Actors are no strangers to playing a multitude of different characters, but some have done some outside the box work by simply playing the role of themselves. Whether it’s a biographical work or just simply a guest appearance, it’s no stretch for them to play their own personal character, and it often reminds us that they really are just regular people.
Howard Stern had the honor of playing himself in the 1997 hit Private Parts which chronicles his life story. The movie covers his life from boyhood until he made his big break into the industry. While he was too old to play himself as a boy, the majority of the movie focuses on his adult life and he was the star of the show. There was no stretch to find accuracy in the character portrayal, he nailed himself as only Howard Stern can. While he may not be the next academy award winner, he knew the character inside and out and was able to really let the audience know who he was and how he struggled. It also brought a more personable side to his larger than life persona that he has made his fortune on.
Bill Murray has been a well-loved comedic actor for decades. With big name movies like Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, and Lost in Translation under his belt, it’s no wonder he has been the winner of prestigious awards such as the Emmys, Independent Spirit Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Golden Globes. From his stints with SNL, running from 1977 until 1993, he has played numerous characters as well as himself. His unique comedic styles and quirky nature have allowed him to not only bring life to fictional characters but simply being Bill Murray has offered him numerous opportunities in film and television. He played himself in major motion pictures like Space Jam, Coffee and Cigarettes, Zombieland, and most recently the Netflix original A Very Murray Christmas. His one liners and riffs not only on himself but life in general have brought him huge amounts of fame, and his latest Christmas special included some of Hollywood’s A-List actors like George Clooney. His calm nature and laid back style allows him to bring his own take to everything, and playing himself gives us a peek at what a fun and unique man he truly is.
Matt LeBlanc made himself a household name when he played the character Joey on the hit television series Friends. Since the show ended he has played numerous roles, including a Friends spinoff titled Joey, but he has recently found true success once again by simply being Matt LeBlanc in Episodes. While the character is based loosely on Matt LeBlanc, it’s more of a funhouse mirror version. It’s still a fictional character that has been created around the real man. The character in episodes has no realization that his actions have consequences, he’s a bit of a lost soul, unlike the real Matt LeBlanc who has things a bit more together. The role appealed to him in a unique way. He had become somewhat reclusive for five years after his daughter had a brush with a serious illness. He turned down many acting opportunities, and only decided to listen to the Episodes job because the call came from former Friends co-worker David Crane. While some say he has backed himself into a corner by taking the role on the hit Showtime series, LeBlanc feels like if he is simply known for being Joey from Friends and being himself post Joey, so be it. Considering he’s had an irrefutably successful career, this interesting take on himself might be the next role of a lifetime.
With an acting career that started when he was a child, Neil Patrick Harris has surprised audiences over the last decade with a complete reinvention of himself. He created a comedic niche for himself when he began playing the role of Barney on How I Met Your Mother, and with it came a slew of fun and quirky roles including a larger than life version of himself in the Harold & Kumar stoner comedies. What you see in the films isn’t exactly who Harris is in reality, but the over the top version that gives him a chance to showcase not just his gifted acting chops, but to poke fun at himself and give the gift of laughter. While he isn’t so out of control in real life, making people smile is something he truly loves, making this portrayal more accurate than it seems.
Actors are often given praise for their ability to bring life to imaginary characters, but these men have been gifted with even more talent. Bringing your true self to life and keeping it entertaining, and often with the ability to poke fun at your own expense is a talent that not all actors can claim. These men have proved their talents stretch far beyond just memorizing lines.