Film Cast-Reality Coherence

So does anyone else see a present-day film with say, Harrison Ford, in it and think “well in this universe, either they didnt make Indiana Jones or Tom Selleck got the part”

And then you hope for a glimpse of this alternate, eg a poster

And have any films actually run with this idea? Even just for an easter egg or two?

Last Action Hero did. It was a super-tropey movie also before TVtropes existed.

The Jack Slater character comes to the real world and sees posters for Arnold Schwarzenegger and even briefly interacts with Arnold.

It is a very underrated movie, probably made a decade too soon.

In Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark refers to ‘Fat’ Thor as “Lebowski”. Of course, in the original Iron Man film, his mentor and antagonist, Obadiah Stane, was played by Jeff Bridges (“The Dude” in The Big Lebowski). In the same film, Scott Lang refers to “Hot Tub Time Machine” as one of a string of movies from which they are supposed to derive the ‘rules’ of causality in time travel. Of course, Sebastian Stan (James ‘Bucky’ Barns, a.k.a. “The Winter Soldier”) plays a supporting character in that film. Given the extent of the MCU and propensity of pop culture references in the dialogue, I’m sure there are several more.


Ahnuld was governor of California when Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles was on. I didn’t see much of the show, but wished they’d played with that: “OMFG, a Terminator is in this timeline and has been elected to lead the biggest state!”

In the original stage production of Arsenic and Old Lace, Boris Karloff played the villain. In one scene, he rants at his plastic surgeon, who botched the job and made him look like Boris Karloff.

I don’t think they did it, but I was really hoping that in the scenes set in present day San Francisco in Star Trek IV, there would be a poster or some other reference to Star Trek somewhere in the background.

This reminds me, in Enchanted for the bus scene, there is a Billboard for Wicked which of course Idina Menzel stars in.

In the Marvel “She-Hulk: Attorney At Law” series, Jen (who is the cousin of Bruce Banner) is tasked with defending Emil Blonsky, aka “Abomination”, who was the Big Bad in the “Incredible Hulk” movie. She checks with Bruce, played by Mark Ruffalo, to make sure that he doesn’t have any issues with her defending Blonsky. Banner tells her “That was a long time ago. I was literally a different person back then.”

The joke being that in the Hulk movie, Bruce Banner was played by Edward Norton.

And in Jack Slater’s world, they go into a video store and see advertising displays for The Terminator — “It’s Sylvester Stallone’s greatest movie!”

In one Doctor Who episode (possibly “Remembrance of the Daleks”) the Doctor is in London at the day the first episode of the series was aired. There’s a brief scene where the television announces it’s about to show the first episode of a brand new science fiction next. The scene cuts away, but it’s pretty clear what they are talking about.

That ‘joke’ has been played a number of times, and it is lost on the majority of viewers who never even saw The Incredible Hulk or connect it with the rest of the MCU. For all that the Ang Lee effort was…not good…it was at least memorable in its presentation and style.


In “The Seven-Year Itch” while his family is out of town, our hero (Richard Sherman) has his neighbor (a highly attractive young blonde) in his kitchen, when an acquaintance (Tom) stops by and the hero freaks out a bit:

Richard Sherman : You get out of here. And you tell Helen if she sent you to get a divorce.

Tom MacKenzie: [incredulous] A divorce?

Richard Sherman: [continuing] I absolutely refuse!

Tom MacKenzie : [incredulous] Helen didn’t send me for a divorce. She sent me for Ricky’s paddle.

Richard Sherman : [continuing; crazed] I’ll fight it in every court in the country! Because I can explain everything: the stairs, the cinnamon toast, the blonde in the kitchen.

Tom MacKenzie: [interrupts; incredulous] Now, wait a minute Dickey-Boy. Let’s just take it easy. What blonde in the kitchen?

Richard Sherman : [seething with contempt] Oh, wouldn’t you like to know! Maybe it’s Marilyn Monroe!

In fact, the blonde in the kitchen is played by Marilyn Monroe

Early in Season 2 of the Netflix series Love, a character casually references Home Alone.

Several episodes later, another character says:

“So, if on Friends, Ross references Die Hard, that means in the Friends universe, Die Hard exists as a movie, right? So, when later, Bruce Willis shows up as Ross’ girlfriend’s dad in the show Friends, why aren’t all the friends like, ‘Holy shit! This guy looks like Bruce Willis from the movie Die Hard, I want to fucking kill myself from the shock’?"

And several episodes later, a third character’s father shows up, played by Daniel Stern…who played Marv in Home Alone.

Remember this line from George Lazenby as James Bond?

On Curb Your Enthusiasm, Susie tells guest star Ricky Gervais (playing himself) that his series Extras is “the funniest show on television.” But Larry is skeptical: “Really? The funniest show?”

In real life, of course, Extras was heavily inspired by Curb Your Enthusiasm - but Larry can’t very well say that in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm

That’s more of a Breaking The Fourth Wall trope than the actor playing a character in real world media featured in the film.


His Girl Friday has several of these. Walter describes Hildy’s fiance as looking like Ralph Bellamy. Bellamy played the part. Cary Grant makes reference to an Archie Leach, his real name. Grant also refers to someone as “Mock Turtle”, a role Grant played in Alice in Wonderland.

On the Burns and Allen Show, George at least once turned on the TV to watch the Burns and Allen Show to find out what Gracie was up to.

In Green Acres, Lisa asked their congressman which actor he was. The reply was Lyle Talbot, who was playing the role.

So this may be what you meant in your post, but “The Incredible Hulk” that you linked to which starred Edward Norton was directed by Louis Leterrier. It’s canonically MCU since Tony Stark shows up in the end.

Hulk, starring Eric Bana and directed by Ang Lee is not MCU (though it’s not absolutely 100% incompatible with it either).

Oh, agreed that The Incredible Hulk is MCU canon but because it is distributed by Universal instead of by Marvel Studios it doesn’t appear in Disney+ or other normal distribution chains, and because it was by far the least successful MCU film (adjusting for inflation the 2021 Black Widow film comes close but to be fair its box office take was severely impacted by the pandemic) most people aren’t really aware of it. As far as most are concerned, Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner and Hulk in the 2012 Avengers film was the first appearance of the character (despite the fact that he references having “broke Harlem” in the events of The Incredible Hulk) and so the joke is pretty oblique to the average viewer.

It was clear that the Leterrier movie was at least scripted to be vaguely compatible with Ang Lee’s film, insofar as it eschews the origin story and picks up with some oblique references to the prior film. Even if the complete cast rollover doesn’t invalidate the connection the dramatic change in tone and style certainly do, as does the fact that the world-breaking events of Lee’s film are never referenced, and when Marvel Studios took over internal production of what would become their narrative universe they made some explicit decisions to exclude this and other pre-MCU films based upon Marvel characters (albeit somewhat confused by Spider-Man: No Way Home, which was driven by Sony and Amy Pascal wanting to link to their existing catalogue rather than any narrative purpose).

Regardless, the reference to previous actors playing Banner are kind of overplayed humor. For some reason, no reference is made to the change of Rhodes between Iron Man movies, nor Fandral of the Warriors three.


In the novel Bridget Jones‘ Diary, which is itself at least inspired by Pride and Prejudice, the titular character is obsessed with Colin Firth‘s portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 90s BBC production of Pride and Prejudice. In the film version, her love interest (ironically enough named Mark Darcy) is played by Colin Firth.
In the book sequel Bridget Jones and the Edge of Reason, she manages to score an interview with the actor Colin Firth, which she completely blows because she is extremely starstruck. When that book was itself made into a movie, the filmmakers obviously had to cut that scene - but included it on the DVD as a very funny special.