A cameo role or cameo appearance (often shortened to just cameo) is a brief appearance of a known person in a work of the performing arts, such as plays, films, video games and television. These roles are generally small, many of them non-speaking ones, and they're commonly either appearances in a work in which they hold special significance (such as actors from an original movie appearing in its remake), or renowned people making uncredited appearances. Short appearances by celebrities, film directors, politicians, athletes, musicians or even characters from another fictional work are common. A cameo should not be confused with a guest appearance, being different in that guest appearances do acknowledge the person in question for who they are, be it by explicitly naming them or in the work's credits.
Originally the phrase "cameo role" referred to a famous person who was playing no character, but him or herself. Like a cameo brooch—a low-relief carving of a person's head or bust—the actor or celebrity is instantly recognizable. More recently, "cameo" has come to refer to any short appearances, whether as a character or as oneself.
Cameos are often noncredited due to their shortness or because of a perceived mismatch between the celebrity's stature and the film or TV show in which he or she is appearing. Many are publicity stunts. Others are acknowledgments of an actor's contribution to an earlier work, as in the case of many film adaptations of TV series, or of remakes of earlier films. Others honour artists or celebrities known for work in a particular field.
A cameo can establish a character as being important without having much screen time. Examples of such cameos are Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Ted Danson in Saving Private Ryan, or George Clooney in The Thin Red Line.
Cameos are also common in novels and other literary works. “Literary cameos” usually involve an established character from another work who makes a brief appearance in order to establish a shared universe setting, to make a point, or to offer homage. Balzac was an originator of this practice in his "Comedie humaine". Sometimes a cameo features a historical person who "drops in" on fictional characters in a historical novel, as when Benjamin Franklin shares a beer with Phillipe Charboneau in "The Bastard" by John Jakes. A cameo appearance can also be made by the author of a work in order to put a sort of personal "signature" on a story. An example from the thriller genre includes Clive Cussler, who made appearances in his own novels as a "rough old man" who advised action hero Dirk Pitt. An example in the comic book genre is John Byrne's resplendent use of cameos in Marvel Comics’ "Iron Fist" #8, which features appearances by Byrne himself, Howard the Duck (on a poster), Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, Sam McCloud, Fu Manchu, and Wolverine.
Early appearances are often mistakenly considered as cameos. Sylvester Stallone appears in Woody Allen's Bananas credited as only as "Subway Thug #1", five years before his breakout role in 1976's Rocky, therefore making it an early appearance of a non-established actor.
Directors often appear in cameo roles to add a personal "signature" on a film. Alfred Hitchcock often enjoyed inserting himself, as a passive by-stander, in scenes of his films. Such cameo appearances in 37 of his movies helped popularise the term among general audiences. Often whimsical, the cameos became so well publicised that audiences began watching for them. Consequently, Hitchcock began placing the cameos early in each film so audiences could then give their full attention to the story. Director Sam Raimi has followed Hitchcock's example in many of his films-for example, he is the second student who hits Peter Parker in the head with his bookbag at Empire State University in Spider-Man 2. Anthony Zuiker has appeared in several cameos throughout his hugely popular CSI: Crime Scene Investigation primetime television show. Terry Gilliam has appeared in "Brazil" as a shadowy character in an overcoat smoking a cigarette (with a trail of cigarette butts in the hallway) upon Sam Lowry's visit to the Buttle apartment. Gilliam has also appeared in Jabberwocky as a "stone miner" and in general, had similarly bizarre and brief roles in the Monty Python films, which he co-directed.
Other directors are known for casting themselves in cameo roles in their films. Quentin Tarantino provides cameos or small roles on some of his movies. M. Night Shyamalan appears in some of his movies, such as The Village, in which he is shown in the glass reflection of the sheriff, and also as a shady fan at a stadium in Unbreakable. In The Sixth Sense he is shown to be the doctor at the hospital and has a brief appearance in a short scene with the child's mother. In Signs he is the vet Ray Reddy, who is involved in the accident that took Graham's wife's life.
Likewise, Peter Jackson has made brief cameos in all of his movies, except for the puppet movie Meet the Feebles. For example, he plays a peasant eating a carrot in The Fellowship of the Ring; a Rohan warrior in The Two Towers and a pirate boatswain in The Return of the King. All three were non-speaking "blink and you miss him" appearances. He also appears in his 2005 remake of King Kong as the gunner on a biplane in the finale.
Director Martin Scorsese appears in the background of his films as a bystander or an unseen character. In Who's That Knocking at My Door, he appears as one of the gangsters, a passenger in Taxi Driver. He opens up his 1986 film The Color of Money with a monologue on the art of playing pool. In addition, he appears with his wife and daughter as wealthy New Yorkers in Gangs of New York, and he appears as a theatre-goer and is heard as a movie projectionist in The Aviator.
In the film version of Hunter S Thompson's book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starring Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke, Hunter S Thompson's alter-ego, Thompson can be seen quickly as an older version of Depp's character in a flashback scene at a San Francisco nightclub. Similarly, Arthur C. Clarke makes a brief cameo appearance in the film adaptation of his book 2010: Odyssey Two. S.E. Hinton played a nurse in the film adaptation of her novel, The Outsiders. Stephenie Meyer appears eating at a diner in the film adaptation of her novel, Twilight. In the 2009 film The Invention of Lying, there were cameos from Edward Norton as a cop, Philip Seymour Hoffman as a bartender, Christopher Guest, and Stephen Merchant. In the recent film adaptation of author, Sapphire's, 1996 novel, Push, (renamed, Precious, so not to be confused with the 2009 action film of the same name), Sapphire appears in one of the end scenes as the woman running the daycare.
Remakes and sequels occasionally feature actors from the original films. In the 2003 version of "Willard" the framed picture of Willard's father is a picture of Bruce Davison, who played Willard in the 1971 version of the film. The 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead features cameos by Ken Foree, and Scott Reiniger. The original stars of Starsky and Hutch appeared at the end of the 2004 film, and Bernie Kopell, who portrayed Siegfried in the original show appeared in the 2008 film version of Get Smart. Vin Diesel made a short appearance at the end of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift where he challenges to race Shawn, Lucas Black, the then Drift king. The 2005 remake of "The Longest Yard" features Burt Reynolds (as the coach, Nate Scarboro, who was previously played by Michael Conrad), who starred as Paul Crewe in the in original 1974 film. However, his role is not considered to be a cameo due to him being one of the lead actors.
In the same vein as the remake and sequel, actors can also make appearances in completely different films which are directed by or star another actor they are friendly with. Actors Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Will Ferrell and others made appearances in so many of the same films (whether as lead characters or cameos) USA Today coined the term the "Frat Pack" to name the group. Actor Adam Sandler is also known for frequently casting fellow Saturday Night Live performers (including Rob Schneider and David Spade) in various roles in his films (as well as making cameo appearances of his own in theirs, most of which he co-produces). Sam Raimi frequently uses his brother Ted and Bruce Campbell in his films.  
Directors can also be known to cast well-known lead actors which they have worked with in the past in cameo roles for other films. Among the many cameos featured in the film Maverick, (directed by Richard Donner), actor Danny Glover (Mel Gibson's co-star in the Lethal Weapon franchise of films also directed by Donner) appears as the lead bank robber. He and Maverick (Gibson) share a scene where they look as if they knew each other, but then shake it off. As Glover makes his escape with the money, he mutters "I'm too old for this shit.", his character's catch phrase in all four Lethal Weapon films. In addition, a strain of the main theme from Lethal Weapon plays in the score when Glover is revealed. Actress Margot Kidder made a cameo appearance in the same film as a robbed villager. Kidder starred as Lois Lane in Superman, also directed by Donner.
Films based on actual events occasionally include cameo roles of the people portrayed in them. In the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner makes a cameo in the end. 24 Hour Party People, a film about Tony Wilson has a cameo by the real Tony Wilson and many other notable people. In the film Apollo 13, James Lovell (the real commander of that flight) appeared at the end, shaking hands with Tom Hanks. Domino Harvey makes a short appearance in the credits of Domino. The real Erin Brockovich has a cameo appearance as a waitress named Julia in the movie named after herself (where her role is played by actress Julia Roberts). The 2000 film Almost Famous featured Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner as a passenger in a New York City taxicab. Chuck Yeager has a cameo as "Fred," a bartender at "Pancho's Happy Bottom Riding Club", in The Right Stuff. In the 2008 film 21, Jeff Ma, the character the film is based on, plays a blackjack dealer at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. His character in the movie calls him "my brother from another mother".
In a similar vein, cameos sometimes feature persons noted for accomplishments outside the film industry, usually in ways related to the subject or setting of the film. October Sky (1999), set in 1950s Appalachia, featured photographer O. Winston Link in a brief appearance portraying a steam locomotive engineer. Link became famous in the 1950s for chronicling the last days of regular steam locomotives service in the region. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), set in Depression-era rural South, featured cameos by country "roots" music notables such as Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, The Whites and the Fairfield Four. In the film The Last Mimzy, noted string theorist Brian Greene has a cameo as the Intel scientist. In Dr. Dolittle 2 a cameo appearance was made by Steve Irwin. Stan Lee, the creator of many Marvel Comics characters has appeared in the film versions of the comics, including X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man,The Incredible Hulk and The Fantastic Four. Skateboarder Tony Hawk makes a cameo as a dead body in an episode of CSI Miami. In The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift during the first scene, Keiichi Tsuchiya, the professional drifter, makes an appearance as a fisherman. On the plane that Shawn takes to Japan, the seat in front of him is occupied by Rhys Millen, a stunt driver (who also did many of the stunts in the movie). In Men in Black 2, Biz Markie (a hip hop artist) appears as an alien who uses beatboxing to communicate.
Mike Todd's film Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) was filled with cameo roles: (John Gielgud as an English butler, Frank Sinatra playing piano in a saloon), and others. The stars in cameo roles were pictured in oval insets in posters for the film, and gave the term wide circulation outside the theatrical profession. Notably the 1983 television adaptation and 2004 film version of the story also feature a large number of cameos.
It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), an "epic comedy", also features cameos from nearly every popular American comedian alive at the time, including a silent appearance by the Three Stooges and a voice-only cameo by Selma Diamond. In the apocalyptic zombie movie Zombieland, the main characters go to Bill Murray's mansion, where he lives.
A type of fictional crossover is the placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters into the context of a single story. This occurrence can arise from legal agreements between the relevant copyright holders, or because of unauthorized efforts by fans and is intended for promotional, parodic or other purposes. John Munch, a fictional detective played by actor Richard Belzer, which first appeared on Homicide: Life on the Street, made, among numerous other TV show crossovers, a small cameo appearance in the episode "Took" from the fifth and final season of The Wire. In Homicide, along with Tim Bayliss (played by Kyle Secor) and Meldrick Lewis (played by Clark Johnson), Munch is co-owner of "The Waterfront", a bar located across the street from their Baltimore police station. In The Wire he refers to owning "The Waterfront" in the past-tense and talks about wanting to buy a bar again in New York City in the crumbling economy of the country.
A cameo role or cameo appearance (often shortened to just cameo) is a brief appearance of a known person in a work of the performing arts, such as plays, films, video games and television. Such a role needs not be filled by an actor: short appearances by film directors, politicians, athletes, and other celebrities are common.