When the NBC series Saturday Night Live decided to go with more experienced talent in the 1984-85 season, I realized that Christopher Guest was one of the most anonymous-looking actors in show business. Unlike someone with a strong persona, such as Martin Short or Billy Crystal that season, Guest tended to blend in, which can be an asset in an ensemble cast.
I also remember him as the writer (with Eugene Levy)/director/actor in three films I saw in the cinema at the time: Waiting for Guffman (1996) -“an aspiring director and the marginally talented amateur cast of a hokey small-town Missouri musical production go overboard when they learn that someone from Broadway will be in attendance”; Best in Show (2000), about the human personas at a national dog show; and A Mighty Wind (2003), about the reunion of a 1960s folk trio.
These films had largely the same troupe of performers, including Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, and Bob Babalan. There was something about the off-kilter sensibilities of these characters that I found, in their mundane absurdity, quite believable. I’ll have to seek out 2006’s For Your Consideration, which I somehow missed.
You might be familiar with Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel – up to 11! – the lead guitarist of the rock band Spinal Tap, in the 1984 mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, directed by Rob Reiner. The film was written by Reiner, Guest and the other members of the “band”, Michael McKean (vocalist/guitarist David St. Hubbins), and Harry Shearer (bassist Derek Smalls).
This “fake” band has put out two albums that charted, one the title of the film back in ’84 (#121 on the Billboard charts), and Break Like the Wind, which I will admit to owning, that got up to #61 in 1992, when the movie sequel, which I did not see, came out.
But you probably know him best as the villainous Count Tyrone Rugen, The Man with Six Finger, from the movie The Princess Bride, which the family has seen together at the now sadly closed Madison Theater nearby.
Some biographical info I did not know: “Guest holds a hereditary British peerage as the 5th Baron Haden-Guest.” He has dual British and American citizenship. I did know that he has been married to Jamie Lee Curtis since 1984, but not that they have two adopted children.