On July 24th, Regis Philbin sadly passed away at the age of 88. The jovial, well-respected television personality was a lively and endearing TV legend, transitioning throughout generations in this industry to become one of the most hard-working entertainers in show business. So much so that Philbin reportedly holds the Guinness World Record for most hours on U.S. television. He was a constant presence on the tube for a reason. Regis Philbin remained a persistent professional, but he always found the fun in his work. Nevertheless, despite his continued popularity, Regis Philbin only has a few movie credits to his name — surprisingly.
If Regis Philbin ever got the chance to act on the screen, it was usually a variation of his real-life self, though Philbin made the most of it every time, producing a few memorable turns in the process — some of which were better than the movies themselves. To remember the belated and beloved entertainer, we're gonna take a look back at a few of his greatest film roles.
Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous - Himself
While Regis Philbin didn't get too many chances to act on the silver screen, often playing exaggerated versions of himself for a quick laugh, the television host was always a good sport, doing what was expected of him — even if (or especially if) he ended up being the butt of the joke. That's certainly the case during his brief-but-eventful cameo in Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, which doesn't really live up to its title (at least critically-speaking) but it does feature one thing that the original hit comedy doesn't: Regis getting punched in the nuts.
During an interview where Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock), appeared as a guest on Live!, Regis Philbin asks about her self-defense training, noting that he'd like to see an "encore." From there, Philbin finds himself on the mat with straight-laced Sam Fuller (Regina King), who gives Regis an elbow to the stomach, a kick to the foot, a punch to the face, and a whack to the groin — all while his wife, Joy (also playing herself), watches in amusement. Ouch! Though it's a stretch to imagine anyone hurting Regis, especially in this greatly exaggerated fashion, Philbin plays up the goofy expressions and slapstick comedy well, serving as a fun foil for this over-the-top self-defense display.
While this sequel didn't get the best reception, this bright moment is a highlight thanks to Philbin's unwavering dedication to the bit. Here's hoping the crew gave him a few ice bags for the ride home.
Little Nicky - Himself
Quite easily one of Regis Philbin's most memorable and hilarious cameos was also one of his briefest film roles, coming in around 40 seconds. In Little Nicky, our title hellspawn is seen watching TV while Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee airs on television. What starts out as a normal Regis aside, talking about a guy in a Cadillac who cut the host off, quickly turns dark (and enjoyably off-beat) when Philbin talks about coming up behind the man and bashing his brains in with a baseball bat.
The audience is left horrified while Regis gleefully details his carnage. With pride, Philbin triumphantly proclaims, "You ever see The Untouchables? I was De Niro!" The audience is left in shock, with an old woman yelling back, "What's happened to you, Regis?," as Regis continues this obscene confession on live television.
It's a quick throwaway gag in this irreverent Adam Sandler comedy, but Regis Philbin milks it for all it's worth. For the better, too. Philbin appears liberated by this brief moment of fictional anarchy, playing up the against-type antidote for all its worth in Philbin's traditional energetic style. The result is one of the best scenes in this strange Sandler vehicle, suggesting — once again — that Philbin's great comedy instincts didn't get their full due on the big screen.
Shrek The Third/Shrek Forever After - Mabel
Though he had a very recognizable voice, which came (in part) from his early history in radio, Regis Philbin only provided a few voice-only parts, two of which came in the later Shrek sequels — Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After, respectively — where the TV personality lent his vocal cords to the role of Mabel, the sister of Doris and the step-sister of Cinderella. His appearances in each film only constituted a few lines each, providing another celebrity cameo in these late-in-the-game Shrek sequels. But his jubilant persona, even when playing such a scowling character, is instantly familiar, and it's a credit to the veteran TV presenter that he brings a good bit of life into this otherwise minor character.
It's a shame that more movies — animated or otherwise — couldn't find a way to incorporate this larger-than-life personality into the mix. At least the Shrek films found a fun role for Regis Philbin, putting his voice expertise to good use, if only for a little while, in this immensely popular film franchise.
The Great Buck Howard - Himself
As far as indie darlings go, 2008's The Great Buck Howard has mostly been forgotten. While it wasn't necessarily great (as it title would suggest), it did have its own charm, namely from John Malkovich's wacky performance as the titular mentalist looking for his big comeback. Midway into the movie, Howard finds himself as a guest on a string of popular, real-life talk shows, including Live! With Regis And Kelly. In this brief segment, Regis does an admirable job of playing ball with this peppy personality, while also heightening up the accelerating goofiness by introducing a singing George Takei into the mix, which goes over quite well for Howard. It's a minute-long scene, but Philbin plays it well, matching the high energy of his famous co-stars.
I'm Still Here - Himself
So, here's the thing. It's hard to know what exactly is and isn't real in I'm Still Here, director Casey Affleck's introspective performance art piece mockumentary that blurs the already-foggy lines between reality and fiction in the life of a soul-searching celebrity. During its filming process, Joaquin Phoenix let his character of "Joaquin Phoenix"— a shaggy, heavy-set, thick-bearded, morally-astray, and professionally-adrift variation of himself—play out in real-time as though it were actually him. His career suffered and his public image was left askew, though it found Phoenix giving one of his finest performances (and maybe, to an extent, "performance") of his exceptional career.
Whether or not the movie itself was worth all the trouble is still uncertain, but it does provide an interesting look at how we view celebrities and what we expect from them— good or bad —while they're constantly scorched in the limelight.
It's a complex film to assess, and it's a hard movie to talk about critically. Who was involved? How far back did this project go? Who was "real" and who was "in" on the act? There are some answers, but then again, Joaquin Pheonix and Casey Affleck weren't telling the truth before. Were they ever telling the truth with this project at all? Whether it's a profound reflection of a well-regard celebrity on the decline or a pompous, self-indulgent exercise of self-absorbed rumination, it paved the way for a compellingly odd and potentially inconclusive piece of work. Seen throughout the movie are several interview segments, both before-and-after Joaquin Phoenix's "transformation." Regis Philbin played a part in this documentary, albeit not intentionally, so it's not fair to call it was a performance. But as always, Philbin was a consummate professional and a natural entertainer, and that's how he should be remembered.
In addition to these supporting roles and cameos, Regis Philbin has also been seen in a few other movies, including Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), Jack and Jill (his final film role), Dudley Do-Right, Open Season, Night and the City, Funny About Love, The Man Who Loved Women, Malibu Express, and Sextette, where he played himself, exaggerated versions of himself, or fabricated versions of his popular image.
Philbin also had a small role in The Bad News Bears Go To Japan, which remains among the very few live-action roles where he wasn't playing Regis. There's no doubt that Regis will be missed by viewers everywhere, but it's always nice to know that we can return to these movies for a quick smile and remember the prolific entertainment personality. What is your favorite Regis Philbin cameo? Please let us know in the comments!
Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.
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