Christopher Guest

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For the Law Lord, see Christopher Guest, Baron Guest.
Christopher Guest
Born Christopher Haden-Guest
(1948-02-05) February 5, 1948 (age 68)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Residence Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Nationality British-American
Citizenship United States
United Kingdom
Education The High School of Music & Art
Alma mater New York University
Occupation Actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, musician
Years active 1971–present
Notable work This Is Spinal Tap
The Princess Bride
Waiting for Guffman
Best In Show
A Mighty Wind
For Your Consideration
Home town New York City
Spouse(s) Jamie Lee Curtis (1984–present)
Children 2
Relatives Nicholas Guest (brother)
Anthony Haden-Guest (half-brother)
Tony Curtis (father-in-law),
Janet Leigh (mother-in-law),
Kelly Curtis (sister-in-law)

Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest (born February 5, 1948), better known as Christopher Guest, is an English-American screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor, and comedian who holds dual British and American citizenship. He is most widely known in Hollywood for having written, directed and starred in a series of comedy films shot in mock-documentary (mockumentary) style. Scenes and character backgrounds are written, but actors have no rehearsal time and the ensemble improvise scenes while filming them. This series of films began with This Is Spinal Tap (directed by Rob Reiner), and continued with Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, For Your Consideration; and Mascots (film).Guest also had a featured role as the evil six-fingered Count Rugen in the film The Princess Bride.

He holds a hereditary British peerage as the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, and has publicly expressed a desire to see the House of Lords reformed as a democratically elected chamber.[1] Though he was initially active in the Lords, his career there was cut short by the House of Lords Act 1999, which removed the right of most hereditary peers to a seat in the parliament. When using his title, he is normally styled as Lord Haden-Guest. Guest is married to the actress and author Jamie Lee Curtis.

Early years[edit]

Guest was born in New York City, the son of Peter Haden-Guest, a British United Nations diplomat who later became the 4th Baron Haden-Guest, and his second wife, Jean Pauline Hindes, an American former vice president of casting at CBS.[2] Guest's paternal grandfather, Leslie, Baron Haden-Guest, was a Labour Party politician who was a convert to Judaism. Guest's paternal grandmother, a descendant of the Dutch Jewish Goldsmid family, was the daughter of Colonel Albert Goldsmid, a British officer who founded the Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigade and the Maccabaeans.[3][4] Guest's maternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia.[2] Both of Guest's parents had become atheists, and Guest had no religious upbringing.[4] Nearly a decade before he was born, his uncle, David Guest, a lecturer and Communist Party member, was killed in the Spanish Civil War, fighting in the International Brigades.

Guest spent parts of his childhood in his father's native United Kingdom. He attended The High School of Music & Art (New York City), studying classical music (clarinet) at the Stockbridge School in Interlaken, Massachusetts. He later took up the mandolin, became interested in country music, and played guitar with Arlo Guthrie, a fellow student at Stockbridge School.[5] Guest later began performing with bluegrass bands until he took up rock and roll.[6]

Guest studied acting at New York University's Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 1971.[7]



Guest began his career in theatre during the early 1970s with one of his earliest professional performances being the role of Norman in Michael Weller's Moonchildren for the play's American premiere at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. in November 1971. Guest continued with the production when it moved to Broadway in 1972. The following year he began making contributions to The National Lampoon Radio Hour for a variety of National Lampoon audio recordings. He both performed comic characters (Flash Bazbo—Space Explorer, Mr. Rogers, music critic Roger de Swans, and sleazy record company rep Ron Fields) and wrote, arranged and performed numerous musical parodies (of Bob Dylan, James Taylor and others). He was featured alongside Chevy Chase and John Belushi in the Off-Broadway revue National Lampoon's Lemmings. Two of his earliest film roles were small parts as uniformed police officers in the 1972 film The Hot Rock and 1974's Death Wish.

Guest played a small role in the 1977 All In the Family episode "Mike and Gloria Meet", where in a flashback sequence Mike and Gloria recall their first blind date, set up by Michael's college buddy Jim (Guest), who dated Gloria's girlfriend Debbie (Priscilla Lopez).


Guest's biggest role of the first two decades of his career is likely that of Nigel Tufnel in the 1984 Rob Reiner film This Is Spinal Tap. Guest made his first appearance as Tufnel on the 1978 sketch comedy program The TV Show.

Along with Martin Short, Billy Crystal and Harry Shearer, Guest was hired as a one-year only cast member for the 1984–85 season on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Recurring characters on SNL played by Guest include Frankie, of Willie and Frankie (coworkers who recount in detail physically painful situations in which they have found themselves, remarking laconically "I hate when that happens"); Herb Minkman, a shady novelty toymaker with a brother named Al (played by Crystal); Rajeev Vindaloo, an eccentric foreign man in the same vein as Andy Kaufman's Latka character from Taxi; and Señor Cosa, a Spanish ventriloquist often seen on the recurring spoof of The Joe Franklin Show. He also experimented behind the camera with pre-filmed sketches, notably directing a documentary-style short starring Shearer and Short as synchronized swimmers. In another short film from SNL, Guest and Crystal appear as retired Negro league baseball players, "The Rooster and the King".

He appeared as Count Rugen in The Princess Bride. He had a cameo role as the first customer, a pedestrian, in the 1986 musical remake of The Little Shop of Horrors, that also featured Steve Martin. As a co-writer and director, Guest made the Hollywood satire The Big Picture.

Upon his father succeeding to the family peerage in 1987, he was known as The Hon. Christopher Haden-Guest. This was his official style and name until he inherited the barony in 1996.


The experience of having made Spinal Tap would directly inform the second phase of his career. Starting in 1996, Guest began writing, directing and acting in his own series of substantially improvised films. Many of them would come to be definitive examples of what came to be known as "mockumentaries"-- not a term Guest appreciates in describing his unusual approach to exploring the passions that make the characters in his films so interesting. He maintains that his intention is not to mock anyone, but to explore insular, perhaps obscure communities through his method of filmmaking.

His frequent writing partner is Eugene Levy. Together, Levy, Guest and a small band of other actors have formed a loose repertory group, which appear across several films. These include Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Harry Shearer, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley, Jr. and Fred Willard. Guest and Levy write backgrounds for each of the characters and notecards for each specific scene, outlining the plot, and then leave it up to the actors to improvise the dialogue, which is supposed to result in a much more natural conversation than scripted dialogue would. Typically, everyone who appears in these movies receives the same fee and the same portion of profits.[8]

Guest had a guest voice-over role in the animated comedy series SpongeBob SquarePants as SpongeBob's cousin, Stanley.

Guest appeared as Dr. Stone in A Few Good Men (1992), as Lord Cromer in Mrs Henderson Presents (2005) and in the 2009 comedy The Invention of Lying.

He is also currently a member of the musical group The Beyman Bros, which he formed with childhood friend David Nichtern and Spinal Tap's current keyboardist C. J. Vanston. Their debut album Memories of Summer as a Child was released on January 20, 2009.[9]

In 2010, the United States Census Bureau paid $2.5 million to have a television commercial directed by Guest shown during television coverage of Super Bowl XLIV.[10]

Guest holds an honorary doctorate from and is a member of the board of trustees for Berklee College of Music in Boston.[11]

He was most recently the writer and producer of the HBO series, Family Tree, a lighthearted story in the style he made famous in Spinal Tap, in which the main character, Tom Chadwick, inherits a box of curios from his great aunt, spurring interest in his ancestry.

On August 11, 2015, Netflix announced that Mascots, a film about the competition for the World Mascot Association championships's Gold Fluffy Award, would debut in 2016.[12]


Peerage and heirs[edit]

Coat of arms - Baron Haden-Guest, of Saling in the County of Essex

Guest became the 5th Baron Haden-Guest, of Great Saling, in the County of Essex, when his father died in 1996. He succeeded upon the ineligibility of his older half-brother, Anthony Haden-Guest, who was born prior to the marriage of his parents. According to an article in The Guardian, Guest attended the House of Lords regularly until the House of Lords Act 1999 barred most hereditary peers from their seats. In the article Guest remarked:

There's no question that the old system was unfair. I mean, why should you be born to this? But now it's all just sheer cronyism. The Prime Minister can put in whoever he wants and bus them in to vote. The Upper House should be an elected body, it's that simple.[13]


Personal life[edit]

Guest married actress Jamie Lee Curtis in 1984 at the home of their mutual friend, Rob Reiner. They have two adopted children: Anne (born 1986) and Thomas (born 1996). Because Guest's children are adopted, they cannot inherit the family barony under the terms of the letters patent that created it, though a 2004 Royal Warrant addressing the style of a peer's adopted children states that they can use courtesy titles. The current heir presumptive to the barony is Guest's younger brother, actor Nicholas Guest.

Off-stage demeanor[edit]

As reported by Louis B. Hobson, "On film, Guest is a hilariously droll comedian. In person he is serious and almost dour." He quotes Guest as saying "People want me to be funny all the time. They think I'm being funny no matter what I say or do and that's not the case. I rarely joke unless I'm in front of a camera. It's not what I am in real life. It's what I do for a living."[14]


Year Title Credit Role Notes
Actor Writer Director Producer
1971 The Hospital Yes Resident Uncredited
1972 The Hot Rock Yes Policeman
1973 National Lampoon Lemmings Yes Yes Musical arranger
1974 Death Wish Yes Patrolman Jackson Reilly
1975 The Fortune Yes Boy Lover
Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle Yes Chief M'Bulu / Short /
Voice only
1976 The Billion Dollar Bubble Yes TV film
1977 It Happened One Christmas Yes Harry Bailey TV film
The Andros Targets Yes Gordon Hamilton Episode: "A Currency for Murder"
All in the Family Yes Jim Episode: "Mike and Gloria Meet"
1978 Laverne & Shirley Yes Greg Harris Episode: "Bus Stop"
Peeping Times Yes Television special
Girlfriends Yes Eric
1979 The Last Word Yes Roger
1980 Haywire Yes The T.V. Director Television film
The Long Riders Yes Charley Ford
The Missing Link Yes No Lobes English version; voice
1981 Heartbeeps Yes Calvin
1982 Million Dollar Infield Yes Bucky Frische Television film
A Piano for Mrs. Cimino Yes Philip Ryan Television film
St. Elsewhere Yes H.J. Cummings 2 episodes
1984 This Is Spinal Tap Yes Yes Nigel Tufnel Composer, musician
1984–85 Saturday Night Live Yes Yes Various 19 episodes
1985 Martin Short: Concert for the
North Americas
Yes Rajiv Vindaloo
1986 Little Shop of Horrors Yes The First Customer
Tall Tales & Legends Yes Episode: "Johnny Appleseed"
1987 Beyond Therapy Yes Bob
The Princess Bride Yes Count Tyrone Rugen,
the six-fingered man
1988 Sticky Fingers Yes Sam
1989 The Big Picture Yes Yes
Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to
Yes The Voice Stand-up special
Trying Times Yes Episode: "The Sad Professor"
I, Martin Short, Goes Hollywood Yes Antoninus DiMentabella
1991 Morton & Hayes Yes Yes Yes Yes El Supremo / Crooner /
Dr. Von Astor
3 episodes;
composed theme music
Amnesty International's Big 3-0 Yes Nigel Tufnel Television special
1992 The Simpsons Yes Nigel Tufnel Episode: "The Otto Show"
A Few Good Men Yes Dr. Stone
1993 Animaniacs Yes Umlatt Episode: "King Yakko"
Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman Yes Television film; composer
1994 The Return of Spinal Tap Yes Nigel Tufnel
1997 Waiting for Guffman Yes Yes Yes Corky St. Clair
1998 Almost Heroes Yes
Small Soldiers Yes Slamfist/Scratch-It Voice
1999 Dilbert Yes The Dupey Episode: "The Dupey"
2000 Best in Show Yes Yes Yes Harlan Pepper
2003 A Mighty Wind Yes Yes Yes Alan Barrows
MADtv Yes Nigel Tufnel Episode: season 8, episode 21
2005 Mrs Henderson Presents Yes Lord Cromer
2006 For Your Consideration Yes Yes Yes Jay Berman
2007 SpongeBob SquarePants Yes Stanley S. SquarePants Episode: "Banned in Bikini Bottom /
Stanley S. SquarePants"
2009 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Yes Ivan the Terrible
The Invention of Lying Yes Nathan Goldfrappe
Stonehenge: 'Tis a Magic Place Yes Nigel Tufnel 3 episodes
2012 Her Master's Voice Yes
84th Academy Awards Yes Yes Focus Group Member Directed focus group segment
2013 Family Tree Yes Yes Yes Yes Dave Chadwick /
Phineas Chadwick
8 episodes; also co-creator
composed credits theme
2016 Mascots Yes Yes Yes Corky St. Clair Netflix film

Recurring cast members[edit]

Actor This Is Spinal Tap
The Big Picture
Waiting for Guffman
Almost Heroes
Best in Show
A Mighty Wind
For Your Consideration
Family Tree
Bob Balaban Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Ed Begley, Jr. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jennifer Coolidge Yes Yes Yes Yes
John Michael Higgins Yes Yes Yes Yes
Michael Hitchcock Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Don Lake Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Eugene Levy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jane Lynch Yes Yes Yes Yes
Michael McKean Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Larry Miller Yes Yes Yes Yes
Chris O'Dowd Yes Yes
Catherine O'Hara Yes Yes Yes Yes
Jim Piddock Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Parker Posey Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Harry Shearer Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fred Willard Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Titles and styles[edit]

  • 5 February 1948 – 26 May 1987: Mister Christopher Haden-Guest
  • 26 May 1987 – 8 April 1996: The Honourable Christopher Haden-Guest
  • 8 April 1996 – present: The Right Honourable The Lord Haden-Guest

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Film Result[16]
1976 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Special Ann Elder
Shared with Earl Pomerantz, Jim Rusk, Lily Tomlin, Rod Warren, George Yanok
The Lily Tomlin Special Won
1995 International Fantasy Film Award Best Film Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1993 film) Nominated
1998 Independent Spirit Award Best Male Lead Waiting for Guffman Nominated
Best Screenplay
Shared with Eugene Levy
Lone Star Film & Television Award Best Director Won
2001 DVD Exclusive Award Best DVD Audio Commentary This Is Spinal Tap Won
American Comedy Award Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Best in Show Nominated
Golden Satellite Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical Nominated
Independent Spirit Award Best Director Nominated
Writers Guild of America Award Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Shared with Eugene Levy
2003 Seattle Film Critics Award Best Music
Shared with John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O'Hara, Annette O'Toole, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey C. J. Vanston
A Mighty Wind Won


  1. ^ Richard Grant (January 10, 2004). "Nowt so queer as folk". The Guardian Weekend. 
  2. ^ a b Witchel, Alex (2006-11-12). "The Shape-Shifter". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  3. ^ Murray, William Henry (1952). Adam and Cain: Symposium of Old Bible History, Sumerian Empire, Importance of Blood of Race, Juggling Juggernaut of the Leaders of the Jews, the Gothic Civilization of Adam and the Ten Commandments of His Church. Murray. 
  4. ^ a b Rosen, Steven (2006-11-16). "Want to spoof Purim and the Oscars? Be our Guest!". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. 21 (39). Retrieved 2006-11-16. 
  5. ^ Richard Grant (January 10, 2004). "Nowt so queer as folk". The Guardian Weekend. 
  6. ^ Gross, Terry (September 14, 1989). "Christopher Guest Plays with Parody". Fresh Air, WHYY. Philadelphia: NPR. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  7. ^ "NYU Graduate Acting Alumni". 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-01. 
  8. ^ a b Rose, Charlie (May 12, 2003). "A conversation with director Christopher Guest". Charlie Rose LLC. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  9. ^ Moon, Tom (February 2, 2009). "Beyman Bros: The Thinking Person's Americana". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  10. ^ "Taxpayers to Fork Out $2.5 Million for Single Census Ad During Super Bowl". Fox News. February 3, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-06. 
  11. ^ Shanahan, Mark (18 October 2011). "Christopher Guest parties for Berklee". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  12. ^ McNary, Dave. "Netflix Acquires Christopher Guest's Mascots Mockumentary". Variety. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Richard Grant (January 10, 2004). "Nowt so queer as folk". The Guardian Weekend. 
  14. ^ Hobson, Louis B (October 10, 2000). "Guest Shots". Canoe Jam!. Canoe Inc. Retrieved 2007-08-29. 
  15. ^ [1] "Repertory company"
  16. ^ "Christopher Guest - Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-03-15. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Brad Hall
Weekend Update anchor
Succeeded by
Dennis Miller
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Peter Haden-Guest
Baron Haden-Guest
Heir presumptive:
Hon. Nicholas Haden-Guest