Big Actors in Small/Insignificant Roles

What are examples of relatively well-known actors showing up in oddly small roles in movies? I am not talking about:

1. Early small roles of actors who later became well-known

2. Cameo appearances where the director deliberately cast a recognizable actor in a small role (e.g. Bill Murray in Zombieland, Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers)

The ones that always stood out to me are:

1. Harry Dean Stanton playing FBI Man #1 in Godfather 2: he's barely in the movie and doesn't really have any lines. Granted, he wasn't as popular at this point as he would later become, but he had already landed supporting roles in big-budget movies, e.g. the prior year's Dillinger, so it's weird to see him as a background character.

2. Virginia Madsen in The Haunting: she is in one scene that has no real bearing on the plot, after having starred in various popular films during the 80s/90s (Dune, Candyman etc).

3. Billy Connolly in White Oleander: barely in the movie in a role that has little dialogue and could have been played by basically anyone. IIRC he was originally in more of it but they cut his scenes out.

4. Not as weird as the above examples but I never understood Ben Stiller being in Royal Tenenbaums, it seems like Owen Wilson only tacked his part on because they are friends IRL and had just done Permanent Midnight together. Any actor could have played his character, and removing the character from the movie entirely wouldn't even have affected the plot.

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    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >be a mob boss
      >want to torment a punk who's giving you trouble
      >glass your girlfriend and force your goons to get naked
      What was his plan here?

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        Have a good time

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      That doesn't really count though, nobody knew who Arnold was yet in 1973.

      I was going to say Harrison Ford showing up for one scene in Apocalypse Now. He had already appeared in American Graffiti and had blown up in popularity from playing Han Solo in Star Wars. I'm not sure that it counts though because AN took years to shoot so Star Wars may have come out after he was cast (but before AN was released).

      Another one is Chris Isaak playing a random SWAT team member in Silence of the Lambs. He had already blown up as a musician with Wicked Game, especially after the song was featured in Wild at Heart, but his role in SotL is so small that you wouldn't recognize him unless someone pointed him out.

      It doesn't really fit with the OP but I always thought it was really strange that Lewis Black and Kyle Gass are both in Jacob's Ladder, in the same scene, as background characters. Neither was famous at that point but it is really weird that they were extras in a scene together and then later became well-known, not for acting, but for music/standup.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        You could also say Lawrence Fishburn in Apocalypse Now

        • 1 month ago
          Anonymous

          Apocalypse Now was Lawrence Fishburn's first movie, he lied about his age to get the part. Nobody knew him yet at that point.

          This is an actual good example, this was at like the peak of Christian Slater's popularity too. I think he was a huge Star Trek freak which is probably why he took that role.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        Checked.
        I have the annoying habit of pointing out Chris Isaak EVERY SINGLE TIME SotL is on.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        Ford's name tag in AN says "Lucas"

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      >can't be arsed to read past first sentence
      You are part of the problem.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        I could beat you up in real life

  1. 1 month ago
    Anonymous
  2. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    The one shot that William H Macy has in Inland Empire

  3. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Ben Affleck as butthole basketball player 2 in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  4. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Nic Cage in fast times at Ridgemont high. Back when his name was Nicolas Coppola.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Literally his first role in a movie ever.

      Orlando Bloom did Fellowship then immediately played a dude that fell out of the helicopter in Black Hawk Down. Not quite in the spirit of OP since they were likely filmed at the same time, but it's still funny.

      This is a good one. Reminds me of Guy Pearce, he was big for a while from Memento, but still played a guy who gets killed in the first scene of Hurt Locker (also has David Morse in a small role, but it's more of a One Scene Wonder cameo).

      How the frick would removing Ben Stiller not affect Royal Tenenbaums? He was one of the three siblings, the only one with his own children, and the only one who was openly hostile to his dad. He probably has even more lines than Wilson does.

      Ben Stiller's character doesn't fit into the rest of the movie in any meaningful way. They could have stripped it down to Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow and it would have been as effective. Owen Wilson as Eli Cash is a more important character because he is a foil for Margot as a non-Tenenbaum who wants to be part of the family. He's also the anti-antagonist that every Wes Anderson movie requires.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        >Ben Stiller's character doesn't fit into the rest of the movie in any meaningful way.

        What the frick are you talking about. His character being a widow and not handling loss of his wife well and instead letting it domineer the way he’s raising his boys is an important aspect of the story.

  5. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Orlando Bloom did Fellowship then immediately played a dude that fell out of the helicopter in Black Hawk Down. Not quite in the spirit of OP since they were likely filmed at the same time, but it's still funny.

  6. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    How the frick would removing Ben Stiller not affect Royal Tenenbaums? He was one of the three siblings, the only one with his own children, and the only one who was openly hostile to his dad. He probably has even more lines than Wilson does.

  7. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Wes Anderson wrote the character in with the intention of offering to the role to Stiller.

  8. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    >James Franco as burning boyfriend in Alien Covenant (post fame)
    >Guy Pearce as possibly pedo hobo in The Road (post fame)
    >Joe Pesci as mobster that got his skull cracked in A Bronx Tale (post fame)
    >Sam L Jackson as guy who gets shot for slipping up in Goodfellas (pre fame, I think)
    >Sam L Jackson as suck on this muthafricka in Menace II Society (pre fame, I think)
    >Sam L Jackson as attempted robber in Welcome to America (pre fame)
    >Vigo Mortensen as paraplegic snitch in Carlitos Way (pre fame)
    >Billy Bob Thornton as white supremacist henchman in Blood In, Blood Out (pre fame)
    >Danny Trejo as crackhead bum cholo in MI Vida Loca (pre fame)

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Sam Jackson in True Romance, as well.

  9. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    It occurred to me that this happens with regional actors too. Like Stellan Skarsgard is a big star in Sweden but you will see him show up in minimal roles in big US films like Deep Blue Sea or Good Will Hunting.

    There is a different dynamic at play there though, lots of foreign celebs who don't cross over still show up as small roles in US films (e.g. Tcheky Karyo in The Patriot).

  10. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    >oddly small
    It has to be a well known actor in a small role. If you just want a future well known actor then that's different. It's not oddly small because they aren't well known yet.

  11. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    brad pitt in true romance and 12 years a slave

  12. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Christina Hendricks in Drive

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      The ass was fat

  13. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Robert De Niro in Brazil.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Kevin Spacey in Se7en.

      This has to be the most moronic thread ever

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        De Niro is only in it for a few minutes
        What qualifies as a small role in your head, non-speaking roles only? Extras only?

        • 1 month ago
          Anonymous

          De Niro in Brazil would clearly fall under number 2 in OP's post

          • 1 month ago
            Anonymous

            Criteria 2 could be applied to practically every thing in this thread and arguably to his own Virginia Madsen example.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      De Niro wanted to play the Michael Palin part but couldn’t get it because Gilliam had already promised it to Palin. But because De Niro really wanted to be in the movie Gilliam offered him the Tuttle role instead.

  14. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Angela Bassett in kindergarten cop

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      Whoops

  15. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Buscemi in Pulp Fiction, he was originally going to play Jimmy (Dead Black person Storage guy) but had a scheduling conflict

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      I thought he was going to play the heroine dealer? It seemed like a role written for him.

      • 1 month ago
        Anonymous

        i think QT was going to play the heroin dealer originally, i know he is rumored to be a big drug dealer back then which is how he got his start

  16. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Kevin Spacey in Se7en.

  17. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Matt Damon gets 30 seconds in Eurotrip as a bald punk rock singer, tatted out and with a face full of metal piercings.

    His song is about banging your mom, but blink and you'll miss it

  18. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Does Steven Seagal in Executive Decision count?

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      No because the entire point is that they got a recognizable action star who you expect to be a major player in the film and take him out early.

    • 1 month ago
      Anonymous

      It isn’t really odd once you known the behind the scenes studio stuff. Seagal had just directed On Deadly Ground, which underperformed and went way over budget, and Seagal would have lost his director’s fee unless he agreed to appear in Executive Decision. The studio essentially leveraged him to make an appearance in order boost the movie’s roster since Seagal was still considered a star at the time, having made several successful films in a row, and this was just around the corner where his action star career was about to beginning to fade with .

  19. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Cruise in Lions for Lambs?

  20. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    George Lucas walking into the frame of the geology documentary

  21. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Stallone playing the italian american menace you would encounter in a new york subway in the 70s in Woody Allens Bananas. I'm not sure if he did his porn movie before or after that role.

  22. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Brad Pitt in Snatch

  23. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    I always thought Tom Berenger being in Training Day for like 5 minutes was weird.

  24. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    Will Fichtner as Ewan Yafrenzaded

  25. 1 month ago
    Anonymous

    De Niro in Joker. Granted it was an iconic scene but the dude has what 3 mins of screen time for the whole movie?

    Also Bruce Willis in Expendables. His name is right on the fricking poster and then he appears at the very end for like two seconds. straight up false advertising

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