6 celebrities who played themselves in their own biopics

Matthew Stockman

Rounda Rousey, the UFC's preeminent badass, will star as herself in a film adaptation of her autobiography, My Fight/Your Fight. The MMA fighter and aspiring actress already has roles in The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage under her (championship) belt, but this news, needless to say, is a huge deal.

It's not uncommon for celebrities to play themselves for comedic effect – remember Neil Patrick Harris' demented tour de force in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, or John Malkovich's performance as an unwilling human puppet in Being John Malkovich? — or even in loosely fictionalized form, like Eminem's downtrodden Detroit rapper in 8 Mile. But to play a a character who is explicitly yourself, with your name, in a movie centered around the real events of your own life? Now, that's something special: Rousey might want to consider adding these rare "auto-biopics" to her Netflix queue.

1. Howard Stern in 'Private Parts'


The shock jock's eponymous autobiography served as the basis for this 1997 film, which followed his rise to radio fame and co-starred real-life Howard Stern Show personalities Robin Quivers, Gary Dell'Abate, Jackie Martling, and Fred Norris.

2. Audie Murphy in 'To Hell and Back'


After being rejected by both the Navy and the Marines, First Lieutenant Audie Murphy lied about his age to enlist in the Army. For his service in World War II, he won every possible Army combat award for valor, including the Medal of Honor, and the Croix de guerre of both France and Belgium.

1955's To Hell and Back was based on Murphy's bestselling memoir of the same name. Murphy wanted Tony Curtis for the lead, but ended up playing himself. He went on to star in a total of 44 films before his untimely death in a plane crash in 1971.


3. Muhammad Ali in 'The Greatest'


Before Ali, there was The Greatest. In 1975, the boxing legend born Cassius Clay published an autobiography, The Greatest: My Own Story, which would be adapted for the big screen two years later. Besides the 35-year-old Ali in the lead role, a number of his friends and family members also played themselves in this biopic, including the heavyweight's brother Rahman Ali and business manager Gene Kilroy.

4. Bob Mathias in 'The Bob Mathias Story'


This movie, released in 1954, made use of actual footage of decathlete Bob Mathias' unprecedented consecutive Olympic gold medal wins in 1948 and 1952. The Bob Mathias Story also starred his first wife Melba as herself. Mathias would later serve four terms in Congress as a California Republican.

5. Jackie Robinson in 'The Jackie Robinson Story'


The history-making black ballplayer filmed this 1950 biopic during the off-season after his third year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Despite Robinson's inexperience with acting, Bosley Crowther wrote in the New York Times that he "displays a calm assurance and composure that might be envied by many a Hollywood star."

6. Arlo Guthrie in 'Alice's Restaurant'


Woody Guthrie's son stars in this oddball 1969 comedy based on his oddball 1967 folk song, in which Arlo is arrested for littering on Thanksgiving, a criminal offense that ironically saves him from the draft. Officer William "Obie" Obanheim — who was immortalized in a number of Normal Rockwell paintings — also plays himself.

Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.

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