It's no understatement to say that Stan Lee has become just as famous to the current generation of fans for his movie cameos, as he is for his co-creation of a very large chunk of the foundation of the Marvel Universe. Whenever a new Marvel movie is announced, questions about Stan's cameo in the film are never far behind. Everyone loves them, looks forward to them, and remembers them just as much as any other part of the movie.
People remember all of those cameos, that is, except for one of them.
In 2016, Stan Lee told THR reporter Andy Lewis:
All I know about Oliver Stone is he asked me if I would do a cameo in a movie [Natural Born Killers] — there was a prison break, and I was one of the men. I was caught in the middle. I found out later, they weren't extras. He was using real, tough killers for that scene. And there I am in the middle of it. There was rioting all around me, and I'm standing there.
Wait… what? There is no Stan Lee cameo in Natural Born Killers, that I'm aware of (when this came up in a BC staff discussion a few months ago, Rich Johnston re-watched the film carefully and came up empty on the purported Stan Lee cameo as well). Oliver Stone himself is quoted in the THR piece, but just about a script he pitched to Stan Lee and Roy Thomas in 1973, that neither Stone or Lee remembers. Stone doesn't speak to the cameo issue at all in the piece, which might leave one to believe that there's no there, there. It's tempting to think that it might have ended up on the editing room floor, but one would also think that even that would be pretty well-established lore for the man who has become legendary for his movie cameos.
Did it happen, or was this an understandable mis-remembrance of a then 94 year-old Stan Lee a couple of years ago?
I'm not sure, but I do think there's at least something to it, because my favorite memory of Stan Lee is a moment that both of those famous men appear to have forgotten: I met Stan Lee and Oliver Stone together in 1993, just a year before Natural Born Killers hit theaters.
Like thousands of other people who have attended conventions over the past few decades, I've shaken Stan Lee's hand a few times over the years. Gotten his autograph. Exchanged a handful of pleasant words with him. But this one time, at Chicago Comic Con in 1993, was a little different. And as it turns out, it was quite a strange tale indeed.
It's my favorite personal Stan Lee story:
I was working at a booth for a back issue comics seller at Chicago Comic Con that year. On Friday, a boy came up with two adults and started browsing our boxes. He found what he wanted — Aliens vs Predator #0 from Dark Horse, as I recall — and asked the adults if he could buy it. One of them said, "your father will be here tomorrow, he'll get it for you then."
This Aliens vs Predator fan asked me if I'd hold it for him until Saturday. I agreed, and they all went on their way. I tucked the comic book away in a box behind the tables.
The next day, here comes Oliver Stone and Stan Lee, chatting amiably, and with a very large entourage in tow — including the boy who asked about Aliens vs Predator #0. He was Stone's son, I soon discovered.
A quick transaction and some pleasantries with both Lee and Stone later, and that famous pair, Stone's son, and the entourage were on their way again.
Naturally, I later wondered what Stan Lee and Oliver Stone were doing together that day. Some new movie plans in the works, perhaps? I was just getting started writing for Wizard Magazine at the time, and as it turns out, I soon got a chance to ask.
A few weeks later, my business partner William Christensen and I were on the phone with Harlan Ellison. Ellison loved the comics medium, enjoyed talking about it, and liked to chat with a wide range of people in the industry to keep up with the latest. Talking to Harlan was unfailingly interesting, so I tossed out the Stone/Lee meeting to see what he'd say about it.
This was pretty late on a Sunday night. Harlan put us on hold. And calls up Stan Lee.
A couple of minutes later, Harlan came back on the line to report Stan's humorously-intended reply: "Why the #*!(*!@ does this Wizard reporter want to know that on a Sunday night?"
That was the end of it, or so I thought… though they were such an odd pairing, I always wondered about it. Then I read that THR article in 2016. The timing fits perfectly. Is there some footage of Stan Lee in Natural Born Killers tucked away in some archive somewhere?
It's a textbook Oliver Stone mystery, and as unlikely as it seems, it would appear that it's not impossible. Roy Thomas told Bleeding Cool earlier today that he'd asked Stan about future cameos just a couple days ago, so it's tempting to think that there's still one unseen Stan Lee movie cameo out there, waiting to be discovered.