Playing God: 13 Actors Who Dared To Be the Deity in Movies

In "A Little Bit of Heaven," Whoopi Goldberg becomes the latest performer to play the Supreme Being, but she's hardly most unusual choice. A look back at the eclectic...
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Whoopi Goldberg may be one of the few to be called an EGOT after winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony Award, but with this week’s release of the Kate Hudson romantic comedy “A Little Bit of Heaven,” she’ll join an even more exclusive club — she’ll play God. Of course, the Good Lord works in mysterious ways, but leave it up to Hollywood to demystify His process. A diversity of actors have portrayed God from a grungy Groucho Marx to an elegant Alanis Morrisette, while George Burns and Morgan Freeman have found heaven sent franchises by playing the seven day planner. Here are the collection of mere mortals who can actually claim at one time they were bigger than Jesus.

RalphRichardsonGodTimeBandits“Time Bandits” (1981)

God: Ralph Richardson

God’s Personality: All business, but persnickety

What God looks like: A well-groomed grey-haired man in a grey suit.

Act of God: After skimping on the creation of the universe, the Supreme Being inadvertently created time warp wormholes. However, when His map of the wormholes falls into the hands of six dwarves who want to steal valuable artifacts from throughout time, He will stop at nothing to retrieve the map.

Unexpected God trait: He runs a bureaucracy. When He tells the lead dwarf Randall that he’s too tired to properly punish him, he says, “I think I’ll transfer you to the undergrowth department, brackens, more shrubs, that sort of thing…with a 19% cut in salary, backdated to the beginning of time.”

“Two of a Kind” (1983)

God: Gene Hackman

God’s Personality: Fussy and impatient

What God looks like: Appears only as a bright yellow light emanating from a Greek style gazebo amidst the clouds

Act of God: The man upstairs wants to start the world over after leaving his angels in charge, but the band of angels pick an unsuspecting aspiring inventor, played by John Travolta, to show God the world is in good hands by committing a selfless act of sacrifice.

Unexpected God trait: He isn’t immune to colds. When He sneezes, a servant tells him “bless Yourself.”

MauriceRoevesAcidHouseGod

“The Acid House” (1998)

God: Maurice Roeves

God’s Personality: Angry

What God looks like: A hard-drinking Scotsman with a scruffy grey beard

Unexpected God trait: He likes to curse, with a predilection for using a particular nickname of female genitalia.

Proves He’s God by: Describing to his mortal counterpart a crescent shaped birthmark on the man’s inner thigh.

Act of God: After an aimless footballer named Boab is booted from his team, he is visited at the local pub by none other than God himself, who berates Boab for being “just like me. A lazy apathetic slovenly c***.”

God blessed fun fact: “The Acid House” was the first screenplay written by Irvine Welsh, the author of “Trainspotting.”

 

“The Bible” (1966)

God: John Huston

God’s Personality: Vengeful

What God looks like: Just a booming voice from the heavens.

Unexpected God trait: He’s not too interesting since the 174 minute film seems interminable.

Act of God: When Adam and Eve go through that whole apple ordeal, God banishes them from the Garden of Eden.

God blessed fun fact: God really was behind the camera on this 1966 epic since Huston handled the helming duties in addition to playing Noah on camera in the film.

 

AlanisGodKevinSmith“Dogma” (1999)

God: Alanis Morrissette

God’s Personality: Bemused

What God looks like: Very naturalistic, hippie vibe with a beige silk dress with flowers in her long flowing hair, but changes into a 1980s style party dress with a silver jacket

Act of God: She destroys Ben Affleck’s fallen angel Bartleby with a single yell and heals the last known descendant of Jesus, Bethany, to thwart a plan by Bartelby and fellow renegade angel Loki (Matt Damon) to destroy the universe in order to save themselves.

God blessed fun fact: Director Kevin Smith had initially cast Emma Thompson as God, but Thompson became pregnant and had to turn down the role.

Unexpected God trait: Doesn’t speak, but smiles after she kisses stoner Jay on the cheek.

 

“Almost an Angel” (1990)

God: Charlton Heston

God’s Personality: Stern

What God looks like: The old school God look, complete with flowing white robes, a graying beard and curly hair.

Act of God: The divine one tells wisecracking petty criminal Terry Dean (Paul Hogan) to think of Him as a probation officer when He decides to temporarily spare Dean’s life and puts him back on earth after Dean pushes a child out of the way of an oncoming van.

Unexpected God trait: He shows mercy to the former Crocodile Dundee by telling him before giving him his angel wings, “you’re the first scumbag we’ve sent back.”

 

MorganFreemanGodBruceAlmighty“Bruce Almighty” (2003)

God: Morgan Freeman

God’s Personality: Genial

What God looks like: Obviously a sucker for Feng Shui-esque simplicity, God prefers elegant white suits and black shoes, though he doesn’t mind the humble utility wear of a janitor.

Act of God: After TV newsman Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey) complains about his life, the creator of the heavens and the earth gives up all his powers to show the less benevolent Bruce how hard it is to control the universe.

Proves He’s God by: Showing Bruce his extensive personal file and counting Bruce’s fingers after he hides them.

Unexpected God trait: Can’t get the jingle for The Clapper out of His head.

God blessed fun fact: In real life, Freeman and fellow God Alanis Morrisette share the same birthday. (June 1)

 

“Religion, Inc.” (1989)

God: George Plimpton

God’s Personality: Self-satisfied

Act of God: Morris Codman, a boozy ad exec who goes on a bender after he’s fired by his company and is asked by the big guy to start a corporation called Religion, Inc. that blends “the worst of capitalism and the best of Christianity,” resulting in the highly profitable Preferent religion.

Unexpected God trait: He has a fascination with tax loopholes and plays tennis

God blessed fun fact: Besides having the future “Survivor: Cook Islands” contestant Jonathan Penner play Codman, the film features one of Sandra Bullock’s earliest roles as Codman’s gal pal.

 

SkidooGrouchoMarxJoint“Skidoo” (1968)

God: Groucho Marx

God’s Personality: Lethargic, probably because He likes getting high.

What does God look like: Cigar chomping drug dealer with a pale complexion and a painted black mustache, wearing a bright blue jacket.

Act of God: Former gangster Tony Banks, played by a similarly over the hill Jackie Gleason, is instructed by a not so heavenly mob kingpin God to find a way into Alcatraz so he can put a hit on Blue Chips Packard (Mickey Rooney).

Unexpected God trait: He smokes weed and has no problem selling dope to children.

God blessed fun fact: Although it has never been confirmed, Paul Krassner wrote in a February 1981 issue of High Times Magazine that he and Marx dropped LSD as preparation for the film. If true, at least Groucho got some kind of high off the lowly film, which was the last of his career.

 

“The Prince of Egypt” (1997)

God: Val Kilmer

God’s Personality: Inviting yet intimidating.

What does God look like: A flame that burns bright blue on a bush that doesn’t seem to disinigrate.

Act of God: He draws Moses in with a burning bush and after seeing the oppression of the Egyptians, He wants Moses to lead them to the promised land.

Unexpected God trait: He and Moses sound awfully similar to each other and gives a lightshow akin to what a Journey concert during the 1980s would look like.

God fun fact: Oh, that’s why – In addition to voicing God, Kilmer lent his oratory skills to Moses in “The Prince of Egypt,” a role he reprised in a Hollywood stage production of “The Ten Commandments” in 2004.

 

GeorgeBurnsOhGod“Oh God” (1977)

God: George Burns

God’s Personality: Crabby

What God looks like: He’s planning to go fishing on his day away from the retirement home in a fishing cap, a plaid red shirt, and horn rimmed glasses

Act of God: Thinking that the world no longer respects His word, God taps Jerry Landers, an assistant supermarket manager, to spread His message among the masses. When a televangelist seizes on to Jerry for profit, the prophet of God turns on the televangelist, leading to a lawsuit where God is put on trial.

Proves He’s God by: Making it rain in a car.

Unexpected God trait: Can’t spell – In his initial letter to Jerry, “interview” is misspelled “interveiw” He also has an office in Los Angeles.

 

“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)

God: Graham Chapman

God’s Personality: Droll

What does God look like: A black and white photograph cut out of a bearded man with yellow eyes, almost mechanical moving lips and a golden crown studded with jewels, peering out from the clouds.

Act of God: He sends King Arthur in pursuit of the Holy Grail.

Unexpected God trait: God doesn’t like groveling or apologizing – “One thing I can’t stand is groveling. And don’t apologize. Every time I try to talk to someone, it’s sorry this and forgive me that and I’m not worthy.” He also doesn’t like psalms, “they’re so depressing.”

God blessed fun fact: Chapman did double duty as God and King Arthur in “Holy Grail” and it’s notable that God puts in a cameo for all of Monty Python’s films.

 

“Super” (2010)

God: Rob Zombie

God’s personality: Definitive and slightly creepy.

What God looks like: Only His fingers are seen as purplish tentacles with blades at the tips to literally open up one’s mind.

Act of God: Tells sadsack Frank D’Arbo to marry a girl (Liv Tyler) that eventually breaks his heart and later inspires him to become the superhero The Crimson Bolt, speaking through The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), a character he’d seen on cable while flipping channels.

Unexpected God trait: Surprisingly physical rather than mental, the deity needs to break into Frank’s house by ripping through Frank’s roof and then needs to surgically cut into his head to reach his brain.

God blessed fun fact: After previously lending his voice to the other end of a phone conversation with Elizabeth Banks’ Starla Grant in writer/director James Gunn’s previous film “Slither,” Zombie fit the bill when Gunn needed a distinctive voice for the less-than-heavenly divinity. “I like this new tradition I have of putting Rob Zombie in as a voice in every James Gunn film,” the director told me during the film’s premiere in Toronto. “And I will try to continue it for as long as I can.

What’s your favorite take on God in the movies? Do you think it’s sacreligious? Is there an actor or actress you’d like to see take on the ultimate role? Let us know in the comments below.

One Comment

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  • Jtq
    18 December 2012 at 6:25 pm -

    Whoopi actually already played God once before in 2002. She was God in a muppet Christmas movie

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