Stephen King, the king of horror and writer of unfounded prolificness, celebrated his 69th birthday this week. Born September 21, 1947, in Portland, Maine he's certainly lived a lot of life, especially if writing books is like living out multiple lives vicariously.
King's writing style is distinct, his proclivity for the terrifying perfectly honed, but did you know he's a film and TV junkie, as well? If you follow him on Twitter then you definitely do. King often tweets about the shows and films he's watching, making recommendations and generally appreciating those other art forms. As well he should, considering at any given moment a Stephen King adaptation is currently playing on television or in theaters or in development: The Dark Tower, It, Mr. Mercedes, Gerald's Game, The Stand ...I could go on. He's so prolific that many people don't even realize how many movies he's really been behind, like he relates in one of his most famous anecdotes:
But Stephen King's connection to the media world goes beyond his stories being adapted and even beyond the occasional script he's written for those adaptations. King also enjoys being in front of the camera. His IMDb page credits him with 20 roles, most as cameos in his own adaptations, but a few he did for fun. It's hard not to compare him to another cameo-loving horror mastermind, Alfred Hitchcock — or the current master of making cameos in movie adaptations based on his own work, Stan Lee.
A review of King's cameos, however, prove the man certainly knows how to laugh at himself. He's made some hilarious, if brief, appearances onscreen over the years. For his birthday week, we celebrate Stephen King the actor and appreciate that any true master of horror understands the best screams happen when we've let our guard down with a little laughter.
- 10 Insane Horror Cameos You (Probably) Never Noticed
- 8 Best And 8 Worst Stephen King Film Adaptations
- 5 Bizarre Stephen King Books The Duffer Brothers Of 'Stranger Things' Should Adapt
Stephen King's Many Cameos And Appearances
1. 'Knightriders' (1981)
- Role: Hoagie Man
This little-seen George A. Romero film stars Ed Harris as part of a traveling band of motorcycle-riding jousters. King was a member of the crowd watching the strange show.
2. 'Creepshow' (1982)
- Role: Jordy Verrill
Another George A. Romero film, this one written by King and based on his short stories. This compilation of scary segments (King stars in the one titled "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill") results in a horror film more on the campy side than scary. King plays a rural man who thinks his fortunes are set after finding a meteorite, not knowing the meteorite carries an plant-like alien that spreads quickly over people and things through water.
3. 'Maximum Overdrive' (1986)
- Role: Man At Cashpoint
Stephen King's one film that he both wrote and directed is famous for how, well, bad it is. Even King himself has famously mocked it. But I guess he couldn't help but give himself a cameo as a man attempting to use an ATM that won't stop calling him an asshole. From there machinery everywhere grows murderous as earth passes through a comet tail.
4. 'Creepshow 2' (1987)
- Role: Truck Driver
Back once again in the cheesy anthology series based on his own short stories, King pops up briefly in the segment titled "The Hitchhiker" as a truck driver.
5. 'Pet Sematary' (1989)
- 0Role: Minister
A film based on his hit novel, King pops up as a minister at a funeral. If you know what the book or film is about, though, you know the dead don't stay dead in this one.
6. 'Golden Years' (1991)
- Role: Bus Driver
This TV series was short-lived with only seven episodes but followed King's novel of the same name about an older man who starts aging backward after a secret government science experiment goes wrong. King shows up as a snotty bus driver during a poignant moment.
7. 'Sleepwalkers' (1992)
- Role: Cemetery Caretaker
Another Stephen King novel adaptation, here King pops up as cemetery worker who doesn't want to take the blame for a tragedy that occurred in his cemetery. King has a knack for playing the disgruntled Joe Schmoe type character.
8. 'The Stand' (1994)
- Role: Teddy Weizak
Stephen got a part with a bit more meat on it in this TV miniseries adaptation of his best-selling novel (are any of his novels NOT best-selling?). Here he's Teddy, a part of the survivors community built up in Boulder, Colorado after a large portion of the earth's population dies from an illness.
9. 'The Langoliers' (1995)
- Role: Tom Holby
Another TV miniseries based on a Stephen King novella, this one taking place in an airplane stuck in a time rift, with its passengers stuck with a mentally disturbed businessman. King plays his boss in a delusion sequence where the dude manically explains losing $43 million dollars for the company.
10. 'Thinner' (1996)
- Role: Dr. Bangor
This wasn't one of King's better books (though technically he wrote it under the Richard Bachman pseudonym) or one of his better movies, if we're being honest. It is about a guy who runs down a gypsy on the road, gets off the hook because of his lawyer connections, and is cursed to grow thinner and thinner until he wastes away. King plays the pharmacy clerk the dude goes to for help.
11. 'The Shining' (1997)
- Role: Band Leader
Another TV miniseries and this one in retaliation to Kubrick's masterful adaptation of The Shining that King famously hates. This version might be closer to the book, and includes a bit role for King as a ghostly band leader, but it's a far cry from good TV or a good adaptation.
12. 'Storm of the Century' (1999)
- Role: Lawyer in Ad/Reporter on Broken TV
There are some real blink-and-you'll-miss-it type roles for King in this TV miniseries, but he pops up nonetheless. This one was written by King specifically for television and is about a dangerous stranger who makes a scary demand of a rural island community during a storm that cuts them off from the rest of the world.
13. 'The Simpsons' (2000)
- Role: Himself
In the episode, "Insane Clown Poppy," King joins the ranks of many a celebrity by playing himself on The Simpsons. Even better, he references his best material and embraces his creepiness.
14. 'Frasier' (2000)
- Role: Brian
Another TV cameo, this time in the Frasier episode "Mary Christmas." We don't see King this time and he gets barely a line, but it's funny all the same.
15. 'Rose Red' (2002)
- Role: Pizza Delivery Guy
This TV movie miniseries had a screenplay written by Stephen King and a clever Blair Witch-style book tie-in released a year previous giving the whole project an air of it potentially being based in reality. Any credibility might have gone out the window when King showed up as a goofy pizza delivery dude, however.
16. 'Kingdom Hospital' (2004)
- Role: Johnny B. Goode
Of all King's concepts, Kingdom Hospital had the potential for TV success. With its weird and creepy setting and strange characters it was primed to be a cult hit for the offbeat King fandom. Alas, only one short season in and it was cancelled. But King showed up for the finale with a bit role as a hospital security person.
17. 'Fever Pitch' (2005)
- Role: Himself
Not a King adaptation, finally, but a chance for King, a famously huge fan of baseball, to pay homage to his favorite baseball team. King is himself throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox game in this rom-com centered around a Red Sox fanatic.
18. 'Diary of the Dead' (2007)
- Role: Newsreader
Another George A. Romero film enticed King to make another uncredited voice cameo. Here he's a voice on a radio as the world falls into chaos.
19. 'Sons of Anarchy' (2010)
- Role: Richard Bachman (The Cleaner)
Like those of us with our passions, King has been quite vocal in his love for Sons of Anarchy — though it's not everyone who gets invited to appear on their favorite show. In the episode titled "Caregiver" he makes an especially fitting macabre appearance as a cleaner brought in to take care of a dead body. He plays the bit part just as quirky and dark as you'd expect. And those who know King's other writing alias will laugh at his character name.
20. 'Under the Dome' (2014)
- Role: Diner Patron
By far King's most successful TV series adaptation, Under the Dome had a commendable three-season run. King shows up as a random diner patron in Season 2's episode "Heads Will Roll." Sounds about right.
So there we have it, the many times King has popped up on TV or in movies, an impressive acting resume for a man known for his writing. But that's all part of Stephen King's charm. He's grown massively successful as a man who knows how to surprise us and that gift clearly extends to whatever he puts his mind to.
Cheers to many more birthdays for Stephen King, many more stories from his twisted mind, and many more silly cameos to remind us why we love him.
What's your favorite Stephen King cameo? How about your favorite screen-adaptation? Share in the comments!