Getting in the Act: 11 Novelists Who Found Their Way Into the Script

Getting in the Act: 11 Novelists Who Found Their Way Into the Script (photo)

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Rock stars want to be movie stars and movie stars want to be rock stars; models want to be designers and designers want to tooth-tug Keira Knightley’s ear on the cover of Vanity Fair. These are known facts, demonstrable often to a shudder-inducing degree. What to make, though, of the latent career ambitions suggested by the humble novelist’s propensity for cameos? Do they all want to be comedians? Professional winkers? Or just slightly richer?

From Saul Bellow playing the “Man in Hallway” in an adaptation of his novel “Seize the Day” 30 years after it had been first published to Michael Chabon taking abuse in a bookstore in the upcoming adaptation of his 1988 novel, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” many authors can’t resist the idea of essentially walking into their own novel when put to celluloid. Below are a few of those, and a few more whose motivations are more elusive.

02162009_twilight.jpgFilm: “Twilight” (2008)
Author Appearance: Stephenie Meyer

In this information-obsessed era, much of the appeal of a cameo — its element of surprise — has been lost to the need to know now, before, first. And so well before the film came out — days after the scene was shot, in fact — news of crazy-selling author Stephenie Meyer’s cameo in the adaptation of the first installment in her vampire chronicles was all over the internet. Early reports suggested that Meyer’s cameo would consist of the author ordering a vegetarian plate in a coffee shop scene (in her books, there are also vegetarian vampires) and that set off a “controversy” that no doubt lit up a thousand Tumblrs, but by the time it hit theaters, her screen time was reduced to a silent sit at a lunch counter. Too shy to go along with director Catherine Hardwicke’s wish that she have a line, Meyer regrets doing it at all: “It was not my idea to do the cameo,” she said in retrospect. “They talked me into it. They thought it would be, you know, cute for the fans because most of them would recognize me. I was thinking it was going to be more like a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ thing. Like I walk by for one second in a crowd and if they can find me, cool. That’s the one scene in the movie I would happily cut — the first five seconds, and the one that I had to watch like, I mean like this [covering her eyes], ‘Ah, is it over yet?’ It was really hard for me.”

02192009_AnnieHall_TrumanCa.jpgFilm: “Annie Hall” (1977)
Author Appearance: Truman Capote

“Oh, there goes the winner of the Truman Capote contest,” Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) says to Annie (Diane Keaton) during a Central Park-set scene in “Annie Hall.” However, this being Central Park, it really was Truman Capote, just passing through, in an uncredited cameo. By 1977, the literary set had all but abandoned Capote — “Answered Prayers,” his long-awaited follow-up to “In Cold Blood” was excerpted in Esquire, in 1975 and 76, to disappointing reviews. But the Studio 54 crowd embraced him for what he was: a gadfly par excellence. Late in life, Capote was best known for knowing everyone, and seemingly being everywhere; that he should wander through an Allen film seems like a knowing nod in ubiquity’s direction. In the ’60s, Capote was close with it-girl Mia Farrow, who attended his famous Black and White Ball, but the Allen connect may have come through Keaton, whose Hollywood home she rented in 1976. “She never bothered to change her number,” Capote said. “I would have the most intimate conversations with the people who called her. ‘Well, Diane’s not here right now, would you like to leave a message?’ Then the person would go into a deep psychoanalysis of Woody Allen. Ho, ho, ho.”

02192009_Backtoschool_KurtV.jpgFilm: “Back to School” (1986)
Author Appearance: Kurt Vonnegut

Taking the cameo to its most comfortable register — the absurd — is Kurt Vonnegut’s appearance in the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy “Back to School.” As nouveau riche buffoon Thornton Melon, Dangerfield is, well, back at school, and when he is assigned an English paper on Vonnegut, he hires the man himself to help him with it. Vonnegut has just one line of introduction, although when the resultant paper gets an F (shades of the famous Marshall McLuhan cameo in “Annie Hall”) with his teacher (Sally Kellerman) fuming, “Whoever did write this doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut,” the “Slaughterhouse Five” author gets an irate call from Dangerfield, who threatens to go with Robert Ludlum next time. Interestingly, Keith Gordon, who played Dangerfield’s son in the film, went on to direct a number of films, including “The Singing Detective,” “A Midnight Clear,” and an adaptation of Vonnegut’s novel “Mother Night” in 1996.


Do You Know Jackie?

Test Your Knowledge on All Things Jackie

Take the Jackie quiz, That '70s fans!

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Jackie is the spoiled little rich girl of That ’70s Show, which doesn’t stop her from being right a little more often than her friends might like. But how many right answers will you get in our quiz that’s all about the motormouth of the That ’70s Show gang? Find out below.



Masters of Disguise

10 Celebs Who Went in Disguise For a Laugh

Catch David Krumholtz in Gigi Does It starting October 1st at 10:30P on IFC.

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Are you ready for Gigi Rotblum? Armed with a hefty bank account left to her by her late hubby, the 76-year-old yenta is grabbing life by the balls and shocking everyone within earshot with her no-nonsense attitude.

But it turns out there’s a man behind the granny — Yes, the star of the new IFC series Gigi Does It is actually actor David Krumholtz, who you probably know from shows like Numb3rs and movies like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Krumholtz causes all kinds of trouble when he encounters people while undercover as his prosthetically enhanced alter ego.

In honor of the premiere of Gigi Does It, join us for a look at a long line of celebrities who’ve gone undercover for laughs.

1. David Krumholtz

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Krumholtz isn’t the first big-name celeb to become unrecognizable for a good, old-fashioned prank, but he’s definitely our new favorite. Accompanied by her trusty male nurse, Gigi isn’t afraid to give an art gallery curator her creative opinion on the works in his collection, or to tell a bunch of grannies how she slipped a nip in front of her grandkids. (Click here to watch a free episode of Gigi Does It.)

2. Drake

Despite his immense stardom, Drake is a polarizing figure. There are many people who have no patience for him or his music, and to weed these people out for himself, the hip hop star went undercover on the street in California. Thankfully, Jimmy Kimmel and his “I Witness News” team were on hand to watch the whole thing play out.

3. Channing Tatum

Everyone loves Channing Tatum. It’s not rocket science. But add in a special early screening of Magic Mike XXL, male strippers, and an added surprise, and it’s no wonder people couldn’t contain themselves. The added surprise was Tatum going undercover as an old man conducting a survey with the attendees. People laughed when he later gyrated on the lap of a woman in the front row, but the party really took off when he revealed his true identity.

4. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Ah-nuld can’t really go anywhere without getting noticed. So in order to promote the After School All-Stars charity, the Terminator star disguised himself as a trainer at a Gold’s Gym who just happened to sound exactly like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thankfully his intense mustache didn’t scare folks off from ever setting foot inside a gym again.

5. David Beckham

Ellen DeGeneres likes to use her powers for good, making some of the celebrity guests on her talk show go in disguise to prank regular folks. For David Beckham, the comedienne had him pose as a Target employee and say and do ridiculous things to get customers to smell his cologne. Like Schwarzenegger, however, people caught on pretty quickly that it was really the soccer star under that fake mustache and glasses.

6. Ashton Kutcher

The That ’70s Show star made a career out of pranking people with Punk’d, so he decided to use his skills in this arena to sell some tablets. The actor became Coordrey, a product engineer for Lenovo, in order to get customers to purchase their new product. Normally we would denounce those who would shamelessly use their powers for commercial purposes, but this is pretty amusing.

7. Kim Kardashian

Raise your hand if you would like to tell Kim Kardashian what you really think of her — to her face, no less. Some people inadvertently got to do that when the princess of the Kardashian clan went undercover on an episode of Celebrity Undercover. The premise was that candidates were being interviewed for a job as Kim’s assistant, while the reality star herself got to hear what everyone was saying about her.

8. Bryan Cranston

Cranston pulled the perfect prank at Comic Con 2013 by walking around the show floor as his Breaking Bad alter ego Walter White. The mask was so spot-on, no one realized it was the actual Heisenberg underneath.

9. Johnny Knoxville

The Jackass maven had a huge comedy hit by disguising himself under prosthetic make-up to play a cranky senior. Perhaps he should drop by Gigi’s place for a cocktail or two.

10. Sacha Baron Cohen

Whether as Borat, Ali G or Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen has made a career out of pranking people with his outrageous characters.

That 70s Show Superfriends

That '70s Spoofs

8 Movie and TV Parodies From That ’70s Show

Catch That '70s Show Mondays & Tuesdays from 6-11P on IFC.

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That ’70s Show never missed the chance to make a mockery of major movies and TV shows from the Me Decade. Before you dive into IFC’s Thanksgiving Day Sweatsgiving That ’70s Show marathon, check out some of the show’s best spoofs of Star Wars, the Superfriends and more.

8. Star Wars

Star Wars That 70s Show

The 1977 release of Star Wars affects the That ’70s gang as much as it affects the rest of society: totally and awesomely. The season one episode “A New Hope” sends the gang to a galaxy far, far away (well, the cinema), leading Eric to star in his own Force-powered dream with everything from Red Kenobi to a R2-D2 vacuum.

7. Batman

Batman That 70s Show

When a drunken Jackie makes Fez‘s dreams come true by hitting on him, he faces a superheroic internal struggle starring himself as a tiny Batman and Riddler. Of course, Fez-man hasn’t always been so heroic.

Fez That 70s Show

6. The Super Friends

Superfriends That 70s Show

Kelso gets to be Batman in an entire ’70s gang of Super-pals in a super-powered fantasy. Though their battle against Red Luthor — who, let’s be honest, would triumph over the REAL Super Friends — is weakened when all Wonder Twins Hyde and Jackie want to do is make out.

5. Shaft

Isaac Hayes, who wrote and performed the original and incomparable theme for the ’70s flick Shaft, provides a significantly less tough “Theme for Fez” in the episode “Spread Your Wings.”

4. The Continental

Big Rhonda That 70s Show

When Fez tries to get to third base with Big Rhonda in the basement, the camera switches to second-person as she watches him making his attempts in the style of Renzo Casena in the TV series The Continental. (The 1950s series was also famously parodied by Christopher Walken on SNL.)

3. Psycho and other Hitchcock classics

Psycho That 70s Show

Halloween episodes are always a good excuse for costumes and parodies. “Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die”  memorably parodied Hitchcock classics like Rear Window, The Birds and, of course, Psycho‘s iconic shower scene.

2. Annie Hall

Eric and Donna took on the roles of Alvy Singer and Annie Hall in a spoof of a memorable scene from the classic Woody Allen and Diane Keaton comedy.

1. I Love Lucy

In a fun take on the Lucille Ball sitcom classic, Fez’s fantasies veer all the way to monochrome, creating an alternate world where he has a relationship and Red might even talk to him for two sentences without calling him a dumbass.

Source Code Michelle Monaghan

Michelle Visits CB!B!

5 Michelle Monaghan Roles We Love

Michelle Monaghan stops by Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P ET/PT on IFC.

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Photo: Summit Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

Here’s an interesting tidbit you might not know about Michelle Monaghan: when she was growing up, her parents also took in foster kids to their Winthrop, Iowa home. They raised a solid dozen of them over as many years, and we can’t help but think that being exposed to different people from so many circumstances helped Michelle build the empathy and eye for character that has made her one of our favorite actresses.

To get you ready for Michelle Monaghan’s appearance on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we put together an extremely biased list of her five best roles. Sorry, Pixels doesn’t make the cut.

5. Harmony Lane, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Shane Black’s demented Hollywood noir is on our short list for most underrated flick of all time. Not only did it bring Robert Downey Jr. back to the big screen as petty criminal turned unwitting detective Harry Lockhart, but it features possibly the best post-Iceman Val Kilmer performance of all time. The third player in the film’s triangle is Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Laine, Harry’s childhood friend all grown up. Harmony is the motor that drives the twisted story of lust and revenge, and she does a bang-up (pun intended) job walking the tightrope between small-town innocence and Los Angeles sleaze.

4. Diane Ford, Trucker


Plum Pictures

The 2008 indie Trucker might have flown beneath your radar, but you should check it out on Netflix because it’s one of Michelle Monaghan’s finest performances. She plays Diane Ford, a long-haul driver who finds her screwed-up life of getting blitzed and having one-night stands upended when her 10-year-old son comes back into her life. It’s a story that could easily get obvious and cliche, but first-time director James Mottern dodges dramatic pitfalls with the aid of his incredible lead, instead producing a deft character study that is very worth watching.

3. Maggie Hart, True Detective

Season one of the acclaimed HBO crime drama was aided by an incredible cast of actors, including Michelle Monaghan’s Maggie Hart. As one of the key female figures in a very male-dominated show, Maggie has to carry a lot of weight. When we found out halfway through that she’d cheated on her husband (Woody Harrelson) with Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, it served as a new lens to examine their twisted relationship. It’s a challenging role that Monaghan rises to with aplomb.

2. Christina Warren, Source Code

Source code

The premise for the 2011 thriller Source Code is pretty ridiculous — a top secret military project gives Jake Gyllenhaal the ability to travel back in time and re-live the last eight minutes of somebody’s life over and over like the world’s worst Groundhog Day — but the end result is a damn fine film. Michelle Monaghan provides an important emotional anchor as Christina Warren, who Gyllenhaal’s character builds a deeper and deeper connection with every time he loops back. Without her, the whole premise would collapse, and the actress rises to the occasion ably.

1. Julia Meade, Mission: Impossible III


Paramount Pictures

Playing the romantic lead in a Tom Cruise-led spy actioner is a pretty thankless job, but director J. J. Abrams gave Monaghan plenty to chew on as Ethan Hunt’s fiancee Julia Meade in the third Mission: Impossible flick. Initially Julia starts out as a clueless damsel in distress, captured by arms dealer Owen Davian to compel Hunt to steal some Macguffin or other. But by the end of the film she’s up to speed with her fiance’s covert career, saves his life with an electric shock and even pops a cap in the ass of IMF traitor John Musgrave.

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