Stars Who Only Play Themselves

My name does NOT appear in this article…

Some actors have great range.  They disappear into their roles like chameleons with such success, you forget they are acting.  Then there are the people who don’t know how to play anyone other than themselves.  These folks can be charming, even occasionally win awards, but they eventually get called out in a Gabbing Geek filler article!

In making the list, we were surprised to realize that some of the biggest offenders were among the biggest box office stars of all-time.  Let the shaming begin!

Actor:  Channing Tatum

“Having Abs” is not a motivation…

Famous Roles: Magic Mike, The Jumpstreet series, Foxcatcher, GI Joe

Are They Good At It? Tatum is likable, handsome, and convincing as long as he stays firmly inside his wheelhouse.

Exceptions to the Rule? Well there was the time he played the “Channing Tatum, Cop.”  And the time he played the “Channing Tatum, Solider.”  Oh.  And that other time he played a “Channing Tatum, Solider.”  Uhhhhh…..Nope.  We haven’t seen it yet.  If he doesn’t have anything else in the tank, he is eventually going to be playing “Channing Tatum, Didn’t You Used To Be?”


Actor:  John Wayne

Even as Genghis Khan, he played John Wayne…

Famous Roles: Every Cowboy movie you’ve ever seen plus Genghis Khan.  Seriously.  That isn’t photoshop.  Wayne was ACTUALLY  cast as a Mongolian warlord.

Are They Good At It?  His name is in the history books.  Other countries describe our foreign policy as John Wayne.  Stuff is named after him.  Yeah.  He made a decent living.

Exceptions to the Rule? Though he won an Oscar for True Grit, it was not a unique performance; just the most convincing John Wayne he ever played.  He was just getting a de facto lifetime achievement award.  However, his turn in The Searchers was much more worthy of accolades.  Wayne strayed from the White Hat hero and played a mean-spirited and morally complex character; out for revenge.


Actor: Tom Cruise

Here he actually WAS playing himself. Scarier than The Shining.

Famous Roles: Top Gun, Jerry Maguire, Rain Man, A Few Good Men

Are They Good At It?  Cruise has made some really great movies and grossed a shit tonne (classier here because it’s metric) of cash.  Lately it feels that audiences have cooled on him as his public persona has tainted the enjoyment of the onscreen Cruise audiences once adored; mostly because people find it rude to jump on people’s couches.

Exceptions to the Rule? Even in his Oscar nominated roles, we still felt a very Cruise vibe.  He never really disappears into his roles; too much smirking.  But he does have one role that was far removed from the smirking pretty boy thing.  Cruise was utterly brilliant as super producer Les Grossman in the Ben Stiller comedy Tropic Thunder.   “A nutless monkey could do your job!”  As true today, as when it was written…


Actor: Christopher Walken


Know what this click bait post could use more of?

Famous Roles: Deer Hunter, Pulp Fiction, SNL

Are They Good At It?  You better believe it.  He’s as good as a pocket watch up the ass.

Exceptions to the Rule?  He still had the patented Walken vocal cadence, but as the hardass drill sergeant in Biloxi Blues, Walken conveyed both frustration and concern for his charges.


Actor: Al Pacino

Re-enacting the scene in Raiders where the Nazis’ faces melt. No makeup required.

Famous Roles: Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon,  Scent of a Woman, Glenngary Glen Ross

Are They Good At It? No one chews the scenes like Pacino.  If he got TMJ, his acting career would be over.  He’s become something of a parody of himself since he FINALLY won the Oscar for Scent of a Woman, but you can’t help but love Pacino.  HOO-WAH!

Exceptions to the Rule? Pacino showed some subtlety in the first Godfather film.  Since then?  He’s been less subtle than a nuclear explosion doing an Al Pacino impression.


Actor: Michael Cera, James Franco, Seth Rogen…pretty much the entire cast of This Is The End

Well…we hope Danny McBride isn’t playing himself…

Famous Roles: Cera- Arrested Development; Franco- Pineapple Express, Rogen- Knocked Up

Are They Good At It? Their movies are funny.  Especially when you are using the same “medicine” they frequented during filming.  Not sure that makes them good.

Exceptions to the Rule? Franco sawed off his own arm in 127 Hours.  I doubt he’s really done that on his back porch…


Actor: Julia Roberts

Actually, we doubt she eats in real life…

Famous Roles: Pretty Woman, August: Osage County,

Are They Good At It?   Not anymore but give her credit for sticking with it and becoming one of the biggest actresses in Hollywood history.  She plays herself such unashamed gusto that it became a major plotpoint in Oceans 12.  And she wasn’t good in it, but Bruce Willis was fooled enough to advance the, uh….let’s call it plot?

Exceptions to the Rule?  I really can’t think of any.  I think none of us realized this early on, so her debut roles seemed fresher than they really were.


Actor: Eddie Murphy

Little known fact. Murphy is ACTUALLY made of gum.

Famous Roles: Coming to America, 48 Hours, Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop

Are They Good At It?  Eddie’s shtick has grown tired in the last decade or so, but from his days on SNL through the late 80s, no one was better.

Exceptions to the Rule? Murphy nailed the role on James Early in Dreamgirls.  He also brought a certain vulnerable tenderness was the Nutty Professor.   Sadly, it was between obesity and fart jokes so you might have missed the impact.  In related news, I never fully appreciated James Joyce’s Ulysses because I ate it after the holidays while eating turnip greens.

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