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‘This is Spinal Tap’ Turns 40 — See The Hilarious Cast Then and Now!

Plus, info on the sequel that's now in production — and we can’t wait to see it


In the history of cinema, there exists a film that stands as an unparalleled monument to the glory and absurdity of rock ‘n’ roll. This is Spinal Tap, unleashed upon the world in 1984, is not just a movie; it’s a cultural touchstone, a mockumentary so convincing it’s often mistaken for reality.

Directed by Rob Reiner and brought to life by the comedic genius of Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, this film is a love letter to the excesses, eccentricities, and existential crises of the rock music industry.

This is Spinal Tap

The quartet developed the concept during improvisational sessions, inspired by their love for rock music and their observations of its melodramatic tendencies. Their collaboration birthed one of the most iconic mockumentaries in cinematic history.

The film chronicles the fictional British heavy metal band Spinal Tap as they embark on a disastrous tour across America to promote their latest album, Smell the Glove. Through a series of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, the audience is invited into the tumultuous world of the band, complete with absurd egos, creative differences, and comically catastrophic performances.

For audiences who love the original, they will be happy to hear that production for a sequel is in process. Producer Castle Rock Entertainment announced recently that production began in New Orleans, Louisiana.

While we wait for the sequel to come out, let’s revisit the cast that made the original This is Spinal Tap such a success.

Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel

Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel in This is Spinal Tap
1984/; Jeff Kravitz / Contributor/Getty

Born on February 5, 1948, Guest played the role of Nigel Tufnel, the lead guitarist of Spinal Tap known for his eccentric personality and obsession with amplifiers that go “up to eleven.”

Prior to the movie, he had worked with Rob Reiner when Guest appeared on All in the Family (which starred Reiner). But it was This is Spinal Tap that brought Guest his career-defining fame.

After that, Guest went on to play another favorite character, the role of Count Tyrone Rugen – a.k.a. the The Six-Fingered Man, in Princess Bride. From there, he continued to make other Spinal Tap-style mockumentary movies including Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000), A Mighty Wind (2003), For Your Consideration (2006), and Mascots (2016). Most recently, he’s done voice work in Sponge Bob.

Guest is married to actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

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Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins: This is Spinal Tap

Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins
1984/; Paul Archuleta / Contributor/ Getty

Born on October 17, 1947, in New York City, Michael McKean played the role of David St. Hubbins, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Spinal Tap, known for his naive charm and questionable decision-making.

McKean came to fame as Lenny Kosnowski, the endearing and somewhat dim-witted friend on Laverne and Shirley. After This is Spinal Tap, McKean continued to act. He received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2019 for his performance as Chuck McGill on Better Call Saul.

He is the currently the voice of Pickles in Nickelodeon’s Rugrats franchise. He also plays the president in the series The Diplomat starring Keri Russell.

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Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls

Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls in This is Spinal Tap
1984/; Monica Schipper / Stringer/ Getty

Born December 23, 1943, in Los Angeles, California, Harry Shearer played the role of Derek Smalls the bassist of Spinal Tap, known for his stoic demeanor and profound observations.

Shearer started his film career in 1953 in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars. However, he’s best known for his Saturday Night Live appearances. After This is Spinal Tap, he went on to play the voice of several characters in The Simpsons.

He also appeared in several films including The Truman Show (1998) and A Mighty Wind (2003). He is also a director and has directed Teddy Bears’ Picnic (2002) and The Big Uneasy (2010).

Since 1983, Shearer has been the host of the public radio comedy music program Le Show, incorporating satire, music, and sketch comedy.

MUST READ: See the ‘Say Anything’ Cast Then and Now!

Rob Reiner as Marty DiBergi: This is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner as Marty DiBergi
1984/; Roy Rochlin / Contributor/ Getty

Born March 6, 1947, in The Bronx, New York City, Rob Reiner played the role of Marty DiBergi, the fictitious documentary filmmaker who follows Spinal Tap on their ill-fated tour.

Rob Reiner came to fame playing the role of the liberal and progressive “Meathead” Michael Stivic on All in the Family. He won two Emmy awards for his role. He also had guest appearances in several shows including Batman, The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies.

Reiner went on to have a highly successful career as a director. He directed critically acclaimed films such as Stand by Me (1986), When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Misery (1990) and A Few Good Men (1994). His directorial work earned him two Academy Award nominations.

He is currently directing the sequel, This is Spinal.

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Tony Hendra as Ian Faith

Tony Hendra as Ian Faith in This is Spinal Tap
1984/; Steve Zak Photography / Contributor/ Getty

Born July 10, 1941 in England, Tony Hendra plays the role of Ian Faith, the long-suffering and perpetually stressed manager of Spinal Tap.

Hendra was a student at Cambridge University, but moved to the United Stated to do stand-up comedy as well as writing and editing for various publications. He was managing editor at National Lampoon magazine. I

n 1972 he produced, directed and helped write National Lampoon’s Lemmings which became an off-Broadway play that starred Chevy Chase and John Belushi (before they became famous on Saturday Night Live) as well as Christopher Guest, who 12 years later would reunite with Hendra in This Is Spinal Tap.

Hendra was also the editor in chief of the satirical magazine Spy, holding the position for about a year before the publication folded in early 1994.

In 2004 he wrote his memoir, Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul.

He passed away in 2021 at the age of 79.

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June Chadwick as Jeanine Pettibone: This is Spinal Tap

June Chadwick as Jeanine Pettibone

Born November 30, 1951, in Warwickshire, England, June Chadwick played the role of Jeanine Pettibone, the strong-willed girlfriend of David St. Hubbins.

Prior to This Is Spinal Tap, Chadwick had notable roles in the television series V: The Series as well as appearances in movies such as Forbidden World. After This is Spinal Tap, she appeared Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986).

She was a regular, playing the role of Dr. Alice Davis, in the TV series Going to Extremes (1992-3). After that she had bit parts in several TV shows and movies, most recently, she was in seen in Facing the Enemy (2001).

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