15 Business Titans with Awesome Cameos in TV & Movies
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The headline this week in the Seattle Times says that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "boldly goes where no CEO has gone before" with the July 22 release of the sci-fi film Star Trek Beyond. Bezos has unsurprisingly been a Trekkie since he was a kid, and he's fulfilling a "bucket list" dream by making a cameo as some sort of reptile-looking alien in the new movie.
Bezos posted a Vine from the set (yes, that's him below under all that makeup and prosthetics) on Twitter:
Yet while Bezos is breaking some ground with his appearance in the movie, it's hardly the first time a business titan has made an on-screen cameo. According to IMDb (Internet Movie Database), Bezos himself has previously made at least one other appearance, playing a security guard in the 2004 short film Tooth Fairy, which starred Chris Noth (Mr. Big from "Sex and the City").
These other business world big shots have also made memorable cameos over the years.
The 2016 Republican presidential candidate is far better known for his dealings in real estate and show business than he is for politics, so it's no surprise his IMDb profile is longer than any other non-actor businessman that comes to mind. Quite naturally, Trump generally appears in movies and TV shows as ... Donald Trump. That's how he was billed in Zoolander, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, "Spin City," "The Nanny," and, way back in 1985, on "The Jeffersons."
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During the rare instances Trump isn't "acting" as Donald Trump, he typically doesn't stray far from character. In the 1994 version of Little Rascals, for instance, Trump played the snobby, money-obsessed father of obnoxious rich kid Waldo.
The co-founder of PayPal and current CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X has a few credits as an actor, all playing Elon Musk—in movies such as Iron Man 2 and Machete Kills, and TV shows like "The Simpsons" and "Big Bang Theory." Somebody made a fun compilation of Musk cameos, and here's his scene from "Big Bang Theory," when he washes dishes as a homeless shelter volunteer on Thanksgiving.
America's most famous investing guru and billionaire has made quite a few appearances on the screen. Heck, there was even an online series featuring cartoon versions of Buffett and Jay-Z made to teach kids about money and entrepreneurship. The real-world Warren Buffett showed up in 2010's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and 2015's Entourage, and the Oracle of Omaha has been on "All My Children" not once but twice. He also made an especially funny cameo as a tough-negotiating Dunder Mifflin job applicant on "The Office."
Warren Buffett was one of many high-profile individuals to make cameos in Entourage: LeBron James, Tom Brady, Piers Morgan, Pharrell, and Rob Gronkowski show up as well. So does Dallas Mavericks owner, "Shark Tank" investor, and all-around celebrated businessman Mark Cuban. Here's Cuban's cameo on an episode of the show "Entourage," amusingly also featuring Bob "Better Call Saul" Odenkirk.
It seems appropriate that one of the '80s biggest TV shows managed to sneak in a cameo of one of the decade's most well-known CEOs. Lee Iacocca, the automobile industry titan and long-serving president and CEO of Chrysler, made the briefest of appearances as a parks department official in a 1986 episode of "Miami Vice." Interestingly, this same show also marked the TV debut of actor John Leguizamo.
The designer, VP of the renowned Versace Group label, and all-around fashion icon was a natural to be mentioned in fashion-focused movies such as The Devil Wears Prada. Versace herself, whose over-the-top persona and looks have often been spoofed on "Saturday Night Live," also made a brief cameo in Zoolander, Ben Stiller's satire on the modeling world. If you look closely at the clip, Stiller's character gives Versace a peck on the cheek before walking to the stage to accept an award—and Donald and Melania Trump show up in the crowd for a half-second as well.
Never shy in his pursuit of publicity, Virgin Group founder and chairman Richard Branson has appeared on TV shows such as "The Simpsons" and "Baywatch," and in movies like Casino Royale. (Curiously, Branson's extremely brief cameo in the James Bond movie was edited out in the version shown on British Airways, which competes directly with Virgin.) Here is Branson portraying a vendor hawking kitschy tourist souvenirs in London to Joey and Chandler during an appearance on "Friends."
Drexler, the fashion executive who has been in charge of huge retail brands Gap and J. Crew, popped up as a customer in Walter White's car wash in a 2013 episode of "Breaking Bad." He admitted of the experience that he needed nine takes just to get his 10 or so words of dialogue correct.
"I think I said, 'Ma’am, you gave me a five instead of a one.’ The irony was I think I was the only honest character on the show,” Drexler said at the time. “Acting is not an easy profession.”
If "Frasier" was being made now, the Seattle-based radio talk show host played by Kelsey Grammer would probably be on the hunt for an interview with the city's top active CEO, Amazon's Jeff Bezos. In the early '00s, though, before there was an Amazon, Frasier Crane scored a major "get" by interviewing Microsoft's Bill Gates for the 200th TV show and the 2,000th fictional radio program.
GE chairman and CEO Jack Welch went meta by playing an over-the-top version of himself in 2010 on the Tina Fey cult comedy "30 Rock." Welch, who oversaw the real sale of NBC to Comcast, got to announce on the show to the fictional head of NBC played by Alec Baldwin that GE was selling NBC to Kabletown, a thinly veiled version of Comcast.
In full robotic, tough-guy CEO mode, Welch says to a teary Jack Donaghy (Baldwin), "If you need to pass some eye water, I’d be happy to go out and get you some weakness tissues.” Welch even gets to slap Donaghy, telling him, "Let it go. It's over."
The idea of Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson playing a pair of aging salesmen who decide to reboot their careers by becoming interns at Google sounds pretty funny. In reality, The Internship came up way short of matching the laughs in Vaughan-Wilson comedies like Wedding Crashers. The bearded face of Google co-founder and current Alphabet president Sergey Brin does appear briefly at the end of The Internship, though. He and Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt, who made it into an episode of the HBO show "Silicon Valley," must now get to joke around about which one of them has totally "gone Hollywood."
Wendy's founder and CEO Dave Thomas starred in hundreds of commercials over the years for the fast food company. So it's understandable if his cameo in Bionic Ever After?, a 1994 TV movie featuring the marriage of "Six Million Dollar Man" Steve Austin to "Bionic Woman" Jamie Summers, has been forgotten. If you can't find your VHS copy of the production, Thomas plays a hostage trapped in a wine cellar awaiting rescue by the bionic duo.
When you're the executive giving a movie the green light, it's probably pretty easy to snag a walk-on role. Media mogul Ted Turner did just that with the 1993 Turner Pictures production of Gettysburg, one of the longest films ever released in regular theaters (four and a half hours!). The movie stars Tom Berenger and Martin Sheen, and Turner got to play an anonymous Confederate soldier who dies dramatically on the screen. "Let's go boys!" Turner's character yells, before catching one in the chest and crashing on the chaotic battlefield. "When I fell, I just didn't want to drop my sword on someone," Turner said of his big moment.
The comic book industry legend and former president and chairman of Marvel Comics Stan Lee has done cameos in tons of Marvel movies released in recent years. Among other adventures Lee has enjoyed on the screen, he has rushed to safety while a battle between Spiderman and Doc Ock drops concrete on the street, been turned away as a guest to the wedding of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and Susie Storm (Invisible Woman), and has gotten mistaken as Hugh Hefner and Larry King in various Iron Man movies. Perhaps his appearance in 2003's The Hulk is the most amusing, as Lee makes a joint cameo with the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno.