Stars Playing Themselves in Movies: The 7 Make-or-Break Rules
All those 'This is the End' guys — you know, the ones who play themselves. (Photo: Sony Pictures)
When Seth Rogen and famous friends face the apocalypse in "This Is the End," they will join the ranks of stars who have taken on the challenge of portraying themselves (or versions of themselves) on the big screen.
Hitting that close to home, some have rise to the challenge swimmingly, while others have drowned.
Here's a guide to how an actor stays afloat while playing his favorite character of all.
1. Surprise. If you're, say, a former child star best known for playing an earnest character with a ridiculous name, such as Doogie, go smooth and slick and slightly noxious. Neil Patrick Harris did just this when he played himself in "Harold and Kumar." Then, once the world sees you in a different light and notices that you can make fun of yourself, watch your career get suited up in "How I Met Your Mother" and awards shows everywhere.
Neil Patrick Harris, center, in 'Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle' (Photo: New Line Cinema)
3. Less is more. Ben Affleck is all over "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," playing his star self (making an ill-advised sequel to "Good Will Hunting," alongside fellow good sport Matt Damon). But director Gus Van Sant makes a bigger, better impression as a mailing-it-in Gus Van Sant in a cameo that offers welcome relief to all the trying-too-hard scenery-chewing.
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4. Don't be in a much-reviled movie. If you only watched clips of Al Pacino spoofing his thespian self in Adam Sandler's "Jack and Jill," you might think: funny. If you had to sit through the whole movie (it of the lowly 3 percent approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes), then you might think: Vote him a Razzie!
John Malkovich as sort-of himself (Photo: USA Films)
5. Have a good script. This is the corollary to the "Jack and Jill" theory. John Malkovich is wonderful in "Being John Malkovich" because Charlie Kaufman's screenplay lets him play a distinct character who just happens to share the star's name. (And, yes, because Malkovich is usually pretty wonderful in everything.) Also, if the script's especially clever, as "Being John Malovich"'s is, then it also allows Charlie Sheen to shine by simply being Charlie Sheen — or at least, what we think of as Charlie Sheen. (Refer back to Rule No. 2.)