Spotting a director on screen is one thing, but many choose to make their cameos less ostentatious. Here are 20 examples of camera-shy directors who kept it voice-only.
Sergio Leone – For A Few Dollars More
Leone’s Fistful Of Dollars sequel begins with an off-screen killer gunning down a distant anonymous horseman with a long-range shot. He whistles as he works, and the whistler is Leone himself.
Bryan Singer – The Usual Suspects
“In English please!” Benicio Del Toro’s mumbling in the line-up sequence prompts a frustrated response from an off-screen cop. The voice is director Singer’s, and legend has it that the line was a genuine piece of direction, before Singer realised that Del Toro was being deliberately unintelligible. It was kept in, as an in-joke.
Martin Scorsese – Bringing Out The Dead / Color Of Money
Not averse to appearing in his own films and other people’s, Scorsese kept it voice-only for Bringing Out The Dead and The Color Of Money. In the former he’s a radio dispatcher for the ambulance crews. In the latter he provided the opening narration.
Michael Haneke – Code Unknown
Not stretching his acting muscles too strenuously, Haneke ‘appears’ in his 2000 drama as the voice of the unseen director calling the shots on a film rehearsal starring Juliette Binoche’s character Anne.
Alfred Hitchcock – The Wrong Man
Famous for his spot-the-cameo moments in all (or the vast majority) of his films, Hitchcock’s turn in The Wrong Man is a little different. He appears in hugely shadowed silhouetted long-shot right at the beginning, solemnly intoning that every word you’re about to see is absolutely true. Yes, Hitch. Whatever you say.
John Lasseter – Cars 2
Pixar honcho John Lasseter both provided a voice and got himself animated as the pit chief John Lassetire (see what they did there) in the Cars sequel.
Stanley Kubrick – Full Metal Jacket
Reclusive he may have been, but on the several occasions when Matthew Modine and his platoon radio to ‘Murphy’ for support in Kubrick’s London-shot Vietnam classic, it’s the director’s voice that responds. He’s no help at all.
Brad Bird – The Incredibles
Less a cameo and more a full-fledged performance, Bird voices the cape-resistant fashion designer and superhero costumier Edna Mode in his The Incredibles. It’s an enthusiastic bit of vocal drag, if you will.
Quentin Tarantino – Jackie Brown
From Reservoir Dogs to Django Unchained, Tarantino usually finds a role for himself in his own movies. In Jackie Brown, however, it’s an easily-missed turn as a voice on Pam Grier’s answering machine.
Spike Jonze – Where The Wild Things Are / Her
Jonze turns up in his idiosyncratic Maurice Sendak adaptation as the voices of both Bob and Terry, the owl friends of loner Wild Thing K.W. He can also be heard as the profane ‘Alien Child’ in the videogame Joaquin Pheonix plays in Her.
Wes Anderson – The Royal Tenenbaums / Fantastic Mr Fox
We first hear Anderson as the tennis commentator puzzled by Richie Tenenbaum’s “72 unforced errors”. A few years later he voiced the Weasel for his animated Roald Dahl adaptation. He reprised that role in a stop-motion acceptance speech when the film won a National Board of Review Special Filmmaking Achievement award.
Richard Marquand – Return Of The Jedi
“You’re a feisty little one…” Director Richard Marquand lends his SMASH robot tones to the terse, restraining bolt-happy administrative droid in Jabba’s bizarre robot torture chamber in Return Of The Jedi. What does torturing robots achieve? We still haven’t figured that one out.
Mel Brooks – Young Frankenstein / The Producers
Brooks provides the howl that prompts the “Werewolf” / “There wolf” conversation in his universal horror spoof. He’s also the yowl of the cat hit by the dart, and of Frankenstein’s grandfather, whose work was doo-doo. The director also appeared in the Springtime For Hitler chorus in The Producers, and his voice was kept and mimed to for the film adaptation of the stage musical version.
Steven Spielberg – Jaws
More regular as a cameo in his friends’ films than his own (John Landis, Joe Dante), Steven Spielberg nevertheless christened his first theatrical feature with a quick voice. He’s the Amity Point coastguard that speak’s on Quint’s radio. Before Quint smashes it, obviously.
John Waters – Serial Mom / Pink Flamingos / Pecker
Not averse to appearing on camera, Waters has nevertheless tended to keep it voice-only in his own movies. You can hear him as a reporter in his first feature Mondo Trasho; as the narrator of Pink Flamingos; as killer Ted Bundy in Serial Mom; and as the pervert on the phone in Pecker (above), receiving a mouthful of abuse from Christina Ricci.
David Lynch – Inland Empire
You can see him in Dune working as a spice miner, but in Inland Empire David Lynch is merely heard. He’s the hapless off-screen sound engineer being bossed around on the set of On High In Blue Tomorrows by director Jeremy Irons.
George Romero – Land of the Dead
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright earned cameos in Romero’s undead comeback via their work on Shaun. But Romero’s in there too. He’s the voice of the puppet in the Punch & Judy-ish children’s show saying, ‘Take that, you smelly zombie!’
Joe Dante – Gremlins 2
Dante’s completely bonkers Gremlins sequel finds its director voicing two of the big-eared, sharp-toothed green horrors. He’s the one in the daft propeller hat that gets shot by Brain, and also the gloopy one in the witch hat, opining ‘I’m melting! I’m melting! What a world! What a world!’
John Carpenter – Halloween
We never see Annie’s boyfriend, Paul, but we hear his voice on the phone. And the actor that’s audible over the wire? Why, it’s John Carpenter!
James Cameron – Almost everything
He rarely makes a physical appearance, but you can hear James Cameron’s voice in most of the movies he’s directed. In The Terminator he’s the motel clerk, unseen behind his little window as Sarah and Kyle ask for a room with a kitchen. In The Abyss, True Lies and Avatar he voices pilots over the radio. In an external shot of the ship in Titanic he pops up on the soundtrack as a passenger asking about rumours of icebergs. And he’s part of the sound mix for the inhuman screams of Aliens’ Queen and the dying T1000 in T2.
Honourable mention: Rob Zombie – Guardians of the Galaxy / Super / Slither
Rocker-turned-director Zombie hasn’t yet provided a voice for any of his own films (not even the animated Haunted World Of El Superbeasto, surprisingly), but has now turned out three times for James Gunn. You can hear him as a Ravager Navigator in Guardians Of The Galaxy; Dr Karl in Slither; and God in Super.