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Actors You Forgot Guest Starred On The Simpsons

There are many reasons why you remember when an actor guest-starred on "The Simpsons." Sometimes, it's someone who plays themselves, such as Leonard Nimoy or Conan O'Brien. Other times, they're playing the same character they do elsewhere, like with the casts of "The X-Files" or "Cheers." Often even being uncredited does little to hide their involvement, as with Dustin Hoffman or Michael Jackson. Especially if you're watching a later season, it could be a case of memorable stunt casting, like when Angela Bassett played Michelle Obama. And frequently, the combination of character and performance is so legendary that it's impossible not to know who the guest actor is (e.g., Kelsey Grammer, Albert Brooks, and Glenn Close). 

We thought we'd take a look back at some of the great performances over the years that don't necessarily fall into those aforementioned categories. With one exception, these characters only appeared once, so it's easy to forget exactly who played them. Refresh your memory with this list. 

Meryl Streep was unrecognizable as Bart Simpson's crush Jessica Lovejoy

Many guests are recognizable on "The Simpsons," even if they're an adult portraying a child. Not so with Meryl Streep, who is completely unrecognizable in the episode "Bart's Girlfriend." Sure, she's known for using great voices in her live-action roles, but you'd never pick up that it's her until the credits roll. 

Streep shines as Jessica Lovejoy, on whom Bart develops a crush before finding out that she's not as sweet as he thinks she is. After misjudging each other, the two bond when they think they're just as bad, but Bart realizes that she's much worse than he thinks when she robs the church's collection plate. Streep makes you believe both that Jessica could be innocent and that she can expertly hide her badness with false sweetness. It's remarkable that Streep was able to do this without announcing herself as "Special Guest Star Meryl Streep" in her performance.

Streep may have flown under the radar in the episode, but "The Simpsons" cast was quite starstruck. Streep was, too, reportedly asking Nancy Cartwright for an autograph.   

Mandy Patinkin romanced Lisa Simpson as Hugh Parkfield

When "Homeland" first started airing in 2011, viewers were shocked to find out that the actor  playing Saul Berenson was the same one who played Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride." Mandy Patinkin isn't just a visual chameleon; he's an auditory one, too. 

In the episode "Lisa's Wedding," Lisa is shown a vision of the future that she's promised will reveal her true love. The 1995 episode flashes forward to the year 2010, when she meets a British Hugh Grant-esque love interest named Hugh Parkfield whom she initially detests before falling head over heels. As hard as he tries, the cultured, snobbish Parkfield just can't bring himself to accept Lisa's family into his life. The choice of an American actor to play the role is a surprising one, and if you have no idea who the voice is, it lets Patinkin's performance truly deliver without distraction.

Kathleen Turner went from Jessica Rabbit to Stacy Lavelle

"Body Heat" actress Kathleen Turner was no stranger to voice acting given that she played the role of Jessica Rabbit in her uncredited turn in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." It was only natural for her to guest star in "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy," where she plays Stacy Lavelle, the creator of Malibu Stacy, who was forced out of her company for the mere crime of "funneling profits to the Viet Cong." Lisa and Stacy do their best to fight against the sexist Malibu Stacy doll (who says things like "Don't ask me. I'm just a girl"), only for their empowering feminist version to be overshadowed by Malibu Stacy's new hat. Since Jessica Rabbit and Stacy Lovell couldn't be more different from each other, you still might not know the same actor played them even with Turner's distinct voice.

Sam Neill took Springfield by surprise as cat burglar Molloy

It's pretty obvious when watching "Homer the Vigilante" that the mysterious cat burglar is Molloy. This is both because he "uses sneakers for sneaking" and because he never appeared in any prior episode. But while there isn't much mystery to the plot, it's quite a surprise to hear that "Jurassic Park" actor Sam Neill plays the suave villain. The New Zealand actor adopts a British accent to sell the charm of someone who steals even though he doesn't really have to. He has fun toying with Homer, but gets caught because he underestimates Grampa Simpson, going so far as to climb a museum with climbing gear that he said he would rob in front of him. Molloy gets away in the end because he's smarter than just about anyone in Springfield, and has never reappeared since. The choice of Neill was a great bit of inspired casting that works because it's so unexpected.

Anne Bancroft provided therapy for Marge Simpson as Dr. Zweig

"The Simpsons" has had a number of references to "The Graduate," including in the ending of "Lady Bouvier's Lover" when Grampa Simpson interrupts the wedding of Mr. Burns and Marge's mother and in "Lisa's Substitute," where the aforementioned uncredited Dustin Hoffman tells Mrs. Krabappel that she's trying to seduce him. But did you know that Mrs. Robinson herself also appeared on the show? 

In "Fear of Flying," Marge sees the therapist Dr. Zweig, played by Anne Bancroft, to find out just what causes that titular fear. Marge discovers that finding out her father was a "stewardess" was probably the root cause, but Zweig assures her that a "steward" like her father was actually a "pioneer." Bancroft's husband, Mel Brooks, would go on to appear in a later episode, which you probably do remember because he played himself.

Patrick Stewart attached the stone of triumph as Number One

This may be the most controversial choice to put on this list since Patrick Stewart does nothing to disguise his famous voice. But for those who don't remember, Stewart fully commits to delivering his lines as seriously as possible, which just makes them funnier. As head of the Stone Cutters secret society, Number One is committed to manipulating from the shadows and being responsible for anything that might annoy you. He also enjoys getting drunk and playing Ping-Pong. After Homer is revealed to be the Chosen One, he turns the Stonecutters into a society that accomplishes things for the greater good, and Number One has no choice but to found the No Homers Club. Stewart considers it to be one of his finest works and it's hard to disagree with him.

Michelle Pfeiffer delivered a nuanced performance as Mindy Simmons

If Homer is going to be tempted to have an affair with a character played by "Batman Returns" star Michelle Pfeiffer, you'd think she'd be a seductress. But perhaps because the show already mined similar material in "Colonel Homer" with Beverly D'Angelo's Lurleen Lumpkin, Pfeiffer plays a much different character than Catwoman, thus avoiding being an example of stunt casting. In "The Last Temptation of Homer," the character of Mindy is essentially a female version of Homer, only adding to his undesired attraction to her. In the same episode where she drools at the thought of doughnuts, Pfeiffer also delivers a surprisingly subtle performance that gives depth to someone who is only seen from Homer's point of view. It would certainly be easy for an animated character to remain two-dimensional, but thanks to the acting, there's much more to her.

Mark Hamill showed off his vocal stylings as Leavelle

You probably remember that Mark Hamill played himself in the episode "Mayored to the Mob," where he saves Homer's life by telling him to "use the forks." But did you know that he also played the head of the bodyguard academy who badly sang "I Will Always Love You" after everyone graduates? Yes, he'll never not be known for "Star Wars," but ever since Hamill started voicing The Joker on "Batman: The Animated Series," he's become one of the most sought-after voice actors around. The producers were well aware of his talents, as Hamill told The AV Club: "One thing that was nice about "The Simpsons" was, because they knew I was self-conscious about playing myself, they let me play the head of a bodyguard school, which was fun." Thankfully, the section where he played himself was funny as well, but it's nice that he didn't just settle for an easy paycheck.

Susan Sarandon danced under the radar as a ballet teacher

"Thelma and Louise" is just one of the many movies that "The Simpsons" may have spoiled for you if you watched the show's "Marge on the Lam" when you were too young for R-rated movies. Susan Sarandon later appears on the show in "Homer vs. Patty and Selma," where she plays the Russian ballet teacher who makes Bart realize that he's good at something he thinks is girly. Bart regrets it in the end, when he falsely assumes that he's won over his classmates, only for them to want to beat him up when they realize a mysterious masked performer is actually him. The red-headed character was designed to look like Sarandon, but as with other entries on this list, adopting a foreign accent is a foolproof way to go unnoticed.

Willem Dafoe didn't go full Dafoe as The Commandant

Willem Dafoe eventually wound up playing a role much more in line with his previous work as the evil teacher Mr. Lassen in the 2014 episode "Blazed and Confused." But in the 1997 episode "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson," his performance as The Commandant is much more restrained (though he still gives many speeches, including one where he accurately predicts that future wars will be fought by robots). After taking a tour of a military school that Bart will be forced to go to, Lisa decides that she wants to go, too. The Commandant can't believe that a girl would want to go there, but he relents and lets her participate in his state-banned death trap of a final test. Dafoe probably relished the opportunity to go bigger in the later episode, but the "Platoon" actor does nicely in his earlier role.

Penny Marshall paved the way for guest starring as Ms. Botz

While not technically the first episode of "The Simpsons" to air, "Some Enchanted Evening" was the very first episode that was produced, which makes Penny Marshall the show's first guest star. The director of "Big" and Laverne of "Laverne & Shirley" played the terrifying babysitter Ms. Botz (aka Lucille Botzcowski), who really is as bad as the kids think she is. After watching "America's Most Armed and Dangerous," Bart and Lisa realize that she's a thief and have to figure out how to survive. Showrunner Al Jean paid tribute to Marshall after her death, tweeting "You will be missed." "The Simpsons" may not have hit its stride yet way back in Season 1, but performances like Marshall's showed that the promise was there for greater things to come.

Kirk Douglas sued for billions as Chester J. Lampwick

"Ace in the Hole" actor Kirk Douglas wasn't quite retired when he appeared on "The Simpsons," but he was almost 80 years old, and he wasn't working nearly as frequently as he did from the 1940s to 1960s. So forgive younger viewers for not realizing at the time that they were hearing from the famous "Spartacus" in "The Day the Violence Died." In this episode, Douglas plays Chester J. Lampwick, the original creator of "Itchy and Scratchy" who was cheated out of royalties when the credit was stolen from him. He demands $800 billion from the thief's son and, when he doesn't get it, sues and wins. There's a recurring bit in which people recognize Lampwick as someone they gave food to in exchange for doing a chore, only for him to back out. It works because of Douglas' delivery of how the food was "terrible."

Carol Kane, James Earl Jones, and Elizabeth Taylor all took turns voicing Maggie

Maggie Simpson speaks little, given that she's just a baby and that her mouth is usually busy with a pacifier. She even tends to stay quiet in episodes set in the future, when she has presumably learned how to talk. When she does speak, it tends to be only for a line, so a few actors have played her over the years. In the episode "Bart vs. Thanksgiving," Carol Kane of "When a Stranger Calls" and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" says the line, "It's your fault I can't talk," in Bart's fantasy. In the Halloween episode "Treehouse of Horror V," James Earl Jones chimes in with, "This is indeed a disturbing universe," after one of the three times that Groundskeeper Willie is killed in that episode. But Maggie's real first word, "Daddy," came from none other than Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor in the episode "Lisa's First Word." They had to do a lot of takes to get it just right, but it was worth it as it's one of the series' most memorable moments.

Winona Ryder won everyone over as Allison Taylor

A number of scenes from "Lisa's Rival" have stayed in the cultural consciousness over the years, from Ralph Wiggum's line, "My cat's breath smells like cat food," to Homer's subplot where he protects a big pile of sugar, to Milhouse running from the FBI a la "The Fugitive." But what really holds it together is Winona Ryder, who plays the titular rival, a clever new student named Allison Taylor. Lisa is jealous of her because she feels that she should be the smartest girl in class, but in addition to being accomplished, Allison is nice and does nothing to earn the ire. It's heartbreaking when it looks like Lisa is going to let her fail the diorama competition and a genuine relief when she changes her mind and tries to save her. It's a credit to Ryder that Allison winds up being more sympathetic than one of the show's main characters.

Donald Sutherland stole a silver tongue from a corpse as Hollis Hurlbut

"Animal House" is one of Homer's favorite movies (as we see in the episode "Homer Goes to College," when he winds up being disappointed that college life isn't nearly as fun as he thinks it is). So it's only fitting that Donald Sutherland, the professor from that movie, would wind up guest starring on "The Simpsons." In "Lisa the Iconoclast," Sutherland plays Hollis Hurlbut, the head of the historical society dedicated to preserving the legacy of the town's founder, Jebediah Springfield. He refuses to believe anything bad about Springfield and when he hears evidence to the contrary, he bans "you, and your children, and your children's children! ... for 3 months." Donald's son Kiefer would reprise his role as Jack Bauer in the episode "24 Minutes," but Donald's hilarious delivery of lines like that makes for a more memorable performance.