Whether it be fan service, an in-joke, or a rather cynical ploy to make more money, the surprise appearance of one of the public’s heroes has long been established to be a neat trick for moviemakers, giving the film a Where’s Wally? kind of pulp. The sub-trope of figures playing themselves in movies is also a brilliant one. Examples that instantly spring to mind are Billy Idol in 1998’s The Wedding Singer, Bill Murray in 2009’s Zombieland, John Malkovich in 1999’s Being John Malkovich and the Haim family playing a ’70s version of themselves in Paul Thomas Anderson’s most recent flick, Licorice Pizza.
Another example that seems to have been forgotten in the collective consciousness was when Ray Liotta, everybody’s favourite handsome wise guy, appeared as an evil, money-grabbing version of himself in 2007’s criminally underrated CGI flick, Bee Movie.
For anyone that’s forgotten, Bee Movie is one of the more bonkers animations by DreamWorks, hailing from an equally as bonkers time, the 2000s. The screenplay was written by and starred Jerry Seinfeld and featured the likes of Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton, and Chris Rock.
Following the trials and tribulations of the protagonist honey bee, Barry B. Benson, the film has no end of wacky scenes. Whether it be the strangely political undertones, dark moments, offensive jokes or the amount of weird sexual moments shared between an animated bee and a human, it’s one of the most constantly surprising animated films of all time.
Then we get to the appearance of Ray Liotta. At this point in the film, Benson is attempting to sue the entire human race for stealing bees’ honey. As the trial progresses, ex-Police frontman Sting is brought into the courtroom to testify about the use of his stage name before Benson exposes his real name, Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner.
After Sting, Liotta makes his appearance. Up until this point in the film, we’ve only seen his face on the front of his own brand of honey jars. It is wonderfully surreal, Benson starts his cross-examination by congratulating Liotta for his 2005 Emmy Award for his guest appearance on the long-running drama series ER. Benson then says to Liotta: “I also see from your résumé that you’re devilishly handsome but with a churning inner turmoil that’s always ready to blow”. Wonder where Seinfeld got that one?
It gets even stranger. Benson asks Liotta if this is what it’s come to, that he’s exploiting bees so he doesn’t have to rehearse his part and learn his lines. Liotta then angrily says: “Watch it Benson, I could blow right now!”, before the cocky bee retorts, “This isn’t a good fella. This is a bad fella!” Liotta then loses his cool, trying to squash Benson.
A brilliantly surreal appearance from one of the most iconic actors of all time, in it, Ray Liotta showed his capacity for self-deprecation with his appearance in Bee Movie, confirming him as one of our favourites of all time. He ranks alongside greats such as Keanu Reeves, Bill Murray and Christopher Walken.