wagner.jpgToday’s profile of Still Holding author Bruce Wagner in The Times (Speed Dialing S for Satire by Bernard Weinraub) got me to thinking about the prolific novelist/filmmakers earlier career: character actor.
If you grew up in the late 80’s, you may remember Wagner’s teeny-tiny roles in “Savage” Steve Holland‘s teenage comedies One Crazy Summer and How I Got Into College. In the former, Wagner played Uncle Frank, a man holed up in his room all summer trying to win a radio contest. (The movie costarred Demi Moore, John Cusack, and the awesome Curtis Armstrong.) In the latter, he played A, the hypothetical “player” in every S.A.T. question opposite B, played by Mr. Show alum (and the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants) Tom Kenny. (Also in the film: Anthony Edwards, Lara Flynn Boyle, and the late Phil Hartman.)
Wagner had a few other minor roles after that, but he mostly stuck to writing; if the reviews are any indication, he made the right choice.
Here are some other well-known writers who’ve tried their hands at acting:
George Plimpton has had cameos and speaking parts in everything from Rio Lobo to Good Will Hunting.
Norman Mailer appeared in Ragtime and played Harry Houdini in Cremaster 2 (perhaps not a “film,” per se, but you can watch it on a screen).
Maya Angelou was in Roots, Poetic Justice, and How to Make an American Quilt.
Kurt Vonnegut had an amusing cameo in Back to School as himself.
Gore Vidal appeared in Bob Roberts, Gattaca, and Igby Goes Down.
Please feel free to use our comments to share others I’ve overlooked.

9 replies on “Author/Actor”

Vonnegut had cameos in adaptations of two of his books, the suprisingly good “Mother Night” (directed, incidentally by Rodney Dangerfield’s son from “School”) and the unwatchable “Breakfast of Champions.” John Irving has also appeared in two adaptations of his films, “Garp” and “Cider House Rules.”

Oh, you’re right, Rob! I forgot Stephen King’s amusing turn as Jordy Verrill in Creepshow–the original trucker hat wearer who got covered in “meteor shit.”

rob, i think you mis-typed your anti-king barb/retort. it should have read:
“Stephen King has acted in a few movies based on his books. If, that is, what he was doing is considered writing.”

Pete Hamill was in “King of New York.” Mark Strand was in “Chelsea Wall.” Vidal is also in “Fellini’s Roma,” but playing himself.

Michael Tolkin had a bit part in The Player, which was based on his novel. And Russell Banks played a doctor in Atom Egoyan’s adaptation of the Banks novel, The Sweet Hereafter. Paul Auster was in The Music of Chance. David Mamet was in Black Widow.

and let us not forget Mr. Vidal’s star turn as a right-wing plutocrat (!) in Alek Keshisian’s “With Honors,” a film forever close to my heart

I got to stand next to the craft services table and watch a crew member shake fake snow down past Gore’s tricked-out Harvard office window–at the Seminary Co-op bookstore at the University of Chicago.

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