That still is from Alexander Mackendrick's A High Wind in Jamaica, and the blonde-headed lad is Martin Amis, world-famous and highly-respected as the author of Time's Arrow, Money, London Fields and many others. Obviously, when Amis did this film, he wasn't in the position of moving from the role of novelist to actor, but I've been a fan of Amis for quite a long time, and when I first heard that, as a boy, Amis appeared as an actor in this film, I became extremely interested. I didn't see the film until a year or so ago, after I'd read the source novel by Richard Hughes. The novel is a chilling masterpiece, and the film is, well, not. And Amis, as I remember, has almost nothing to say in the film, even though in the novel his character was pretty chatty. The film is a wash, really, and even if you're a fan of Amis, the novelty of the idea of seeing him in a film isn't actually heightened by actually seeing the film.
Above we have an image from Werner Herzog's remake of Nosferatu. To the right of Klaus Kinski is Roland Topor as Renfield. Topor isn't exactly a household name, but he was, among other things, a Kafka-esque, surrealist writer whose most famous novel, The Tenant, was adapted by Roman Polanski as The Roman Polanski Story (better known as The Tenant). Herzog says he cast Topor because of his laugh, but unfortunately all of Topor's dialogue had to be re-dubbed by another actor (the reasons for this escape me) so you don't even get to hear it. And as much as I love Herzog's film, Topor has always seemed like the weak link to me (well, Topor and whoever dubbed his voice), because he plays Renfield as a scampering cartoon loony, with none of the insectile creepiness that Kinski brings to his role. It always felt like a bad match, to me.
The way I remember hearing it, John Boorman agreed to cast James Dickey in the role of Sheriff Bullard in the film version of Dickey's Deliverance pretty much just to get Dickey off his back. Dickey was notoriously difficult to work with, or drink with, or sit in the same room with, or be a family member of, and it was no less difficult for the cast and crew to have him wandering around, insulting people, lying to them, and then slapping them on the back later as though they were old pals. But Boorman -- and anyone who cares to can correct me if I'm wrong in the comments -- achieved some sort of peace by casting Dickey as the sheriff who, in the last section of the film, suspects that our heroes are hiding something from him. And as it happens, Dickey is terrific in the role, the one roaring success of this kind of writer-to-actor leap I can think of. He brings a great authenticity and sharpness to a small role, and his performance is one of the most memorable in the whole film.
And then Salman Rushdie played himself in Bridget Jones' Diary. I don't remember anything about the film, or even what Rushdie did or said in his small amount of screen time, but I do remember thinking, "Well. That's kind of odd, isn't it?"
So who am I forgetting? Any other writers who made a brief foray into film acting that deserve a mention here? Let me know.
Where do I begin? In the comments section, many, many, many other examples of writers-as-actors have been pointed out to me, many I simply didn't think of, others I had no idea about. And now I feel mighty embarrassed, but oh well. I asked, didn't I? So, from the likes of Marilyn (who's probably mad at me), Mariana, Greg F., Pat, ND, here's some more...
Sam Shepard in a whole shitload of movies, most notably The Right Stuff and Days of Heaven
Norman Mailer in Ragtime, as well as some of his own films
Marshal McLuhan in Annie Hall
Robert Benchley in a whole lot of stuff
While I'm at it, Peter Benchley in Jaws
Paul Auster in The Music of Chance (that one was mine!!)
Stephen King in Creepshow, Sleepwalkers, Knightriders, Creepshow 2, and etc.
Truman Capote in Murder by Death
William S. Burroughs in Drugstore Cowboy
Colin McCabe in Sammy and Rosie Get Laid
Jerzy Kosinsky in Reds
George Plimpton in Reds, Good Will Hunting, and etc.
Antonin Artaud in The Passion of Joan of Arc
And, it just occurred to me, Saul Bellow and Susan Sontag are both in Zelig.