glider, a Boeing 767 which ran out of fuel in mid-air.
  • Some Came Running is a 1958 film starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, in which a number of poker games are portrayed. In one such game, Frank and Dino are playing against James Jones, who wrote the autobiographical novel upon which the movie is based. (For you ultimate trivia buffs, another person at the same table is Uncle Leo.)
  • David Fincher's 2007 movie Zodiac features a brief appearance of Zodiac survivor Bryan C. Hartnell. Hartnell also consulted for the film.
  • Author J.G. Ballard cameos as a party guest in Empire of the Sun, adapted from his semi-autobiographical novel of the same name.
  • The Man Who Never Was featured Ewen Montagu, who wrote the book, playing a senior officer who expresses skepticism about Montagu's plan. They had to reshoot the scene several times because actor Clifton Webb, playing Montagu, kept breaking up laughing.
  • The film Ernie Kovacs: Between The Laughter features a scene where Edie Adams (portrayed by Melody Anderson) has a chance to see Mae West. Mae West is portrayed by the real Edie Adams.
  • Man on the Moon features a number of these - for example, the real Bob Zmuda (played by Paul Giamatti in the film) appears as the producer of ABC's Fridays.
  • George Harrison, one of the biggest supporters of The Rutles, appears in the film as a grey-wigged reporter.
  • Aside from being portrayed by an actor as part of the Rolling Stone staff, the actual Jann Wenner has a cameo in Almost Famous, reading a newspaper in the back of a taxi.
  • The French Connection has appearances by Eddie "Popeye" Egan and Sonny "Cloudy" Grosso, real-life NYC cops and the inspirations for the movie's Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo.
  • In Casino, Frank Cullotta, the inspiration for Frank Vincent's character, appears at the end of the film as a hitman dispatched to eliminate those who have outlived their usefulness.
  • In Secretariat, Penny Chenery, owner of the all-time great racehorse, is played by Diane Lane. The real Chenery, in her mid-80s at the time of filming (more than 35 years after Secretariat's Triple Crown run in 1973), appears in a crowd scene at the Belmont Stakes, not far from Secretariat's cinematic connections.
  • Hoosiers: For background, the film was very loosely based on Milan High School's real-life run to the 1954 Indiana state basketball title. With that out of the way...
    • In the film's state final, the arena's PA announcer was Tom Carnegie, who was the TV play-by-play announcer for Milan's actual state final.
    • Similarly, the radio announcer for the film's final was Hilliard Gates, who filled the same role in Milan's actual final.
    • The head coach of South Bend Central, losers to Hickory in the film's final, was played by Ray Crowe, who also had a connection to Milan's real title run. Back in 1954, he was head coach at Crispus Attucks High School, an all-black school from Indianapolis that lost in the semi-state final (Indiana's term for the state quarterfinals) to Milan. Attucks would go on to win the next two state titles.
    • And according to IMDb, Bobby Plump, the even looser real-life basis for Hickory's star Jimmy Chitwood, had a cameo as well.
  • Another basketball film, The Mighty Macs, based somewhat more closely on the story of the pioneering Immaculata College* women's team of the 1970s, has a lot of this as well.
    • Immaculata coach Cathy Rush, played by Carla Gugino, receives money from a bank teller in one scene. The teller is the real Cathy Rush.
    • The customer who pays money for the lotion but walks away without taking the bottle is the real Ed Rush, Cathy's husband.
    • The nuns who pass the note down the pew from Cathy to one of her star players, Trish Sharkey, are the actual players of the Immaculata championship team.
  • Several bar scenes in American Underdog, which tells the rags-to-riches story of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, feature a couple seated at a table in the background... who are the real Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda (who's also a prominent character in the film).
  • In The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort (the person played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is seen at the end introducing DiCaprio's Belfort to a crowd after he reinvents himself as a motivational speaker.
  • While it's not based on real events, in Pixels, Toru Iwatani (the creator of Pac-Man) is played by Denis Akiyama. The real Iwatani appears as a random technician.
  • Arguably, Danny Wallace's cameo in a bar in Yes-Man, although the film is only loosely based on his memoir, and the main character isn't even called Danny.
  • The real Edward Snowden appears at the end of the political thriller Snowden addressing the audience with some final lines of his own.
  • At the beginning of Wild, Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, is dropped off by a truck driver played by the real Cheryl Strayed.
  • In-Universe example happens during the climax of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, where his traveling all over the country to find his bike is made into an over-the-top action film. Peewee appears as a hotel check-in clerk.
  • Played With in The Theory of Everything; after previewing the movie, Stephen Hawking gave permission for the filmmakers to use a version of his synthesized voice to replace the simulation they used.
  • In Holding the Man, Tim Conigrave's real mother Mary Gert Conigrave, Tim's real sister Anna Davison, and one of her daughters appear briefly sitting on a table acting as one of the guests during Anna's wedding reception scene.
  • Fighting with My Family:
    • In the third act, Zak stops one of his friends from hanging around with a drug dealer - who he then shakes his head at. The dealer is played by the real Zak.
    • Earlier in the second act, Zak is seen participating in a hardcore match. The wrestler he's up against is played by the real Roy Bevis, the real Zak's older half-brother.
    • Actual WWE Superstars Sheamus, The Miz, and The Big Show all appear as themselves for the scene at WrestleMania XXX.
  • A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints:
    • At one point the audio of a conversation on the phone between Dito and Antonio is played. It's the voice of the real Antonio.
    • In The Stinger, both the real Dito and Monti are having a conversation.
  • The Made-for-TV Movie Augusta, Gone is about a teenager's addiction to drugs and alcohol. The end of the film shows her on a bus home to be reunited with her family. On the bus, she's seen chatting to a blonde girl in the seat behind her. The same girl and her mother are shown waving goodbye to Augusta and Martha, before the movie tells us that they are the real people the movie was based on.
  • The Disaster Artist ends with the real Tommy Wiseau meeting the film version played by James Franco.
  • In A Street Cat Named Bob which was based on a book by James Bowen, he appears in a cameo when the actor playing him releases his book. RL-James compliments character-James on the book, saying it was as if it happened to him.
  • In La Bamba, during a family party Ritchie Valens (portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips) sits next to an elderly woman who is Valens' real mother.
  • Spotlight:
    • The real Mike Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer are visible in the stands at the Red Sox game about halfway through the movie.
    • The real Ben Bradlee Jr. is seen listening to his fictional counterpart reporting on 9/11.
  • The Conjuring: The real Lorraine Warren plays the elder woman in the front row of the classroom when Carolyn is listening to the Warrens' presentation.
  • In tick, tick... BOOM!, Stephen Sondheim appears in the film as played by Bradley Whitford. In the film's final act, Jon gets a voicemail from Stephen Sondheim giving praise to Jon over the latter's "Superbia" workshop. Whitford did record a voicemail in character...but when director Lin-Manuel Miranda gave the real Sondheim an advanced screening of the film, Sondheim remarked that the message didn't seem like something he would actually say and offered, if there was time, to rerecord something that he wrote himself. Miranda, a massive Fanboy, immediately agreed (later joking that when Stephen Sondheim says "if there's time," you make time for him).
  • In first scene of the made-for-TV film Freefall: Flight 174, also known as Falling From The Sky: Flight 174, two pilots exit a simulator having failed to land a plane that had lost all power. They complain to the flight instructor about having to go through such a ridiculous scenario, whereupon the instructor tells them "It isn't a dream. It happened." The flight instructor was played by Captain Bob Pearson, the captain who pulled off exactly that in a plane known as The Gimli Glider (the plane ran out of fuel due to Unit Confusion). The rest of the film is based on the flight of the Gimli Glider.
  • Communion is based on author Whitley Strieber's account of being abducted by aliens. Christopher Walken portrays Strieber. The author himself appears as a museum patron in a scene near the end of the film.
  • Buster, a 1988 film starring Phil Collins as the real life criminal Buster Edwards, has the real Buster Edwards make a cameo in the airport scene. He can be seen walking with Collins' wife of the time, Jill Tavelman.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic plays a record company executive in the parody biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.
  • The real Sister Helen appears as an extra in the vigil scene the night of the execution in Dead Man Walking alongside others who are anti-death penalty activists in Real Life.
  • Society of the Snow:
    • Fernando “Nando” Parrado appears early in the film, opening the airport’s front door to the actors portraying him and his family.
    • José Luis “Coche” Inciarte appears in the bar scene, behind Numa and his friends, reading a newspaper.
    • Both Ramón “Moncho” Sabella and Antonio “Tintín” Vizintín appear at the airport as background characters.
    • Daniel Fernández appears in the church, more specifically, in the left front row.
    • Carlitos Páez portrays his own father, Carlos Páez Vilaró, who reads the list of survivors over the radio and then greets the movie's Carlitos as he disembarks from the rescue helicopter.
    • Roberto Canessa appears as a doctor, escorting the movie’s Canessa into the hospital amidst the crowd of reporters.
    • Gustavo Zerbino appears as a rugby coach, but his scenes were cut.
    • Numa Turcatti's nephew, Joaquín de Freitas Turcattu, appears as the neighbor who he greets while entering his house.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Toast, The BBC's dramatization of celebrity chef Nigel Slater's autobiography, Slater plays the chef who gives young Nigel his first job.
  • Happens more than once on The Wire, as several characters are loosely based on real Baltimore cops and criminals who are given cameos on the show.
    • The real Jay Landsman appears in the show as Major Colvin's Number Two, Lt. Dennis Mello.
    • Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich plays a security guard at the governor's office.
    • Donnie Andrews, the real-life inspiration for Omar Little, who appears as his sidekick a few times and is ultimately killed when Omar makes his Super Window Jump. That scene was based on an incident in Andrews' real life.
    • Guess which character is played by notorious former crimelord Little Melvin, the inspiration for Avon Barksdale? Give up? The Deacon.
    • Felicia Pearson basically plays a fictionalized version of herself. Somewhat. Pearson is alive and well in real life, while her fictional version was killed by Michael Lee in season 5.
    • The woman playing the principal of the local school? Actually the principal of the real high school. No wonder you sat up straight when she raised her voice.
  • Sue Thomas appears in three episodes of Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye. In two of them, she plays a character named Deanne Bray!
  • In Micro Men Sophie (née Roger) Wilson, as well as being a major character played by actor Stefan Butler, has a cameo right at the end of the programme as a pub landlady.
  • Sky One's Little Crackers series comprises biographical skits about (and usually written by) comedians and comedy actors, who always appear as a secondary character. For instance, Alison Steadman as her own mum, or Stephen Fry playing his headmaster.
  • Dave Barry guest-starred in one episode of Dave's World, the sitcom based on his column. He was a disgruntled character who got into a bidding war with Dave over an air conditioner during a heatwave. The end credits featured real Dave Barry and screen Dave Barry (Harry Anderson) jamming together on guitars. To take things full-circle, the real Dave then wrote a column about his experience on the show, which was published in the book Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up.
  • In An Adventure in Space and Time, a docudrama about the making of Doctor Who's first three seasons, William Russell (Ian Chesterton) plays Harry, The BBC commissionaire, and Carole Ann Ford (Susan) plays Joyce, a grandmother whose grandsons are Doctor Who fans. A few other actors from these early seasons appear at various points, most notably in the crowd at Verity Lambert's leaving do.
  • A sort of cross between this and Real-Life Relative: in the final episode of The Enfield Haunting, Janet Grosse's siblings, Richard and Marilyn, are played by Richard Grosse's children, Nick and Antonia Grosse.
  • In the fourth episode of Band of Brothers, the real Babe Heffron is seen sitting at a table and waving a flag during the scene where Easy Company liberates Eindhoven, Holland from the German army.
  • Lady Dynamite: Maria Bamford's actual parents appear in the congregation for Chad's funeral.
  • Roughly halfway through the Mini Series "I Know My First Name Is Steven", the real Steven Stayner plays one of the police officers escorting "Steven" through a crowd of reporters and civilians back to his family's home.
  • The Twilight Zone: In "The Once and Future King", Elvis Presley's lifelong best friend Red West plays his boss Mr. Harris of the Crown Electric Company.
  • In a NewsRadio episode where Matthew becomes obsessed with the Dilbert strip, Dilbert creator Scott Adams has a cameo as an impatient onlooker.
  • In 2013, HBO released Six By Sondheim, a documentary about the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The documentary explores Sondheim's life and work through six particular songs, all of which are performed in new styles (for example, Jarvis Cocker sings "I'm Still Here" in a jazz club setting). "Opening Doors," from Merrily We Roll Along, is staged as a full musical number...and Sondheim himself plays the producer who shoots down his Expies' work ("There's not a tune you can hum..."). It's particularly effective because Merrily is, by Sondheim's admission, autobiographical—meaning that Sondheim gets to portray the very person who told him he'd never make it as a composer.

    Music Videos 
  • George Harrison's 1988 video for "When We Was Fab", a nostalgic look back at Beatlemania, features his former bandmate Ringo Starr, first as a personal assistant and then as a drummer (the latter being Starr's real-life role in The Beatles), and also former Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall holding up a copy of John Lennon's 1971 album Imagine. Rumors that Paul McCartney also appeared in the video have never been confirmed. The video features several other cameos from music celebrities that don't fit this trope.
  • In Elton John's 2001 video for "Original Sin", Mandy Moore plays a bespectacled, Shrinking Violet Elton fan in The '70s who shuts herself in her room as her father is setting up a camera for a family portrait in her living room. She falls asleep and dreams she is following the Yellow Brick Road to attend an Elton concert from the time period at the height of his success and flamboyance); though "Elton" is never seen, many celebrities (played by lookalikes) are in the audience. Mandy's character's father is played by Elton himself.
  • In the video for "Weird Al" Yankovic's 1984 song "I Lost on Jeopardy", a parody of The Greg Kihn Band's "Jeopardy" with its lyrics focusing on the game show of the same name, the following individuals directly connected to the parody subjects appear:
    • Greg Kihn himself.
    • Art Fleming, the host of the original (1964–75) version of Jeopardy!
    • Don Pardo, the announcer for the original Jeopardy!

    Web Videos 
  • In Funny or Die's spoof trailer for Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, the faux Al's goatee'd manager is played by Al himself. Yankovic would later appear in the full film version of the trailer as Tony Scotti, the record producer who gave him his first record deal.