While Miss Congeniality may get most of the spotlight when it comes to comedies about beauty pageants — and, come to think of it, comedies about mid-pageant fatalities — real fans of hairspray and mayhem know where it's at: Drop Dead Gorgeous, which came out on July 23, 1999, one year before Sandra Bullock's Gracie Hart lumbered onto the silver screen. What the small-town Minnesota story may lack in self-defense training and glow-in-the-dark paint drumming pizza parties, it more than makes up for in Denise Richards's Mount Rushmore headdress / waltz with a life-size stuffed Jesus doll, Kirsten Dunst tap dancing while applying make-up to corpses, and Kirstie Alley as the one of the original (and perhaps most deadly) Crazy Stage Moms. Also, the accents — oh, the accents — borrowing Fargo's juxtaposition of sing-song lilts with dire consequence, and infusing it with a hefty dose Tina Fey's Sarah Palin impression. In short, it is nothing short of genius.
Still, even the most sincere fans of the film may well have missed the fact that it was an early host — and, in some cases, a career starter — for a handful of today's stars (or, at least, some remarkable IMDb-style trivia). So, to celebrate Drop Dead Gorgeous's 15th anniversary, here are 7 recognizable faces you may not remember seeing in Mount Rose — but will of course note in your ceremonial re-viewings from here on out.
Long before American Hustle, The Fighter, Enchanted — even before her cameo on that one episode of Buffy as Tara's creepy magic-hating cousin — Amy Adams was a fledgling actress taking third-tier roles in indie movies about Minnesotan beauty pageants. Yes, today's five-time Oscar nominee started her onscreen career as Leslie Miller, the competition's resident perky, sex-crazed cheerleader. Even aside from the sheer "Whoa!"-factor of her debut, Adams's performance is patently delightful — especially since she's rarely been allowed the chance to go so campy since. And hey, that cheer routine is pretty freakin' impressive.
Just one of many in her cache of "simply the best" roles — see also: CJ Cregg on The West Wing, even the starfish in Finding Nemo — Allison Janney's turn as brassy sidekick Loretta may yet be some of her most excellent material to date. I mean, this is the woman who made the world's most ill-conceived, frustrating cameo (I will never forgive you, Lost) not entirely terrible; she is, for all intents and purposes, invincible. And here, afforded some of the film's funniest and indeed wisest lines, she just plain shines.
Were the Academy to offer an award for single most charming human, I think Murphy might be a serious contender (if posthumously — RIP, ever and on). And were said award to feature a clips reel, I don't doubt that her role as Lisa Swenson, the New York–obsessed contestant with a drag queen older brother, would feature prominently.
As Anne Osborne in The Big Easy, the waitress in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Abigail Sponder in Ocean's Thirteen — and apparently a major character on The New Normal, which I totally did not watch, but hey, maybe you did — chances are, Ellen Barkin has made an appearance on a screen of yours more than once. Though she tends to acquit herself well, as Annette Atkins, she made a real impression — if nothing else, for the beer can fused to her hand, which will forever remain one of cinema's karmically aptest visual gags.
Two words: Frau Farbissina. Sure, Sterling's had plenty of other roles in her career, but for those of us who lived through the endlessly reiterated "Yeah, baby"s of the Austin Powers era, she will forever remain Dr. Evil's shouty teutonic sidekick — who, apparently, dropped by Mount Rose, MN at one point to be a pageant coordinator.
Sam McMurray is one of those actors whom you feel at once like you can place immediately and not at all — one of those guys who was totally in that thing, right, where he played the lawyer, maybe? And it's true: Dude has been in just about everything, legal shows included. To date, some of McMurray's most notable credits include the philandering Dr. Schweiber on Freaks and Geeks, U.S. Attorney Pat Wexler on Scandal, and Nicolas Cage's antagonistic supervisor in Raising Arizona. According to IMDb, he also did a stint of voicework for cartoon shows in the '90s–'00s, popping into Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys, and Aaah! Real Monsters, among an impressive number of others. And of course, in Drop Dead Gorgeous, he's the boozy patriarch and town richie rich Lester Leeman. So hats off, Sam McMurray — keep on keepin' on.