TV & Movies
To celebrate 25 years since “Wannabe” we take a look back at one of the most celeb-filled films in British history.
Somehow it’s already been 25 years since the Spice Girls’ debut single “Wannabe” came backflipping into our lives. The five-piece girl group defined a generation and their impact throughout music, culture and fashion can most definitely still be felt to this day. So, what better way to celebrate this special anniversary than looking back at one of the Spice Girl’s crowning achievements? I am of course talking about Spice World, the larger-than-life 1997 feature film and one of the most surreal cinema experiences any of us have ever had.
Nothing quite sums up the “Cool Britannia” era like this strange, celeb-filled, meta movie starring Mel B, Mel C, Victoria, Gerri, and Emma. It’s hard to describe exactly what happens in Spice World but, basically, it follows the group on as they go on a whole lot of unexpected adventures in the lead up to a huge concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. On the one hand, it’s a totally bonkers and almost entirely plotless ramble. On the other, it’s a critique about the ways in which pop stars are expected to give up their agency for fame and fortune. Or maybe it’s both. You really have to watch it to see what I mean.
Either way, undoubtedly one of the best parts of Spice World is its non-stop cameos from famous faces. The movie is stuffed full of British household names and national treasures, as well as a few American stars and some downright random celeb appearances. Below, I have given my definitive list of Spice World’s 15 celeb cameos, ranked from best to worst based on their shock factor and the level of absurdity these celebs were willing to go to.
In the very early stages of her career, actor Claire Rushbrook appeared as Deborah, the Spice Girls overworked assistant. The Home Fires star described her appearance in Spice World as as a “crazy time” in her life. “But the girls were great. They were lovely and we had a brilliant time,” she added.
Actor, author, and TV personality Stephen Fry feels like the king of cameos at this point. He’s popped up in a number of TV shows and films including St Trinians and even The Simpsons. So of course, he was going to be in Spice World, where he plays a judge in one of the odd dream sequences in the movie.
The Spice Girls are sent off by their manager to the “toughest dance teacher of all time”, Mr Step, played by Michael Barrymore. He’s probably better known for presenting game British game shows and other controversies in his personal life. But in Spice World, he’s a dance Sargent who is so posh it’s almost impossible to hear what he’s saying as he screams commands at the five.
Musical maestro Jools Holland, known for his Later... With Jools Holland BBC show shows up as himself in the Spice World movie. Doing what he does best, a slightly more sarcastic Jools Holland is directing the group through a rehearsal of their ballad “Say You’ll be There”.
A young Jonathan Ross makes one of the earlier cameos in the movie. The TV personality and presenter, known for his late-night chat shows, is seen in a green suit interviewing the girl group on stage outside the royal Albert Hall in London as they announce their world tour.
Actor and writer of The Rocky Horror Show, Richard O’Brien plays the stuff of nightmares as the boogyman paparazzi Damien who literally climbs out of toilets and stalks the girl group throughout the film. It turns out, this was also the first reunion between Meat Loaf (see below) and O’Brien, who starred in The Rocky Horror Show movie adaptation together in 1975.
British actor Kevin McNally is probably best known for playing the swashbuckling pirate Joshamee Gibbs in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. But in the Spice World movie, he takes on the role of a police officer who charged the Spice Girls with “dangerous driving, criminal damage, flying a bus without a license and frightening the pigeons.”
British comedian Jennifer Saunders is famously known for being in a duo, whether that’s as a part of French and Saunders alongside Dawn French, or in Absolutely Fabulous with Joanna Lumley. Here, however, she cameos alone as a fashionista at the Spice Girls’ publicity party as she attempts to schmooze Posh Spice about the latest catwalk shows.
The late Roger Moore who is best known for playing the British Spy James Bond appears multiple times throughout Spice World, and he’s not afraid to poke a bit of fun at the very serious action franchise. Taking up the role of The Chief, (the band manager’s boss) he plays a Blofeld-style Bond baddie, talking in riddles, and making a ridiculous amount of 007 puns and jokes.
Yes yes, the Floop from Spy Kids and Nightcrawler from X-Men steals the show in Spice World while playing the annoying know-it-all filmmaker Piers Cuthbertson-Smyth, who stalks the girl group in the hopes of making a documentary about them. While he’s less of a cameo and more of a leading character, it’s great to see the Irish actor having fun as the overly keen director.
I mean, this gets a higher ranking because it’s just so random? ’80s American ballad singer Meat Loaf, AKA Michael Lee Aday, is just chilling as the girl’s tour bus driver Dennis. And you best believe there are corny “I’d Do Anything For Love” jokes flung in there for good measure.
During a rather random Poirot-style dream sequence, House star Hugh Laurie can be seen in a twiddly moustache and a bow tie while trying to track down a murderer (spoiler alert: it’s Baby Spice).
British actor Bob Hoskins, who you might know as Smee in Hook or the lead in Who Framed Rodger Rabbit, makes a brief appearance in Spice World. During yet another dream sequence, the girls are making a Hollywood movie, Spice Force Five, where Geri plays a master of disguise with the ability to turn into... well, Bob Hoskins.
He’s probably best known for starring in The Wire and soon to be taking up the role of Prince Charles in The Crown, but before all that, a younger Dominic West plays a kind of sleazy photographer shooting the Spice Girls. He shouts lots of “sexy”, “c’mon, energy!” at them as they slowly zone out and begin questioning the rigid identities they’ve been given. “What about Sporty – but I’m actually interested in other things – Spice?” Mel C asks.
Richard E Grant
In perhaps one of his most iconic performances to date, Richard E. Grant plays the Spice Girl’s tyrannical manager, Clifford, who tries (and fails) to keep the girls on a tight leash.
Bob Geldof is better known for his musical charity work with Live Aid and his long career in music, but it turns out he can also have a laugh at himself. Geldof pops up in the movie at a party where Mel B decides she needs to sort out his unruly mop and gives him the classic Scary Spice space bun makeover.
The rocket man himself made a cheeky appearance in Spice World – playing himself of course. If you blink you might miss Elton John, but at the start of the film, the gang bump into him backstage after a gig, where they hug and kiss like old mates. Iconic doesn’t even cut it.