Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968): In real life, famous people are saviors, lending their time, money and hot selves to calamities in Haiti, Darfur and New Orleans. In movies, their ambitions are more modest. Either as a ghost or imaginary friend, a celebrity will materialize to help with your banal relationship, vocational or monster problem. But if the person is Blackbeard and the studio is Disney, the not-so-vicious-after-all pirate (Peter Ustinov,), will mostly just inconvenience the bumbling track coach (Dean Jones) who unwittingly conjures him.
Play It Again, Sam (1971): Who does a worse Humphrey Bogart: Woody Allen, or Jerry Lacey, the actor playing Humphrey Bogart? Woody Allen’s play-turned-film finds a neurotic dude receiving sometimes sage, sometimes horrifyingly antiquated romantic advice from an imaginary Bogie. His most prophetic suggestion: Just bang Diane Keaton.
True Romance (1993): Quentin Tarantino favors Elvis over the Beatles, which is why this early screenplay features a mysterious figure (Val Kilmer) with a leopard-skin jacket, oversized glasses and Southern drawl telling Christian Slater to kill Gary Oldman.
The Sandlot (1993): Babe Ruth materializes to tell a boy to risk being eaten by a monster to retrieve a ball signed by Ruth himself. Good advice, you fat fuck.
Touch of Pink (2004): How exactly haven’t more people ripped off Sam’s dead-celebrity-as-romantic-coach gimmick? C’mon, idea-starved screenwriters. Here, a gay Muslim (Jimi Mistry) is coached on how to come out to his fundamentalist parents by that bastion of Islamic wisdom, Cary Grant (Kyle McLaughlin!).
Looking for Eric (2009): The micro-genre wouldn’t be complete without a contribution from British social realist Ken Loach, would it? Loach tells of a down-on-his-luck postal worker getting imaginary advice from ex-footballer (and definite non-actor) Eric Contana. Alas, Loach can only keep the realism low for so long. Imagine Play It Again, Sam, only with a gun-toting psychopath and lots and lots of screaming.
Six Long-Running Film Franchises