18

The trailer for the The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special features Kevin Bacon, appearing to play himself.

What is the earliest sci-fi film or television program where an actor has played themselves?

I know that the non sci-fi program Extras relied on this as a major plot element, but I'm interested in what sci-fi film or program has done this.

  • I will accept an individual playing themselves straight or as a version that is worse or better than their real world self.
  • The actor does not need to be a main member of the productions cast, and can appear in a single episode of a program or a single scene in a film.
  • Films such as Galaxy Quest do not count as while the actors are playing characters who are in a program. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell are not playing themselves but actors in a TV program.
12
  • How small a role does this need to be? What about cameos?
    – DavidW
    Oct 31, 2022 at 20:02
  • 2
    I was thinking about Hawking's cameo on TNG, but the new answer has that beat by 70 years...
    – DavidW
    Oct 31, 2022 at 20:33
  • 4
    Does this count, a radio play from 1908 featuring L Frank Baum: imdb.com/title/tt0000679/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm
    – Moriarty
    Oct 31, 2022 at 21:29
  • 9
    You may need to define what you consider an actor.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Oct 31, 2022 at 23:59
  • 2
    By 1950, the practice must have been well established. I say that because Harvey, in an obvious spoof of it, has the credits list "Harvey as Himself."
    – Mary
    Nov 1, 2022 at 2:00

3 Answers 3

43

1935: the movie serial The Phantom Empire. A vehicle for the singing cowboy Gene Autry, who plays a singing cowboy named Gene Autry, so presumably a fictional version of himself (and there is a story-within-a-story, a radio show that Gene Autry has to broadcast in which he plays a character also named Gene Autry). The science fiction element comes in when Autry discovers a technologically advanced underground civilization named Murania, said in the story to be the basis for the real-life legends of Mu. The Muranians also make use of what appear to be robots wearing cowboy hats:

enter image description here

3
  • Ooh, nice. How did you find that? I've never heard of it.
    – DavidW
    Nov 1, 2022 at 3:48
  • 4
    @DavidW I was looking to see if anyone played themselves in 50s sci-fi so I googled "played himself" 1950s science fiction and this article showed up in the first page of results for me even though "1950s" doesn't appear in the article. I had actually heard of this serial before but not seen it, and it didn't occur to me when I was thinking about possibilities.
    – Hypnosifl
    Nov 1, 2022 at 3:56
  • BTW, more searching with similar terms also turned up the movie Life Returns which according to this had a preview screening in 1934 or '35. It was a fictionalized story about reviving the dead based on experiments on dogs done by a real scientist, Robert E Cornish, who appeared in the film, but the articles just say it incorporated footage of him doing experiments, so he may not have been "acting" in any meaningful sense.
    – Hypnosifl
    Nov 1, 2022 at 17:43
16

1925: The Lost World. (IMDB tags as Sci-Fi).

Dinosaur poster from outside a theatre of old

Wikimedia commons, public domain, source Wikipedia 2022.

Naturally featuring ever-popular dinosaurs, this film based on the book of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featured a cameo by the author as himself right at the top of the film (missing from some prints).

Original reference from Archive.org: Lederer, Josie P. (June 1925). "The Lost World". Pictures and Picturegoer. Vol. 9, no. 52. pp. 12–13..

9
  • 3
    The question specifically asks about actors who played themselves. I don't believe Arthur Conan Doyle was an actor.
    – user14111
    Oct 31, 2022 at 21:29
  • 8
    @user14111 imdb has an entry for him as an actor.
    – Moriarty
    Oct 31, 2022 at 21:31
  • 5
    @Moriarty IMDb has an entry for Air Force General Michael E. Ryan based purely on his one cameo (as himself) in an episode of Stargate SG-1. An entry in IMDb does not make one an actor.
    – DavidW
    Oct 31, 2022 at 21:44
  • 1
    @DavidW It occurred to me just after posting, this isn't entirely satisfactory basing his credentials as an actor on the single film entry here - I did search for evidence of other appearances, but none found. Oct 31, 2022 at 21:58
  • 16
    Arthur Conan Doyle had a segment at the beginning where he talked about the story, but he wasn't part of the fictional world of the movie, didn't interact with any of the characters etc., so I don't think this would necessarily count as playing himself.
    – Hypnosifl
    Nov 1, 2022 at 3:31
8

Don Ho, whose first actor credit on IMDb lists him as "Kamaki" in an episode of the series Hawaiian Eye has 2 relevant appearances. (Note that both of these list him in the role of "Don Ho" under an "Actor" credit as opposed to an appearance as "Himself," "Self" appearances being listed separately.)

Don Ho appeared in "The Bat's Kow Tow," a 1966 episode of Batman. (Note that the appearance is uncredited, but he still is listed as appearing as "Don Ho" and not "Himself.") Ho also appeared in the 1967 season 3 episode "Jeannie Goes to Honolulu" of I Dream of Jeannie, directly credited as "Don Ho," though whether this is on-topic or not is debatable.

Even though Don Ho is primarily known as a musician, he has 18 listed actor appearances, at least 5 of which are not as "Don Ho," so I figure he counts as an actor as well.

3
  • @user14111 Oh, good point. I found the Batman reference, and got distracted because it wasn't credited.
    – DavidW
    Nov 1, 2022 at 2:17
  • 1
    Are those really Science Fiction movies? I suppose Batman could be.
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 1, 2022 at 12:25
  • 1
    @CGCampbell It is plausible that Batman, Gilligan's Island, etc are documentaries, and this is all perfectly cromulent to any Thermians watching....
    – Criggie
    Nov 3, 2022 at 4:42

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