9 Great Remake Cameos From The Original Movie’s Stars

By  · Published on September 22nd, 2015

United Artists/MGM Home Entertainment

The upcoming Ghostbusters reboot is not technically a remake, but it’s not a sequel either. And while we’re not sure how or if it will be linked to the 1984 original and its 1989 sequel, there will at least be plenty of reminders of what came before. And some of these reminders will, of course, come in the form of cameo appearances from stars of the first movie.

This week, as production wrapped on the new version, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts were revealed to have joined Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd for brief roles. Hudson’s part isn’t known, but Potts is reportedly a hotel clerk, Murray a ghost debunker and Aykroyd a conspiracy-obsessed cab driver. Hopefully the movie is good enough that they’re not distractions and/or just reminders that we wish we were watching the original.

I’ll never understand why Hollywood remakes its classic movies only to have those typically lesser versions celebrate and remind us of the originals with various homages, Easter eggs and appearances from the old movie’s actors. But they’ve been doing it for almost 40 years, that I’m aware of, and occasionally the new movies are indeed good enough and the cameos fun enough that the idea doesn’t wind up being a problem.

Here are some of those occasions:

Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

One of the first instances that I now of where a remake features an original star is also the one that I feel does it best. McCarthy shows up near the start of the movie hysterically running through the street, just as he’d been seen doing at the end of the first version from 1956. It’s like a passing of the torch in a way. And because these movies are based on a book, I don’t mind all the remakes any more than I mind countless movies of Shakespeare plays.

Kirk Allyn and Noel Neill in Superman (1978)

It probably helped me that it took decades of enjoying Superman before I knew young Lois Lane’s parents on the train were played by the actors who portrayed Clark Kent/Superman and Lois in the 1948 Superman and 1950 Atom Man vs. Superman serials. With less than 30 years between them, though, someone must have groaned at the familiar sight of them back then. Or, maybe because this might be the true first occasion (released five days ahead of Invasion of the Body Snatchers) it was a novel enough idea that it was appreciated. Of course, it probably encouraged Smallville to overdo it with the cameos from old Superman property stars.

Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Martin Balsam in Cape Fear (1991)

I don’t understand why Martin Scorsese wanted to remake 1962’s Cape Fear, a movie he’s a fan of, even with his claim that it was to be a challenge. What I do know is that it’s a pretty decent thriller in its own right, and frankly it got me to want to see the original, in part thanks to its casting of that version’s stars in supporting roles, as well as Mitchum’s Night of the Hunter. It’s also fun the way here Peck and Mitchum kind of align with the character they didn’t play 29 years earlier, Peck being Cady’s lawyer and Mitchum being a cop.

Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

The thing about this appearance is it could have just been an accident. After all, you think of Connery to play King Richard because he’s Connery and has a rather regal air about him, not necessarily because he previously played Robin Hood in Robin and Marian.

Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek (2009)

Okay, this one I’m conflicted about. On the one hand, I think it kind of shameful that they couldn’t let go of the original Star Trek series and had to have Nimoy show up for a lot of fan service. On the other hand, he’s used for a good reason, which is ironically to show how and why the reboot is straying from the plots and tone of the iconic predecessor. That they continued the “cameo” into Star Trek Into Darkness was inexcusable, however.

Marc McClure in Freaky Friday (2003)

Is the Freaky Friday adaptation starring Lindsey Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis even a remake? Or is it sequel? The character names are different, and then there’s a link to the 1976 original in the form of McClure, who shows up as a mailman named Boris. That’s right, the same name he had in the earlier version.

Walt Disney Productions

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.