Christopher Guest

Active - 1971 - 2016  |   Born - Feb 5, 1948 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

An alumnus of New York City's High School of Music and Arts and Bard College, actor/writer/director Christopher Guest made his initial Broadway appearance in the 1970 revival of Room Service; two years later, he co-starred in Moonchildren. Guest's early acting accomplishments have tended to become obscured in the light of his extensive work for the National Lampoon folks: he wrote several articles for the Lampoon magazine, and was a writer/performer for the organization's radio programs, record albums, and stage reviews. His extensive comic talents went largely untapped in such "mainstream" acting assignments as the made-for-TV Blind Ambition (1982), in which he portrayed Nixon intimate Jeb Stuart Magruder, and the theatrical feature The Long Riders (1982), in which he was co-starred with his younger brother Nicholas.

In 1982, Guest played divorced suburbanite Bucky Frische in Million Dollar Infield (1982), a made-for-TV movie produced and co-written by Rob Reiner. His association with Reiner extended into appearances in the latter's big-screen directorial efforts: In This is Spinal Tap (1983), Guest not only penned the script but also played heavy metal rocker Nigel Tufnel; and in The Princess Bride (1986), cast as the evil Count Rubin, he offered a sly impression of British character actor Henry Daniell. Guest has since parlayed his "Spinal Tap" association into something of a second career, touring as Nigel Tufnel with fellow "Tap" members David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) and composing many of the group's "hits." On TV, Guest was a regular during the 1984-1985 season of Saturday Night Live and shared a scriptwriting Emmy for a 1976 Lily Tomlin special. Making his directorial debut with the Tinseltown satire The Big Picture (1989), Guest has gone on to helm the TV-movie remake of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1993), the "Johnny Appleseed" segment of Shelley Duvall's cable-TV anthology American Tall Tales and Legends, and most of the episodes of Rob Reiner's 1992 TV sitcom Morton and Hayes.

After once again appearing as Nigel Tufnel in The Return of Spinal Tap (1992), the latter '90s found Guest expanding on his successes in the world of showbiz mockery by taking the directors chair with a few irreverent faux documentaries of his own. Re-teaming with fellow bandmates McKean and Shearer for the musical numbers in Waiting for Guffman (1996), the critically praised comedy proved that Guest's eye for satire was indeed as sharp as his pen. Following with some vocal work in Small Soldiers (1998), Guest returned to the director's chair for what would be comedian Chris Farley's last film, Almost Heroes (1998). Both of these projects proved to be brief diversions, though, and, as old habits die hard, Guest couldn't resist his urges for parody for long.

Though not related (in a traditional sense) to show business, Best in Show targeted a subject that some may say was screaming for parody, the world of Championship Dog shows. His skills as a director more focused and refined than ever, Guest lead a talented cast of the usual suspects in creating yet another hilarious and scathing take on a what many considered to be well-deserving subject. After earning a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Comedy" at that year's ceremony, the film went on to live a healthy life on DVD and cable television. Guest's next film set its sights on a target that many may agree was begging for the treatment even more so than that of his last subject, and though A Mighty Wind's spot on folk song parodies would prove almost so effective as to be considered the real deal, the film itself differed from Best in Show in that it sharply divided its supporters and detractors as few of his films had.

Guest worked as an actor, screenwriter, songwriter, and director for The Mighty Wind (2003), an award-winning mockuementary chronicling the ups and downs of a career in folk music, and again with For Your Consideration (2006). The actor would co-star with Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins in Mr. Henderson Presents (2005), which followed a wealthy eccentric determined to transform a dingy London theater into a thriving hotspot for entertainment, and take on roles in 2009's The Invention of Lying and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Guest is married to actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Movie Highlights

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  • His babysitter was Mary Travers of the folk-rock group Peter, Paul and Mary.
  • Once played the mandolin in a high-school band with Arlo Guthrie.
  • Made his film debut in an uncredited role in the 1971 comedy-drama The Hospital.
  • Joined the cast of Saturday Night Live during the 1984-85 season as the Weekend Update anchor.
  • Costarred in Rob Reiner's 1984 mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, about a heavy-metal band; his character, Nigel Tufnel, was said to have been a parody of British rocker Jeff Beck. Later reteamed with Reiner in 1987's The Princess Bride, playing Count Rugen.
  • Inherited family's royal designation after his father's death in 1996, making him the 5th Baron Haden-Guest of Saling, a district outside of London.
  • Formed the instrumental group the Beyman Bros, along with friends David Nichtern and CJ Vanston, in 2009.