'Goosebumps' R.L. Stine Cameo Is Super Meta & Totally Worth Seeing
Goosebumps, the new movie based on the beloved '90s kids horror series by author R.L. Stine, finally makes its way into theaters this weekend. The film has so far gotten rave reviews, a rarity for a youth-aimed horror-comedy, and a big reason for that is the interesting way the movie uses its source material. Rather than focusing on adapting one of the 62 individual Goosebumps stories (184 if you count spinoff titles), the film instead incorporates author R. L. Stine into the story, played by Jack Black. In the world of the movie, Goosebumps and its writer are both famous, just like in real life. The only difference is that the monsters Stine creates are also real, and are imprisoned in books in his home until their disastrous release in the film. This unique angle allows for lots of fun since several of the author's best creations get to appear on-screen alongside Black, and R.L. Stine even has a Goosebumps cameo. For an author getting your work adapted, that might be the best outcome you could ask for.
Slight spoiler: in the film, Stine has a cameo as a high school teacher toward the end, and he bumps into "himself", who is, of course, played by Black. During their brief exchange, the movie Stine says hello to the real Stine and calls him "Mr. Black." So that's Jack Black, playing R.L. Stine, and R.L. Stine playing Mr. Black. Confusing, I know. But this actually isn't the first time a person has had a cameo in a movie in which a fictional version of themselves also appears. Here are some other examples.
Julia Roberts won her only Oscar portraying environmental activist Erin Brockovich in this 2000 film, and Brockovich herself has a brief cameo as a waitress.
Tom Hanks played astronaut Jim Lovell of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in this 1995 classic, and the real Lovell shows up as a captain on the USS Iwo Jima and shakes Hanks's hand. Also appearing in the movie is Lovell's actual wife Marilyn, who sits near her on-screen version (Kathleen Quinlan) while watching a launch.
The Right Stuff
Did you know it's illegal to make a movie about a space mission without having the actual people involved appear in the film? OK, that's not true, but it kind of seems like it. Test pilot Chuck Yeager cameos as a bartender in this 1983 film about the dawn of the space program, as he casually butts in on a conversation about himself. Well, about the fictional Yeager, anyway. Confused yet?
Keira Knightley portrayed model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey in this 2005 film, and the real Harvey appears briefly as a bar patron during the film's credits. Harvey unfortunately died of a drug overdose shortly before the film was released, and the movie was in turn dedicated to her memory.
The Pursuit of Happyness
Will Smith earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as Chris Gardner, who rose from homelessness to become a successful broker. At the end of the film, the real Gardner walks by Smith's Gardner, who glances knowingly back at him.
Jim Sturgess played Ben Campbell in this 2008 film inspired by the real-life MIT blackjack team, but Campbell is not a real person. The character was actually based on Jeff Ma, who was a prominent member of MIT's team. Ma worked on the film as a consultant, and also cameos as a blackjack dealer who interacts with his on-screen counterpart.
It should be obvious by now that R.L. Stine is clearly not the first person to appear in a movie in which they are also portrayed. But he is almost definitely the first person to appear as himself alongside his fictional self while adopting the name of the actor portraying him and doing it all in a film based on books that he wrote. So wrap your head around that.
Images: Columbia Pictures; New Line Cinema