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20 Actors Who Were Cast As A Joke

Sometimes actors get roles because of their talent and dedication to the role, working hard to get every aspect of their nature right and throwing themselves headfirst into the role. Other times they get it because they look the part and there are physical similarities between them and the person they are playing.

That being said, sometimes a role is offered to someone because they have played a similar role before or the fit into an in-joke the writers are making and their inclusion is just for laughs. Here we look at some of those incidences and see why these actors got those roles.

20 & 19. Dean Cain & Helen Slater - Supergirl

The current Supergirl TV show sees Supergirl come to Earth and put in the charge of two people who would become her adopted parents and guide her in the ways of planet Earth. A simple enough premise that has been used before in the Superman universe as it is also his origin story but the casting of the two actors to play these parents was a clever in-joke.

Dean Cain is the father but he is best-known for his work on the TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman where he played Superman whilst the mother is played by Helen Slater who played Supergirl in the 1984 film of the same name She was also cast as Lara-El, Superman’s mother, in the Smallville TV series as a reference to her past performance within that universe. 

18. Colin Firth - Bridget Jones's Diary

In both the novel and the film adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary,  the protagonist becomes obsessed with the character of Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice and when she meets Mark Darcy, she is struck by how the nerdy Darcy she meets is starkly in contrast to the bold and dashing one of the novel.

Well, in 1995, the BBC made a TV adaptation of  Pride and Prejudice and cast Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, a role that would launch his career and make him a sex symbol. The casting of him in the  Bridget Jones film is thus a nod to his earlier career, where he did indeed play the bold dashing Darcy, as well as the nerdy one.

17. Adam West - Batman: The Animated Series

Adam West is famed for playing Batman in the camp and colorful 1960s TV series and has since gone on to do a lot of work either spoofing or referencing this character. One of these moments came in the Batman:The Animated Series when he was cast to play an actor named Simon Trent, who played a masked vigilante called the Gray Ghost, on TV. Sound familiar?

The references throughout this episode are numerous and it is widely considered one of the best by fans as it pays homage to both the actor and the original TV series.

16. William Shatner - 3rd Rock From The Sun

In 3rd Rock From The Sun, the family it follows are meant to be aliens masquerading as humans in order to study planet Earth with a leader who communicates to them off-screen known as 'The Big Giant Head'. However, when this character does appear in an episode, his human form is played by William Shatner.

Most famous for playing Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek TV series, the obvious sci-fi connection is immediately evident but there is another joke in there as he says to the character  played by John Lithgow, that his flight was terrible because “he saw something on the wing of the plane”. This is a reference to an episode of the twilight zone where Shatner played a character who saw a gremlin tearing at the wing of his plane. What's better is that, this was later put into a film of the same name and John Lithgow played the same character so when in the 3rd Rock from The Sun episode he responds,  “the same thing happened to me“ it is a straight up joke about the two actors playing the same role.

15. Antonio Banderas - Shrek 2

The Spanish A-lister won acclaim for his roles in films such as Philadelphia and Interview With A Vampire but didn't land his first major starring role until the 1998 film The Mask of Zorro. In the second outing for the Shrek franchise, the ogre is hunted by a swashbuckling cat called Puss In Boots who is an obvious spoof of the Zorro character in the earlier film.

When casting this character, who better than Zorro himself to play the cat, so Banderas got the role, one that would later earn him voice roles in further sequels and a spin-off where Selma Hayek would be cast as his love interest. This is a joke in itself as she also  played Antonio Banderas’ love interest in Desperado.

14. R. Lee Ermey - Toy Story

 A United States Marine Corps staff sergeant before he moved into acting, Ronald Ermey became a technical advisor on classic films such as Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket but it was whilst working on the latter that director Stanley Kubrick found his ability to coin insults impressive and so cast him  as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman and allowed him to write his own dialogue to get a more authentic feel. Something the control-obsessed director almost never did.

Ermey's portrayal became iconic and landed him similar roles in film and TV shows for many years, one of which was as Sarge in Toy Story  who is a toy soldier who commands his other toy soldiers over reconnaissance missions.

13. Christopher Lloyd - Spin City

In the first 3 series of Spin City, Michael J. Fox plays the Deputy Mayor of New York who is tasked with dealing with the press every time his disastrous boss gets into a calamitous situation. In one episode, Fox's character gets in so deep that he has to call upon his old mentor who is played by Christopher Lloyd.

Best known for playing Doc and Marty in the Back To The Future Films together, the episode is a wealth of jokes about time and has references to the film series throughout.

12. Dean Stockwell - Star Trek: Enterprise

Dean Stockwell is nest known for playing Al the Hologram in Quantum Leap, where he would give advice to Dr. Sam Beckett who was played by Scott Bakula. Bakula went on to play Archer in another sci-fi franchise in Star Trek: Enterprise where, in once episode, he is captured by a military general of an alien race.

This general is played by Stockwell in reference to the two actors' time together previously on screen.

11 & 10. Fred Savage & Jason Hervey - Justice League Unlimited

Justice League Unlimited saw a series of superheroes team up to battle the forces of evil, usually with different heroes joining the regular crew at different stages of the shows run. In one episode the brother superheroes known as Hawk and Dove made an appearance and were voiced by Fred Savage and Jason Hervey.

These two actors had worked together before on the TV show The Wonder Years  where they had also played brothers and so this casting was a reference to those earlier roles.

9 & 8. David Hyde Pierce & John Mahoney - The Simpsons

The much beloved and regularly recurring character in the animated sitcom The Simpsons of Sideshow Bob is played by Kelsey Grammer an actor who is best known for his depiction of Dr. Frasier Krane in the shows Cheers and later his own spin-off Frasier. His casting as this disgruntled side character to the ever-popular entertainer Krusty the Clown was sort of a joke at the fact that his character of Fraiser became a whole lot more popular when he had his own show rather than when he was part of an ensemble cast.

Frasier became one of the most popular TV characters on American screens and would regularly be seen bickering with his brother, Niles, and his father. The two actors who played these family members were then cast in later episodes of The Simpsons as Sideshow Bob's brother and father in a direct reference to their other immensely successful TV sitcom.

7 & 6. Bruce Springsteen & Tony Sirico – Lilyhammer

A TV show about a mobster who is put into witness protection, the main character is played Steven Van Zandt, a successful and renowned actor for his many TV appearances. That being said, before he found fame as an actor he was the guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and this played upon when Springsteen was cast as one of his brothers in the show.

But it wasn't Lilyhammer that was Van Zandt's breakout role but rather when he first appeared in The Soprano's alongside actor Tony Sirico, who was cast as the other brother of Van Zandt's brother in Lilyhammer as well.

5 & 4. Meatloaf & Barry Bostwick – Glee

In an episode of the comedy drama about a school singing club, they decide to re-enact the cult musical film The Rocky Horror Picture Show which causes much controversy due to its racy content. Cast as local news reporters tasked with investigating the matter of the school putting on the production, Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf turn up to try and put an end to things, which is ironic since the actors were in the original films as Eddie and Brad Majors.

Things work out alright in the end, but this joke didn't go unnoticed by fans.

3. Scott Baio – Arrested Development

Arrested Development had many references to Happy Days throughout its run which is partly down to the fact the idea came from Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, also the narrator for the show, who started out his acting career on Happy Days. Howard makes a few appearances on Arrested Development as does Henry Winkler, famous for playing the Fonz on Happy Days.

The Fonz's younger cousin appeared in Happy Days for an episode but was later brought back due to the popularity he had with fans, effectively making hi the new fan favorite over Winkler's character. When Winkler's lawyer character in Arrested Development is replaced by a younger man, it is a joke about this very event and they cast Scott Baio, the same actor who played Winkler's cousin.

2. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson – Star Trek: Voyager

Before he was the world's highest-earning actor, Dwayne Johnson was better known as the wrestler, 'The Rock' who appeared on WWF Raw regularly. In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager one of the crew members of the spaceship has to fight an alien champion in order to guarantee her safety.

This champion was played by Dwayne Johnson, who parodied his wrestling character throughout in an obvious nod to his exploits in the ring.

1. Michael Keaton – Birdman

The whole premise behind the surreal black comedy film Birdman was that an actor who was famed for playing a movie superhero struggles to shake the character off as he tries to rebuild his career as a serious Thespian by producing a Broadway play and putting himself in the lead role.

Although the film was not originally made with him in mind, Michael Keaton was cast in the lead role partly because the story parallels his attempts to distance himself from the Batman role he played in 1989 and 1990. Many other actors in the film also were in big superhero films such as Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy in The Amazing Spiderman. Much of the dark humor came from the fact that it was very close to the bone for these actors.

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