Features and Columns · Movies

A Fast and Furious History of Director Cameos

Actor-directors … director-actors … what’s the difference?
David Lynch The Fablemans
By  · Published on April 21st, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores why directors make cameos in other people’s films.

Like most highly serious ontological inquiries, before you start asking who our greatest actor-directors are, you need to set a couple of ground rules.

What are we talking about, exactly? Should we count sneaky walk-on cameos that require a third eye and a magnifying glass to spot? Should we make exceptions for exceptional folks like John Huston, who is a director first and an actor second despite having far more credits in the latter category? And what of the likes of Werner Herzog, whose acting career largely consists of various parody-adjacent shades of his infamously exacting directorial persona?

None of this needs to be so complicated. But I’d argue that part of the fun of appreciating a trend is cracking it open like a nut and unspooling its stickier contradictions. Luckily, the origins of the phenomenon are far less obscure than attempting to nail down its parameters. Many good directors understand acting, which can sometimes make them great actors. And if David Cronenberg demands a role in Jason X in exchange for the production borrowing his FX team, who are you to deny him?

(For what it’s worth, Cronenberg is far and away our greatest living actor-director. But maybe you have a different opinion … or perhaps you agree with the mysterious conclusion of the video essay below).

Watch “Why Directors Act In Other People’s Films”

Who made this?

This look at the use of character perspective in Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown comes courtesy of the fine folks at Little White Lies, a film-obsessed magazine based in the United Kingdom. Luís Azevedo directed this video. You can follow Little White Lies on Twitter here. And you can check out their official website here. You can subscribe to their YouTube account here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.