Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Many Times John Landis Put His Director Pals In His Projects

Because today is the 78th Birthday of THX-1138 and AMERICAN GRAFFITI filmmaker George Lucas, I was reminded of his odd cameo in John Landis’s BEVERLY HILLS COP III (1994). Then I thought about how Landis often had his fellow director friends put in brief appearances in his films, and then I thought that might make a good blog post. So before I think about something else, and forget this thread, let’s take a look at some of the most notable times that this crazy event occurred (this post is far from complete as I skipped over as well as probably missed a number of these instances).


The whole Landis and his filmmaker friends cameo calvacade starts with Frank Oz.

A few years before Oz began his filmmaking career co-directing THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982) with Jim Henson (his solo debut as Director was LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS in 1986), the voice behind such major Muppets as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Animal (among many others), made his in-person film debut as “Corrections Officer” in Landis’s THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980). The part consists of Oz drolly, and displaying much disgust, doling out the possessions of John Belushi’s Jake Blues as he’s being released from Chicago’s Joliet Prison. 

In Landis’s beyond misguided 1998 sequel, BLUES BROTHERS 2000, Oz reprises the role, showing that the character is now the Prison Warden, who has the sad task of having to tell Dan Aykroyd’s Elwood Blues, upon his release from Joliet 18 years after the events in the first film, that his brother has passed. Not sure why this important info wasn’t revealed to Elwood before this, but it actually makes for one of the miserable movie’s only heartfelt moments so I’ll drop the questioning.


Oz also put in cameos, usually as stern authority figures, in Landis’s AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981), TRADING PLACES (1983), SPIES LIKE US (1985), and INNOCENT BLOOD (1992), which was not only his last appearance in a Landis film, but his last in-person part in a movie until his brief bit in Rian Johnson’s KNIVES OUT, in 2019. 


Back to the original BLUES BROTHERS, in which arguably the most famous, and most successful filmmaker in cinema history, Steven Spielberg put in a cameo. It was his film acting debut, as the “Cook County Assessor’s Office Clerk” who helped the black-suited, fedora, and sunglass-wearing music men fulfill their “mission from God.”

After a tragic accident which took the lives of actor Vic Morrow, and two illegally-hired child actors on the set of Landis’s segment for TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983), the director/writer/producer staged a comeback in the 1985 Jeff Goldblum/Michelle Pfeifer vehicle, INTO THE NIGHT. The film was a decent mid ‘80s comedy throwaway, the kind you’d see and quickly forget on cable, but when it came to director cameos it boasted an embarrassment of riches.

Filmmakers Jack Arnold (IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE), Paul Bartel (EATING RAOUL), David Cronenberg (SCANNERS), Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS), Richard Franklin (ROAD GAMES), Amy Heckerling (FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH), Jim Henson (pictured above with Landis), Colin Higgins (HAROLD AND MAUDE writer/BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS director), Lawrence Kasdan (BODY HEAT), Paul Mazursky (AN UNMARRIED WOMAN), Daniel Petrie (A RAISIN IN THE SUN), Don Siegel (DIRTY HARRY), and Roger Vadim (BARBARELLA) all popped up throughout INTO THE NIGHT as the movie went, well, deeper into the night.


There’s too many of these people to post pics of here (unless I want a blog post a mile long), but here’s one of Cronenberg, whose part, credited as “Group Supervisor” was larger than most of the other directors involved.

Landis’s aforementioned 1985 Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd comedy SPIES LIKE US also featured:


Joel Coen, and Sam Raimi as “Drive-in Security.” 

And Terry Gilliam as “Dr. Imhaus.” 

Directors Mikael Apted, Ray Harryhausen, and Martin Brest (the director of the original BEVERLY HILLS COP) also put in cameos in SPIES LIKE US, but, again, I don’t want to take up too much space with pics.

Landis’s 1996 Tom Arnold comedy, THE STUPIDS, again featured Cronenberg, as well as more filmmaker bit parts by Robert Wise, Norman Jewison, Atom Egoyan, and Costa-Gavras.

I’ll finish with the cameo that inspired this post, Lucas as “Disappointed Man” in BEVERLY HILLS COP III. Unlike his other appearances in HOOK (1991) as “Man Kissing on Bridge,” and as Baron Papanoida in STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005), he actually has a speaking part: “Hey!” – reacting to Eddie Murphy’s Axl Foley stealing his Sky Whirl ride at the fictional theme park, Wonderworld – and “Come on, let’s go.” Okay, those lines obviously aren’t much, but they do constitute Lucas’s only in-person lines ever in a feature film. Watch the scene if you must:

From how awkward, and stiff, the STAR WARS guru was in this scene, one can only guess that Frank Oz was busy that day.


More later…

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