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6 Actors Who Took Their Roles Off-Screen

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As any thespian will tell you, acting is Very Serious Work. Asking a performer to recite a famous line of dialogue may get you a glare at best—or a bodyguard pushing you into traffic at worst.

But not all actors are reluctant to reprise famous performances for smaller audiences. Here are six who inhabited signature roles without film cameras rolling.

1. Ron Perlman Raises Hell for Make-A-Wish

Courtesy of Collider

For 2004’s Hellboy and its sequel, Ron Perlman was paid a reasonable sum to endure hours of uncomfortable make-up. For Zachary, a 6 year old battling leukemia, he did it for free.

Zachary’s request for the Make-A-Wish Foundation was to get a visit from the comic book-inspired demon. After being notified by the make-up effects team from the movies, Perlman agreed to undergo the four-hour process and surprise the kid. Spectral Motion, which applied the latex appliances, even got their brushes on Zachary so he could better resemble his hero. Perlman spent the day hanging out and talking shop—horn maintenance, probably—and staked his claim as the nicest hellspawn ever.

2. Gilligan Finally Gets Rescued

Courtesy of SunTimes

Proving that nothing is beyond the scope of the aforementioned Make-A-Wish Foundation, actor Bob Denver agreed to appear in costume as Gilligan in 1992—25 years after Gilligan’s Island had run its course—so he could finally be “rescued” by a group as part of a fundraiser for the venerable charity organization.

Denver stranded himself on an island near the Kanawha River in West Virginia and was picked up by a small cruise ship. Is it canonical? Probably not, but who’s going to argue with fan fiction for a good cause?

3. Johnny Depp Conjures Jack Sparrow

Courtesy of Randomnies

Writing to fictional characters is always a bit of a crapshoot, but 9 year old Beatrice Delap of Greenwich, London, figured she had little to lose mailing a letter to Captain Jack Sparrow to ask for help in a “school mutiny” in 2010. Delap’s class had just visited the nearby set of a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, and a teacher encouraged her to write a letter. She did—addressing it to Sparrow.

During a hastily-arranged school assembly, Johnny Depp appeared in full Captain Jack regalia and led the kids in a pirate song and dance. Addressing Bea’s request, he informed the girl that no mutiny was likely with police waiting outside. While the episode smacks of studio publicity, Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer recently told press that Depp actually travels with the Sparrow costume so he can visit children’s hospitals. Good guy, rotten pirate.

4. Helen Mirren Acts Like Royalty

Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Life hasn’t been particularly kind to Oliver Burton, who was born with Down Syndrome and repeatedly diagnosed with cancer. But the 10-year-old’s wish was to meet Queen Elizabeth II. When the Queen’s representatives were unable to arrange a sit-down, actress Helen Mirren stepped in.

Mirren was playing the Queen for a stage show in London’s West End. After a performance, she had tea with Oliver (a butler served them both) and convinced the boy he was meeting the real thing. Before leaving, Mirren “knighted” Oliver and later told press it was an honor to meet “such a brave young man.”

5. Superman George Reeves Tours the Country

Courtesy of MTV

While much has been made of 1950s Superman George Reeves resenting the typecasting brought on by his popular live-action series, the facts run slightly contrary: he was gearing up for another season at the time of his death and seemed amenable to tour the country, making personal appearances as the Man of Steel.

The live events were a little more elaborate than simple meet-and-greets. Paired with stuntman Gene LeBell as evil “Mr. Kryptonite,” Reeves would engage in wrestling matches in costume, eventually overcoming LeBell and making himself available for pictures. Presumably, the children were too star-struck to ask why Superman had to resort to a grappling match to overcome his foe.

6. Robert Englund Weighs In as Freddy Krueger

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

For their long-anticipated Freddy vs. Jason film, which brought the two horror icons onscreen after a decade of development in 2003, New Line Cinema came up with an audacious publicity ploy: have the two “weigh in” at a Las Vegas hotel to mimic the pageantry of a big-time boxing match.

Robert Englund—who played char-broiled Freddy Krueger in nearly a dozen television and film projects—donned the latex make-up and eyeballed “Jason”; the two had to be pulled apart by officials, then took questions from “press.” For an added dose of realism, longtime boxing announcer Michael Buffer was even on hand to make the introductions. For the record, Freddy was a betting underdog: the film (spoiler alert) had it as a draw.

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The Night the Brat Pack Was Born
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If Emilio Estevez had opted to pay for his movie ticket, the Brat Pack might never have been born. It was spring 1985, and Estevez—then the 23-year-old co-star of St. Elmo’s Fire—was being profiled in New York Magazine. The angle was that Estevez had just signed a deal to write, direct, and star in his own feature, That Was Then... This is Now, an opportunity that was rarely afforded to young Hollywood talent. Estevez was two years younger than Orson Welles was when he performed similar duties for 1941’s Citizen Kane.

That youthful exuberance was on display as New York writer David Blum followed Estevez in and around Los Angeles for several days gathering material for the story. With Blum in tow, Estevez decided that he wanted to catch a screening of Ladyhawke, a fantasy film starring Matthew Broderick. For reasons not made entirely clear, he preferred not to have to pay for a ticket. According to Blum, Estevez called the theater and politely asked for free admission before entering an 8 p.m. screening.

It's likely Estevez was just having a little fun with his celebrity. But to Blum, it was indicative of a mischievous, slightly grating sense of entitlement. Blum’s assessment was that Estevez was acting “bratty,” an impression he felt was reinforced when he witnessed a gathering of other young actors at LA’s Hard Rock Cafe for the same story.

What was supposed to be a modest profile of Estevez turned into a cover story declaration: Hollywood’s “Brat Pack” was here, and they had decided to forego the earnest acting study preferred by their predecessors to spend their nights partying instead.

The day the story hit newsstands, Blum received a call from Estevez. “You’ve ruined my life,” he said.

The June 1985 cover of New York magazine
New York, Google Books

Blum’s label had its roots in the Rat Pack of the 1960s, so named for the carousing boys' club led by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Whether it was accurate or not, the performers developed reputations for squeezing every last drink, perk, and joke they could out of their celebrity well into middle age.

That dynamic was on Blum’s mind when New York dispatched him to cover Estevez. After he arrived in California, Blum took note of the fact that a tight cluster of actors seemed to have formed a group, both on- and off-screen. Estevez was close friends with Rob Lowe and Tom Cruise, and all of them appeared in 1983’s The Outsiders; Lowe and Estevez were co-starring in St. Elmo’s Fire, a coming-of-age drama that also featured Andrew McCarthy and Judd Nelson; Estevez and Nelson gained a lot of attention for 1984’s The Breakfast Club.

To Blum, Estevez was more than just a multi-hyphenate; he appeared to be the nucleus of a group that spent a lot of time working and playing together. And in fairness to Blum, Estevez didn’t dissuade the writer from that take: Fearing he was coming off as too serious in the profile, Estevez asked Lowe and Nelson to hang out with him at Los Angeles’s Hard Rock Cafe so Blum could see the actor's lighter side.

Nelson would later recall that he felt uneasy around Blum. “Why is this guy having dinner with us?” he asked Estevez. Lowe, meanwhile, was busy flirting with women approaching their table. The group later went to a "punk rock" club, with a Playboy Playmate tagging along.

As celebrity hedonism goes, it was a tame evening. But Blum walked away with the idea that Estevez was the unofficial president of an exclusive club—attractive actors who were soaking up success while idling late into the night.

Blum returned to New York with a different angle for his editors. He wanted to capture this “Brat Pack,” a “roving band” of performers “on the prowl” for good times. Although the magazine had just run a cover story about a teenage gang dubbed “the wolf pack” and feared repetition, they agreed.

As far as Estevez and the others were concerned, Blum was busy executing a piece on Estevez’s ambitions as a writer and director. When Estevez, Nelson, and Lowe appeared on the cover—taken from a publicity still for St. Elmo’s Fire—with his newly-coined phrase, they were horrified.

Blum began getting calls from angry publicists from each of the actors mentioned in the article—and there had been a lot of them. In addition to Estevez, the de facto leader, and lieutenants Lowe and Nelson, Blum had dubbed go-to John Hughes geek Anthony Michael Hall the “mascot”; Timothy Hutton was said to be on the verge of excommunication for his film “bombs”; Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, and Matt Dillon were also mentioned.

To the actors, the effect was devastating. Independent of how they spent their free time, all of them were pursuing serious careers as performers, with producers, directors, and casting agents mindful of their portrayal in the media. Being a Brat Packer was synonymous with being listless, or not taking their craft seriously.

Nelson recalled the blowback was immediate: Managers told him to stop socializing with his friends for fear he’d be stigmatized as unreliable. “These were people I worked with, who I really liked as people, funny, smart, committed to the work,” he said in 2013. “I mean, no one was professionally irresponsible. And after that article, not only [were] we strongly encouraged not to work with each other again, and for the most part we haven’t, but it was insinuated we might not want to be hanging out with these people.”

Universal Pictures

Some of the actors went on The Phil Donahue Show to criticize the profile, asserting that their remarks to Blum had been off-the-record. (Blum denied this.) Lowe told the media that Blum had “burned bridges” and that he was “no Hunter S. Thompson.” Andrew McCarthy called Blum a “lazy … journalist” and found the idea of an actor “tribe” absurd—he had never even met Anthony Michael Hall.

Unfortunately, the name stuck. “Brat Pack” was infectious—a catch-all for the kind of young performer emerging in the ‘80s who could be seen in multiple ensemble movies. While Blum would later express regret over the label, it’s never quite left the public consciousness. In 2005, Universal released a DVD boxed set—The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, and Sixteen Candles—as The Brat Pack Collection.

Nelson, Estevez, and Lowe never again appeared in a movie together. “Personally, the biggest disappointment about it is that ‘Brat Pack’ will somehow figure in my obituary at [the] hands of every lazy and unoriginal journalist,” Estevez told a reporter in 2011. “Warning: My ghost will come back and haunt them.”

Nelson was slightly less forgiving. In a 2013 podcast, he chastised Blum for his mischaracterization of the group of young actors. “I would have been better served following my gut feeling and knocking him unconscious.”

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Pop Chart Lab
Keep Tabs on 100 Classic Films With This Scratch-Off Poster
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Pop Chart Lab

Do you get a weird kind of buzz from scratching off the silver foil coating on instant lotto tickets? Do you like watching movies? Then Pop Chart Lab has something for you. The company is set to release a 100 Essential Films Scratch-Off Chart, an 18-inch by 24-inch wall hanging that lets you keep track of which classic films you’ve seen and which are still in the queue.

A look at a scratch-off poster featuring 100 classic films

The curated films are arranged in chronological order, from the works of Buster Keaton all the way to 2017’s Get Out. The silver foil obscures a portion of the artwork, which reveals more iconography from the movie when etched away with a coin. The $35 poster is due to begin shipping in September; you can purchase your copy now.


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